Costa Rica’s Central Valley

Home to the Capital City of San Jose and Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)

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Costa Rica Central Valley

Home to the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), the Costa Rica Central Valley is often the first stop for visitors. Tourists flying into SJO have an unbeatable view of the tall mountains 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. However the Central Valley actually has a lot to offer including hotels, volcanos, waterfalls, coffee plantations and museums. 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. 

Top Destinations

San Jose

San JoseSan 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

Heredia ViewHeredia 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

Cartago 

CartagoLocated 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. 

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall Gardens WaterfallOnly 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. 

Poas Volcano

Poas Volcano National ParkThe 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. 

Facts

Central Valley / San Jose Tours

Doka Coffee TourThere 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

san joseThe 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

San Jose Costa RicaThe 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

National Theater San Jose Costa RicaThe 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 There

Closest International Airport: Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)

san jose taxi and churchGetting 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. 

Costa Rica’s Central Valley - Get Info

Costa Rica’s Central Valley Map

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Costa Rica’s Central Valley

Costa Rica’s Central Valley

The central valley, characterized by coffee plantations surrounded by lush mountains and volcanoes. Many people spend their first and last nights in the city or use San Jos...

Costa Rica’s Central Valley Vacation Packages

Extended Costa Rica Highlights

Extended Costa Rica Highlights

20
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Best of Birding

Best of Birding

8
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Nature Birding Tour

Nature Birding Tour

10
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Romantic Adventure Experience

Romantic Adventure Experience

10
$1000-$1500 p.p.
Unforgettable Costa Rica

Unforgettable Costa Rica

7
SJO
Less than $1000 p.p.
Caribbean Exploration Tour

Caribbean Exploration Tour

SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Dancing with Quetzals

Dancing with Quetzals

11
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Birding in Costa Rica’s Eco-Zones

Birding in Costa Rica’s Eco-Zones

11
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Costa Rica’s Top Birding Spots

Costa Rica’s Top Birding Spots

11
SJO
The Southern Highlands & Pacific

The Southern Highlands & Pacific

9
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Costa Rica Relocation with Christopher Howard and Stay in Punta Leona

Costa Rica Relocation with Christopher Howard and Stay in Punta Leona

7
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Costa Rica Relocation with Christopher Howard

Costa Rica Relocation with Christopher Howard

5
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.

Cities

Cartago

Cartago

The surrounding mountain scenery is extremely picturesque – with the Orosi Valley being a popular tourist destination. Som...

Atenas Costa Rica

Atenas Costa Rica

Atenas Costa Rica is a peaceful town in between San Jose and the Central Pacific. Come experience the traditional festival.

San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

With an altitude of 1,161 m above sea level San Jose enjoys a stable climate all year along and has an average temperature...

Orosi Valley

Orosi Valley

If you hire your own rental car when you come to Costa Rica, visiting the Orosi Valley is a picturesque and fascinating da...

Heredia

Heredia

The province of Heredia is the greenest of the country, with lush national parks, waterfalls and extinct volcanoes. The ci...

Escazu

Escazu

Escazu is a young and trendy suburb located on the Western side of the Capital of San Jose. While the old Escazu is more l...

Alajuela

Alajuela

Alajuela is an inland province and does not have a coastline; it makes up for it with beautiful sceneries, and dazzling fl...

Rivers

Pacuare River

Pacuare River

The Pacuare offers a full day of Class III/IV rafting in some of the most beautiful scenery and countryside that Costa Ric...

Volcanoes

Irazu Volcano

Irazu Volcano

A major eruption of the Irazu Volcano in 1723 completely destroyed the capital at the time and the current Costa Rican cap...

Turrialba Volcano

Turrialba Volcano

The Turrialba Volcano once dormant for 105 years awakens with possibilities for you to experience when you visit the spraw...

Waterfalls

Bajos del Toro

Bajos del Toro

Discover spectacular scenery and some great hiking and adventures!  This part of Costa Rica is known for its lush plant l...

