The Central Valley is formed by the provinces of San José, Heredia, Cartago and Alajuela. Even though is the smallest, this region has the highest population, the majority of it concentrated in the capital city San José. San José is located at 3.900 feet above sea level and its temperature ranges between 22ºC and 24ºC. During the rainy season -specifically from May to October- the rain is combined with fresh breezes coming from the Pacific Ocean. This region is considered the heart of Costa Rica since the four powers of the Republic, all banking systems, the bigger hospitals, the universities, the museums and the theaters are concentrated here.
San José, the Capital of Costa Rica, located at 1149 m above sea level, maintains an average all year round temperature of 24°C and is home to the main museums and cultural centers. This is where you might spend your first night before embarking on the unforgettable experience of discovering the natural beauty this small country has to offer.
San José's foremost architectural showpiece, the National Theater is a source of pride to Costa Ricans everywhere. Inaugurated on October 19, 1897 with a performance of "Faust" by the Paris Opera Company, the building's origins date to 1890 when the Italian opera singer, Angela Pelati, gave a number of performances in Guatemala but refused to come to Costa Rica due to the lack of a proper theater. The members of the country's coffee elite proposed that a theater be built in San José to correct this situation and agreed to contribute five centavos per exported sack of coffee to finance the construction.
Some parts of the theater were crafted in Europe and shipped to Costa Rica for assembly, such as the metal framework which was cast in Belgium and many of the statues, murals, and ceiling frescos which are the work of Italian artists that never saw Costa Rica. The stunning baroque design features ample use of 221/2 karat gold overlay and Carrara marble.
The National Symphonic Orchestra season runs from March to November with performances on Thursday and Friday evenings and again on Sunday mornings. Periodically, other activities ranging from the Moscow ballet and Chinese acrobats to state dinners and Costa Rican theatrical presentations are also scheduled. The coffee shop adjoining the main lobby is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by.
The building is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Best known for the variety of pre-Columbian artifacts on permanent display, the NationalMuseum also has exhibits dedicated to Costa Rican religious art and the history of the country since the Spanish conquest. The building itself has historic significance since it was once a military fortress and after the abolishment of the army, following the Revolution of 1948, was converted into the museum.
The museum is located on calle 17, between avenidas central and 2, hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Museum Of Jade
Although the numerous pre-Columbian jade pieces on display are among the most impressive anywhere, the museum also features excellent examples of indigenous craftsmanship in stone, ceramics, and gold. Housed on the 11th floor of the National Insurance Company (INS) building, the view of the city and surrounding mountains is an added attraction to a visit to this museum.
Rotating selections from the permanent collection together with temporary exhibitions showcase the artwork of Costa Rican painters and sculptors in a building that was once an airport terminal. The Sabana Metropolitan Park which stretches west behind the museum was formerly the international airport landing strip in the days prior to jet planes.
Located at the western end of Paseo Colón (avenida central), hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday
Operated by the Central Bank of Costa Rica, this museum houses an extensive collection of pre-Columbian gold in which the level of artistry achieved by native craftsman working with this precious metal is easily appreciated. The exhibition rooms have been completely remodeled in 2002.
The entrance to the museum is on calle 5, beneath the Plaza de la Cultura, hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Poás Volcano National Park
The Poás Volcano soars 2.708 meters above sea level and is one of the most spectacular volcanoes of Costa Rica with breathtaking scenery. It is a sub conical volcano with several calderic depressions near the summit. The main crater is a huge depression that measures almost 2 kilometers in diameter and 300 meters deep. There is a little lake at the bottom of the crater, with a diameter of 350 meters and temperatures that range from 65-95°C. The high sulfur and acid content reduces the pH almost to zero, which makes it possibly the most acid natural water body of the world. To the southeast, there is another cone known as Botos, which was the center of volcanic activity until approximately 7500 years ago. Today it contains a spectacular cold water lake that measures about 400 meters in diameter. The eruptions of the Poas volcano have been recorded at least since 1747. This long history of eruptions includes almost 60 episodes. The most violent one took place on January 25th, 1910, when an immense cloud of ashes rose 8,000 meters into the air. The most recent period of eruptions lasted from 1952 to 1954. Poás is known to have the largest geyser in the world.
Braulio Carillo National Park
Constituted by abrupt and irregular territory, it is covered by dense tropical rain forest and innumerable streams and rivers that run through deep canyons. Waterfalls abound in the park.
There a few trails to hike, starting at the Quebrada Gonzalez Ranger Station, located at the Braulio Carillo highway.
There are three volcanic buildings in the Braulio Carrillo. One of them is the Barva (2906 m.)., densely forested on its northern slope. The surroundings of Barva house two precious lagoons, Barva with a diameter of 100 meters and Danta with 500 meters. It is the only volcano of the Central Mountain Range that has been inactive for the past 400 years.
