Puerto Caldera lies at the mouth of the Nicoya Gulf on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica. Even though it is a very small town, it is an important Costa Rican port with trade relations worldwide. It contains an industrial complex meant to accommodate both cargo vessels and cruise liners. Puerto Caldera serves the nearby city of Puntarenas, the largest city and capital of Costa Rica’s Puntarenas Province.
About two hours west of Costa Rica’s capital of San Jose, Puerto Caldera is an important access point for the entire country. It has no formal passenger facilities outside of a small air-conditioned terminal with restrooms, public phones, an information desk, and a few vendors. Even so, Puerto Caldera is close to many popular tourist attractions. About 100 thousand people live in and around Puerto Caldera.
Christopher Columbus discovered Costa Rica when he landed on its Atlantic shores in 1502, giving it the name “Rich Coast” because he believed he would find great wealth there. Costa Rica’s colonization was not as violent as elsewhere in Latin America, as it was inhabited by settled farmers who fell quickly to European diseases.
Costa Rica’s first capital, Cartago, was established in 1563. In 1737, the capital was moved to San Jose. In 1821, Costa Rica gained independence from Spain, followed by a long period of civil war. Desiring to export coffee, the new government gave coffee growers free land, creating a peasant class of landowners and great prosperity. Costa Rica’s democracy was born in 1889 and continues to the present, with one brief military dictatorship in 1948, after which the army was abolished. The country made an official proclamation of neutrality in 1983.
Nearby Puntarenas was known as Villa Bruselas during colonial times. Discovered by Hernan Ponce de Leon in 1519, it was not developed as a port until coffee crops reached high volumes in the 1840s. The new Republic’s Congress declared the city’s port, Puerto Calderas, a duty free port in 1845, and it was linked to the interior by road in 1879. Rail service arrived at the Puntarenas area in 1910.
Puerto Caldera began operations in 1577, and it took over Puntarenas City’s maritime trade in 1834. In 1972, the new port was opened, bringing new industries, greater tourism, and increasing development to the area and the country. Being San Jose’s access point to the Pacific Ocean, it continues to be an important port for Costa Rica.