In the geographic center of Costa Rica and surrounded by mountains lies the Central Valley. This broad valley enjoys a year-round spring-like climate with temperatures mostly in the 70´s and low 80´s ˚F. This area is where the nation’s capital city of San José is located, and combined with adjacent cities of Heredia, Alajuela, and Cartago, it is the economic and cultural center of the country.

For most visitors on vacation, their Costa Rican holidays start with their arrival at the international airport located here. Although the region is dominated by commercial and residential zones, the area does offer visitors its own highlights as well as serving as a hub for many one-day excursions to the surrounding natural areas and some national parks.

What can one do here? Many options are available including enjoying a half-day city tour, visiting several museums, catching the amusing theatrical performance of the Cafe Britt Coffee Tour, and experiencing fine dining in one of the valley’s numerous restaurants (Machu Pichu, Tin Jo, Grano de Oro).

Traveling out of the Central Valley one can choose from a number of “one day tours.” Some options include a “ski lift” type ride over a rainforest canopy at the Aerial Tram, a strenuous hike to the peak of Barva Volcano, a visit to La Selva rainforest, whitewater rafting on either a class III or IV river, a visit to the steaming crater at Poas Volcano and the crafts town of Sarchi, a visit to the presently quiet ”lunar landscape” atop the 11,000 ft. peak of Irazu volcano followed by a visit to Lancaster Botanical Gardens, a drive into the southern Cerro de la Muerte mountains to admire the spectacular scenery and/or enjoy outstanding high-elevation birding, visit Carara National Park to hike its forested trails and admire its very rich flora and fauna, visit Arenal for a night tour to chance a view of red hot lava (due to the long drive and possibility of cloud cover, we recommend staying overnight on a two-day tour to more fully enjoy your visit to the region), or visit Guayabo National Monument and see a still-functioning water system and other remains of an indigenous community of hundreds of years ago.

Recommended area hotels include:

Grano de Oro, Beacon, Bougainvillea, Rosa Blanca and Xandari.

One day Trips:

Aerial Tram, Cafe Britt Coffee Tour, Irazú / Lankester / Orosi Valley, Poás Volcano / Sarchí, Rafting – Rio Pacuare Class III-IV: (18 miles)

The Central Valley Highlights (San José Area)

White-tailed Kite, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Red-billed Pigeon, Inca Dove, White-tipped Dove, White-winged Dove, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Squirrel Cuckoo, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl, White-collared Swift, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher Hoffmann´s Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Masked Tityra, Brown Jay, Blue-and-white Swallow, House Wren, Clay-colored Thrush, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Montezuma Oropendola, White-eared Ground-Sparrow, Rufous-collared Sparrow.

At the University of Costa Rica you may see the resident population of Two-toed sloth and Three-toed Sloth. Also Green Spiny Lizard, Black Iguana and Giant Toad.

Among butterflies: Postman, Julia, Sulphur wing, Zebra Butterfly, Rusty-tipped Malachite, Cooker Butterfly and Morpho.