KNOWING COSTA RICA - The
San jose Alajuela Heredia Cartago Puntarenas Guanacaste Limon
Costa Rica's 7 Provinces
Rica is divided into seven provinces, these are:
Puntarenas, Guanacaste, and
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Costa Rica extends majestically from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, and its distance is barely 200 miles. Its land portion occupies only 20 thousand square miles.
If you travel throughout the provinces of Costa Rica, it’s easy to notice that in no other place you shall find fields with so many variations in their landscape and climate as here.
Costa Rica is one of most highly valued tourist destinations in this planet. This small piece of land includes all of the necessary components to satisfy the taste of thousands of travelers visiting each year.
Costa Rica’s territorial division includes 7 provinces, which are: San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limón. Together they offer an attractive tourist destination, of almost limitless possibilities, that include extensive rainforests, volcanoes, rivers traveling through the mountains, beaches and natural resources safeguarded by an important organization of national parks and forest reserves.
San José is the country’s most highly populated province.
Located in the Central Plateau, it extends to the northeast, crossing the
impressive mountains of the Central Mountain Range, which includes national
parks, forest reserves, and fertile lands, with an abundance of coffee
Costa Rica’s capital, San José It’s an
extensive plain, guarded by majestic volcanoes and green hills, honoring the
natural richness that exists throughout the national territory.
Founded in the first half of the eighteenth century, San José is nowadays
a city where visitors of the entire world converge; metropolis full of
interesting places, faces, and colors reflecting the history of a
Its architecture is diverse, as may be the people walking its streets. In
the north sector of the city you can find the most refined samples of urban
development of the early last century. There are many houses and buildings
of European inspiration, built with a profound Costa Rican sense of style.
Among the most representative places of the city, we can mention the
National Theater, Costa Rica’s pride, and historically, house to some of the
best artists, national as well as foreign. Inaugurated in 1897, fruit of the
determination of merchants, intellectuals and politicians, who were able to
identify the importance an opera house could have, to present the best
artistic productions in the world.
Nonetheless, a list of world class museums, parks, hotels, theaters, and
historic buildings, are some other options to be discovered by the thousands
of tourists visiting San José yearly.
Once in the city, visitors may choose among dozens of one-day tours to the most outstanding natural places, inside and out of the Central Valley, as well as having access to a great variety of sports adventures and activities for exploring.
|With a territory of 2.656 km2 and a population of 75 000
inhabitants, Heredia is Costa Rica’s smallest province, town appreciated for
its colonial heritage and traditional architecture.
A great number of adobe houses may be appreciated along the communities
of Barva and Santo Domingo. The city of Heredia, best known as 'City of the
Flowers', was founded in 1706, pursuant to an initiative of some 150
families dwelling there.
In Heredia you still find an important number of coffee plantations, many
of which have been adapted to perform guided visits with tourists. It can be
delightful to enjoy the captivating process of harvesting, drying, and
roasting of coffee beans.
Among the natural wonders of the province of Heredia, we find Barva
volcano, a formidable colossus located at the west part of Braulio Carrillo
National Park, which rises 2.906 meters over sea level. The vegetation
surrounding this sleeping giant is astonishing; an ideal place for bird
watching, especially for those who dream with the magnificent quetzal.
On the other hand, Braulio Carrillo National Park represents the greatest
natural richness near the Central Valley. A tropical rainforest, home to
hundreds of plant and animal species.
The dense vegetation of the park safeguards many cascades and rivers, some of which are used in sports adventures. Sarapiquí River is another of the attractions of the province. This imposing river travels through dense vegetation, where birds are abundant. It has an ideal current for those who enjoy the rapids, with a moderate degree of difficulty.
The mountainous areas of Heredia, just before crossing the Central Mountain Range, are characterized by vast extensions of forest and fair climate. Many people choose these green and fresh sites to establish themselves, to live far away from the city crowds.
|Generous and warm province, Guanacaste is known for its
cattle ranching production and spectacular beaches. It is the driest region
of Costa Rica, specially the coastal areas.
Guanacaste became part of Costa Rica in 1824; until then, it had remained
an independent province. This territory certainly has a very important
natural and cultural richness for Costa Rica’s economy. Some of the best
beach hotels in the world are found on the beaches of Guanacaste.
