In this article, you are going to learn about the different provinces of Costa Rica, their history, weather and climate, their economy, their infrastructure, and what to do there. Let’s get right to it…
The Central Valley
History & People
The Central Valley (Spanish: Valle Central) is a plateau and the geographic region of central Costa Rica. The region is home to almost three-quarters of Costa Ricans and includes the capital and most populous city, San Jose.
Most visitors spend a very short time in the Central Valley (two days maximum) before moving on to the country’s more popular destinations.
The Spanish colonists were first attracted to the area’s fertile soil. Crops flourished and plantations prospered, helping farmers to achieve easy sustenance. Innerland areas such as the Central Valley were colonialized later, during the 1560s.
In 1560, the young attorney Juan de Cavallon was ordered by the administrator of Nicaragua to conquer this part of the country. During the 17th century, began the settlement of the whole meseta central.
Weather & Climate
The temperature varies between 15°C (59°F) and 30°C (86°F), mainly because of the area’s position with respect to the mountains, which can be a blessing in a country that can be very hot, especially during the summer months.
The altitude also varies between 800 meters (2624 feet) and 1,500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level.
As in the rest of the country, with the exception of the Caribbean region, there are two clearly defined climate seasons, the wet season and the dry one.
The eastern part of the valley is influenced more by Caribbean conditions, which are more volatile.
The Central Valley is the center of the commerce, industry, and service activities of Costa Rica. The Juan Santamaria Airport in Alajuela and the port of Limon help these business activities.
Most retail stores can be found in the Central Valley. The oldest and largest department stores are La Gloria located mainly in Alajuela but with significant coverage in the Central Valley, and Llobet.
The largest coffee-growing areas can be found in the Central Valley (e.g. areas of San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, and Cartago).
What to do in the Central Valley
The Central Valley offers the most activities and nightlife options in Costa Rica.
I have listed a few of them below.
- Visiting Cachi
- Visiting the Basilica and the Ruins of Cartago Center
- Ujarras Ruinas in Cartago, home to the ruins of one of the oldest churches in Costa Rica
- Orosi Valley and Tapanti National Park
- Vulcano Irazu
- Visiting Turrialba
- Lankester Botanical Garden
- Guyabo National Monument
- San Jose Gold Museum
- San Jose Nightlife
- Centro Nacional de Arte y Cultura
- Costa Rica’s San Jose Music Festival, held in June.
- Golfing at numerous golf clubs around San Jose
- Fidel Tristan Jade Museum
- Visiting the Temple of Music in Morazan Park
- Museum of Costa Rican Art Alajuela
- Alajuela Butterfly Farm
- Visiting Poas Volcano
- Visiting Sarchi
- Canopy Tour in Naranjo
- Visiting the town of Zarcero and admiring the pine sculptures.
- Visiting the Juan Santamaria Museum in downtown Alajuela Heredia
- Visiting Braulio Carrillo National Park (Aerial Tram of the Tropical Rain Forest)
- Hiking Barva Volcano
- Canopy tour or white water rafting in Sarapiqui
- Walking around downtown Heredia
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens
- Popular Culture Museum
- Inbio Parque
The best health care infrastructure is located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. All major and the majority of private hospitals can be found here.
Health facilities in the Central Valley:
- Hospital Clinica Biblica, San Jose
- Hospital Calderon Guardia, San Jose
- Hospital San Juan de Dios, San Jose
- Hospital La Cima, Escazu
- Clinica Catolica, San Jose
- Clinica de Estetica Bel – Viso, San Jośe
- Clinica Laser Visual, San Jose
- Clinica San Angel – Dentistry, San Jose
- Hospital Clinica Santa Rita, San Jose
- Hospital Clinica UNIBE, San Jose Tibas
- Hospital Cristiano Jerusalem, San Jose
- Hospital Mexico, San Jose
- Hospital Nacional de Niños,San Jose
- Hospital Nacional Psiquiatrico, San Jose
- Centro Nacional de Rehabilitacion, San Jose
- Hospital Geriatrico, Raul Blanco Cervantes, San Jose
- Hospital Max Peralta, Cartago
- Hospital William Allen, Turrialba, Cartago
- Hospital de Alajuela, Alajuela
- Hospital de Heredia, Heredia
- Hospital de San Carlos, Alajuela
- Hospital Nacional de las Mujeres, San Jose
- Hospital de San Ramon, Alajuela
- Hospital San Francisco de Asis, Grecia, Alajuela
Private Schools & Colleges
The highest density of private schools can be found in the Western area of San Jose (e.g. Escazu and Santa Ana). Most of them are listed below:
- American International School, Location: Cariari, San Jose
- Anglo American School. Bilingual: English & French
- British School. Bilingual: English & Spanish.
