Atenas is located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, in the province of Alajuela not far from Grecia. In English Atenas, is Athens, but don’t get confused, this is far from the Athens we all know. This is a peaceful, close knit community compared to other Costa Rican Cities. It is situated about 40 kilometers from the capital, just on the very edge of the central valley. More than just the fact that this is the Athens of Costa Rica, Atenas offers you a great way to get to know how Costa Rica truly is. Atenas is known for its rich history in farming and the Oxcarts, or carretas, as well as the Annual fiesta.
Atenas may not look like the European Athens but it has a charm that you won’t see anywhere else. One of the best parts about Atenas is certainly the central park. You will see a lot of history come to life in the monuments and statues. Because Atenas Costa Rica is slightly outside of the Central Valley, you will notice a different variety of birds and animals. This includes famed bird species like the Toucan and Scarlet Macaw. Just sitting in the Park is a peaceful way to take a break from a long drive to some coastal cities and beaches.
Another part of Atenas is the annual fiesta usually held in April to celebrate their heritage and tradition. The Famous oxcarts of Costa Rica arrive in all their glory as two large oxen pull a colorful cart, hand-painted with extraordinary designs. The Carretas are a proud symbol of Costa Rica and has been declared by UNESCO a World Cultural Heritage. In the Central Park, vendors will set up for the big festival and sell all kinds of interesting goods. You will also see some traditional music and dance in old, finished garb. The big Fiesta lasts roughly four days.
Atenas is so much more than just a minuscule town of Costa Rica, it has many different things to do, and you will enjoy your visit here. One favorite excursion that many enjoy is a visit to Zoo Ave. This Place is more than your regular zoo. For one, it is not based on profit or exploitation. It is a place where more than 130 different animal species can find sanctuary and rehabilitate.
If you are looking for something a bit more exciting, it might be worth while taking a day excursion to any of the coffee farms nearby. This area is known for its coffee plantations. One tour takes place on the Doka Estate, they give you a full tour of the farm and then a first-hand experience of the refining process. You will finally get to taste the product after, probably the freshest cup of coffee around.
Las Minas Waterfalls
This hidden gem can be your chance to visit a real Costa Rican waterfall without all the crowds. It is located about an hour from Atenas, on the site of an abandoned gold mine in the village of Desmonste. It may be a bit difficult to find at first, but that is exactly what makes it worth it! Don’t forget to bring your bathing suit for a refreshing dip in the waters!
Atenas Farmer’s Market
Atenas is home to one of the most famous farmer’s markets in Costa Rica. Every Friday from 5:30pm, you can visit this feria and buy fresh fruits, flowers, vegetables, herbs, plants, dairy and meat products and organic El Toledo coffee as well as souvenirs. You can even try the local Gallo Pinto and Casado here, freshly prepared.
Atenas is also the site of flourishing botanical gardens. This Orchid Garden creates flowers in the lab and the plants then into the wild when they’re ready.
Visit in April for the festival: April also happens to be during the dry season (December to May), the best part of the year to visit Costa Rica.
Explore the area: In addition to the waterfalls and Ave Zoo, you can also visit the small, fascinating communities of San Ramon and Grecia.
Shop and cook: The local feria is a must-visit. Take the most out of it and shop for local produce to then cook a lovely meal.
Try something very different and eat in a community library! Unexpected perhaps, but Atenas has two community libraries. Here you can find books for both adults and children in Spanish, English, French and German. The library lends books on an honor basis. Enjoy a great meal as well as a good book at Kay’s Gringo Postres and Café or La Carreta Restaurant.
Where to stay
Because Atenas Costa Rica is a smaller town, there isn’t a huge variety of hotels and resorts. But don’t worry. It is not far from San Jose. Closer to San Jose one of our favorites is the Hotel Grano de Oro. This particular hotel is near central San Jose; it is a traditional building full of character. They have fully restored it to its historic potential and will give you an authentic Costa Rican experience. Another place is the Hotel Casa Conde, another traditional hotel in San Jose, they even have an oxcart out front. Last the Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel, located just north of Atenas. It is conveniently located so that you can experience the cloud forest yet not far from the Capital.