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall Gardens, located on the slopes the Poas Volcano, are one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Costa Rica.

National Parks

Braulio Carrillo

Braulio Carrillo

Established in 1978 as part of an environmental compromise, the national park at Braulio Carrillo was created to help pres...

Costa Rica’s Central Valley Hotels

Chayote Lodge

Chayote Lodge

3
From: Over $300
Courtyard Marriott Alajuela

Courtyard Marriott Alajuela

3
4
From: $125 - $200
Asclepios Wellness & Healing Retreat

Asclepios Wellness & Healing Retreat

5
1
From: Over $300
The Retreat

The Retreat

3
From: $125 - $200
Xandari Resort and Spa Hotel

Xandari Resort and Spa Hotel

4
4
From: $200 - $300
Courtyard Marriott

Courtyard Marriott

3
4
From: $125 - $200
Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn

4
5
From: $125 - $200
Hotel Alta las Palomas

Hotel Alta las Palomas

4
From: $200 - $300
Real InterContinental

Real InterContinental

5
5
From: $200 - $300
Residence Inn

Residence Inn

4
3
From: $200 - $300
Wyndham Garden

Wyndham Garden

3
From: $125 - $200
Hotel Casa Turire

Hotel Casa Turire

4
4
From: $125 - $200
Rancho Naturalista

Rancho Naturalista

3
From: Under $125
Barceló San José

Barceló San José

5
3
From: $200 - $300
Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection by Hilton

Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection by Hilton

4
4
From: Under $125
Hampton Inn

Hampton Inn

4
2
From: $125 - $200
Hilton Garden Inn

Hilton Garden Inn

3
From: $125 - $200
Holiday Inn Aurola

Holiday Inn Aurola

4
4
From: $125 - $200
Hotel Don Carlos

Hotel Don Carlos

3
2
From: Under $125
Hotel Grano de Oro

Hotel Grano de Oro

4
5
From: $200 - $300
Hotel Presidente

Hotel Presidente

3
4
From: Under $125
Hotel Tryp Sabana

Hotel Tryp Sabana

4
4
From: $125 - $200
Marriott Costa Rica

Marriott Costa Rica

5
From: $200 - $300
Park Inn

Park Inn

4
3
From: $125 - $200
Wyndham Herradura

Wyndham Herradura

5
5
From: $125 - $200
Hotel Buena Vista

Hotel Buena Vista

4
From: $200 - $300
The Peace Lodge

The Peace Lodge

5
2
From: Over $300
Pacuare Lodge

Pacuare Lodge

5
5
From: Over $300
Rios Tropicales Lodge

Rios Tropicales Lodge

3
From: Over $300
AmaTierra Retreat

AmaTierra Retreat

3
3
From: Under $125
Hotel Bougainvillea

Hotel Bougainvillea

3
4
From: Under $125
Adventure Inn

Adventure Inn

3
From: Under $125
DoubleTree Cariari by Hilton

DoubleTree Cariari by Hilton

5
4
From: $125 - $200
Studio Hotel

Studio Hotel

5
From: $125 - $200
Hotel Auténtico

Hotel Auténtico

3
From: Under $125

Costa Rica’s Central Valley Tours

Britt Coffee Lovers Tour

Britt Coffee Lovers Tour

3
From: Under $50
Rainforest Aerial Tram

Rainforest Aerial Tram

From: $75 - $100
Doka Estate Coffee Tour

Doka Estate Coffee Tour

Lankester Botanical Garden – Nature at its Finest!

Lankester Botanical Garden – Nature at its Finest!

