Getting To Alajuela:
Coming from San Jose, get to La Sabana Park and take the Autopista General Cañas.
Then just follow the highway and before reaching the Juan Santamaria Airport, make a turn to the right (there are enough signs to let you know exactly where to turn).
If you’re not driving, you can take the Tuasa buses (red ones) or the Station wagon (yellow ones), both of which you can find in downtown San Jose.
Things to Do in Alajuela Costa Rica:
The best time to visit Alajuela is during April, when the Juan Santamaria Day festivities are taking place (make sure not to miss the large parade across town on April 11).
Another event you should check out is the 9-day Mango Festival. It takes place during July and includes large concerts with international bands, parades, and fairs.
The Mercado Central of Alajuela is really old as it dates back to the thirties. This is a landmark from the city where you can get some souvenirs and eat typical food. There are also museums where you can check the history of the city.
And you’ll also find interesting zoos to visit near downtown Alajuela, where you can spot many types of birds, Mammals, and Butterflies. Visiting Sarchi is also an excellent way of spending your time in Alajuela.
This is a town that’s located in Valverde Vega County, and it’s known as a wood crafts center in Costa Rica. You’ll find all sorts of high-quality products here.
But their specialty is the traditional oxcarts, which are carefully decorated with multicolor shapes by the local artisans. Once you get inside one of the many shops in Sarchi, it will be difficult not to take at least a couple of souvenirs with you.
To get here, just take the Pan-American Highway until you find the exit for Naranjo or Grecia. You can take either and just keep on following the signs until you get there. Another great place to visit is the town of Zarcero, where you can take a few pictures of the topiary within the local park (located in front of the church).
This is the main attraction here, and you’ll find all sorts of figures shaped out of cypress. To get there, just take the Pan-American Highway and deviate at the Naranjo exit. Then follow the signs and you’ll be there within minutes.
La Fortuna, Alajuela
It was back in the late sixties, when the Arenal Volcano erupted (burying the villages of San Luis, Tabacon, and Pueblo Nuevo), that the economy of this small town started to change drastically.
People began switching from their habitual agricultural practices to the tourist attention, as foreigners started to arrive from all over the world searching for the perfect picture of the eruption’s aftermath.
Despite the tourism boom which the region has experienced during the past few decades, La Fortuna is still blessed by a small-town, rustic vibe. And this is in part because many of the hotels in the area are family-run. This has helped to retain the peaceful feel that’s not characteristic of other large touristic regions in the country.
Tourism is and has been the center of the economy in La Fortuna for a long time. With the accommodation business being ahead of other important sources of income such as restaurants, tour operators, and souvenir shops.
Getting To La Fortuna
The bus for La Fortuna can be taken in downtown San Jose, nearby the Coca-Cola Market. The fare is cheap, and travel time is between 4 and 5 hours, depending on transit and weather conditions.
Charter flights are also available from the Tobias Bolaños (Pavas) and Juan Santamaria (Alajuela) Airports. A trip here can take about 30 minutes.
Things to Do in La Fortuna Costa Rica
The Arenal Volcano is the top attraction in the area, and La Fortuna is the gateway for visiting this majestic destination. There are many tour operators. Although most of the people offering tours are serious about what they do, we recommend you to ask in your hotel for these services.
And that’s because they’ll probably get you a better price for the different activities available here. Arenal National Park it’s constituted by more than seven thousand acres. And it’s open every day of the week from 8 in the morning to 10 pm.
The Arenal is in constant activity, and at night is the optimal time to observe the orange lava glowing out of the volcano’s cone. If you’re staying in a La Fortuna hotel, chances are that they offer night tours.
Some of them including a short stop at a hot spring on the road to Arenal. But as the view of the volcano from inside or outside the park is the same during the night, they don’t enter the park. And instead, they make strategic stops at different observation points.
Since Arenal Volcano is in constant activity, it’s forbidden to climb it. And once you have gone through the park and taken the respective pictures of your trip to this wonderful place, you might want to explore other activities here, such as visiting La Fortuna waterfall, which has a 200 feet fall.
This is an interesting trip because this is one of the most impressive waterfalls you’ll get to see in Costa Rica. And also because on the trails that lead to a natural pool you’ll have the chance to watch Monkeys, Toucans, and other tropical species.
While here, you can also visit a remote (close to the border with Nicaragua) but worth-seeing place in Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge, located 100 miles from La Fortuna. It’s considered one of the most important wetlands in the world.
And it’s home to more than two hundred species of birds and many species of reptiles and mammals. The park is open from 7 am to 5 pm every day.
Arenal Volcano Costa Rica
Arenal is a volcano that dominates the landscape of La Fortuna, San Carlos (Alajuela). It’s 5,358 feet tall and it has a crater that’s 460 feet large.
It also has the common conical shape of a prototypical volcano, and it’s known by various names, including Pan de Azucar. This volcano is considered to be quite young (geologically speaking), as it has an estimated age of about seven thousand years.