Rainforest Aerial Tram
At the North Eastern border to the BraulioCarilloNational Park, the North American biologist Donald Perry has set up a private project for nature protection. As one of the highlights, it offers an aerial tram of a little bit more than 1-mile length with 16 cars, „flying" through the canopy of the rainforest in a height of about 56 ft. The visitor will be informed about this project and the construction of the aerial tram by a 15 minutes video before he starts his 90 minutes ride through the canopy together with a naturalist guide. There are also plenty of possibilities for nature walks on the many trails, alone or accompanied by a guide.
Rara Avis Biological Preserve– Rara Avis Lodge
Rara Avis is a remote virgin forest area of more than 2,471 acres at the eastern side of the BraulioCarilloNational Park and is protected by a private initiative. The biological research station is an excellent example that the rainforest can be made economically productive and so be saved from destruction. In Rara Avis, more than 330 different kinds of birds have been discovered, and besides innumerable kinds of bromeliad, orchids and lianas you are most likely to see monkeys, anteaters and coatimundis. Though you may spot tracks of tapirs and jungle cats, these animals are hardly to be seen, since the huge forest area gives them enough space to withdraw from „invaders".
National Park Volcano Irazú
The name Irazu comes from the Indian words Istaru, Iaratzu and Iartazu, which mean the mountain of trembling and rumbling. It is an active volcano that towers 3.432 meters above sea level and spreads over 500 square kilometers, which makes it the largest volcano in Costa Rica. The main crater is almost perfectly round with a permanent lake at its bottom. Diego de la Haya was active in 1723 and was named for the colonial governor who wrote an account of the eruption. The volcanic ash has greatly increased the fertility of the soil of its slopes, making the area of Cartago an agricultural center. Today, the colossus is showing signs of becoming active again in the near future. The crater is accessible by car. There is only one trail half way around the crater lake.
Cartago has been the Capital of Costa Rica until 1823 and in present days still is the religious center of the country. Worth to visit are the Basilika de Nuestra Señora and the ruins of the old church as well as the vegetable market downtown. Cartago is only 45 min. away from San José.
Turrialba, (3,349 m) the southeast-most of Costa Rica's Holocene volcanoes, is a large vegetation-covered strato-volcano located to the northeast of Irazu volcano. Three well-defined craters occur at the upper end of a broad summit depression that is breached to the northeast. Turrialba has been quiescent since a series of explosive eruptions in the 19th century that were sometimes accompanied by pyroclastic flows. Fumarolic activity continues at the summit craters. It is possible to descend to the crater bottom.
The town of Turrialba, located at the bottom of the volcano is a good starting point for White-Water Rafting on the Reventazón and PacuareRivers. Tour Packages from/to San José are available, please refer to our White-Water Rafting section.
Is one of the most important arqueologic areas and the bigger in size that has been discover in the country. Protect arqueologic structures like mounds, bridges, aqueduct etc. Also protect drums of high forest, typical of the rain forest. Costa Rica because of its location and geographic structure plays an importance place like a meeting area for different pre-Columbian cultures. The arqueologists has demonstrated that Costa Rica received influences from the north like from South America. The GuayaboNational Monument covers a big area, from the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica all the way to Colombia.
The botanical gardens have been founded in the 1950's by the British naturalist Charles H. Lankaster. LankasterGardens are internationally recognized for its collection of epiphytes(plants which live on other plants), of particular interest are the orchids. Approximately 11 hectares of land, countless numbers of other species are also found on the premises, including insects and other animals.
Orosi Valley is located one hour east of the capital San Jose There are two thermal volcanic springs right next to the Lodge and several refreshing cold pools in the area. You may explore the wild life of the TapantiNational Park, go fishing Trouts in Purisil or just sit on the porch of one of the small typical 'Soda' restaurants, sip a fresh tropical fruit drink and watch the village life. The oldest church in Costa Rica, built in 1743 by the Spaniards, with the adjoining museum of religious artifacts, statues and vestments from colonial times is located in downtown.
Tapantí National Park
Tapanti is located in the wild and wet country on the rain forested northern slopes of the Talamanca Mountain Range, accessible on a good gravel road in aprox. 30 minutes from Orosi. Although not a large refuge there are reported over 150 rivers within it, which gives an indication of the area's wetness. It has two "life zones": lower mountain rain forest (lower mountain slopes) and pre-montane rain forest (lowlands skirting the lower slopes). The forests are home to forty-five species of mammals, including tapir, paca, red brocket deer, eastern cottontail, kinkajou, raccoon, white-nosed coati, white-faced monkey, mountain hare (conejo de monte), agouti and such cats as ocelot, jaguarundi and tiger cat (an endangered species). You'll also find some 260 kinds of birds here: Quetzals, sparrow hawks, hawks, goldfinch, doves, hummingbirds, parrots, and falcons, etc. From the ranger's cabin, a Quetzal nesting site can be seen.