Excursions Through Puntarenas
The Colonial Period
The areas adjacent to the port of Puntarenas are rich in historic relevance since the conquest period (1502-1563) that they were key pieces in the arrival of the conquistadors and in the founding of its first settlements. In 1522, Gil González Dávila visited the Chomes indigenous settlement; in 1524, Francisco Fernández de Córdoba founded the Villa de Bruselas in Orotina; and in 1561, Juan de Cavallón founded the Port of Landecho in the cove of Tivives.
Puntarenas is not referred to as port until the second half of the XVIII Century, when the filling of the Angostura that joined the islet to the mainland, absorbed the trade of the Gulf of Nicoya and took over the ancient port sites of Landecho, Caldero, Barranca and Palmar.
Without official recognition, it was a minor port and until 1772, it was used for trade and shipping in the Pacific. Towards 1797, it already had customs.
In 1812, our representative in the Cádiz Courts (Spain), Father Florencio del Castillo, succeeded in, among other distinctions, enabling the Port of Puntarenas as a Main Port for trade in the Province, according to a royal order on April 29, 1814.
XIX Century and the Port consolidation
The Independence in 1821 and the boom in the coffee development starting in 1830 helped consolidate Puntarenas as the most important port in the emerging Republic, since through the port the “grain of gold” was exported to Chile and Great Britain.
The route of the Pacific allowed the small town of Puntarenas to strengthen the settlement process. Its relevance was such, that in 1840, the functions of the Caldera Port were transferred to Puntarenas.
In 1840, Braulio Carrillo stimulated the settlement process of the Port and in 1845 the construction of a wood hermitage was authorized and dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. The emerging neighborhood was strengthened in turn with the construction of some foreign and national trade houses.
Half way through the XIX Century, Robert Glasgow Dunlop, one of the foreign visitors, stated that, “the Port of Puntarenas is only accessible to vessels that draw no more than 7 feet. There is no pier or dock, it is the only port of some consideration and its trade is considerably growing.” Wilhem Marr, pointed out, “that in the port, the best homes are made of Cedar wood and some are of two floors. Some are painted in various colors and they have a clean and decent aspect, with an assortment of shops, taverns and inns.” Meaning that, for the time, it has a commercial and urban development that would convert it into most important port of the Pacific Coast in Costa Rica.
In 1852, the Juan Rafael Mora Porras Administration decided to build a hospital with the name of San Rafael. The city title was granted on September 17, 1858 due to the increase in population and commercial activity.
The businesses were found along the main street, extended along the statuary (today known as Avenida del Comercio), with great movement of carts from the center of the country towards the port, coastwise trade. From the center of the country, coffee and other products of the area were transported and from Puntarenas the salt and Chinese rice was imported. This activity merited a lighthouse being constructed, “to avoid problems for the vessels.”
However, in 1863 Puntarenas still did not have a pier to dock the ships, nor for transportation and storage of goods. The transfer of goods from ship to port was done with boats or barges during low tide.
In 1872, the population of Puntarenas had grown and an iron pier was constructed, contracted by the businessman, Adolfo Knöhr (considered as the beginning of urban development in the city of Puntarenas).
In the late XIX Century, businesses included: goods delivery, loading and unloading, warehouses, mills, billiards, commission and loans houses, limestone queries, carts, cantinas, hardware stores, eateries, candle, soap and soda factories; hotels, inns, jewelry stores, grocery stores, bakeries, drug stores, snack bars, shops, wineries and cattle butchering.
In 1904, the power service was installed and in 1907 the construction of the market and slaughterhouse buildings was tendered. In 1913, the plumbing service was inaugurated in the city.
1- El Cocal and Barrio el Carmen Aqueduct Tanks
El Cocal. Avenue 1 Street 15.
