Atenas On High

Located an ‘exciting’ 45 minute drive west of San Jose is the hidden town of Atenas. Touted as having one of the best climates on the globe, it’s the perfect spot to really get away from it all and bask in the wonder of Costa Rica. Here’s a quick hit list of things we did over a five day period. You could spend a lifetime in this country, but if your time is limited, here’s a pretty good start for ya.

Atenas (whose name means Athens, as in Greece‘s capitol) is actually a quaint agricultural town in the province of Alajuela, about a 45 minute drive west of San Jose. With a population of only 27,000 people, and surrounded by coffee plantations and mountains, this is the absolute perfect place to experience Costa Rica as it truly is. The village has cute shops, some eateries, and stores that will carry any items you may need during your stay. The town square is adorable, and the various restaurants (all very casual) have excellent food based on local fresh catches and fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables. The particular view above is from a lookout point on a private gated property. However, there are three housing developments in the area, and various owners rent out their places for very reasonable rates, and plenty have a view like this. Another fast fact about Atenas: it’s claimed to have one of the best climates in the world according to National Geographic, and you will come to know the phrase ‘El Mejor Clima del Mundo’ because it is proclaimed everywhere - and it’s true.
Calle Abel Rodríguez, Provincia de Alajuela, Atenas, Costa Rica
If this place looks like a secret foodie destinations tucked away in the jungles of Costa Rica, that’s because it actually is. La Trocha del Boyero is the creation of a lovely husband and wife duo that focus on delectable dishes involving shrimp, garlic, and coconut milk to name but a few ingredients. The open-air, casual atmosphere is a wonderful place to spend an enjoyable evening with friends, or a romantic getaway dinner for just the two of you. I would highly recommend the fried plantains, they alone were worth the flight there.
Av 6, Provincia de Alajuela, Atenas, Costa Rica
Every Friday from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., the Farmers’ Market is in full swing in downtown Atenas. Featuring choice eats and treats from all the surrounding farms, it doesn’t get any more ‘natural’ than the selections here. You’ll be able to find anything from fruits, vegetables, and flowers to meats, crafts and local dairy goods. And the best part is that the prices are fantastic, and it all goes directly back to the hard working folks in the community that you are talking to at the stand when you make your purchase. If you happen to miss this Friday market, don’t worry, there are fresh produce stands dotting the roads throughout this area of Costa Rica, so you can still get your market madness on.
Alajuela Province, Atenas, Costa Rica
Parque Central de Atenas is the heart of this tiny Costa Rica town. It’s the perfect place to take a walk, sit and relax, read a book, or just watch the locals meander by during their daily activities. The park is surrounded by shops and eateries on all sides, so if you get bored you can always find some other relaxing activity in which to partake. And at the center of the park resides an old white church that has been there since 1908, so you can get your history fix too if you like.
Known by indigenous peoples as Sibú Mountain—a sacred name that means “Creator of the Earth and Its People”—Poás Volcano, which soars to 8,885 feet, cannot fail to impress. The active volcano is a perennial favorite with locals and foreigners alike, an easy 34-mile drive from San José. In addition to the majestic peak (the crater of which is among the world’s largest), you’ll find enchanting jade-green lagoons and some of the best scenic outlooks anywhere in Central America. The park offers great access to visitors of all ages all the way to the summit, including travelers with disabilities.
61101, Provincia de Puntarenas, Jacó, 61101, Costa Rica
El Pelicano is a local spot recommended by some folks that live in the area. It’s a lovely beachfront spot that drops ‘fresh from the water’ seafood on your plate, along with ice cold beer (or wine) to accompany it. The dining area is big, open and airy, and big enough to seat the masses. The crashing of the waves is also soothing as you down ‘just one more bite’ of that locally crafted meal that came from the water you can hear.
Alajuela Province, Alajuela, Costa Rica
If you happen to be in the area of the Poas Volcano and need to eat, El Sabor del la Montana has you covered. With lofty timber ceilings and huge picture windows, El Sabor has a rustic lodge-like feel that will make you feel like a true mountain adventurer. The menu is very carnivore-friendly, but you can request a few tweaks from the server if you prefer to change it up a bit. It’s also situated near a few souvenir shops, just in case you need to grab that last minute trinket before you head on your way.
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