Ram Luna

Ram Luna

From: Under $50
San Jose Private City Tour

San Jose Private City Tour

From: $50 - $75
6-in-1-Tour with Rainforest Adventure

6-in-1-Tour with Rainforest Adventure

Aerial Tram with Rainforest Adventure

Aerial Tram with Rainforest Adventure

Whitewater Rafting on Pacuare River with Exploradores Outdoors

Whitewater Rafting on Pacuare River with Exploradores Outdoors

San José City Bus Tour with VIP

San José City Bus Tour with VIP

Tortuga Island Cruise with Calypso

Tortuga Island Cruise with Calypso

The best of Doka, Grecia & Sarchí (Oxcart factory) with Expediciones Tropicales

The best of Doka, Grecia & Sarchí (Oxcart factory) with Expediciones Tropicales

Orosi Valley & Lankester Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Orosi Valley & Lankester Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens with Expediciones Tropicales

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens with Expediciones Tropicales

Arenal Volcano & Tabacon Hot Springs Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Arenal Volcano & Tabacon Hot Springs Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Doka Coffee & La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Doka Coffee & La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Irazu Volcano, Orosi Valley & Lankester Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Irazu Volcano, Orosi Valley & Lankester Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Manuel Antonio National Park Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Manuel Antonio National Park Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Plantation, Grecia & Sarchi Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Plantation, Grecia & Sarchi Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Rain Forest Adventure 3 in 1 with Expediciones Tropicales

Rain Forest Adventure 3 in 1 with Expediciones Tropicales

Ram Luna Viewpoint with Expediciones Tropicales

Ram Luna Viewpoint with Expediciones Tropicales

La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

San Jose City Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

San Jose City Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Discover San José City Tour

Discover San José City Tour

Costa Rica Regions and Destinations Map

Southern Zone

Quetzal in the southern ZoneWhy Visit?

Costa Rica’s Southern Zone is where you’ll find the tallest mountains, pristine cloud forest areas, and a virtually unexplored paradise. Find a large variety of birds and just an endless array of biodiversity.  


Things to Do 

Top Destinations

Central Valley

Why Visit?

Cartago Costa RicaCosta Rica’s Central Valley is home to the capital of San José and the Juan Santamaría International Airport. Steeped in History & Culture, many people use the capital as the jumping off point for their vacations.


Things to Do 

Top Destinations

Northern Zone

National Parks of Costa RicaWhy Visit? 

Costa Rica’s Northern Zone is home to the country’s most famous Volcano and Cloud Forest Areas.

You will be amazed at the wildlife and all the biodiversity.


Things to Do 

Top Destinations

Osa Peninsula

Jaguar of Costa RicaWhy Visit?

The Osa Peninsula is truly an unexplored paradise and a must see for nature lovers. If you are looking to get off the beaten path and explore – this is the spot for you.


Things to Do 

Top Destinations

Guanacaste

Costa Rica BeachesWhy Visit? 

Guanacaste is home to Costa Rica’s most popular beach destinations and all-inclusive resorts. If you are looking for a beach vacation, this is your destination for sun, sand, and surf.


Things to Do

Top Destinations

Nicoya Peninsula

Beachfront HotelsWhy Visit?

The Nicoya Peninsula is still largely undeveloped and home to some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches. Known for it’s laid back surfer vibe and boutique beach resorts.


Things to Do 

Top Destinations

Central Pacific

Manuel Antonio National ParkWhy Visit?

Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast is home to some of the closest beaches from the capital of San José, which are easily accessible from the highway.


Things to Do

Top Destinations

Caribbean

Costa Rica's CaribbeanWhy Visit?

Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast is a rich cultural area offering a laid back tropical atmosphere. Experience what Tico Time truly is on this Afro-Caribbean influenced area. 


Things to Do 

Top Destinations

Nicaragua

Granada Nicaragua Why Visit?

Nicaragua is a unique country full of culture and historical parts. You can see a lot of the old part of the colonial age including the cobblestone streets and old forts. 


Top Destinations

Panama

Panama CanalWhy Visit?

Panama is a totally different level of destination. It has so much to offer. You can experience history and modern architecture all in one in Panama City with skyscrapers and the old part of the city. 


Top Destinations

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