National parks located in the Central Valley protect the region’s primary volcanoes: Poás, Braulio Carrillo, Irazú and Turrialba, all of which have transport and viewing infrastructure allowing visitors to enjoy the birds, landscapes, craters and forests.
The capital San José hosts most government services, but other provincial capitals – Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago – offer a number of commercial and quality tourism services.
The Central Valley has two areas of extraordinary beauty that are tourist destinations in and of themselves: Turrialba and the Valley of the Saints. Rural villages offer great scenic beauty and a glimpse of Costa Rica’s past with adobe houses, large coffee plantations, mills and dairy farms.
Did You Know…
The rural areas of the Central Valley are ideal for tourists to enjoy horseback riding in places like: Turrialba, Santa María de Dota, Atenas, Palmares, Zarcero, Escazú, Santa Ana, and others.
The heart of Costa Rica, the Central Valley, boasts a nearly perfect climate, excellent museums, drive-up volcanoes and fertile hillsides dotted with coffee plantations.
Within this fertile temperate valley live most of the country’s people. The Capital city of San Jose (largest city in Costa Rica), is located in the center of the country in a valley surrounded by untouched cloud forests at an altitude of 2,900′ feet above sea level, giving it an idyllic climate with temperatures that vary from the mid-70’s F during the day to about 60 degrees F at night. A bustling city nestled within a tropical paradise. San Jose acts as a hub to the rest of the country. The airport is located 20-30 minutes outside of downtown San Jose.
San Jose offers visitors a wide variety of activities and a thriving nightlife with its many discos, bars, casinos, fine restaurants, shops, and some very impressive museums sprinkled throughout the city. In the Plaza de la Cultura (Culture Square) a fantastic collection of pre-Colombian gold artifacts gleam inside the enormous vault of the Gold Museum. To one side of the Plaza is the beautiful National Theater, a national pride and architectural jewel. A few blocks away, on the 11th floor of the National Insurance Building (INS), is the Jade Museum, with the largest collection of pre-Colombian jade in the Americas.
Topping the list, literally, of things to do around San Jose are the drive-up volcanoes: Poás and Irazú, towering 8,870 and 11,260 feet, respectively, above sea level.
Among the lovely towns of the Central Valley, one of the most popular is Sarchí. Long at the center of Costa Rica ‘s oxcart production and more recently, home to a thriving crafts industry, Sarchí attracts visitors looking for local handcrafts and souvenirs.
You can get to any part of the country from San Jose and if traveling from one part of the country to another there is a very good chance that you will stop at some point in San Jose (everything of interest is within a three-hour drive of San José).
A suggestion: Los Quetzales National Park
Los Quetzales National Park is located in the district of Copey and canton of Dota, San José province, 76.5 kilometers south of the capital. It is a special area for birdwatching, particularly the quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), a near-endangered species according to the UICN list.
The type of cloud forest generated by different climatic conditions includes trees covered with a wide variety of plant species, which makes them attractive to birds and animals that inhabit the area. It is home to many endemic species of flora and fauna. The areas of most endemic vegetation are high, subalpine and alpine montane floors, which include more than 50% of the 53 endemic species registered in the Savegre basin.
In addition, the park is located at the head of the Savegre River Basin, a catchment and feeding area for aquifers. It is bordered to the north by La Amistad-Pacífico Conservation Area (separated by the Pan-American Highway), and to the northwest by Cerro Las Vueltas Biological Reserve. On one end, it borders the Pirris River Basin and the Reventazón-Parismina River Basin.
The park’s maximum elevation is 3,190 meters above sea level, and the minimum is 1,240. Temperatures range between 5-14° C, with annual average rainfall of 2,648 mm.
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