- Blue Valley School. Bilingual: English & Spanish.
- Franz Liszt School & Kiwi Learning Centre Preschool, Location: Santa Ana
- Country Day School, Location: Escazu
- Colegio Calasanz, Location: San Pedro
- European School, Location: Heredia
- Humboldt College. Trilingual: Spanish, German & English.
- Iribo School. Bilingual: English & Spanish.
- La Palabra de Vida. Bilingual: English & Spanish
- La Salle. Bilingual: English & Spanish
- Lighthouse International School, Location: Guachipelin de Escazu
- Lincoln School. English, Location: San Jose
- Marian Baker School. Bilingual – Spanish & English, Location: San Jose
- Monte Alto School, Bilingual: English & Spanish, Location: Heredia
- MonteBello – Taller Pedagogico, Bilingual: English & Spanish, Location: Heredia
- Monterrey College. Bilingual: English & Spanish. San Pedro de Montes de Oca
- Mountview School, Location: Guachipelin de Escazu
- New Hope Bilingual school, Location: San Juan de Santa Barbara de Heredia
- Pan American School, Location: San Antonio de Belen
- San Diego High School, Location: Alajuela
- SEK Costa Rica. Bilingual: English & Spanish, Location: Curridabat, San Jose
- Saint Francis College. Bilingual: Spanish & English, Location, Moravia, San Jose
- Saint Gregory. Trilingual: English, Spanish & French. Location: Tres Rios
- Saint Joseph School, Bilingual: Spanish & English, Location: Moravia.
- Saint Jude School, Location: Santa Ana
- Saint Mary School. Bilingual: English & Spanish, Location: Guachipelin de Escazu
- Saint Paul College. Bilingual: English & Spanish. Location: San Antonio de Belen
- San Lorenzo. Trilingual: Spanish, English & French. Location: San Pedro de Montes de Oca
- Sistema Educativo Whitman, Bilingual: English & Spanish, Location: Curridabat
- Yorkin School. Bilingual: English & Spanish
History & People
The name Guanacaste is derived from the indigenous “quahnacaztlan”, a native word for the Guanacaste tree. This tree is native to this region and is the national tree of Costa Rica.
The cultural heritage originates from the first indigenous groups that populated the area around
10,000 years ago.
The inhabitants of Nicoya, Santa Cruz, and Cañas decided that they did not want to belong to Nicaragua but to Costa Rica, and they announced their annexation on July 25, 1824.
Today, July 25 is celebrated as the Independence Day, which was accepted by both sides in 1821. The population descends from a mix of Chorotega natives and Spaniards.
Weather & Climate
There is little rain and consistent heat from November to April, and a wet season from late May to November. The hot, dry climate makes tropical dry forests the province’s natural vegetation type.
One exception is the highland portion of the province, which consists of the upper Pacific slopes in the Guanacaste Cordillera and the northern half of the Tilaran Cordillera.
The best time to visit Guanacaste is from December through April when the average temperature is
21°C – 31°C or 69-89° Fahrenheit.
- Liberia, Liberia
- Nicoya, Nicoya
- Santa Cruz
- Carrillo, Filadelfia
- Abangares, Las Juntas
- Nandayure, Carmona
- La Cruz
The economic and cultural heritage is based on beef cattle ranching. Today, tourism has emerged as a growing activity in the local economy.
What to do in Guanacaste
- Palo Verde National Park
- Floating at Corobici River
- Rincon de la Vieja National Park
- Guaitil Pottery Town
- Arenal Volcano by night
- Miravalles Hot Springs and Mud Mask
- Scuba diving, sports fishing, and deep-sea fishing at
the best Guanacaste beaches
- Surfing: the surf breaks and swells at Playa Naranjo
or Witches Rock in Santa Rosa National
- Park & Playa Grande, Playa Avellana, Playa Negra, &
Playa Santa Teresa
- Visiting the most beautiful beaches: Playa Flamingo,
Playa Conchal, Playa Ballena, Playa Grande, and Playa Santa Teresa
- Playing golf at: The Hacienda Pinilla Golf Resort Tamarindo, The Garra de Leon course at the Paradisus Playa Conchal Resort, The Four Seasons Resort in the Papagayo Gulf, The Royal Pacific Golf and Country Club in Playa Grande, The Tamarindo Diria Beach and Golf Resort, The Costa Palmera Beach Estate in Playa Grande
- Enjoying Yoga & wellness retreats
There are small medical practices in all towns, but if a hospital is needed, there are several in Guanacaste. There are currently additional projects planned, including a new Clinica Biblica hospital.
