Costa Rica’s 7 provinces
Costa Rica has 7 administrative provinces: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas & San Jose. Each one of them has its own particularities and attractions. Unique mixture of the ‘pura vida’ culture in the scattered towns and cities, national parks abundant with wildlife and lush greenery, and indigenous people and their traditions are worthwhile exploring.
San José is the capital and main hub for everything related to economy and politics, and features most of the major annual festivals and social events in Costa Rica. More than one million of Costa Ricans travel through the capital every day to go to work or to attend appointments in the city. Although most of the ‘Ticos’ will complain about the congested traffic and messy streets, San José has its own allure. Strolling through ‘Avenida Central’ or visiting ‘Teatro National’ and nearby ‘Museo National’ are a must if you choose to visit San Jose while on your vacation. However, if you want to do some shopping it’s best to visit San Jose’s suburbs, like Escazú, which is a true shopping mecca full of options for recreational activities, as well.
Heredia province is well-known for its main town, named the ‘city of flowers’. Few historical monuments give the city its own distinct features, including “El Fortín”, an 1876 circular tower that became the symbol of the city. Braulio Carillo National Park is also located in this province, so as the Imbio Parque, a conservation center that does scientific studies about wildlife in Costa Rica.
Cartago was the first colonial city established in Costa Rica and its first capital. Two historical treasures of this city are: the ancient ruins of Cartago -the ruins of a catholic cathedral that remained unfinished due to an earthquake in 1910; and also the “Basilica de Cartago”; the emblem of Costa Rica’s Catholic Church. You will find two of the most active volcanoes in this province: the Irazu Volcano, and Turrialba Volcano, towering over the Turrialba town, as well as some highly popular rivers amongst rafters, such as Pacuare River.
Alajuela province is the setting for two incredible National Parks: Arenal Volcano National Park in the north, attracting tourists with its breathtaking views, hot springs and amazing offering of adventure tours in the area; and Poas Volcano National Park, known for the volcano’s gigantic crater, which is ranked as one of the biggest in the world. This province boasts with less popular but truly unique natural phenomena, famous Rio Celeste and its emerald waterfall near the Tenorio Volcano National Park.
Guanacaste province features the beautiful, white-sand beaches of the north-west Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. From Conchal and Papagayo up in the north, to Nicoya Peninsula, the wonders of this province make it a “must visit” for beach lovers. In Guanacaste there are also dazzling National Parks, like Rincon de la Vieja National Park and Las Baulas Marine National Park.
Puntarenas is home to some of the most popular National Parks in Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio National Park in the Central Pacific area and the Corcovado National Park on the south are two of the many beautiful places to visit. Puntarenas is also called as the ‘Pacific Pearl’, where you can enjoy all kinds of water sports, from surfing, over parasailing and paddle boarding to diving, on its abundant beaches.
Limon is the province with a Caribbean flavor and African spice. Remote and equally beautiful Tortuguero National Park, Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge in the north and La Amistad National Park on the south are some of the places where you can truly enjoy Costa Rica’s stunning nature. Limon’s Caribbean roots are the appeal for many travelers seeking for a relaxed and easy going atmosphere.