Central Valley - Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Central Valley combines the urban lifestyle of the Grand Metropolitan Area with the secrets of Costa Rican rural culture in its small towns and villages.

The center of the country is home to San José, a modern business, political, and arts center. Around San José, the small towns and villages of the four provinces that meet in the Central Valley (Alajuela, Heredia, San José, and Cartago) offer visitors the chance to discover the traditions and customs of the true Costa Rican spirit.

Theater, music, handicrafts, international and typical food, historical museums, adventure sports, forests and volcanoes, come together here, in the heart of the country. The Central Valley is where most of the population resides, which means its “home” to more than 2 million “ticos” (how the rest of Latin Americans call Costa Ricans).

San José, the capital city, is the prime location for several music, art, film and poetry festivals throughout the year. All you need do is check the major local newspapers to find out when and where these activities might be happening.

In San José’s historic downtown, the Pre-Columbian Gold and Jade museums tell the story of the country’s indigenous legacy. The National Theater and Contemporary Art Museum will give you a glimpse of Costa Rica’s artistic community, which consists mainly of internationally recognized painters and sculptors.

And if you’re interested in discovering life in the country’s agricultural villages, practicing community tourism is the way to go. Not too far away from San José, the small towns of Barva, Carrizal, Sarchí, Grecia, and Zarcero are the perfect locations to taste and learn how to prepare typical meals such as casados, cajetas and string cheese. In the town of Sarchí you will be able to observe the manufacture and artisan painting of the typical oxcart as well as several other exotic wood souvenirs.

The Central Valley is definitely a region that has a little bit of everything to suit all likings. With the exception of beautiful beaches, this region has a lot to offer. But don’t worry, if you’re visiting the Central Valley, you can always get to the gorgeous beaches of the Central Pacific region in less than two hours.

Three Costa Rican provinces border San José in the Central Valley. Interestingly enough, each one has it’s own spectacular volcano watching over the people.

The Poás volcano is located in Alajuela, at 8.884 feet above sea level; this volcano has the largest crater on Earth. The crater’s diameter is 4.921 feet across and is 984 feet deep.

The Barva volcano, in Heredia, looks like a hidden lagoon surrounded by exuberant, overwhelming nature. It’s located at 9.534 feet above sea level and is the highest point of the Braulio Carrillo National Park.

The Irazí volcano, located in Cartago, Costa Rica’s first capital city, sits at 10.859 feet, overlooking beautiful vegetables plantations.

Finally, the Turrialba volcano has three magnificent craters filled with geysers that sit at about 10.925 feet above sea level and provides a fabulous view of the valley.

Coffee is the “golden bean” of Costa Rica. Widely known as the best coffee in the world, take the opportunity to sample the unique varieties offered as part of one of Costa Rica’s numerous coffee tours, often located in communities whose economies have long been bolstered by the cultivation and exportation of this fine drink.

According to the Costa Rican Institute of Coffee (ICAFE), some ten coffee tours are operating countrywide. One of these, the “Espíritu Santo Coffee Tour,” part of the Coffee Producers Cooperative of Naranjo, located in the Alajuela Province, presents visitors with a sensorial, educational, and above all, enjoyable experience.

The tour is about one and a half hours long and begins with a short class on “Coffee Tasting”, followed by a trip into the plantation. After the walk, you will visit an antique typical estate home, learn about the coffee processing in one of the "greenest" processing plants in the country. The tour ends at the Souvenir Shop with “Happy Hour” offering rum, coffee liquors and chocolate covered coffee beans.