The Arenal remained slept for a long time, until it suddenly awakened in 1968, destroying small surrounding villages. Since then, the volcano has presented continuous activity, which has made it the main attraction in the area.
It’s also the reason why La Fortuna has experienced significant growth in its local economy as many foreigners are interested in checking an active volcano and also the other attractions this outstanding region has to offer.
Getting To Arenal Volcano
The best route to La Fortuna, where Arenal Volcano is located, is the one that follows the Pan-American Highway. This is the one passing Juan Santamaria International Airport.
Follow that road until reaching the town of Naranjo. And from there to Zarcero, then straight to Ciudad Quesada (the main city of San Carlos).
Once you arrive there, it’s a 30-minute trip to La Fortuna. There are also daily domestic flights departing from the Juan Santamaria or the Tobias Bolaños Airports.
Things To Do in Arenal Costa Rica
The best recommendation for contemplating the Arenal in all of its magnificence is to stay in a hotel with a good view of the volcano as the best time to watch the giant spewing lava is at night. This shouldn’t present a difficult task for you as the local economy is fueled by the tourism industry. And there are many good family-run small hotels and other more luxurious options.
If you’re not able to book a place with a view of the volcano, you can always arrange a nightly tour, which will take you to different observation points. The Arenal Volcano National Park is a place that welcomes guests on its entrance with two interesting trails, both of which lead to a lookout point from where visitors can see lava flowing.
One is Las Heliconias, where you’ll find cooled lava throughout the route, and the other one is Las Coladas trail, which is 1.7 miles long and ends up in another lookout point. There’s another trail called Los Tucanes, which leads to a southern observation point, and apart from these, there are also smaller trailheads worth checking out.
Note: Sometimes the crater is not visible as clouds might be darkening the cone, so consider this when planning your visit to the park. Ask your guide to let you know the conditions in the volcano so you can have the chance of re-scheduling your one-day trip.
Thanks to the constant activity of the volcano, there are natural hot springs that can be visited by paying an entrance fee. Here you can enjoy the naturally heated water (by the volcano )at artificial pools made by the locals.
And if the cone of the volcano is cloudless, you will also have the chance of watching the Arenal at the same time. The Venado Caverns can be found just a short 45-minute trip from La Fortuna.
Here you’ll be able to watch different Limestone Formations such as Stalagmites and Stalactites. And, of course, many bats flying in and out of the caverns. You can arrange a trip here at your hotel, and the cost can vary.
Sarchi is a city located in Valverde Vega, a county in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. This is a town of expert artisans in crafting oxcarts, either miniature or real size.
Although most of these are decorative, some are actually still utilized for carrying coffee beans. So, if you spot one of these in any part of the country, now you know where that oxcart was made.
The name Sarchi comes from an Aztec word that means “open field” and it fits the town’s description perfectly. And that’s because the first settlers, who arrived here back in the early 1800s, were ranchers with cattle and large open properties.
The farming activities here were the center of the economy. But by 1890 the city had turned into the main producer of serial furniture in the country (especially of rocking chairs made of wood and leather).
A couple of families also started the production of oxcarts in Sarchi around this time. And now this symbol of the Costa Rica of old has also become the emblem of the town.
Sarchi now has a population of a little less than 5000 people, and the more than 200 artisan shops across town are at the center of the local economy, which is supplemented by the cultivation of coffee.
It’s likely that you’ll be visiting this city on a one-day trip, as there are not many places where you can stay here. However, there are family-run small hotels which will always welcome the tourist that decides to spend a few days here exploring the surrounding areas.
Getting To Sarchi
If you’re coming from San Jose, head to Alajuela, and follow the Pan-American Highway until you see the exit for Grecia. Then follow this road until you reach this town, and there you’ll find the signs for Sarchi. You can also pick any of the daily buses at the terminal stations of San Jose or downtown Alajuela.
Things to Do in Sarchi Costa Rica
Shopping is the main attraction in Sarchi. And you’ll certainly have a great time visiting the different artisan shops in the city. There you’ll find outstanding carpentry pieces made from some of the best wood in Costa Rica, and really colorful souvenirs.
It’s common for Costa Ricans from all over the country to come and do their furniture shopping here due to the high quality of the products. Once you’ve done enough shopping, you can take some time to go to the local park and get your camera ready for a picture of you next to the world’s biggest oxcart.
This oxcart took the name of this small town to the pages of the Guinness World of Records back in 2006, when it was built.
Sarchi is really close to the town of Zarcero. There are great topiary works at the local park here.
And it will be impossible for you not to grab your camera and take a few shots. Before arriving in Sarchi you will find the town of Grecia, another picturesque place that’s worth a visit in this area.
While you’re either here, in Zarcero or Sarchi, you can also take some time to visit the local churches, all of which have a peaceful rural look a history of their own.