During the Administration of León Cortés Castro (1936-1 940), an aqueduct was installed that brought water from a spring near Cerro San Miguel and it worked until the San Antonio de Belén aqueduct was used. During this time it was used as an additional aquifer of water supply from El Socorro farm where today stands the El Roble High School and the Municipality has a nursery. During the Administration of José Figueres Ferrer (1970-1974), a series of improvements were made to the aqueduct. With the approval of Acueductos y Alcantarillados (the Water Company), two large tanks were constructed in the Cocal and for more between the neighborhood of El Carmen and the center of the city. All of them were made of concrete and cylindrical in shape, and 25 meters (82 feet) tall.
2- Marino del Pacífico Park
Avenue 4 Street 10
The park was inaugurated in 2002 as a socio-environmental Project that seeks to work together with the human and environmental improvement of the coastal area. Thus, its mission is to promote, support and communicate research, education and the sustainable use of the marine biodiversity. It also serves as a recreational center. It occupies the lands were the patios and the Pacific Railroad station previously stood. It is attached to the Ministry of Environment and Energy. The park has open air exhibits such as: reptiles, caimans, land turtles and crocodiles. It has 22 fish tanks with some 30 native species from the Gulf of Nicoya. The opening of an aquarium is foreseen for 2010, with a capacity for more than one million liters (264172 gallons) of ocean water. It has an annual visitation of 500,000 people.
3- Monument to the Muellero (Dock Workers)
Avenue 4, Street 0.
The Monument to the Muellero is dedicated to those anonymous persons that day after day have put forth their best efforts to promote the port development and allow goods arriving or departing the country do so in the most efficient way possible. We are reminded of those that perform duties and manual labors and whose sweat and tirelessness erected buildings, bridges and institutions, those who since the XVIII Century have carried on their shoulders the national production. The monument is made of bronze and is 1.72 meters (5.64 feet) tall, work of a sculptor whose last name was Brenes.
Avenue 4 Street 0.
The region was known as Puerto de Arenas (Port of Sand), used for trade. By order of the Spanish Royal Crown, on April 29, 1814 it was officially opened as the Major Port for trade in the Province and in 1864 it became the main port of the Pacific; 8 years later (1872), the Administration of Tomás Guardia (1870-1882) constructed a pier made of iron.
Under the Ricardo Jiménez Oreamuno (1924-1928) Administration, a larger pier was installed to facilitate the loading and unloading from the boats; it was inaugurated in 1929. Under the José María Figueres Olsen (1994-1998) Administration, the present pier was constructed, donated by the Taiwanese Government and with a cost of $15.000.000. It was inaugurated in 1998 and, between October and May,it receives thousands of tourists from the cruise liners. It is constructed with a concrete floor, with bases and metal railings. It receives many national and international tourists for enjoyment or fishing (corvina, sea bass, tuna, frijolillo, harvest fish).
5- Port Captaincy
Avenue 4 Street 0.
The former Port Captaincy was constructed with reinforced concrete in the early 1930s, as an inspection and control office of the ships that docked at the pier. The first floor housed the offices and the second floor the home of the port captain.
The property has a symmetrical layout, with a corridor and perimeter balcony with prefabricated railings; the floors have a geometrical and floral décor. A metal frame supports a covering of galvanized iron sheets and on top of this, a lighthouse can been seen. In April 2008, the Costa Rica Tourism Board re-inaugurated it as a tourism service center under the project “Puntarenas por siempre” (Punatarenas Forever). It was declared an architectural historic heritage on October 25, 1994.
6- National Technical University
Avenue 4 Street 1.
The former Main South Customs, whose building-warehouse was constructed in 1938 in reinforced concrete with a metal frame and covered in galvanized iron, by the architect José Ma. Barrantes Monge. With an Art Deco and Art Nouveau influence (embossed murals, decorative elements, a beautiful winding staircase and vegetable motifs).
The José Figueres Ferrer (1970-1974) Administration enabled the port of Caldera and port activities in Puntarenas to came to an end, leaving the warehouse abandoned.
