San José and Central Valley Costa Rica

Due to its convenient location, this is the ideal base to start or end your journey in Costa Rica. Whilst the hustle and bustle of San Jose offers galleries, museums and restaurants, the real highlight of the area is the surrounding Central Valley with its dense rainforest, national parks bustling with wildlife, and plantation-covered rolling hills.

San Jose and Central Valley

 

Before the irresistible pull of Costa Rica’s idyllic beaches, lush landscapes, and beautiful rainforests you must experience the buzzing cultural hub of the capital, San José. The iconic and historic cityscape is alive with urban jewels, a thriving arts scene, Central American ancestry, stunning architecture, welcoming locals, and street-lined restaurants and bars from dusk till dawn. 

And just south of the capital lies the breathtaking Central Valley. Over 70% of the population live here where the land is green, fertile, and home to many plantations and famed volcanos. 

Things to Do in San José and Central Valley

 

The chaotic charm of the Costa Rican capital combined with the jaw-dropping beauty of the vast and diverse Central Valley make this easily accessible region the perfect place to immerse yourself in Costa Rica’s culture as soon as you arrive.

Not over-populated with tourists, the things to do in San José are endless. From bustling street markets to visiting coffee plantations; some of the best coffee in the world is grown here. There’s also rafting on the Pacuare River and inspiring performances at the capital’s famed Teatro Nacional. There really is something for everyone, and our specialists will put your favourite activities and places to visit together as part of a bespoke tour that’s designed just for you. 

And when it comes to what to do in San José at night, a trip – or several – to the historical neighbourhood of Barrio Escalante is an absolute must. Here you’ll find the best restaurants in Costa Rica serving up local dishes that you won’t find anywhere else.

Visit La Sabana Metropolitan Park, San José 

Located downtown, La Sabana Metropolitan Park, or Parque Metropolitano La Sabana, is the country’s largest and most important park in San José. Affectionately named “The lungs of San José” by natives, it is a must-see for anyone visiting the capitol.

Former Presidents have vowed to protect the green space which covers some 72 hectares, but it is also home to some of the country's cultural and sporting highlights. Costa Rica’s National Stadium resides here alongside football fields, swimming pools, and the National Skating Rink. It is to San José what Central Park is to Manhattan, with various lakes dotted around, families lounging on the greens during the day, and paths for bike riders to buzz by, it is an integral part of life in the city.

Another unmissable side to the park is the museums, including the Costa Rican Art Museum – one of the most significant in Costa Rica – La Salle Natural Science Museum, and the ICE Group History and Technology Museum.

Adventure to Central Valley’s Famed Volcanos 

If it’s natural phenomena you’re looking for, Central Valley has some of the country's most spectacular active volcanoes, all with their own namesake national park. Easy to reach, many day trips from San José set off to the most popular volcanoes Poás and Irazú. 

Both of these towering infernos play a huge part in Central Valley’s history, with volcano Irazú being the most famous in the country, and some say the world. Active since the early 1960s, Irazú is known for unpredictable and powerful lava displays, which are perfectly safe to witness within the park.  

While volcano Poás is the largest open volcano in the world measuring over a mile wide and 1,050 feet deep. A hike to the top of Poás takes around 2 hours and you’ll enjoy unique ecological sights along the nature trails as it guides you to a life-changing view of this stunning national park and treasure. 

For a volcano adventure a little further afield Rio Celeste is a stunning choice for both nature and excitement. 

Explore the impressive Museums in San José

Visit one or more of the many impressive San José museums where the insight into Costa Rican culture, be it ancient times or present day, is illuminating. Immerse yourself in wonderful company, including art, gems, artefacts of war, and a Children’s Museum.

Our top 3 suggestions are:

1. Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

Exhibiting Costa Rica’s archaeology, natural history, and more, the site is a former Bellavista Military Barracks and an old fort with bullet holes still shown on the building. Best for history buffs, there’s also a Butterfly Garden that adds to the unique appeal of this museum.   

2. The Gold Museum 

The largest collections of Pre-Columbian gold in all of the Americas can be found here alongside the Numismatic Museum where you can view the history of Costa Rican currency. Spotlighting the lives of the indigenous people and also how gold is transformed into objects are all highlights of this specialist museum.

3. The Museum of Costa Rican Art (Museo de Arte Costarricense)

Located in our first recommendation of things to do in San José Costa Rica, La Sabana Metropolitan Park, this museum is a must for art lovers as it features works by renowned Costa Rican artists alongside international pieces. The building itself was also part of Costa Rica’s international airport, hence its unique architectural allure.

When to Go to San José and Central Valley

Due to its mountainous landscape, Central Valley has what’s considered the best climate in Costa Rica as it’s the mildest and the most pleasant with a feeling like spring all year round, making it an easy choice to visit throughout the year. 