Guanacaste is well known for its beaches and the sun, which is exactly
what visitors find along its coastline, with an abundance of hotels, cabins,
and restaurants. Some are luxury ones, others more modest, but they all
guarantee that guests have the perfect option for each budget.
Panamá Beach, in the north area of the province, is one of the good
options for tourism. A quiet place with white sand and easy waters, invite
you to enjoy a care-free weekend.
Coco’s Beach features as one of the most popular spots, due to its night
life and great number of visitors; and without having to travel much you can
reach Flamingo Beach, an ideal place for those preferring a mix of good
hotels and a quiet atmosphere.
There are also Ocotal and Hermosa beaches, among the favorite of
Guanacaste’s coast. Grande Beach is located further south, and along with
Las Baulas National Park, is a sanctuary for thousands of leatherback
turtles (baula) arriving to spawn in its coasts each year.
Tamarindo offers a blend of white-sand beaches and mangroves, sea birds
and iguanas, making it a paradisiacal and perfect spot for those wishing to
live in harmony with nature.
Many other beaches along the coast of Guanacaste will complete a
matchless natural offer. Carrillo Beach, Ostional Beach, Manzanillo, and
Coyote, are some of those destinations giving the greatest province of Costa
Rica its reputation.
In Guanacaste you may enjoy delicious food, so characteristic of its
people and that with the passage of time, became authentic traditional Costa
Rican dishes. Santa Rosa National Park is located to the north of the
province. It is a jewel of the tropical dry forest, counting with a
remarkable biological inventory.
Likewise, embedded in the Guanacaste Mountain Range, are the Tenorio,
Orosi, Miravalles, and Rincón de La Vieja volcanoes, the latter surrounded
by the national park of the same name.
Guanacaste is undoubtedly a privileged land. Possessing a mixture of forests dry and rainy, warm beaches, extensive plains and an impressive volcanic range; a natural world expecting to be explored.
|Known as the “Pearl of the Pacific”, Puntarenas is the
largest province of Costa Rica, with an area of 11.276 Km2. Its main
attraction is its Pacific coastline, extending over more than 500 miles down
to the Panamanian boarder.
This vast province offers a variety of beaches, national parks, and
natural reserves of an extraordinary ecological importance, since it is a
transition area between the dry tropical lands of Guanacaste and the green
forests of the Central Pacific.
The Port of Caldera and the City of Puntarenas, receive hundreds of
tourists daily, from countless cruise ships making shore on its coasts. Some
of these ships are traveling with the Panama Canal as destination, which
allows passengers to explore Costa Rica’s inland, only to meet their cruise
ship some days later at the port of Limón, in the Caribbean.
Carara’s Biological Reserve constitutes one of the best showcases to the
natural heritage of Puntarenas. This reserve includes an extension of 11.600
acres of forests and mangroves.
Today, only some portions of the reserve are available to tourists, but professional guides, who are allowed to explore some restricted areas, may be hired.
Manuel Antonio National Park is another destination of the province of
Puntarenas. With its impressive white-sand beaches, blue waters of the
Pacific and hundreds of hectares of rainforest, this park is one of the
smallest in Costa Rica, but at the same time, one of the most highly
Manuel Antonio is one of the few places in Costa Rica where the spider
monkey (tití) still lives. Within the park you may also find over 100
species of mammals and an equal number of bird types.
Also belonging to Puntarenas, another feature is the Corcovado National
Park -located south and constituting the habitat of important endemic
species such as the gold frog as well as the Tárcoles River, whose margins
are guarded by hundreds of American crocodiles.
Good food –especially seafood- as well as the well-known carnivals held
each summer, and the warmth of its people, are some of the nice surprises
expecting tourists visiting this province.
|Also known as the Ancient Metropoli, Cartago was the
capital of Costa Rica until 1823, when this title was transferred to the
city of San José. It is a relatively small province, with barely 3.124 km2
and almost 35 000 inhabitants.
It is perhaps Costa Rica’s most important area in matters of colonial
art. The best example is the temple of Orosi, dating back to 1743, a
historical jewel that was witness to the birth of a nation.