During the Rodirgo Carazo Odio (1978-1982) Administration, the Colegio Universitario de Puntarenas (CUP) was established, using the former warehouse as its headquarters; with majors geared towards industrial and tourist development and the agricultural and ocean resources. In 1998, with the purpose of unifying the traditional technical education and the university education, six institutions of higher learning were merged with the Colegio Universitario de Puntarenas, and it becomes the present Universidad Técnica Nacional.
7- The Murals
The Project was an initiative of the Costa Rica Tourism Board and the Pacific Ports Costa Rican Institute (Instituto Costarricense de Puertos del Pacífico) and developed by the Costa Rican Muralist Association, leaded by the artist Jean Sagot.
The Project consists of three large murals that present different designs, but maintain a thematic unity: “The rescue of the historic and architectural legacy, the biodiversity and the tourist potential of the Puntarenas province.”
a- The first of the murals can now be seen in all their glory on the north wall of the Pacific Plaza, in front of the cruise liner pier: “Aquel verano” (That Summer), uses organic textures – vegetables and minerals - to weave the images of a surfer that defies a wave, a colorful toucan and the legendary Puntarenas Pier.
b- The second mural: “Puntarenas: un mundo,” the piece represents a large world map whereby a strip of land stands out that symbolizes Puntarenas. The different shades of brown, cream, and yellow make reference to an old map. Located on the side of the Universidad Técnica Nacional Building.
c- The south Wall of the San Rafael Health Center building houses the third mural: snails, seagulls and marine turtles; the image of the Puntarenas cathedral; beach umbrellas and an appetizing Churchill are combined in this piece.
8- San Rafael Health Center
Avenue 4 Street 9.
At the request of the citizens of Puntarenas the country’s president, Juan Rafael Mora, accepted to have a sanatorium built. Under the authorization of the Governor of the Region, José María Cañas, it was baptized as San Rafael; it would be the first in the province and the second in Costa Rica. The structure consists of three pavilions constructed from brick, wood, concrete and limestone. In the early Twentieth century, two more pavilions were added. It has vast green areas and perimeter corridors. In 1940, the Social Protection Board (Junta de Protección Social) conceded the management of the hospital to a religious organization and today it belongs to the Costa Rican Department of Social Security (CCSS, in Spanish) which has classified it as a clinic.
9- Manuel Burgos Monument
Located on Avenue 4, Street 9.
Known as a benefactor of Puntarenas during the first half of the XX century, Burgos donated the property for the construction of the San Rafael Hospital and carried out intense charitable and progressive works. In 1911, he became the President of the Charity Board. There is a bronze bust in the gardens that is 60 centimeters (2 feet) tall and was melted in the Public Works Workshops by Antonio Castiglioni.
10- Tourists Boulevard
In the 1960’s, Eduardo Angulo Obando proposed a project to build the “Paseo de los Turistas” (Tourist Boulevard) on the street which runs parallel to the beach, on Avenue 4. The most visited route and which was in better conditions, was known as Paseo Cortés; from there to the tip, the road was made of dirt. Once the boulevard was established (1960 and 1970), the port became the most popular spot for vacationers from around the country.
Thanks to the project “Puntarenas por siempre” (Puntareneas forever), substantial improvements to the boulevard have been made, with new lighting posts, green areas, the construction of public showers and reconstruction of the sidewalks and installation of benches. On April 2006, the International Symposium of Stone Sculpture and under the title, “The Magic of the Sea”, 19 limestone sculptures of 2 meters (6 ½ feet) high were installed. They were designed by national artists or artists from the United States, England, Italy, Cuba and Argentina.
11- The Esplanades (Breakwaters)
In 1948, they began its construction to stop the beach washing caused by the strong waves. However, with the passing of time and the strong tides in the area, its reparation was a priority. The project was born in 2009, with the purpose of beautifying Puntarenas and giving it breakwaters that avoided marine erosion in the area called “La Punta” (the Point).
On November 26, 2010, authorities from the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT for its acronym in Spanish), and the Costa Rica Institute of Pacific Ports (INCOP for its acronym in Spanish), inaugurated the project that more than just supply the necessity, they sought to beautify the public areas and make a service available to tourists.
