The city of San Jose is often overlooked; however, a short stay in the capital at the beginning or end of your vacation will present a fascinating insight into a world where modest colonial architecture and commercialism have collided, as well as art-galleries and museums depicting the country’s indigenous heritage. Head just beyond San Jose, into the highlands and Central Valley, and you’ll see Costa Rica’s natural beauty really comes into its own – lush jungles conceal diverse flora and fauna, the hills roll with fruit and sugarcane plantations and national parks host a flurry of vibrant commotion in their treetops.
Bird enthusiasts will love the picturesque settlement of San Gerardo de Dota, the place to go to experience the true diversity of Costa Rica’s birdlife. The deep valley setting is a pleasant contrast to Costa Rica’s tropical regions, with beautiful mountain scenery which is home to thousands of birds, including the rare and treasured quetzal. The tiny hammering of woodpeckers in the wild fills the crisp mountain air, and hiking trails provide countless opportunities to see colourful plumage fleeting in the trees above.
Alternatively, adrenalin-seekers can navigate the swirling rapids of the Pacuare River, famous for its whitewater rafting, before exploring the diverse culture of Turrialba; this gateway town to the Caribbean coast is a popular destination for visiting the relatively active volcano of the same name. Conveniently located between San Jose and the Caribbean Coast, Turrialba is a lively region known for its green rolling hills and fertile volcanic farmland. As well as for its rich volcanic soil, which is ideal for the growth of coffee, the region is famous for its cheese and for its open air markets with some of the best produce available in Costa Rica.