Costa Rica Cities – Alajuela: Butterflies and Volcanoes
Located just twenty kilometers, or twelve miles, northwest of San Jose and also located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, Alajuela is very close to the Juan Santamaria International Airport, and yet boasts a number of natural wonders that represent several of the different habitats that cover the nation in a rich patchwork quilt of ecosystems.
Spreading their delicate, vibrantly colored wings in the sun as they flit from blossom to blossom, tropical butterflies fill the air at Alajuela’s Butterfly Farm. Visiting this locale is a good way to see some of the small but highly artistic creatures that call the Neotropics home.
Contrasted to the soft brilliance of equatorial flowers and the silky, airy flutter of butterfly wings, the imposing crater of one of Costa Rica’s few active volcanoes yawns a short distance from the center of Alajuela. The ascent to the mountain – and the Poas Volcano National Park that surrounds it – takes place initially through variegated coffee plantations, then through cloud forest. The volcano itself is an awe-inspiring sight, with a smoking crater 1 kilometer (half a mile) deep and over twice as wide.
There are also interesting historical buildings in Alajuela itself, including the white-walled cathedral which fronts on a tree-shaded plaza redolent of the richly storied Central American past.
Costa Rica Cities – Cartago: a Challenge to Hiking Ecotourists
Named for the ill fated ancient city of Carthage, and founded by the fierce, energetic Juan Vasquez de Coronado, Cartago is notable for the jungle-grown ruins of 16th and 17th century Spanish buildings, which give the place a haunting sense of time and history, and for the looming flanks of Irazu, a mighty volcano located not far from the city. Irazu’s crater holds a lake of green water, and the surroundings of this powerful and active stratovolcano have a memorably surreal, harsh beauty.
An even taller mountain is located directly to the south of Cartago – Chirripo, the tallest peak in Costa Rica. Ascending to the summit of this mountain is a challenge for hiking ecotourists, who will find steep trails cutting their way through the rain forest and cloud forest on Chirripo’s slopes.
Ascent to the top of Chirripo offers one of the most remarkable views in Costa Rica, however, because is the only place in the country where, on a clear day, you can see the Caribbean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west at the same time.
Costa Rica Cities – Puerto Limon: Turtles, Beaches, and Caribbean Surfing
Some of the finest vacationing and ecotourism possibilities of the eastward, Caribbean coast of Costa Rica are found in the vicinity of Puerto Limon, whose name literally translates as “Port Lemon”. This small to medium sized city is home to many Afro-Costa Ricans, who speak a creole dialect of English as well as the all-pervasive, official Spanish.
Puerto Limon itself is the scene of the Mardi Gras-like celebration of Carnaval for a week every October, with a rich selection of dancing, Caribbean music, and generally festive conditions. There are a number of fine beaches nearby, as well as plenty of opportunities for surfing, sport fishing, and similar marine sports. Sea turtles nest nearby, giving a superb chance for unusual ecotourism in the right season. Inland, dense rainforest offers a panoply of life to see and many trails to explore.