The Central Valley in Costa Rica, a guide to it

The Central Valley in Costa Rica is the center of Costa Rica in so many ways it’s hard to list them all. It is in the middle of the country, but it is also where the main cities of Costa Rica are.  Check all you want to know about it for your vacation.

Orosi Valley


The Central Valley in Costa Rica is a luscious flat area in the center of the country. It is approximately 90 km long and from the air, it looks like one solid city, surrounded by mountains.

You may find four cities, San Jose, our capital city, Alajuela (Near to the SJO Juan Santamaría International Airport), Heredia, next to it, and Cartago on the far east side of the valley.

Actually, the Central Valley in Costa Rica is not a valley, correctly speaking is a Tectonic Depression, dependant on its formation of the multiple volcanoes surrounding it.

Now, talking about the travel industry, the Central Valley is the main entrance gate of Costa Rica. If you are arriving in SJO, you will be getting into the Central Valley.

LIR (The Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia is the other possibility and the driving distance from Liberia to San Jose is 211 kilometers (131 miles). That can be done in 2-3 hours depending on the speed and the traffic. 

Weather in the Central Valley

The Central Valley in Costa Rica is the main population center for a reason, with average temperatures between 72 and 75 degrees all year round, the Central Valley has the finest climate in all Costa Rica.

And that is unbeatable.

It has two distinctive seasons, however, even in the rainiest months, it usually has very clear sunny months:

Where to stay in Central Valley? 

As we stated previously, the Central Valley in Costa Rica is divided into four cities, that can be quite different landscapes and even weather at times.

And where to stay depends absolutely on your vacation or business plan in Costa Rica. You want to stay closer to where you are going next… Basically.

However, of course, our experience as travel designers has something to say about the matter.  Especially if you are coming on vacation!

Our first question to find the best Central Valley experience for you has to be, definitely, “Why Costa Rica?” And we all know what Costa Rica means… Right?

It may be nature, adventure, cultural living of the peace and friendliness of the people, simple rest and leisure in a beautiful place or a combination of them all.

Then our question would focus on what kind of accommodations would you like and which sort of activities do you want to enjoy while you are staying at this hotel? 

In the Central Valley in Costa Rica, you may find from luxurious 5 stars hotels to small boutique lodging.

You may find hotels like Xandari that is completely focused in your senses with a combination of amazing architecture, art, and the stunning natural surroundings.   And a great view of the complete valley.

Or the Real Intercontinental, centered in facilitating your access to the best of the San José City. Right in front of the largest mall in the country and in the most exclusive neighborhood, this is a resort to enjoy the urban life of the Costa Ricans.

And the next question, is, What do you want or like to do while in the Central Valley? 

In the center of Costa Rica, you may find all the activities that you encounter elsewhere in the country. Concentrated. 

There are active volcanoes, rainforests (Even the almost extinct dry tropical forest), cloud forests, fantastic birdwatching, beautiful beaches a couple of hours away, rafting rivers, aerial trams, and any kind of adventure that you may think of.

Except, maybe of spelunking (That you may find in other areas of Costa Rica).

However, there are some very specific experiences that you can only or mainly enjoy from the Central Valley as they are much closer.

Poas Volcano 

Poas Volcano is right now, one of the three most active volcanoes in Costa Rica, and you can get to the very edge of the crater and see it down and it has a quite unique cloud forest.  It is 49 km, (30 miles) driving distance from the city, about an hour and a half drive in one of the most picturesque routes of Costa Rica. 

Waterfall Gardens

Very close to the Poas Volcano, La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a paradise of waterfalls surrounded by rainforests, with an amazing visitor’s center that includes a great rescue center, huge aviary, and butterflies gardens and a breathtaking hummingbirds area.  If you are close to it, you don’t want to miss it!

Irazu Volcano

A moonlike landscape surrounding an active volcano with a pleasant bubbling turquoise lagoon in the center.  There is the possibility, from the Irazu to witness the eruptions of the magnificent Turrialba Volcano, very close by.  As well with a breathtaking route through some of the most fertile areas of Costa Rica.  It is 54.32 km (33.75 mi) away from San Jose. (Also about an hour and a half drive).

Orosi Valley

A gorgeous and small valley covered with coffee plantations, its main attraction for many years was its splendor. Period. However lately, a fantastic hot springs project has created a continuous tourism flow to the region.

And then, en route to the Caribbean (Which makes them one day tours if you are only going to the Pacific coast), the rafting lovers favorite Pacuare River and the nature fans choice, the Aerial Tram of the Caribbean. 

A word, before we wrap it up…

The Central Valley in Costa Rica is a very complete and diverse destination and it is a great choice if, by any chance, you are late in reserving for peak season, it is beautiful, luscious, and a fantastic hub for everything you want to enjoy in Costa Rica.


The Central Valley is a great choice for any stay, never mind for how long.

Please ask our travel designers to include it in your vacation! It is absolutely worth it!

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