These projects focus more on the field of medical tourism and are planned not only in Guanacaste but also in other areas.
Current hospitals in Guanacaste:
Schools & Colleges
- Brasilito: Country Day School in Brasilito (bilingual
- Playa del Coco: Green Live Academy (bilingual
- Tamarindo: Instituto Wayra (only to learn Spanish) –
Liberia: Escuela Ascension Esquivel Ibarra (Spanish
speaking public school)
- Liberia: Universidad de San Jose (private university/
- Santa Cruz: Universidad Latina (private university/
The Southern and Central Pacific
We call it “Zona Sur” or “Southern Pacific” so we can include areas such as San Isidro del General and the General Valley (Valle del General), which officially belong to the province of San Jose.
However, geographically speaking, this is not the case, and most locals in these areas don’t feel that they belong to San Jose. In fact, most of the region belongs to the province of Puntarenas.
History & People
The southern Pacific portion of what is now Costa Rica remained quite isolated from the developing
population centers of the region during the first 350 years of the Spanish presence.
The high mountains between Puntarenas, San Isidro del General, and the Central Valley made for a
formidable barrier to the available means of terrestrial transportation.
Therefore, the few early settlers who ventured into the southern region came either from Panama from the south or by boat from the port of Caldera in the Gulf of Nicoya.
There was no horse trail from the Central Valley to the General Valley until 1870.
The southern part of the Puntarenas province remained sparsely populated by non-natives until
the mid-1930s when the banana plantations in the Caribbean lowlands were severely affected by a fungal infection.
The heat and high rainfall of the southern Pacific lowlands made for an ideal banana-growing climate.
The greatest Costa Rican pre-Columbian mystery can be found in the southern part of the province, near the towns of Palmar Norte and Palmar Sur, where hundreds of large stone spheres were found.
The largest one of these granitic boulders measures 2.5 meters in diameter and weighs 13,000 kg.
The settlement of the southern sector of the province was slow in coming, despite periodic expeditions taking place into the region during the colonial times. Therefore, this area, along with the eastern slopes of the Talamanca Cordillera, was one of the last strongholds of indigenous culture in Costa Rica.
Weather & Climate
The region has a large variety of different climates depending on the area, from hot to cool and humid in the south to a less humid climate in the areas in the north.
During the rainy season, a lot of rain falls during the months of May, June, July, August, September,
October, and November.
Puntarenas has dry periods in January, February, and March. On average, the warmest month is March and the coldest one is October.
September is the wettest month, while February is the driest one. The average temperature is 22°C-35°C or 68-95° Fahrenheit.
- Puntarenas City
- Buenos Aires
- Montes de Oro
- Puerto Jimenez
- San Vito
- San Isidro del General
Prior to the mid-20th century, Puntarenas City was the largest and most significant open-water port in Costa Rica.
When in 1981, a bigger port was opened at Puerto Caldera, about 18km southeast of Puntarenas City, the town turned to its current means of economic survival, namely tourism.
After tourism, the main economic activities are the cultivation of rice, pineapple, palm, banana, sugar cane, beans, corn, and others.
Fishing is a complementary activity to tourism of the locals on the coast.
What to do in the Zona Sur
- Manuel Antonio National Park
- Corcovado National Park
- Enjoying the beaches of Montezuma
- Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve
- Coco Island
- San Lucas Island
- Visiting Osa Peninsula: Drake Bay, Bahia Ballena,
and Puerto Jimenez
- Surfing at Playa Hermosa, Playa Jaco, Playa Pavones,
Playa Santa Teresa, and Playa Montezuma
- Sport-fishing in Manuel Antonio
- Golf at Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort in
Jaco, the Los Delfines Golf & Country Club in Playa Tambor, and the Tango Mar Beach, Spa
& Golf Resort in Puntarenas City
- Yoga & Wellness Retreats: The Horizon Yoga Hotel, Santa Teresa, The Pranamar Ocean Front Villas and Yoga Retreat, Santa Teresa, The Anamaya Yoga Retreat and Hotel, Montezuma, The Namaste Gardens Herradura, The Vida Asana Retreat Center, Playa Hermosa, Bamboo Yoga Play, Dominical, The Yoga Sanctuary & Spa, Osa, The Luna Lodge, Osa, The Yoga Farm Costa Rica, Pavones
There are medical practices in all towns, but when a hospital is needed, the following can be found in the “Zona Sur”.
