This is the main entryway to Costa Rica. It offers a good variety of tourist, cultural and natural attractions: Gold, Jade, National, Costa Rican Art, Contemporary Art and Design Museums. It also houses the countryís architectural jewel: the National Theater. There are also parks close-by, a great option for one day tours. Includes the provinces of Heredia, Alajuela and Cartago.
The most important international airport, Juan Santamaria, is also located here, in Alajuela. While many tourists come to Costa Rica for its beaches, the Central Valley also has a lot to offer.
It also offers great opportunities to taste the local cuisine: there are sodas and little restaurants everywhere.
It is great for one-day tours to close locations like mountains, adventure sports.
Souvenir shopping in Moravia (San José), Sarchí, (Alajuela) or downtown San José.
Lean about local history through several museums.
Enjoy a cultural presentation, like a dance or music show, at a theater.
Visit a traditional market for a hint of local culture.
Enjoy world-class cuisine at one of many international restaurants.
It lies at 1149 m above sea level. Temperature averages 24 degrees Celsius, nice to walk around surrounding districts. There are some nice buildings tourist can admire, some of which have been declared National Monuments of cultural, historical or architectural interest: the Post and Telegraph Building, the National Theater, the Children's Museum, the Blue Castle.
San José has high-quality options in dining and accommodations, from bed and breakfasts and sodas to great bars to enjoy a night out. The end of the year feasts and public festivals are traditional events tourists might enjoy.
It was built between 1890 and 1897. It is home to valuable pieces by Italian artists, which makes it the pride of locals. It is the chosen location for most cultural, artistic and political activities. It was declared a National Monument in 1965.
The renown Costa Rican Symphonic Orchestra plays here throughout the year. Functions usually are Friday night and Sunday morning. It is a great opportunity for classic music lovers. To find out what is showing, visit: www.teatronacional.go.cr Visiting hours: Monday-Saturdays from 9:00 to 16:00.
Guided tour: $5.
For some hundred years, this architectural jewel of metal has served as school. It was declared of Historical and Architectural Interest in 1980.
Temple of music
This 1920 neoclassical building is located in Moraz·n Park. Its interest is that it has almost perfect acoustics. For many years the Symphonic Orchestra and the Military Band performed here.
It was inaugurated in 1895. It was sculpted by French artist Louis Carrier to commemorate the heroic deed of the 1856-1857 campaigns. The figures represent the Central American countries pursuing a North American invader.
It was built as the Army General Barracks between 1916 and 1930. After the abolition of the army, it was turned into museum. Now the museum's main themes are archeology, national history and natural history. It is located on 17th Street and Central and Second Avenues. It is open to the public Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It was built in 1910 and was used as a penitentiary. Now it is designed especially for children. It is located 800 meters north of the Banco Central. It opens Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It houses a collection of pre-Columbian art (gold, ceramic, jade and stone). It displays indigenous jade artwork. It is located in the National Insurance Institute building.
Its collection of indigenous gold objects is considered one of the most valuable in the world. It is located in the Plaza de la Cultura on 5th Street and Central Avenue and opens to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Museum of Costa Rican Art
This building used to be the La Sabana Airport. On the second floor, the Salón Dorado features a wooden mural depicting the country's history from the Amerindian era to 1940. It opens to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This is the country's second largest city in terms of size. It is located 20 km northwest of the capital, in the Central Valley. As capital of the Alajuela province, it lies just a few minutes away from the country's main airport, the Juan SantamarÌa International Airport(SJO). The province is famous for its temperate climate year round.
Activities In Alajuela:
Visit Poás Volcano.
Buy Souvenirs in Sarchí.
Take a Canopy Tour in Naranjo
Visit the town of Zarcero and admire the pine sculptures.
Visit the Juan Santamaria Museum at downtown Alajuela
A tourist attraction is the Juan Santamaría Cultural Historical Museum, near the city's Central Park. It shows many historical maps, artifacts and portraits from the battle of 1856. There is also a bird zoo, Zoo Ave, and a butterfly farm.
It is an active volcano with some of the most beautiful scenery in Costa Rica, which rises at 2,700 meters above sea level. It is a great option for a one-day trip, since the ride from San José takes only an hour and a half. The main crater is about 2 km(1.25 mi) in diameter and over 1000 meters deep. There is also a gorgeous blue-green crater lake named Botos and many forests. The best time to view the crater is early in the morning before the clouds ruin the fun. The road to Poás is also very beautiful; you will pass many coffee plantations and landscape changes. The La Paz waterfall is on the way up to the volcano.
It is advisable to take warm cloths and comfortable shoes. It can rain, so rainwear is also a good option.
How to get there
By car: From San José take the Pan american Highway towards the airport. Once you have passed the Toll booth and the first street light take the exit to Alajuela just in front of the Airport and continue that road through Alajuela downtown. Once you pass the town, you will start to climb the mountains and see the coffee plantations that will lead you to the Poás Volcano National Park.
