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Costa Rica - Central Valley

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The Central Valley is still the most popular place to live in Costa Rica. Some of the preferred locations in the province of San Jose are Escazu, Santa Ana, Cariari, Sabana, and Rohrmoser. Escazu and Santa Ana feature shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants, and exciting nightlife in Costa Rica. Both towns offer great views of the Central Valley and the provinces of Alajuela and Heredia.

The town of Escazu has a fascinating rural ambiance which blends harmoniously with its exclusive high-rise condominiums, elegant homes, fabulous estates. San Antonio de Belen, la Guacima and La Garita are also some of the popular neighborhoods in the Central Valley. Good services and near-perfect climate are some of their main assets.

Alajuela and Heredia have a wide selection of residential and commercial real estate. These two beautiful provinces feature local restaurants, small hotels and limited tourist activity.

Costa Rica's capital, San Jose is located in the central valley of the country surrounded by vistas of volcanoes and fertile hillsides. At 3,770 feet above sea level, the city maintains a year-round moderate temperature, varying from the mid-70s during the day to the 60s at night-giving it a perfect climate for visitors and residents alike. Although founded around the mid 1600s, San Jose didn't become the nation's capital until the 1820s, after independence from Spain. Since that time, San Jose and the Central Valley within which it lies, has become home to nearly a third of the country's population.

After arriving into Costa Rica's newly modernized Juan Santamaria International Airport, most visitors will spend at least three days in San Jose. Before heading out to the many day trip opportunities in the Central Valley, make sure you spend at least a morning or afternoon walking within San Jose itself. The offices of the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism, the ICT, can provide you with a comprehensive map that can aid you in your exploration.

One of San Jose's sights of which Costa Ricans are intensely proud is the National Theatre in the Plaza de la Cultura. Inaugurated in 1897, this architectural and artistic gem is a prime example of the country's rich history of the peaceful government and desire for self-improvement: drawn by the desire to attract the fine performing artist of Europe to Costa Rica, a group of coffee growers and merchants proposed a form of self-taxation in order to finance the theatre's construction.

European, as well as Costa Rican artisans created a classic 19th century opera house, that proved worthy of the opening night production of Faust by the Paris Opera. The theatre was given national monument status in 1965, and today's visitors can enjoy evening performances, daytime tours or even a lovely lunch at the theatre's charming cafe.

San Jose offers a wide variety of other sights for visitors to discover. Lovely parks, elegant cathedrals and world-class museums are waiting to be explored. There are a great variety of hotels, catering to every style and budged, that make a stay in San Jose more than comfortable, and after exploring the city or the Central valley, one can find plenty of restaurants to help extend the pleasures of the day. Nearly every cuisine of the world is represented among the extensive offerings, and each one will include typical "Tico" hospitality along with whatever is on the menu. And for those still looking for a little excitement after dinner, one could head out to dance or music clubs to enjoy anything from the ubiquitous Latin beat, to classic blues and jazz.

Central Valley map by Google


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Travel Tips

Most visitors to San Jose will fly directly to Juan Santamaria International Airport. Costa Rica's air services are excellent and offer daily flights to every province in the country.

Climate

The average daytime temperature is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy season usually begins in May and last to October, with showers mostly during the evening. Mornings are fresh and dew laden.

What to wear

For traveling in the city, stick to comfortable lightweight cotton clothing. Shorts are best for the beach areas. Short-sleeved tops and tee shirts are fine, but carry a light jacket. A rain poncho is essential when visiting during the rainy season. Walking shoes and sports sandals will serve best during city tours.

Services available

The public transportation is excellent in San Jose. You will find that routes crisscross the city at regular intervals and provide a safe and inexpensive mode of transportation. Pamphlets should de available from your travel agency about the various private bus and shuttle services that provide transportation to most locations in the country, as well as the national and private airlines. Taxi services are widely available and easily identifiable by the vehicle's red color and yellow triangle on their door. They are relatively inexpensive and are worth considering when two or three are traveling together. Make sure you agree on a rate before you enter the cab, or ask for the meter-"la maria"- to be used. Car rental agencies are abundant! Conveniently located in the airport and in numerous locations throughout the city. You can go for a standard car for city use, but a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for traveling throughout the country.

Places to go

National Theatre - An historic landmark. Opera, classical music and other performances can be seen at night.

National Arts and Cultural Center - Contains exhibitions of art and photography, as well as architectural displays. There is also a performing arts area. The center includes the Contemporary Art Museum.

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum - Collections depicting Costa Rican history and culture from pre-Columbian to present times. Housed in an historic landmark.

Museum of Costa Rican Art - A collection of Costa Rican art throughout history, including the outstanding carved stucco walls of the Salon Dorado. Housed in a historic landmark.

Pueblo Museum - A re-creation of traditional settings in the countryside of Costa Rica.

The Butterfly Farm - The first commercial butterfly farm in Latin America. Located in La Guacima. Walking tours are available through the greenhouse enclosure.

Joyas del Bosque Humedo - Located in Heredia, displays the world's largest butterfly collection.

Lankester Garden - Located near Cartago and now part of the University of Costa Rica, these gardens contain over 800 species of orchids, as well as other types of tropical plantings.

Irazu Volcano - Reachable by car. Magnificent views of the country from the world's highest drive-to volcano.

Guayabo National Monument - The most important pre-Columbian archaeological site in the country.

Turrialba Volacano - Mountain biking, rafting, horseback riding and hiking can all be enjoyed in this area.

Poas Volcano - Reachable by car. Viewing platforms to see the active fumaroles. Also have nature trails and a beautiful view of the country.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens - Butterfly observatory, hummingbird garden, nature trails and waterfall viewing-a little over an hour drive from San Jose.

Cafe Britt - Located in Heredia, guided tours are available through this working coffee farm (finca). Along with coffee tasting, there is an entertaining explanation of the history of the drink.

Sarchi - Quaint village located thirty miles from San Jose and home of the famous ox cart factories.



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