One Day in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. What Should I Do?
If you are traveling to Costa Rica for vacations or whatever reason and have one free day in the central valley I recommend that you visit the Poas Volcano National Park. It’s close, only 1 hour northeast of Alajuela and the road is good. You could rent a car for the day near the San Jose International airport or buy a day tour through one of the many tour companies located in the central valley. Your hotel should have a tour desk where you can purchase these tours. Try to get to the Poas Volcano summit early in the morning because clouds tend to cover the top of the volcano by 10:30 a.m. Although, often the wind will blow the clouds away, so stick around awhile. There are two hikes near by. One is to the old crater which has a lovely blue lake (takes about 1 hour up and back for this hike. And there is a hike through the rain forest. (about forty five minutes) Both are well marked.
If you are lucky you will see the volcano’s geyser spewing and spurting hot water and vapors. The crater is almost one mile wide. Great opportunity for photos.
On way down from the volcano’s summit you can stop for a typical Costa Rican lunch at Fredda Fresa’s family run restaurant where they serve food grown right there on their farm. They cook it all on a wooden stove. And it is delicious, esp the fresh strawberry milkshakes. And of course the freshly brewed cup of Costa Rica coffee. You can see the coffee fields from the restaurant.
Then in the afternoon stop by the coffee tour at Doka Four Generations Coffee tour and learn all about how coffee is grown and processed. You get to sample three of the different coffee blends produced at Doka. It’s well worth the stop. The coffee plants are beautiful. November thru February the coffee beans are bright red. This is when the coffee is harvested-picked completely by hand. People come from Nicaragua do most of the coffee picking. Costa Ricans pick also but they seem to find work in factories and leave most of the coffee picking to the Nicaraguans.
As you come back through Alajuela, remember this is the home to Costa Rica’s hero, Juan Santa Maria. A large beautiful statue of him is located in the city park just as you enter Alajuela from the San Jose International airport.
Juan Santa Maria is a hero because he gave his life for his fellow soldiers at the battle of Rivas in 1856. There was a north American named William Walker who with his band of invaders tried to take over Costa Rica and use it as a slave colony. But the Costa Ricans resisted. This young soldier Juan Santa Maria volunteered to carry the torch which burned Walker’s fortress. Santa Maria lost his life in this effort but saved the lives of his fellow soldiers. The fortress burned and Walker and his men fled back into Nicaragua.
Alajuela also has a pretty square in the center of town with a large white church facing the mango trees which line the park. It’s worth taking a stroll here and sampling a cone of delicious Pops Ice Cream at the corner ice cream parlor. They even have the flavor Mango made from the many mangos growing on the trees in the park. Alajuela is known as the city of the Mangos.