By bus: Buses leave from San José everyday at 8:00 am and it returns at 4:00 pm. Buses leave at 2nd Avenue, 12th and 14th Streets. Phone: 222-5325.
To get there, take the autopista towards the International airport, however, stay to the right following the sign for San Ramón. Keep driving for 15-20 minutes until you see a sign for Sarchí.By bus,
From San José buses leave on 18th Street, 5th and 7th Avenues. On weekdays buses leave at 12:15. From Alajuela buses leave at Zero and First Avenues, 8th Street. There are buses every 30 minutes until 10 pm, both ways.
This small town is the country's craft capital. It is located less than one hour from San José, which makes it a good option for a one-day tour. The town's church is painted a charming light blue.
The materials used in the typical crafts of Costa Rica are wood, leather, and bronze, among others. You can find souvenirs, rocking chairs, hammocks, furniture, paintings, and many more other things.
In Sarchí you will find a wide variety of furniture for all tastes. The manufacturers work with fine woods of great quality, like Cenízaro and Guanacaste. You can even design your own piece and they will make it for you.
The traditional handmade oxcart is the country's most famous type of craft. In the middle of the 19th century, when coffee was first being grown here, oxcarts were the only means to transport the coffee beans over the mountains and to the coast. The tradition of painting and decorating the carts began in the early years of this century.
Half an hour west from the city of San José you can jump from the Colorado River Bridge, which is about 100 meters deep. This is a 60-meter jump and is supervised by a trained instructor. Dare to live this adventure and experience the adrenaline's power.
Cartago was Costa Rica's first capital until 1823. Despite some earthquakes that caused considerable damage throughout the city, several important architectural structures still remain. Cartago is home to Costa Rica's patron saint, Our Lady of the Angels or 'La Negrita' as ticos called her.
Our Lady of the Angels
This basilica was built in 1921. It has a small shrine where many ticos go to worship their patron saint. Its architecture mixes Roman, Arabic and Gothic styles. It has 32 stained-glass windows that depict the Virgin, Jesus and the 15 Stations of the Cross.
Volcán Irazú National Park
This park covers 2309 hectares, and its highest point is at 3432 meters above sea level. What attracts visitors is the surreal lunar landscape. It has two main craters, one, Diego de la Haya, contains a strangely colored lake and the other is 300 meters deep. Vegetation is scarce which contributes to the lunar-like feeling. But still there are some animals that manage to live here: coyotes, tiger cats, and some species of birds. The average temperature is only 7.3 C or 45 F. The visitor center and scenic overlook at the volcano area has a small coffee shop and tables, and is open from 8:00am to 4:00pm.
This village was founded in 1561 by Franciscan monks. The main attraction is the colonial church, San José de Orosi. It is the country's oldest church in continuous use, built in 1735. The original wooden roof and terra cotta floor have survived. Inside there are some paintings by Mexican artist Miguel Cabrera. In the former Franciscan cloister is the Religious Art Museum, created in 1980. There you can admire religious artifacts, paintings and a restored monk's cell.
Tapantí National Park
It lies at 30 minutes by car from Orosi. It protects parts of the primary rain forest along the Orosi River and covers 61 km2. The Ranger Station is open for visitors from 5 am to 5pm. There are hiking trails that lead to scenic overlooks and picnic areas.
It was declared a City of National Archeological Interest, where you will find Guayabo, an interesting archeological site. Surrounding Turrialba, there are some nice rural communities such as Santa Cruz, where famous homemade cheese is produced, La Suiza, as well as the rapids of the Reventazón and Pacuare rivers.
Lankester Botanical Garden
Internationally recognized for its noteworthy collections of epiphytes, the Lankester Botanical Garden was established in 1973 as a center for the exhibition, conservation and research of tropical epiphytic plants, with a special interest in orchids. On 11 hectares , the field collections, collections in greenhouses and secondary forests host over 3,000 species of plants.
The Garden is open to the public every day. Opening hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visitors may remain inside the Garden until 5:30 p.m. Entrance fee: $5.
The Garden is located 26 kilometers from the capital and 4 kilometers along the road between Cartago and Paraiso. This distance can be traveled in approximately 30 minutes by car. You can also reach the Garden by bus, first taking the San José to Cartago bus departing from the SACSA terminal (40 minutes) and then the bus to Paraiso (10 minutes).
Guayabo National Monument
This is the largest archaeological site yet found in Costa Rica. Largely unexplored, the area contains ancient trails, bridges, water tanks and homesites, as well as petroglyphs estimated to be about 3,000 years old. The ranger station is open from 8:00am to 4:00pm. There are hiking trails, camping areas and bathing facilities.
The province of Heredia is located some 15 km north of San José. Bus service to downtown Heredia is frequent and good. Buses stop at Avenue 4, 12th and 14th Streets. Fair is less than $1. It is home to Braulio Carrillo National Park. There are some architectural attractions here as well.
Things to do in Heredia:
Visit Braulio Carrillo Nat. Park.
