From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Puntarenas, which means "Sandy Point" in Spanish, is the capital and largest
city in the province Puntarenas, Costa Rica, at the Pacific coast. The
eponymous and oddly shaped province has its largest section in the South,
far from the capital.
Its port, Caldera, is one of the main ports in the country. Some 100,000
live in the city and close towns. With beaches on the Pacific Ocean, it also
attracts many tourists, especially surfers. It is also a possible stopover
point for the touristy Monteverde, further inland.
First known as Villa Bruselas in colonial times, Puntarenas was discovered
by Hernán Ponce de León in 1519. Despite the use of the Gulf of Nicoya as an
entryway to Costa Rica's inland territory, the port of Puntarenas was not
developed until 1840 when coffee production in the highlands reached
exportable volumes. In 1845 the Congress of the Republic declared Puntarenas
a duty free port (with the exception of Cognac and hard liquor). Originally,
the coffee was brought to port in oxcarts via a trail through the mountains.
In 1879, a stretch of railroad track was completed which connected
Puntarenas with the town of Esparza (one of the country's earliest Spanish
settlements, founded in 1554, a decade before the Central Valley began to be
colonized) where the oxcart trail came out of the mountains. Eventually, the
railroad was built all the way through to San José and service was
inaugurated in 1910.
With the railroad connection to the Central Valley, the Pacific port's
activities continued to be a major part of the region's economy throughout
the 20th century. However, due to the aging and deterioration of the port
facilities and the need to accommodate the much larger vessels of modern
shipping fleets, a new port was constructed in the 1980s to the south of
Puntarenas. The site chosen was Caldera, where ships had anchored during