Also, the Project was comprised of an entrance to the esplanades, a basketball court and beach volleyball court; children’s play area and multi-use plazas; meeting and seating area for visitors.
12- Municipal Pool
Central Ave., Street 37
The property was built during the Oduber Quirós (1974-1978) Administration, in 12,722 square meters (136,938.5 square feet) of land. However, the place was shut down in 2000 due to its poor condition.
Then 12 years later, but with a new concept in services, becoming a Beach Club, it reopens its doors offering a new face to the port. The project has 2 pools, 3 restaurants, 2 halls each one hold 300 people and a parking lot for 150 cars. It also has a volleyball court and green areas. It has a capacity to house 1300 visitors and it is strategically located to have a breathtaking view of the Gulf.
1- Ferry Terminal
Situated at Av. 3, Street 35
The Ferry terminal is a Project that emerged a few years ago in Puntarenas with the main purpose of having a maritime route that crosses the Gulf of Nicoya, with routes Puntarenas – Paquera and Puntarenas – Playa Naranjo; connecting in approximately an hour and fifteen minutes, the points of sea landings, avoiding transfers and extensive land travel. The Ferry Terminal presently, is being remodeled as part of “La Punta’s” beautification, and to cover the basic needs of the terminal that allow an orderly and safe use by the users.
2- Tourism Pier
Ave. 3, Street 27
Built under the Óscar Arias (1986-1990) Administration, by the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT), it was handed over to the Municipality of the province. It is presently being managed under concession of a private company. However, since 2007, the Municipality and the ICT have joined forces to recover it and convert it into a terminal where a tour can be taken to the different Gulf islands, mainly Tortuga Island and San Lucas Island. Also, it has been given the option so that Development Associations, Chambers of Tourism and State Institutions, can use its installations to carry out recreation activities for the city of Puntarenas.
The pier consists of three boarding areas, public bathrooms, parking area and green areas.
3- Rosalía Palacios Monument.
Located on Avenue 0, Street 25.
Rosalía Palacios was born in the second half of the XIX century in the Cauca Region in Colombia. She immigrated to Costa Rica with her family to live in the port which Puntarenas was something more than just a village with farms. The nearness of living next to the San Rafael Hospital flourished in her a sense of love thy neighbor and a spirit of giving as a form of human solidarity with the sick. Soon the figure of the “Negra Chalía” became known in the port and many people sought her out for advice, assist women in labor, help underprivileged children and give first aid to those who needed it. As a tribute to her memory a sculpture was erected at the local of the Barrio El Carmen Association of Specific Development. The monument in her honor was elaborated in granite, sculpted by Olger Villegas, and with a height of 2.57 meters (8.4 feet).
4- “Lito” Pérez Stadium
The stadium belongs to the municipality of the City of Puntarenas and it is used by the team of the First Division (soccer), the Puntarenas Soccer Club. Its capacity is for 4,105 fans.
The stadium owes its name to the ex-soccer player from Puntarenas, Miguel Angel “Lito” Pérez Treacy. He was a Costa Rican soccer player, born in the province of Puntarenas, and whose sports career took off between 1930 and 1945. In 1974, years after his death, his friend and City Mayor, Lorgio Álvarez, proposed his name to christen the Puntarenas stadium, the motion was approved, thus achieving "Lito" Pérez being remembered forever in the “Pearl of the Pacific.” It is commonly known as "La Olla Mágica", a metaphor for the extremely hot conditions while playing on this field.
5- Mora and Cañas Park
Avenue 1 Street 9.
It was inaugurated on December 8th, 1918. It is the largest park in the city and it has a monument in honor of the National Campaign heroes of 1856-1857, Juan Rafael Mora and José María Cañas, who were both executed on that site in September of 1860. For many years, an enormous water tank was used to supply water to Barrio El Carmen. It was designed by the architect José María Barrantes Monge, in an Art Deco style, and because of its dimensions and architectural beauty it is the most important piece of the park. This park offers playground areas as well as sports courts and spacious open areas. It was declared as an Architectural and Historical Heritage on April 4th, 1975.
