Central Valley

Central Valley

Known as the “Heart of Costa Rica” the Central Valley is Costa Rica’s most populated region. The capital of San Jose and the city of Cartago offer visitors an assortment of historical landmarks and cosmopolitan sights. Tourists can also venture outside of metropolitan areas to learn more about Costa Rica’s pleasant countryside. The region’s rolling hills, temperate climate, and fertile soil creates the ideal environment for coffee and agricultural production. Tourism attractions in this region range from coffee tours and picturesque botanical gardens to white water rafting and volcano hiking. Due to the great infrastructure in the region, tourists are able to visit many small towns and natural attractions in a single day. Many expats choose to live in the areas of Atenas for its cooler climate, Grecia, and San Ramon. The surrounding mountainous areas of Escazu, Alajuela, and Heredia are also popular areas of living for those interested in settling here.

Alajuela 

Alajuela is the second largest city in Costa Rica, and is well renowned for its reputation as one of the safest and cleanest cities in Central America. Located 26 km from San Jose, visitors to Alajuela can expect to see a beautiful central park, large market, grand cathedral, and historical museums. The city’s temperate climate makes it a great place to visit during Costa Rica’s hot summer. One of the most popular tourist attractions is Juan Santamaria Day in April, which features lively festivals and colorful parades. A quick day trip from the city, travelers can also choose to visit Poas Volcano, an active Volcano overlooking Alajuela. Poas is the largest open volcano in the world, with the crater of the volcano measuring a mile across and 1050 feet deep. If you choose to visit, make sure to get there early, as lines can start to form when the attraction opens at 8am. 

Central Valley

Sarchi Artisan Village 

One of the most popular day tours from the capital of San Jose, Sarchi is a small village known for its immaculate woodworking and talented artisans. A great place to buy souvenirs, the town is home to nearly 200 shops that are owned and operated by local artisans. One of the most unique products in Sarchi are hand-painted oxen carts, a national symbol of Costa Rican folklore. Historically, each region of Costa Rica had its own unique ox-cart design to indicate the origin of different Costa Rican travelers. This was especially prominent in the mountainous Central Valley, where coffee beans were transported to large markets by ox-cart. Tourists can choose from a wide variety of products in Sarchi, including leather, jewelry, and small wood carvings. Many travelers also choose to visit the neighboring village of Grecia during their day trip, which is famous for its unique metal church. 

Central Valley

Irazu Volcano 

Located 30 km outside of Cartago, Irazu Volcano is the largest and tallest volcano in all of Costa Rica. It measures 11,000 feet high and nearly 500 km wide at its base. Although the Volcano is technically still active, there has not been an eruption in over 50 years. Many visitors choose to view the volcano’s large crater, which is now filled with a green-water lake. Take a challenging 1km hike up the side of the volcano or opt to for a short drive to a viewing platform. If the weather is clear, visitors can see both the Caribbean sea and the Pacific Ocean from the top. There are also a variety of other hiking trails throughout the park’s unique landscape, which looks similar to a rocky desert thanks to years of volcanic activity. 

Central Valley

Pacuare River 

One of the most interesting tourism experiences in all of Costa Rica, the Pacuare River amazes visitors with its exhilarating white water rapids and breathtaking scenery. The Pacuare River runs 108km from the Cordillera de Talamanca mountain range in east central Costa Rica all the way to the country’s Caribbean coast. Travelers are able to join various rafting tours that traverse the tropical river and challenging rapids. Day tours or overnight rafting trips are both available. For overnight excursions, tour guests will stay in remote ecolodges located on the banks of the river. Regardless of what option you choose, visitors to the Pacuare River can enjoy breathtaking views, roaring rapids, and picturesque waterfalls. 

Central Valley

San Jose

The capital of Costa Rica, San Jose is the cultural and economic centre of the country. Although many travelers choose to skip the city, San Jose does offer a variety of interesting attractions and a pleasant atmosphere. The city is filled with interesting museums, impressive art galleries, beautiful parks, and great dining options. One of the most impressive attractions is the local Jade Museum, which houses the largest collection of American Jade in the entire world. Due to the centrality of San Jose, the city is also a great jumping off point for various activities and attractions throughout the Central Valley.

Central Valley

Central Valley Coffee Plantations

Thanks to the Central Valley’s temperate climate and rich volcanic soil, the region is one of the world’s largest coffee producers. In fact, coffee is a key feature of Costa Rica’s agricultural economy, producing over 1.5 million bags of Arabica beans per year. Tourists can choose from a wide variety of plantation tours, which explain the entire process of coffee harvesting from extraction to drying and roasting. For a hands on experience, tourists visiting between the months of October and May will have the opportunity to pick their own coffee fruits. In addition to the incredible coffee, the surrounding hillsides and patchwork agriculture make the experience even more enjoyable. 

Central Valley

Cartago

Visitors to the Central Valley that are interested in history should definitely visit the city of Cartago. Founded in 1563, the city was the capital of Costa Rica before a series of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and civil war damaged much of the original infrastructure. Today, visitors can still view ruins from the 16th century in Cartago’s central park, including the city’s first Basilica. Cartago is also home to a fantastic museum, Museo Municipal de Cartago. This modern museum is filled with multimedia exhibitions, a digital library, and live performances.  

Central Valley

Lankester Botanical Gardens

One of the best examples of an urban ecotourism attraction in Central America, the Lankester Botanical Gardens is a spectacular orchid sanctuary located on the outskirts of Cartago. Initially created by British Botanist Charles Lankaster, the garden is now run by the University of Costa Rica as a research centre and tourism attraction. Visitors can see nearly 3000 different species of plants, many of which are rare orchids. Travellers should try to visit the Botanical Gardens from February to April, when the majority of flora is in full bloom. It is also important to know that the garden is very popular on weekends with visitors from San Jose, so it is best to plan accordingly. The Lankester Botanical Garden is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of San Jose, all while enjoying beautiful flora and fauna.

Central Valley
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