Costa Rica's central mountain range surrounds a large valley which is home to the country's four largest cities and approximately half of the population. Moderate temperatures year-round, beautiful mountain views and many interesting places to visit, make the Central Valley an extremely pleasant place to live.
Four volcanoes stand guard over the northern valley. Two of them, Poas and Irazú, are featured in day tours from San Jose. Next to Poas Volcano is the renowned La Paz Waterfall Gardens Park home to the renowned Peace Lodge, with its large butterfly farm. To the west is the town of Sarchí, home to the country's best-known crafts and souvenir shops. Many coffee tours are available in the slopes of the northern mountains, including the renowned Cafe Britt and Doka Coffee Estate.
To the east of the Central Valley lie the towns of Orosi and Cartago, which feature intriguing ruins and the country's largest Catholic Church, built to honor the Virgin of Los Angeles, Costa Rica's patron saint. The area is also famous for its white water rafting on Reventazon and Pacuare, one of the world's top three rafting rivers. To the northeast, visitors will find the Braulio Carrillo National Park and the celebrated Rainforest Aerial Tram.
Lodging is available in the mountains around the Central Valley, offering an appealing alternative to visitors who wish to stay near the capital but not in the city itself. Options range from the popular Peace Lodge to the secluded and luxurious Silencio Lodge. A two night stay in the region will allow guests to visit the highlights and get a great feel for what the northern mountains and volcanoes are all about.
While in the Central Valley:
Explore La Paz Waterfall Gardens Park. Enjoy the magnificent hikes, view the spectacular waterfalls, and visit the hummingbird gallery and butterfly farm.
Visit Poás Volcano National Park and hike up to the crater's edge, one of the largest on earth. Complete your visit with a 30-minute hike to the lagoon, located near the crater.
On the way down from the mountains, visit the Doka Coffee Estate to learn about the process that produces the world's best coffee.
Go rafting on the Sarapiquí River. The river has Class III and IV rafting for adventure aficionados and Floating Safari Class II rafting for slower-paced, nature lovers. Both are excellent tours featuring amazing scenery, interesting wildlife and thrilling adventure.