Cartago has a humid, tropical climate. Its mountain system is made up of
two mountain ranges: the Central, is where we find the Irazú and Turrialba
volcanoes. The Talamanca mountain range is the other great mountain
formation of the province. The imposing Cerro Chirripó, the highest point in
Costa Rica, is located here, at 3.600 meters over sea level.
Cartago is a land of traditions and religiosity. To the north we find the
national monument of Guayabo, located on the outskirts of the town of
Turrialba. In Guayabo, visitors may admire the enigmatic constructions,
dating back to Pre-Colombian times. It’s one of the largest archeological
areas discovered in the country. Mounds, bridges, plazas and highways, as
well as an aqueduct that is still working, are some of the remains of
Pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Angels Basilica at the center of the city of Cartago is the most important religious activity of Costa Rica. Celebrated each August 2nd, here attend millions of people from all around the country.
|Is one of the most extensive provinces of Costa Rica, known
as “The Land of Mangoes”. Its territory spreads to the north, reaching the
boundary with Nicaragua. Alajuela was founded in 1782 and gave birth to such
famous historical characters like Juan Santamaría, the national hero that
burned down the “Mesón de Rivas” in 1856.
This province has an enviable natural richness. Its uneven topography
includes the rainforest and exuberant plains to the north. Visitors have a
choice of the two most impressive, active volcanoes of the country: Arenal
volcano, in the City of San Carlos and the Poás volcano, at the Central
Volcanic Mountain Range.
Poás volcano is one of the most splendid volcanoes in Costa Rica, known
for its beautiful landscape. Around it you may appreciate different
habitats, from the cloud forest to areas of scarce vegetation, where species
have become adapted to emissions of gas and the climatic factor
characteristic of a volcano.
The Arenal volcano, on the other hand, with its beautiful conic
silhouette, is one of the most active in the world. Its charm is enhanced at
night, when the color of its eruptions and lava rivers can be fully
appreciated. Many of the hotels offer a panoramic view of the volcano and
its evening show.
During the last decades, Alajuela has become an obliged journey for those
who love Costa Rica’s natural richness.
|The Caribbean province is a natural paradise, formed by a
combination of dense jungles, imposing mountains, and paradisiacal beaches.
Limón has the highest percentage of protected land in Costa Rica, as well as
a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its vegetation is exuberant, as are the
cultures meeting throughout the province.
The road to Limón from San José, crosses the majestic Braulio Carrillo
National Park. At this point begins a beautiful journey to the lowlands of
the Caribbean. A significant change in temperature and landscape can be
Perhaps the most exuberant region of Limón is Tortuguero National Park,
at the north part of the province. A vast extension of protected land and
the most important of the Atlantic coasts of the American continent for the
spawning of the green turtle.
The city of Limón is the point of arrival for visitors. It is a port,
which is essential in Costa Rica’s economic life and the greatest living
example of the multicultural meeting experienced in this region throughout
Traveling south, at an hour’s distance, we find Cahuita, a typical
Caribbean villa. This town has become “a must” for tourists, for it
represents the essence of a culture, and the beauty of Cahuita National
Park, which protects an important expanse of coral reefs.
The quiet waters in this spot, are a plus for those lovers of
“snorkeling”. The underwater scenery is marvelous, with a wide chain of
coral reefs, composed of different types of coral and occupied by an immense
variety of tropical fish.
Another important point in the Caribbean province is Puerto Viejo, barely
30 minutes from Cahuita. In this town you can breathe the profound respect
for the cultural identity of its people. A combination of music, beaches and
food, so characteristic of the place, are the elements attracting thousands
of tourists year by year.
Along the coastal area, travelers find a good number of options for
lodging. The vast majority of hotels and cabins are small and formed of
traditional Bungalows, a very particular type of construction of the
Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge is located just at the end of
the coastline, almost at the border with Panama. This refuge protects almost
4500 hectares of beaches and sea, for the spawning of 4 species of turtles.
In Manzanillo you may rent kayaks and glide through the gentle mangroves
in search of birds and reptiles characteristic of the area.
The province of Limón possesses a unique culture in Costa Rica, a way of
life that may be fully appreciated during the traditional carnivals held
each year, an experience of rhythms and euphoric and captivating colors.
*** Information courtesy of Destinos Magazine
San jose Alajuela Heredia Cartago Puntarenas Guanacaste Limon
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