6- Juan Rafael Mora Porras Monument.
Avenue 3, Streets 9 and 11.
Juan Rafael Mora was born on February 8th, 1814. He was a smart businessman involved in the coffee production area. He was President of the Republic from 1849 to 1859. During his legislation, Costa Rica’s independence from Spain was recognized, the Costa Rican Diocese was opened, urban growth expanded in the Metropolitan Area and the Border Treaty between Costa Rica and Nicaragua was signed. His government participated in the National Campaign of 1856 - 1857, where the people of Costa Rica wrote the most glorious page of history for defending the national sovereignty. He was overthrown from power in 1859 and executed on September 30th, 1860 in Puntarenas, after the Battle of the Angostura. A bust in his memory was sculpted in bronze by Juan Rafael Chacón and it is 69 centimeter (2 feet) in height.
7- Monument to José María Cañas
Located on Avenue 3, Streets 9 and 11.
José María Cañas was born in Suchitoto, El Salvador. At a young age, Cañas showed interest in a military career and joined the army under General Francisco Morazán. He exiled to Costa Rica after the defeat of this leader. He was the Governor of the Region of Puntarenas, during the Juan Rafael Mora Administration. As Governor, he supported many important projects such as the construction of the hospital and a lighthouse. He was known as one of the top military strategists during the National Campaign (1856-1857). In 1858, he was Costa Rica’s negotiator for the border treaty with the Republic of Nicaragua. In 1859, he was overthrown and executed with Juan Rafael Mora the following year. The bust in is honor was modeled of bronze by the sculptor Juan Rafael Chacón and is 69 centimeters (2 feet).
8- Municipal Palace
Avenue 3 Street 9.
The previous Municipal Palace, which was of wood construction burned down. The city hall occupied different locals until during the government of José Figueres Ferrer (1970-1974) the new Municipal Palace building was constructed next to the Mora and Cañas Park. Designed by the architect Jorge Bertheau, using prefabricated structures, it is a four-floor inverted cross pyramid-shape building in which on all four corners are protruding cylinder. It is the tallest building in the city.
9- José Martí High School
Avenue 0 Street 7.
In the absence of a secondary school, the lifeblood of the city demanded that the government provide them with a high school. On March 23, 1942, a group of neighbors were able to establish the Delia Guevara Urbina evening high school, where it remained for 15 years to become a day school and in present day houses the José Martí High School. It occupies three quarters of a block, with a reinforced concrete core module and extensions dating from 1960.
10- Monument to José Martí.
Located on Avenue 0, Street.
Martí was born on January 28, 1853 in La Habana, Cuba. At 16, he published his first political writings, which led to the confrontation and persecution of the Spanish colonial power. In 1871, he was deported to Cadiz, Spain. In Spain, he published is book, “Presidio político en Cuba” (Political Prisoners in Cuba) and he graduated as a lawyer. He lived some years in Spain and in France, where later he decided to relocate to Veracruz, Mexico to work as a journalist. In 1878, he returned to Cuba, but was again deported to Spain. From 1819 to 1890, he travelled throughout Latin America working as a press correspondent and developing an important literary production. On April 11, 1895, he disembarked on Playitas, in a pro-independence revolutionary uprising; being fatally injured in the Battle of Dos Ríos. Considered as the Apostle of the Independence of Cuba, his bust is made of bronze and the author is unknown. It is found in the José Martí High School, melted in the Cuba’s Civil Military Workshop in 1956.
Avenue O Street 7.
