San José is the country’s most highly populated
province. Located in the Central Plateau, it extends to the northeast,
crossing the impressive mountains of the Central Mountain Range, which
includes national parks, forest reserves, and fertile lands, with an
abundance of coffee plantations.
Costa Rica’s capital, San José, is in the Central Valley. It’s an
extensive plain, guarded by majestic volcanoes and green hills, honoring
the natural richness that exists throughout the national territory.
Founded in the first half of the eighteenth century, San José is
nowadays a city where visitors of the entire world converge; metropolis
full of interesting places, faces, and colors reflecting the history of a
Its architecture is diverse, as may be the people walking its
streets. In the north sector of the city you can find the most refined
samples of urban development of the early last century. There are many
houses and buildings of European inspiration, built with a profound
Costa Rican sense of style.
Among the most representative places of the city, we can mention the
National Theater, Costa Rica’s pride, and historically, house to some
of the best artists, national as well as foreign. Inaugurated in 1897,
fruit of the determination of merchants, intellectuals and politicians,
who were able to identify the importance an opera house could have, to
present the best artistic productions in the world.
Nonetheless, a list of world class museums, parks, hotels, theaters,
and historic buildings, are some other options to be discovered by the
thousands of tourists visiting San José yearly.
Once in the city, visitors may choose among dozens of one-day tours
to the most outstanding natural places, inside and out of the Central
Valley, as well as having access to a great variety of sports adventures
and activities for exploring.
With a territory of 2.656 km2 and a population
of 75 000 inhabitants, Heredia is Costa Rica’s smallest province, town
appreciated for its colonial heritage and traditional architecture.
A great number of adobe houses may be appreciated along the
communities of Barva and Santo Domingo. The city of Heredia, best known
as 'City of the Flowers', was founded in 1706, pursuant to an initiative
of some 150 families dwelling there.
In Heredia you still find an important number of coffee plantations,
many of which have been adapted to perform guided visits with tourists.
It can be delightful to enjoy the captivating process of harvesting,
drying, and roasting of coffee beans.
Among the natural wonders of the province of Heredia, we find Barva
volcano, a formidable colossus located at the west part of Braulio
Carrillo National Park, which rises 2.906 meters over sea level. The
vegetation surrounding this sleeping giant is astonishing; an ideal
place for bird watching, especially for those who dream with the
On the other hand, Braulio Carrillo National Park represents the
greatest natural richness near the Central Valley. A tropical
rainforest, home to hundreds of plant and animal species.
The dense vegetation of the park safeguards many cascades and rivers,
some of which are used in sports adventures. Sarapiquí River is another
of the attractions of the province. This imposing river travels through
dense vegetation, where birds are abundant. It has an ideal current for
those who enjoy the rapids, with a moderate degree of difficulty.
The mountainous areas of Heredia, just before crossing the Central
Mountain Range, are characterized by vast extensions of forest and fair
climate. Many people choose these green and fresh sites to establish
themselves, to live far away from the city crowds.
Generous and warm province, Guanacaste is known
for its cattle ranching production and spectacular beaches. It is the
driest region of Costa Rica, specially the coastal areas.
Guanacaste became part of Costa Rica in 1824; until then, it had
remained an independent province. This territory certainly has a very
important natural and cultural richness for Costa Rica’s economy. Some
of the best beach hotels in the world are found on the beaches of
Guanacaste is well known for its beaches and the sun, which is
exactly what visitors find along its coastline, with an abundance of
hotels, cabins, and restaurants. Some are luxury ones, others more
modest, but they all guarantee that guests have the perfect option for
Panamá Beach, in the north area of the province, is one of the good
options for tourism. A quiet place with white sand and easy waters,
invite you to enjoy a care-free weekend.
Coco’s Beach features as one of the most popular spots, due to its
night life and great number of visitors; and without having to travel
much you can reach Flamingo Beach, an ideal place for those preferring a
mix of good hotels and a quiet atmosphere.
