Puerta Caldera sits near the mouth of the Nicoya Gulf. Located in the northern region of the Puntarenas province on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast. The industrial port complex accommodates both cruise ships and cargo vessel and plays a vital role in Costa Rica’s trade with the world.
In and of itself the port is a bit of an eyesore and at first glance you would never guess that it is the entry point to every form of natural beauty imaginable. The country boasts tropical rainforests and cloud forests, active volcanoes and crater lagoons, mangroves, swamps, rivers, mountains and the most outstanding wildlife refuges in the New World Tropics.
We docked in Puerta Caldera yesterday around 7:00AM. Over 1,000 of the total 1250 passengers took went on prearranged excursions to the mountains, rainforests and various parks and sanctuaries. Shore excursions are by design, for people who want to plan their entire days at port and are less inclined to be adventuresome. It is part of my job to get to know the local tour operators and find out what other options are available in the ports to the more adventuresome traveler.
Without a doubt I plan to take an aerial tram through the rainforest at some point, maybe I’ll even take the Tropical Horseback Excursion, but on this trip I decided to stick relatively close to home and take the local Turibus to the nearby town of Puentarenas. The Turibus is an open-air bus meaning it has no glass in the windows. It is a school bus which has been meticulously gaudified with tropical graffiti, hood and roof ornaments, and the interior plastered with polymer clay reptiles. What fun!!!
We drove 13 miles to Puentarenas while our English-speaking guide provided scenic narration through a microphone that kept cutting out. In the background you could hear the soothing sounds latin music played on a xylophone. A bit like the Partridege Family on acid, I suppose.
The trip to Puntarenas was just under one half hour. It would have taken less time if the bus didn’t stop to pass around shots of rum. But what’s the hurry? The fish market isn’t going anywhere!
That was our first stop once we reached Puentarenas. We were met with fabulous local color, the sights and smells exactly what one would expect at a local fish market in the tropics. We also stopped to photograph a local church, and finally to the open market for some shopping. The “hot spot” we visited were not particularly memorable. The real event was in getting there and back.
Our return trip to the port was equally as entertaining. With beer and rum flowing each passenger got up and tried their hand at the xylophone. The whole excursion took around three hours. We arrived back at the ship completely windblown and spackled with dust and sweat. I haven’t had so much fun at the back of school bus since the 7th grade!
Turibus, the Movie coming soon!