Climb the summit of Barva Volcano.
Practice Canopy or white water rafting in Sarapiquí.
Walk Around Heredia Downtown.
Visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens.
Popular Culture Museum
It is located in Santa LucÌa de Barva. Its main objective is to disseminate and preserve the traditions and identity of the Costa Rican people. Visitors can lean about the construction of colonial houses made with adobe and bahareque. It is open to the public Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Aerial Tram of the Tropical Rain Forest
Near the Braulio Carrillo National Park this incredible adventure makes it possible for you to see the tropical rain forest, its hanging gardens and its animals from the treesí canopy.
An amazing place where you can experience the sounds and sights of Costa Rican nature, while walking along informative trails.
It is a great introduction to the vast world of biological diversity found in Costa Rica and its protected areas. Marvel at the astonishing colors of our butterflies; learn from where poison dart frogs get their name; find out why it is best to avoid bullet ants (the largest in Central America), and witness a lagoon through an underwater glass window.
You can do all this and much more at Inbioparqueís six hectares of land, which includes an aquarium of fresh water fish, orchids, heliconias and bromeliads, and an exhibition hall with multimedia.
How to get there: If you are coming from Heredia: from the Red Cross of Santo Domingo 500m south and 250m east. If you are coming by bus: San José down town: Heredia - San José bus station, From Radiografica Costarricense 150 meters north, between street 1 and 7 avenue.
Braulio Carrillo National Park
It is one of the countryís most extensive parks, covering an area of 44099 hectares and it also encompasses seven diverse habitats. It is easily accessible from San JosÈ. It can be reached by taking the Guapiles Highway that goes on to LimÛn. This highway cuts directly through the park and offers breathtaking views of the landscape. It protects many of the streams that flow through the Central Valley as they originate from here. Mountains are high and it has beautiful waterfalls, rivers and cloud forest. It is best to visit this park in March and April, when there is less rain. Warm clothing is recommended year round. There are several hiking trails and three ranger stations, but no accommodation service.
How to get there
Buses to Guapiles will leave you at one of the range stations. Buses leave from the Caribenos terminal on Main Street, 13th Avenue. Service everyday, every hour until 9:00 pm. Phone: 222-0610. By car:
You have to take the Braulio Carrillo Highway from San José.
The summit of Barva Volcano is the highest point in Braulio Carrillo National Park. It has been inactive for 300 years. Barva's summit is the only part of Braulio Carrillo where camping is allowed. It is a good place to see quetzals early in the morning. The hike is tough, so visitors are less frequent than in other volcanoes. The hike from the ranger station takes 2 hours too the main crater.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
With over 3.5 kilometers of walking trails, this park includes a Butterfly Observatory, Hummingbird Garden, serpentarium, monkey exhibit, Frog Exhibit, Tica House, Trout Lake and bird watching areas. Also you will find five wonderfull waterfalls.
Sarapiquí is the largest county in Heredia, it covers 85% of the province’s area. It is located in the northeastern part of the country, bordered by Nicaragua. It is becoming a popular tourist destination for adventure lovers who practice white water rafting down the Sarapiquí River. Preferred activities:
Mountain bike adventures.
Boat trips through the Sarapiquí river.
Horseback riding tours.
How to get there
By bus: from San José to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí there are two options. One passes by the Parque Nacional Braulo Carillo, buses leave at 6:30am, 8:00am, 10:00am, 11:30am, 1:00pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm, 4:30pm, 6:00pm. The trip takes 1hr 45mins. The other passes by the Paz Waterfall. Buses leave at 6:30am & 5:00pm. The trip takes 2hr 45mins. Bus stop: Terminales Caribenos. Phone: 2221-7990.
By Car: There are two ways to get to Sarapiquí from San José:
Option1: Pass by La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the entrance to Poás Volcano National Park. Start at International Airport and travel north on Highway 125 until you reach Route 9. Continue north towards San Miguel and Puerto Viejo.
Option 2: From the International Airport, travel north on Highway 125 until you reach Route 9. Travel south on Route 9 to Route 32. At 8 miles past the Rainforest Aerial Tram, turn left on Route 4. You will travel north until you get to Puerto Viejo.
Driving from Arenal: The route from Arenal takes around 2 hours. Driving east from Arenal, turn left at El Tanque, take the turnoff to Muelle on Route 4. Follow road signs to Aguas Zarcas and turn right at each turn. When you reach Aguas Zarcas, turn left to San Miguel and left again to La Virgen, Chilamate, and Puerto Viejo.
Alma Ata Archeological Park
First park of this kind in Costa Rica. Part of the Centro Neo trópico Sarapiquí (an organization that works in sosteinability and education) and has been created with support from the National Museum. Costa Rican archeologists made excavations of tombs and they rebuilt a villa.
There are some exhibitions in the park:
1) XV Century's Costa Rica.
2) Precolumbian stone sculptures.
3) Precolumbian Cementery.