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Although many areas of Costa Rica developed earlier, the port at Puntarenas didn’t really develop until 1840, when the production of coffee in the highlands area reached such levels it could be exported. Then Puntarenas’ coast position became useful and the area began to develop.
When coffee exportation began, it was first brought through the mountains in oxcarts, but in 1879, a rail line was built from the town of Esparza to Puntarenas, and the oxcarts would stop in Esparza where the coffee was moved to rail cars and delivered to Puntarenas. The coffee was coming from the mountain town of San Jose and in 1910, the rail line was extended from San Jose to Puntarenas, and an industry was truly born.
Following the development of the coffee industry, the banana industry was also born. The climate in the Pacific lowlands made for perfect banana growing conditions and between 1936 and 1955, there was a huge wave of people who arrived to take part in this burdgeoning banana industry. While prior to this, the area was fairly uninhabited, it now suddenly developed into a trade port.
In recent years, the population was increased in Puntarenas. The estimated population of the area (in 2005) was 100,000 inhabitants. It’s not a heavy touristy area, though people do arrive here via cruise ships and sometimes come to stay along the beach at the hotels, but it is a popular destination on weekends when Costa Ricans arrive for sunny weekend fun.