Our stop in Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera), Costa Rica on February 21, 2019 was part of our Panama Canal Cruise. There were four in our group, two younger guys and two older ladies. Before the cruise I booked a tour with Odyssey Tours, the 10 in 1 Puntarenas Highlights Tour. Their website is: http://www.odysseytourscr.com. We decided that this was a good option for us because it allowed us to see a broad spectrum of things, without being too physically demanding (one person in our group is on oxygen). We were lucky enough to have the van and driver to ourselves for the day! It turned out to be a good choice. We paid the same amount of money that the cruise wanted to just see the crocodiles on the river (more on that later). They also don't make you pay anything for the tour until you arrive, but we didn't have to pay until the tour was over. The Odyssey Tours website has a good general description on their website, but I will go into the details a little bit.
We met outside the port gate, as arranged via email. Our driver was Roarner, or as he said, to just call him Mr. "R"! He was friendly and ushered us into the air-conditioned van, thank goodness! It was hot and the dry season here in Costa Rica. He stopped by a little store and got a snack, but it wasn't for him, he said. We soon found out it was for the white-faced monkeys! We literally pulled off the highway a sort time later and he calls out into the trees and opens the food. Sure enough two, then three, then five monkeys were around us and the small crowd that was now there. They took the food and climbed on our shoulders (only if you wanted them too). These had been trained to take food and be around people, but it was still neat to see them!
Our next stop was to a small roadside fruit stand. Friendly service, it felt like they knew our driver pretty well. They let us try watermelon, papaya, pineapple, and 'jugo de cana' a.k.a. sugarcane juice. All delicious! We also tried the fleshy part of a cashew nut, which tasted like a sweet squash? Interesting, but not my favorite. We then bought some fruit smoothies with rum ($8), why not?! We enjoyed them as Mr. R told us about his country on the ride out to the Punta Leona beach resort area. This was down a dusty and bumpy gravel/dirt road, a shortcut. Well, we ended up at Playa Mantas. Walked the beach for 30 minutes or so, until we were ready to move on to the next thing. This was a shop called 'Maravillas Souvenirs and Woodshed' and it sold souvenirs and beautiful wood art. We browsed and bought some little things. No sales pitch and no pressure! When we were ready, we left.
From there we rode up the hills to a little hotel called the 'Carara Costa Rica Ocean View Hotel'. The main reason for the stop was the view. It was gorgeous and we could see fields, the rainforest, and the ocean far, far below. Our ship was not visible, it was lost in the haze. Didn't stay long, but we did get to here the incessant chirping of cicadas! I guess they emerge every 7 years for about 7 days... lucky?! Around the corner from this place, we stopped at a local resort called 'Villa Lapas'. The grounds here are amazing! I guess macaws are often spotted here but it was mating season and they are more reclusive then... we heard one though!
Then it was on to the best part of the whole tour, in my opinion. We road out on the Tarcoles River to see the crocodiles! We joined a boat of the 'Original Crocodile Man' fleet. The boat tour was about an hour long and our guide, Ronnie, was awesome. There is lots of birds, lizards, iguanas, and of course we saw crocodiles. At one point Ronnie lured a massive one out of the water, impressive. At the very end we did get a fleeting glimpse of two macaws. We were also lucky enough to watch the biggest crocodile in the area surge out of the water with a huge fish in it's mouth, without any prompting by the guides. It was great!
Then it was on to a late lunch. It would have been earlier but our boat tour was later due to tides. So by the time we ate, we were starving and the meal was simple, but delicious! After lunch, we did a quick drive by of the main sites in the town of Puntarenas itself. It was nice to hear about these sites from Roarer's point of view. We made it back to the port gate, paid the guide, and we were back on the ship in time for the all aboard.
Like I said, this tour really does offer a good overview of the highlights of the area. We got to see so much more than just the crocodile boat tour that the cruise line was offering. It isn't the most immersive, nor is it the most adventurous tour, but it's a good intro to the area and Costa Rica. I say, if you want more value, go with this tour from Odyssey.