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The cultural centre, and the beginning of any Costa Rican adventure

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While in the Central Valley region, we recommend visiting Poas Volcano.

The Central Valley is where you’ll find the real heart and soul of Costa Rica. It is the geographical and cultural centre of the country, where the country’s biggest cities are clustered amongst volcanic hills and cultivated coffee plantations. 70% of Costa Ricans, or Ticos live here. It is the beating cultural pulse, which hasn’t changed its pace for tourism.  

San Jose, together with Cartago, Costa Rica’s old capital, and the provinces of Alajuela and Heredia, are all part of the Central Valley. If you’re travelling to Costa Rica, you’ll probably imagine arriving in San Jose; however, there is no airport in the city itself. The Juan Santamaria Airport is a 40-minute drive from the capital, located in the province of Alajuela.  

Alajuela, and its surroundings, have a reputation for having the most pleasant temperatures in the world. Four volcanoes sit gracefully, watching over the valley from the horizon, and the soil is famously fertile. This is where coffee is a source and symbol of Costa Rican prosperity, and high-altitude arabica clings to the slopes of Poas and Bara Volcanoes.

Among the best things to do in Costa Rica is to spend a day exploring local coffee estates, and, learning about the bean-to-cup process. Hike towards the steaming fumaroles of Poas Volcano’s active crater, which is past the azure Botos Lagoon, encircled by trees of emerald green. Or become immersed in local flora and fauna at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which is another excellent thing to do in Costa Rica for nature and wildlife lovers as it’s where you’ll see birds, butterflies, monkeys, hummingbirds, snakes and frogs.  

San Jose offers an introduction to Costa Rican art, music and history. The central market is well worth a visit if you want to try traditional Costa Rican dishes, connect with locals, or bring home an authentic souvenir. Colonial architecture culminates in colourful public parks, and the Parisian-designed National Theatre is a surprising addition to an already diverse city. Its neo-Baroque style is adorned with Italian marble and an opulent design, wonderfully contrasting the chaos of the natural world. The Central Valley is where the Spanish colonisers first arrived, and villagers in the highlands still celebrate centuries-old fiestas. It’s where you’ll sample some of the most interesting Costa Rican cuisine and feel like you’ve got to know the country from a local’s point of view.  

Your Luxury Central Valley and San Jose Trip Ideas

The Central Valley and San Jose feature in all of our tailor-made Costa Rica itineraries. In our Costa Rica's Caribbean Coastline itinerary, you'll start in the Central Valley, where you'll begin your adventure at Poas Volcano before exploring Doka Coffee Estate and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. In our Classic Costa Rica itinerary, enjoy a one-night stay in Grano de Oro in San Jose; it is a converted tropical mansion tucked away on a quiet street on the outskirts of the city.

Honeymooners will start their journey in the Central Valley, staying at El Silencio and exploring the cloud forests. Families, too, get to start their holiday in the Central Valley with our Costa Rica Family Holiday itinerary, discovering Poas Volcano National Park and hiking the Laguna Botos Trail to a blue lagoon before visiting La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

Your Luxury Accommodation Options in Central Valley and San Jose

View Wayfairer's favourite selection of accommodations in Central Valley and San Jose.

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