Costa Rica Expat City Guide

Central Valley, Costa Rica


The Central Valley of Costa Rica is a geographic and demographic region of the country. Geographically it is a relatively flat plateau sitting at roughly 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) above sea level and is ringed by majestic volcanic mountain ranges. The region occupies an area of 11,366 km², more than a fifth of the country, and is drained by the Reventazón River to the east and by the Tárcoles River to the west. The region comprises large parts of four provinces: San José, Alajuela (to San Ramón) to the west, Heredia, and Cartago (to Paraiso) to the east and southeast.  To the south, the region is bordered by the Talamanca Range.  And there is a narrow range of “hills” (Carpintera Hills) that further divides the Valley between the Western (Central) Valley and the Eastern Valley (Valle del Guarco). 

Roughly 70% of the country’s population lives in the Central Valley, which is also known as the Greater Metropolitan Area.  Historical reasons for this population density include topography, climate, and access to farmable land. While the Central Valley does not have any shipping ports, it does boast a significant share of industrial and economic influence, as well as being the seat of government. 

Known for its rich volcanic soils, the Central Valley is filled with plantations and farms, raising everything from coffee and sugar cane to tree fruits, vegetables, and berries.  There are two active volcanoes on the northern edge of the Central Valley: Irazú and Poás – which is also one of the most visited volcanoes in the country.  Two dormant volcanoes are also prominent in the areas: Barva and Turrialba. While the region is heavily populated, there is still a vast amount of unspoiled landscapes, which offer an abundance of habitat for the diverse flora and fauna of the region.

Central Valley Climate

Costa Rica’s Central Valley is known for its comfortable and consistent climate, with temperatures in the 20s Celsius (70s and 80s Fahrenheit) during the day, and 15 ℃ to 20 ℃ (mid to lower 60s Fahrenheit) at night. Of course, this is a broad statement and there are massive differences across the broad valley. The rainy season is considered to be May through November, with the heaviest rains occurring late August to October. And the dry season (summer) is from December to April. The higher elevations receive significant coastal breezes and average lower temperatures with more low cloud cover. Cooler still in the highest cloud forests.

Popular Expat Communities

While internationals live throughout the Central Valley, in big cities and very small and rural towns, there are some cities and neighborhoods known for their popularity with expats.  These include:

Alajuela Province:

Cartago Province:

Heredia Province:

San José Province:

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