There are also Ocotal and Hermosa beaches, among the favorite of
Guanacaste’s coast. Grande Beach is located further south, and along
with Las Baulas National Park, is a sanctuary for thousands of
leatherback turtles (baula) arriving to spawn in its coasts each year.
Tamarindo offers a blend of white-sand beaches and mangroves, sea
birds and iguanas, making it a paradisiacal and perfect spot for those
wishing to live in harmony with nature.
Many other beaches along the coast of Guanacaste will complete a
matchless natural offer. Carrillo Beach, Ostional Beach, Manzanillo, and
Coyote, are some of those destinations giving the greatest province of
Costa Rica its reputation.
In Guanacaste you may enjoy delicious food, so characteristic of its
people and that with the passage of time, became authentic traditional
Costa Rican dishes. Santa Rosa National Park is located to the north of
the province. It is a jewel of the tropical dry forest, counting with a
remarkable biological inventory.
Likewise, embedded in the Guanacaste Mountain Range, are the Tenorio,
Orosi, Miravalles, and Rincón de La Vieja volcanoes, the latter
surrounded by the national park of the same name.
Guanacaste is undoubtedly a privileged land. Possessing a mixture of
forests dry and rainy, warm beaches, extensive plains and an impressive
volcanic range; a natural world expecting to be explored.
Known as the “Pearl of the Pacific”, Puntarenas
is the largest province of Costa Rica, with an area of 11.276 Km2. Its
main attraction is its Pacific coastline, extending over more than 500
miles down to the Panamanian boarder.
This vast province offers a variety of beaches, national parks, and
natural reserves of an extraordinary ecological importance, since it is a
transition area between the dry tropical lands of Guanacaste and the
green forests of the Central Pacific.
The Port of Caldera and the City of Puntarenas, receive hundreds of
tourists daily, from countless cruise ships making shore on its coasts.
Some of these ships are traveling with the Panama Canal as destination,
which allows passengers to explore Costa Rica’s inland, only to meet
their cruise ship some days later at the port of Limón, in the
Carara’s Biological Reserve constitutes one of the best showcases to
the natural heritage of Puntarenas. This reserve includes an extension
of 11.600 acres of forests and mangroves.
Today, only some portions of the reserve are available to tourists,
but professional guides, who are allowed to explore some restricted
areas, may be hired.
Manuel Antonio National Park is another destination of the province
of Puntarenas. With its impressive white-sand beaches, blue waters of
the Pacific and hundreds of hectares of rainforest, this park is one of
the smallest in Costa Rica, but at the same time, one of the most highly
Manuel Antonio is one of the few places in Costa Rica where the
spider monkey (tití) still lives. Within the park you may also find over
100 species of mammals and an equal number of bird types.
Also belonging to Puntarenas, another feature is the Corcovado
National Park -located south and constituting the habitat of important
endemic species such as the gold frog as well as the Tárcoles River,
whose margins are guarded by hundreds of American crocodiles.
Good food –especially seafood- as well as the well-known carnivals
held each summer, and the warmth of its people, are some of the nice
surprises expecting tourists visiting this province.
Also known as the Ancient Metropoli, Cartago was
the capital of Costa Rica until 1823, when this title was transferred
to the city of San José. It is a relatively small province, with barely
3.124 km2 and almost 35 000 inhabitants.
It is perhaps Costa Rica’s most important area in matters of colonial
art. The best example is the temple of Orosi, dating back to 1743, a
historical jewel that was witness to the birth of a nation.
Cartago has a humid, tropical climate. Its mountain system is made up
of two mountain ranges: the Central, is where we find the Irazú and
Turrialba volcanoes. The Talamanca mountain range is the other great
mountain formation of the province. The imposing Cerro Chirripó, the
highest point in Costa Rica, is located here, at 3.600 meters over sea
Cartago is a land of traditions and religiosity. To the north we find
the national monument of Guayabo, located on the outskirts of the town
of Turrialba. In Guayabo, visitors may admire the enigmatic
constructions, dating back to Pre-Colombian times. It’s one of the
largest archeological areas discovered in the country. Mounds, bridges,
plazas and highways, as well as an aqueduct that is still working, are
some of the remains of ancient cultures.
Pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Angels Basilica at the center of the
city of Cartago is the most important religious activity of Costa Rica.
Celebrated each August 2nd, here attend millions of people from all
around the country.
Nevertheless, the main attraction of Cartago could be the Irazú
volcano, a splendid giant which still remains active and that, with its
five craters, gather thousands of tourists yearly.
It is the volcano found at highest altitude in the country, 3.432
meters over sea level. Several rivers nurturing the basins of others,
like Chirripó, Reventazón, Sarapiquí, and Grande de Tárcoles are born
Is one of the most extensive provinces of Costa
Rica, known as “The Land of Mangoes”. Its territory spreads to the
north, reaching the boundary with Nicaragua. Alajuela was founded in
1782 and gave birth to such famous historical characters like Juan
Santamaría, the national hero that burned down the “Mesón de Rivas” in
This province has an enviable natural richness. Its uneven topography
includes the rainforest and exuberant plains to the north. Visitors
have a choice of the two most impressive, active volcanoes of the
country: Arenal volcano, in the City of San Carlos and the Poás volcano,
at the Central Volcanic Mountain Range.
Poás volcano is one of the most splendid volcanoes in Costa Rica,
known for its beautiful landscape. Around it you may appreciate
different habitats, from the cloud forest to areas of scarce vegetation,
where species have become adapted to emissions of gas and the climatic
factor characteristic of a volcano.
The Arenal volcano, on the other hand, with its beautiful conic
silhouette, is one of the most active in the world. Its charm is
enhanced at night, when the color of its eruptions and lava rivers can
be fully appreciated. Many of the hotels offer a panoramic view of the
volcano and its evening show.
During the last decades, Alajuela has become an obliged journey for those who love Costa Rica’s natural richness.
The Caribbean province is a natural paradise,
formed by a combination of dense jungles, imposing mountains, and
paradisiacal beaches. Limón has the highest percentage of protected land
in Costa Rica, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its
vegetation is exuberant, as are the cultures meeting throughout the
The road to Limón from San José, crosses the majestic Braulio
Carrillo National Park. At this point begins a beautiful journey to the
lowlands of the Caribbean. A significant change in temperature and
landscape can be experienced.
Perhaps the most exuberant region of Limón is Tortuguero National
Park, at the north part of the province. A vast extension of protected
land and the most important of the Atlantic coasts of the American
continent for the spawning of the green turtle.
The city of Limón is the point of arrival for visitors. It is a port,
which is essential in Costa Rica’s economic life and the greatest
living example of the multicultural meeting experienced in this region
Traveling south, at an hour’s distance, we find Cahuita, a typical
Caribbean villa. This town has become “a must” for tourists, for it
represents the essence of a culture, and the beauty of Cahuita National
Park, which protects an important expanse of coral reefs.
The quiet waters in this spot, are a plus for those lovers of
“snorkeling”. The underwater scenery is marvelous, with a wide chain of
coral reefs, composed of different types of coral and occupied by an
immense variety of tropical fish.
Another important point in the Caribbean province is Puerto Viejo,
barely 30 minutes from Cahuita. In this town you can breathe the
profound respect for the cultural identity of its people. A combination
of music, beaches and food, so characteristic of the place, are the
elements attracting thousands of tourists year by year.
Along the coastal area, travelers find a good number of options for
lodging. The vast majority of hotels and cabins are small and formed of
traditional Bungalows, a very particular type of construction of the
Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge is located just at the
end of the coastline, almost at the border with Panama. This refuge
protects almost 4500 hectares of beaches and sea, for the spawning of 4
species of turtles.
In Manzanillo you may rent kayaks and glide through the gentle
mangroves in search of birds and reptiles characteristic of the area.
The province of Limón possesses a unique culture in Costa Rica, a way
of life that may be fully appreciated during the traditional carnivals
held each year, an experience of rhythms and euphoric and captivating