Toward mid-nineteenth century, the construction of a chapel was authorized by the patronage of Saint Antony of Padua. In 1850, the parish was completed and in 1858, the modest wooden chapel was erected. In 1889, the Sacred Heart became the new patron of the community. With the coming of the XX century, a fire consumed the church. Between 1902 and 1905 and under Father Esteban Vasquez’s leadership a new church was constructed. The designer was the engineer Luis Matamoros Sandoval. Cut rocks from Esparza and Barranca were used, which were carved by stonemasons from Cartago. The blocks were stuck with a mortar of limestone and sand. The church has three naves, two crosses, an apse that tops the headpiece of the property, lancet windows and small buttresses on the side walls. The central tower is equipped with four clocks. Initially, the floors were made of brick, bought from the Humberto Canessa Factory, but nowadays the floors are made of terrazzo. Its exterior construction is influenced by late-French romantic architecture; meanwhile in the interior the design suggests neo-classic historicism architecture featuring its Doric columns. The Cathedral was constructed facing the east, to face the townspeople. It was declared an Architectural and Historical Heritage on May 17th, 2002.
12- Culture Center
Avenue O Street 3.
It is divided into two construction modules. The oldest one, was built during the late years of the XIX century, which is the “Comandancia de Plaza” (Police Headquarters), and the jail section built in 1913.
Conceived as a military barracks, it had battlements and towers. The Command headquarters of the Plaza had an area for the soldiers’ rooms and a main yard. The jail had a series of cells for the prisoners. It was designed in a neo-colonial influence with slightly pointed arched windows. In 1977, the building was turned over to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports with the objective of turning it into a cultural complex. At the beginning of the 1990s, under the responsibility of the architect Leonardo silva it was converted to a historical sea museum, offices, temporary exhibition hall and an auditorium. The jail section was taken over by the architect Rodolfo Sancho Rojas and it became the Public Library of Puntarenas. It was declared an Architectural and Historical Heritage on May 16th, 1989.
13- La Victoria Park
Avenue 1 Street 3.
Its name corresponds to the tribute that the city of Puntarenas offered to the Costa Rican Army that fought during the National Campaign of 1856-1857. The city of Puntarenas and its port were vital for the passage of our military troops to Nicaragua and it was also the military base of our Navy fleet. The troops celebrated the victory in the emerging space. The park provides big open areas populated with shady trees and has a rectangular figure of about 100 meters (328 feet) long and 20 meters (66 feet) wide, according to the design of the architect Hernán Guitérrez Brown. The Park has a kiosk made of reinforced concrete and a roundabout on the north side (along the estuary).
14- Fait House
Avenue 3 Street 3.
The house was constructed between 1924 and 1925 by Alberto Fait Rocchi, an Italian immigrant that lived in Costa Rica in 1887 and who was contracted by the government as mechanic to repair the ship’s boilers. The land sits on a property of 1,000 m2; the two- floor house is built with reinforced concrete with Victorian style influencewith a space destined for internal ventilation, where ornamentation work with geometrical and vegetable Art Nouveau inspirations can be appreciated. Also, on the second floor, wrought iron railings can be found. On the roof, galvanized iron sheets form five monitors that facilitate the ventilation of the ceiling. Fait had to return to Italy due to health reasons, leaving various projects pending. As a consequence to his return, the Banco de Costa Rica seized the house. The property was auctioned off and bought by Miguel Macaya Lahmann, which was then passed on to Emilio Helpennstell and today it belongs to Elizabeth Magne. It was declared an Architectural and Historical Heritage on March 5th, 2003.
15- Local Market
Avenue 3 Street 2.
It began to operate under the shade of the trees towards, the estuary, where various people would meet to sell their wares. Later, simple wood stands were built, having the trade concentrated on the street which extended along the estuary, becoming the “Calle del Comercio”.
In 1907, Enrique McAdam was responsible for the construction of the marketplace. The facades were built in adobe, while inside the stalls are predominately constructed of tablet and in a cross hatched pattern constructed of the same material. The marketplace occupies a city block and it operations started with about 86 stands there are actually 76 working stands. You can find: vegetables, fruits and medicinal plant stands, as well as fish markets, butcher shops, stores and cafeterias. The market opens its doors every day from 6 am to 4 pm. It closes only on Holy Thursday and Good Friday of the Holy Week, and January 1st and December 25th.