Grecia is a city located in the province of Alajuela, Costa Rica. This town has a considerable population of around 82,000 and its economy is fueled by the cultivation of both sugar cane and coffee. This region, populated by Huetar Indians back in the Pre-Columbian era, was rediscovered by local explorers in the 1820s when they were on their way to the northern side of the country.
Such people were stunned by the natural scenic beauty and by the fertility of the soil and decided to establish their homes here. In 1838, and during the government of former president Manuel Aguilar Chacon, Grecia officially became a town and got its first official hermitage. In July 1867, it officially became a canton (county) of the Alajuela province.
Getting To Grecia
You can pick the daily buses departing from Calle 20 in downtown San Jose every 30 minutes. Or if you’re driving, just take the Pan-American Highway and follow the signs for the Juan Santamaria Airport.
Once you’re there, continue on the highway and follow it until you reach the exit for Grecia. The trip from the capital should take about 1 hour by bus and 40 minutes in a car.
Things to Do in Grecia Costa Rica
As with many Costa Rican cities, the local church is one of the main attractions here. The church of Grecia is called Iglesia Metalica Las Mercedes, and it’s the only one in the country that’s completely made out of metal.
It was built back in 1984 and it’s considered one of the architectural jewels in the province of Alajuela. Puente de Piedra is a natural bridge completely made out of stone. And can’t hurt to visit it for a nice couple of pictures of an interesting structure that at first seems to be man-made.
Los Chorros recreative park, which is located in the district of Tacares, counts with trails that lead to 2 waterfalls (of 160 feet each), both of which are fed by the Zamora and Peralta rivers. This is a great place to spend a few hours and take a swim at the natural pools formed by the waterfalls.
You can also leave Grecia and visit Sarchi, a nearby town of artisans where you can pick up a souvenir at one of the many crafts shops. We recommend one of the colorful oxcarts, as this is the emblem of Sarchi.
Another option is to visit Zarcero, a small town where the main attraction is the local park, which is decorated with all sorts of gigantic figures shaped out of cypress trees.
Bosque Del Niño Forest Reserve is located 7 miles from downtown Grecia, and it’s the perfect place for those who want to take a hike through stunning panoramic trails, all of which lead to designated camping and picnic areas. This place is home to many species of flora and fauna.
And the animals which you might spot include the Common Opossum, Armadillos, Gray Foxes, Tayras, and birds such as the Anis, the Squirrel Cuckoo, and the Black Guan.
You can arrive here by bus (which you can pick up in Grecia) or you can also take the short drive to the reserve, which is open from 8 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon every day.
San Ramon, Alajuela
The city of San Ramon in Alajuela was founded by European settlers back in the early 1840s. They came here looking to establish farms, some of which are still functional.
These farms are dedicated to the cultivation of either coffee or sugar cane, the two top export crops from the area, and the heart of the local economy. This place is also known as the “town of the poets”, as respected local poets were born here, including Lisimaco Chavarria and Felix Angel Salas.
San Ramon is now home to 11,000 people and it has mild weather all year round, mostly due to the altitude of the city (3,500 feet). Former presidents of the country Jose Figueres Ferrer and Rodrigo Carazo are also natives of this city.
All of the public figures born here or who have been residents of the city were responsible for the importance which San Ramon acquired in the social scene of Costa Rica in the early period of the 1900s. And it’s said that if the coup d’état from 1917 by Federico Tinoco had not taken place, San Ramon could have been turned officially into the eighth province of the country.
There’s an interesting story surrounding the name of the city, as it was picked by two prominent figures of the region. Both were named Ramon and established Saint Raymond as the official patron of the area.
Getting To San Ramon
San Ramon is just 20 minutes from downtown Alajuela and 40 from San Jose. If you’re in the capital, you can take the Pan American Highway, which leads to Alajuela.
Once you’ve passed the Juan Santamaria Airport, pay attention to the right exit for San Ramon, there are little chances of getting lost. There are also daily frequent buses heading here from both San Jose and Alajuela, they are cheap and comfortable enough for the short trip.
Things to Do in San Ramon Costa Rica
Although San Ramon is not considered a tourist destination in itself, there are many things that visitors can do while here. This includes Horseback Rides, Hikes through beautiful natural locations, and Canopying.
You can also take some time to visit the local church. This is one of the emblems of the city, and it took more than 25 years to be built after the former old adobe church was destroyed as the result of the earthquake of 1924.
The builders took the necessary precautions so the new structure could stand future earthquakes, although the building hasn’t been put to a serious test since 1954 when it was completed. Visiting neighboring towns is also an outstanding idea while here.
And you can start with Sarchi, a town of artisans located just a few minutes away from San Ramon, where you can pick up fantastic works in high-quality wood and traditional souvenirs. This includes the colorful oxcarts, which are the symbol of this town (make sure to visit the local park and check the giant oxcart).
Zarcero is the second most interesting small town that is located nearby San Ramon, and its main attraction are the topiary works in the park. There are many different figures made of cypress, including animals, an oxcart, and a motorcycle.