Hospitals in Puntarenas:
- Hospital Monsenor Sanabria, Puntarenas City
- Hospital de Osa, Cortes
- Hospital Escalanta Pradilla, San Isidro del General
- Clinica Dermatologica Santamaria, San Isidro del General
- Clinica Labrador, San Isidro del General
- Hospital de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires
- Hospital Ciudad Neily, Cuidad Neily
- Hospital Golfito, Golfito
- Hospital San Vito, San Vito
Since Limon City has not much demand for real estate among international clients, this report will focus more on the areas around Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo belonging to the Costa Rican province of Limon.
History & People
The area was first visited by Christopher Columbus in 1502. He anchored at Caray, now known as Port Limon, and remained there for 17 days.
The highlands of the Central Plateau were originally settled by a separate group of Spaniards coming up the west coast from Panama.
Costa Rica was divided into the settled and potentially productive highlands, without effective
communication with the outside world, and the sparsely populated coast, where the only crop was
The Caribbean coastal region is characterized by the coexistence of diverse cultures that have left
their imprint on the Costa Rican history, including Afro-Caribbean, Chinese, the indigenous Bri-Bri and Cabecar, and Caucasian.
Every second week of October, Puerto Limon hosts a festival called Carnaval.
Weather & Climate
In Costa Rica, the dry season is generally between late December and April, but the Caribbean is very often an exception: September is the driest month, followed
by October, while the rest of the year is wet.
- North Caribbean dry season (including Tortuguero): February, March, September, and October
- North Caribbean green season (including Tortuguero): November–January, April–August
- South Caribbean dry season (Puerto Viejo Area): February, March, September, and October
- South Caribbean green season (Puerto Viejo Area): November–January, April–August
- Limon City
- Puerto Viejo
- Talamanca (Bribri)
The United Fruit Company laid the foundation for what keeps the “limonense” economy going.
Banana and plantain exports remain one of the region’s top sources of income, as well as the ports of Limon and Moin and tourism.
The Limon province ranks third in overall poverty statistics and Talamanca ranks as one of the poorest counties in the country.
In the Talamanca area, the mainly indigenous population of nearly 26,000 residents has only spotty
access to potable water, electricity, and roads.
The major tourist sites are Cahuita and Puerto Viejo/Manzanillo, located in Talamanca,
and the investment in it and taxes collected due to tourism help to keep the municipality afloat.
What to do in the Caribbean
- Finca la Isla Botanical Garden, Puerto Viejo
- Tasting seafood at the Restaurante Coral Reef in
- Trying vegetarian food in Veronicas Place, Puerto
- Enjoying the numerous beautiful beaches from
Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo
- Manzanillo National Park
- Friday reggae night at Coco’s Bar in Cahuita
- Visiting a Bribri family with Willie’s Tours
- Go on excursions through the canals and lagoons of
the Estrella delta with Avarios del Caribe & the Buttercup Center
- Surfing Salsa Brava
- A cacao tour near Cahuita
- Exploring the jungles of Talamanca
- National Park of Cahuita
- Visiting and surfing at Isla Uvita near Puerto Limon
- Playa Cocles
- Mariposario de Cahuita
- Pan Pay, with one of the best breakfast options in Puerto Viejo
- The Organic Market in Puerto Viejo
There are not many health care facilities in the Caribbean area of Costa Rica. The only hospital is the
Hospital Tony Facio in Limon City. However, there are a number of medical practices in Puerto Viejo and Cahuita.
Health Care Facilities:
- Hospital Tony Facia, Limon City
- Bribri, Clinica Dental Dr. Johnny Cerdas, Tel:
- Cahuita, Clinica Hone Creek, Tel: 27500220
- Puerto Viejo, Clinica Sunimedica, Tel: 27500079
- Puerto Viejo, Consultorio Odontologico Ching Wo,
- Sixaola, Consultorio Odontologia CCSS, Clinica CCSS, Tel: 27542022
Private Schools & Colleges
- Centro Educativo Playa Chiquita Punta Uva: a private but inexpensive pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade school that employs the Waldorf method
- Colegio Bri Bri: Public school for grades 7-12 in Bri Bri. Curriculum in Spanish, with mornings spent in class and afternoons spent in vocational-technical training.
- Colegio Cahuita: Public school for grades 7-12 in Cahuita. Curriculum taught in Spanish and English.
- Escuela Manzanillo: Public K-6 school located in Manzanillo. Curriculum taught in Spanish, but a lot of Englishspeaking students attend.
- Escuela Rio Cocles: Public K-6 school in Playa Cocles. Curriculum taught in Spanish.
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