Explore The Valle Central and the highlands
Just 11km northeast of San José lies the lively city of HEREDIA, boosted by the student population of the Universidad Nacional (UNA), at the eastern end of town. The town centre is a little run-down, with the Parque Central flanked by tall palms and a few historical buildings. Overlooking the Parque is the Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción, whose unexciting squat design – “seismic Baroque” – has kept it standing through several earthquakes since 1797. North of the parque, the old colonial tower of El Fortín, “The Fortress” (no access), features odd gun slats that fan out and widen from the inside to the exterior, giving it a medieval look.
Although there’s not a great deal to see in town, Heredia is a natural jumping-off point for excursions to Volcán Barva, and many tourists also come for the Café Britt tour, hosted by the nation’s largest coffee exporter, about 3km north of the town centre.Read More
Just north of Heredia on the road to Barva, you’ll see signs off the highway directing you to Café Britt, where you can get an idea of how the modern-day coffee industry operates. The finca grows one of the country’s best-known brands and is the most important exporter of Costa Rican coffee to the world. Guides take you through the history of coffee growing in Costa Rica, demonstrating how crucial this export crop was to the development of the country, with a rather polished presentation and thorough descriptions of the processes involved in harvesting and selecting the beans. Once you’ve toured the plantation, roasting factory and drying patios, it’s back for a coffee-cupping demo and, of course, the inevitable stop in the gift shop. For Golden Bean gourmets, there’s also a “Coffee Lover’s” tour to a nearby coffee mill.
Finca Rosa Blanca
Finca Rosa Blanca
For an interesting alternative to large-group coffee tours, follow the road through Barva and northwest to Santa Bárbara de Heredia and the coffee fields at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn. The plantation at this fantastic hotel is one of the country’s few organic setups – the beans are fertilized using rich soil from the hotel’s vermiculture and compost made from their restaurant refuse, while the fields are planted with various trees and plants that help the crop’s growth: pejibaye to deter insects, bananas to help retain moisture during the dry season, palms for shade. The resident expert passionately guides visitors through the science behind this, plus there’s the chance (in season) to join in the harvesting or roasting. As a renowned barista, his tasting tips at the closing cupping session are second to none.
- Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo