Costa Rica Central Valley
Home to the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), the Costa Rica Central Valley is often the first stop for visitors and a favorite amongst those who want to work and live in Costa Rica. Tourists flying into SJO have an unbeatable view of the mountain ranges and volcanos that surround the Central Valley and of the Capital City, San Jose, which is about 20 minutes away from the airport.
Many people chose to leave the Central Valley immediately after they land to head to beaches and national parks in the surrounding areas. However the Central Valley actually has a lot to offer including hotels, volcanos, waterfalls, coffee plantations and museums and restaurants in the bustling metropolitan area of San Jose. Popular day trips from San Jose include trips to the Poás Volcano and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Thanks to the year-round spring-like climate, you can also find ideal hiking and white water rafting. Finally you’ll find no shortage of exciting night life and international cuisine all over the city of San Jose. The Central Valley is definitely worth some of your time during your Costa Rica vacation adventure!
San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica and home to a third of the population. In San Jose you’ll find a lot of cultural and night life activities, as well as many day trips and tours that leave from the city center. Go souvenir shopping on Avenida Central, see a show at the National Theater, and learn about Costa Rica’s history in the Gold, Jade and National Museums. End your day with an ice cold imperial in Barrio Escalante, a gastronomic center where you’ll unique international cuisine.
Heredia is a suburb of San Jose and a great place to escape the hectic city for a day. The quiet streets are a great place to take a stroll and enjoy the views of the Poas and Barva Volcano. You can also see the Immaculada Concepción Cathedral, built in 1796. Or you can tour the Cafe Britt Plantation and hike through the Braulio Carrillo National Park.
Located just outside of San Jose, Cartago was the first Spanish settlement in Costa Rica. Due to several earthquakes, Cartago has had to rebuild most of the city several times, so you’ll find fairly modern buildings as you walk through the peaceful streets. Cartago is also home to the Basilica de nuestra Señora de Los Angeles, which hosts the famous Virgin of the Angels pilgrimage every year on August 2nd. When in Cartago, also pay a visit to the erratic Irazu volcano, towering at 3,432 meters above sea level, and the most haunted place in Costa Rica – the Duran Sanatorium!
Only an hour away from San Jose, La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a great place for a day trip. Not only will you find some of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica, but you can hike through 3 kilometers of easy trails, watch wildlife, visit the orchid garden and see the world’s largest butterfly garden. You can combine a visit to the waterfall gardens with one to a genuine Costa Rica coffee farm.
The Poas Volcano is the biggest active crater in the world and its less than 2 hours away from San Jose! You’ll take an easy walk through the park before you get to the crater. Make sure to be patient when you get there! Sometimes clouds block the crater, but if you wait for a few minutes they usually clear away. It’s also important to check with the park before you go. Due to recent volcanic activity the hours are constantly changing.
Santa Ana is a small town between Escazu and Puriscal, also called the “valley of the sun.” In Santa Ana you’ll find luxury condos, great restaurants and professional golf courses. Santa Ana is also famous for its traditional pottery. Over 100 family-owned pottery shops showcase pre-columbian styles and make for great souvenir shopping.
There are no shortage of tours within and around the Central Valley of Costa Rica. You can explore the museums and culture spots in San Jose on a city tour or go white water rafting on the nearby Pacuare River. Flower enthusiasts will love the Lankester Botanical Gardens and coffee lovers can visit a local coffee plantation and taste fresh Costa Rican coffee.
Central Valley Weather
The Central Valley is famous for having a mild and pleasant climate all year long. You’ll find the average temperature at about 73 degrees. The dry season is from December-April and the most popular time to visit. The Costa Rica sun shines for 12 hours a day every day and you’ll have a clear view of the surrounding mountains. During the rainy season, April-November, it is hot and sunny in the morning with scattered rain showers in the afternoon and evening.
Central Valley Nature
The Central Valley is surrounded by towering mountains and volcanos, guaranteeing beautiful views from everywhere in the valley. Outside of San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago you can find volcanos, including Poas, Irazu and Barva, coffee plantations, waterfalls, hiking trails and hundreds of animal and plant species, all easily accessible on day trips out of the city.
Central Valley Culture
The Central Valley is home to over a third of the entire Costa Rica population and therefore has a much more cosmopolitan feel than the rest of the country. In San Jose you’ll find most of the country’s universities, 3, 4 & 5 star hotels, many shopping malls and restaurants and a lot of “presa” (tico word for traffic). Although you will still sense the “pura vida” spirit, you’ll find that life moves much faster in the Central Valley than it does along the coasts.
Getting to and around the Central Valley of Costa Rica is easy and convenient. You will fly into the Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO). From there you can take a shuttle, private transfer or rental car to get to your hotel and to any nearby attractions. Uber and Taxi are also viable options in the Central Valley. Make sure you only use the official red taxis with yellow triangles. The Central Valley is the most developed part of Costa Rica so you will find paved streets and highways everywhere. Unfortunately, you’ll also find a lot of traffic, so plan accordingly. Talk to one of our expert Travel Agents to figure out the best method of transportation through the Central Valley.