Costa Rica’s Central Pacific region boasts several of the country’s most popular tourist spots, including the number-one attraction, the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (the Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Reserve), draped over the ridge of the Cordillera de Tilarán. Along with nearby Reserva Santa Elena, Monteverde protects some of the last remaining pristine cloudforest in the Americas. Southern Nicoya, effectively cut off by bad roads and a provincial boundary from the north of the peninsula, is part of Puntarenas province, whose eponymous capital, a steamy tropical port across the Gulf of Nicoya on the mainland, is the only town of any size in the entire area.
The area is home to some of Costa Rica’s best-known beaches, several of which are easily accessed from San José on the new Caldera Highway. Each offers a distinct experience, from the coves of chilled-out Montezuma, a former fishing village, to the forest-flanked coastline of Mal País and Santa Teresa, to the huge waves of Jacó and Playa Hermosa, two of the most popular places to surf in the country. Further south, Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio has several extraordinary beaches, with white sands and azure waters.
With the exception of the cool climate of Monteverde, the region is tropical and drier than in the south of the country – temperatures can be uncomfortably high, with a dry-season average of about 30°C (86°F), and even in the much quieter wet season (Quepos and Manuel Antonio, in particular, receive torrential afternoon rains) temperatures don’t cool down by much.