Overall, April to December is recommended to visit Costa Rica, with the rainy season typically lasting from May to November. A visit to San José however, can be wonderful during any season as the city has many attractions and sites that are perfect whatever the weather, and can act as a shelter from the scorching summer sun or winter rain.

Where is San José and Central Valley

San José is located in the centre of Costa Rica making it easy to access the country’s most popular attractions as well as a perfect base to explore all over. Central Valley lies just south of the capital, covering a large portion of the rambling and rolling lands of Costa Rica. 

Where to Stay San José and Central Valley

Whether you’re looking to stay in the capital close to the hum of the city, or you’re looking to sleep under the stars on a luxury holiday in Central Valley just a breath away from nature, our curated list of luxury properties is here to inspire you. Our specialists will guide you toward the perfect place for your Costa Rican dream stay.

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10 nights
Wild Costa Rica

Wild Costa Rica

Central Valley, Tortuguero, Osa Peninsula & Manuel Antonio

Travel from coast to coast and explore Costa Rica’s rich natural highlights on this luxury tour. Stay at charming hotels in spectacular surroundings and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, like going off the beaten track to spot local wildlife. Finish off by unwinding at a boutique hillside retreat that shares a beach with iguanas and monkeys

Adventure Eco/ethical tourism Wildlife Beach

SGD $9,400 pp

13 nights
Epic Costa Rica

Epic Costa Rica

Central Valley, Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, Pacuare, San Jose

Famed for its amazing wildlife, adrenaline-inducing activities and gorgeous beaches, Costa Rica makes for tropical tour holidays packed with unforgettable moments. See monkeys, sloths and turtles, learn to surf, kayak through the jungle, cycle along the palm-fringed coast, and sip cocktails while enjoying the most spectacular sunsets.

Beach Couples Eco/ethical tourism Wildlife

SGD $11,000 pp

10 nights
Costa Rica with Kids

Costa Rica with Kids

Central Valley, Tortuguero, Arenal & Papagayo

Share an adventure with family on a luxury Costa Rica tour. Wander through diverse landscapes and take in wonderful wildlife, majestic volcanoes and beautiful beaches. Enjoy adventurous activities suitable for everyone, from lagoon boat trips to canopy walks, before finishing up with a splash of relaxation on the sun-kissed Pacific coast.

Adventure Wildlife Beach Eco/ethical tourism

SGD $7,400 pp

13 nights
Family Fun in Costa Rica

Family Fun in Costa Rica

San Jose, Pacuare, Osa Peninsula, Arenal & Papagayo

Explore the stunning natural diversity of Costa Rica. Sample the very best activities on this action-packed and fun-filled family adventure with an escorted tour across the jewel of Central America. Stay in jungle lodges inspired by Robinson Crusoe and go kayaking with dolphins, or try your hand at rafting, tubing and paddleboarding.

Adventure Wildlife Beach Eco/ethical tourism

SGD $12,600 pp

11 nights
Active Costa Rica

Active Costa Rica

San Jose, Turrialba District, Arenal and Santa Teresa

A fantastic introduction to Costa Rica that begins with an off-the-beaten-track adventure at the wonderful Pacuare Lodge. Hike, bike or kayak onwards to immerse yourself in the beauty of the province of Alajuela and stay near the iconic Arenal Volcano, then finish up with a few days of laid-back luxury in charming Santa Teresa.

Wildlife Adventure Eco/ethical tourism

SGD $9,700 pp

11 nights
Extraordinary Costa Rica

Extraordinary Costa Rica

Central Valley, Osa Peninsula, Arenal, Guanacaste

A luxury tour of Costa Rica is an amalgamation of thrilling activities, incredible scenery, tropical temperatures, unusual wildlife and gorgeous beaches. Spot monkeys and sloths as they peer at you from the treetops. When you're ready to recharge, savour delectable cocktails and enjoy dramatic sunsets at some of the country’s most exclusive...

Beach Couples

SGD $11,300 pp

13 nights
Limitless Costa Rica

Limitless Costa Rica

Central Valley, Arenal, Southern Osa, Papagayo Peninsula

Sublime cloud forests, lively rivers, majestic volcanoes, lush jungles and wild beaches. That's just the start of this ultimate Costa Rica holiday tour. Experience unprecedented levels of luxury, personally curated activities, top-secret bolt-holes, unparalleled service and stunning properties that make for an unforgettable escape.

12 nights
Ultimate Costa Rica

Ultimate Costa Rica

Central Valley, Arenal, Osa Peninsula & Manuel Antonio

Experience the very best that Costa Rica has to offer with this luxury tour. With verdant coffee plantations, active volcanoes, wildlife-rich jungles and adrenaline-fuelled activities, your stay is guaranteed to be unforgettable. To top it off, you'll enjoy effortlessly chic accommodation and authentic cooking experiences.

Eco/ethical tourism Wildlife Adventure

SGD $22,700 pp

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