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The capital of Costa Rica, the large, sprawling city of San José is the focal point of the Central Valley with a spectacular setting, ringed by jagged mountains and volcanoes on all sides.

Due to earthquakes over the years, most of the colonial buildings and much of the charm of the city has disappeared. What remains today is a mixture of restored and rundown buildings huddled under a modern skyline.

The city still retains a good mix of museums and general attractions that are of interest for those willing to get under the skin of the capital.

The Central Valley

Keel-billed toucan, Costa RicaThe surrounding countryside of the Central Valley is stunning, characterised by coffee plantations; pockets of rain and cloudforests teeming with birdlife, butterflies and orchids; spectacular volcanic craters and tumbling rivers for rafting.

It’s a great place to begin any trip to the country.

Speak to someone
who's been there

Audley Travel specialist Chris

Start planning your tailor-made trip to San José & Central Valley by contacting one of our Costa Rica specialists

Suggested itineraries featuring San José & Central Valley

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in San José & Central Valley, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of San José & Central Valley

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near San José & Central Valley

    Our expert guides to exploring San José & Central Valley

    Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting San José & Central Valley, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate San José & Central Valley at its best.

    • What to do in Costa Rica: our highlights guide
      Red eyed tree frog, Costa Rica

      What to do in Costa Rica: our highlights guide

      What to do in Costa Rica: our highlights guide

      One of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, Costa Rica attracts nature lovers and adrenaline seekers alike. Country specialist, Nik, picks out some of the country’s highlights, from white-water rafting to wildlife spotting in the cloudforest.

      5 min read

      Read this guide
    • Luxury holidays in Costa Rica
      Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

      Luxury holidays in Costa Rica

      Luxury holidays in Costa Rica

      Luxury in Costa Rica lies in the unrivalled wildlife that covers the country, from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast. With small hotels designed to make the best of the natural surroundings, this is barefoot luxury at its most pure.

      7 min read

      Read this guide
    • Honeymoons in Costa Rica
      Resplendent quetzal, Costa Rica

      Honeymoons in Costa Rica

      Honeymoons in Costa Rica

      Volcanic hot springs, cloudforest, beaches, rainforest reserves and white-water rivers: Costa Rica lends itself to couples seeking an adventurous, eco-conscious honeymoon with many chances to spot wildlife. Specialist Michael reveals where exactly to go, and the best places to stay.

      8 min read

      Read this guide

    Accommodation choices for San José & Central Valley

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit San José & Central Valley. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    Ideas for experiencing San José & Central Valley

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting San José & Central Valley, and which use the best local guides.

    • Pacuare River Rafting
      River-rafting, Costa RIca

      Pacuare River Rafting

      Pacuare River Rafting

      This heart-thumping trip takes you along the Pacuare River's grade III and IV rapids, which wind their way through stunning virgin rainforest where a huge diversity of animals, birds and butterflies can be seen along the river's edge.

      View details
    • Café Britt Coffee Excursion
      Cafe Britt Coffee Show

      Café Britt Coffee Excursion

      Café Britt Coffee Excursion

      Traditionally dressed guides will take you on an interactive tour around the six acres of coffee fields, tropical gardens and coffee processing facilities. The volcanic views from the plantation are spectacular along with those of the Central Valley.

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    • Rain Forest Aerial Tram
      Howler monkey

      Rain Forest Aerial Tram

      Rain Forest Aerial Tram

      The 2.6 km long ride lasts about 90 minutes and takes you on a fascinating journey through the canopy which is one of the most biologically diverse rainforests in Costa Rica.

      View details