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The Central Pacific region comprises a thin coastal plain narrowing to the southeast and backed by steep-sided mountains cloaked in dense forest. The coast is lined by long gray-sand beaches renowned for fantastic surf.
It is distinguished from more northerly shores by its wetter climate. The region becomes gradually humid southward, with the vegetation growing ever more luxuriant.
It’s no surprise, then, that this region has some of the nation’s prime national parks, where visitors are virtually guaranteed to see scarlet macaws screeching overhead and rare spider monkeys swinging from treetop to treetop.
Rivers cascade down from the mountains, providing opportunities to hike to of spectacular waterfalls. The rivers slow to a crawl amid extensive mangrove swamps separated by miles-long sandy swaths punctuated by craggy headlands. One river, the Río Tárcoles, is home to a large population of crocodiles, present in most rivers.
South of Jacó, vast groves of African palms smother the coastal plains. Interspersed among them are orderly workers’ villages, with gaily painted plantation houses raised on stilts.
Highway 34 (the Costanera Sur) runs the length of the coast, linking the region with Puntarenas and Guanacaste to the north and Golfo Dulce and Osa southward. In 2010, it was finally paved the entire way with the intent that Highway 34 will become the new Pan-American Highway, linking Nicaragua and Panamá (doing away with the need to head up over Cerro de la Muerte, thus shortening the route considerably.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition