Just 10 kilometers north of the capital of San Jose, a smaller, quieter province named Heredia begins. While this province offers all the peace and tranquility anyone could ever ask for, it doesn’t seem to be a major stop on the tourist trail. With perfect weather, some of the country’s best universities, and creative businesses popping up all over the province, more and more people are moving to Heredia for permanent relocation. The province’s capital, also named Heredia, has become a new major destination for those looking to move permanently to Costa Rica. Expats, local students, and young professionals mingle to create a fun, interactive culture.
While you may not be considering a long-term move to the region, we would urge you to visit Heredia City once during your next vacations in Costa Rica. Off the beaten trail, the small city of Heredia has quite a bit to offer. Avoid the bustle of San Jose and when crossing the country to get to your favorite Caribbean beach, plan an entire day in Heredia. Your car trip could use an interruption and we know you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you find there.
You’re in some of the most fertile land of the entire country, so you know you have great foods ahead of you. Make eating a major point on your itinerary during this trip. Plan your days around meals, your stomach will thank you.
More likely than not, your hotel will serve a free breakfast. Don’t scoff at this meal either, it may be free, but it’s most likely based from local plants and superfoods. You’ll have the country’s favorite dish of gallo pinto (a rice and beans mixture), plantains, tropical fruit, and a fresh cup of coffee. Enjoy the free breakfast and save your wallet for your next meals.
For lunch, it’s ok to go less expensive. You have a busy day and can’t sit around eating lunch for hours, so head to KATTA Pub in the center of Heredia. This casual restaurant prides themselves on mixing local cuisine with pub-style eats. You’ll enjoy seafood tacos, sandwiches to die for, and may even try some local favorites such as chifrijo or chiliguaros. The menu at KATTA is world class, so order a couple dishes and pass them around. Oddly, with such a great menu, this pub is actually most well known for their amazing hot sauce and beer selections. If there is a big football game or boxing match on in the afternoon, make sure you get here early for the best table, there’s simply nowhere else you want to be come game time!
By dinner time, you’ll have had a chance to wash up from the day’s adventures and activities and will be ready to sit down for a nicer meal. Head over to Restaurante Leno y Carbon. This will be a pricier meal than was your lunch, but it will be well worth it. If you can get your group to agree, try getting a variety plate for your table. This will not be vegetarian friendly, but the meat eaters in your group will be in food heaven. Sausages, ribs, steaks, and more will all be included on your variety platter, accompanied by an assortment of potatoes and vegetables. Squeeze lime over the entire plate and enjoy. The food is great, the staff is professional and helpful, and the cocktails are some of the best in the city. Barbecue fans will have the time of their lives, and you’ll probably spend hours at your table after your dinner is over, enjoying cocktails and soaking up the tropical environment.
You’ll be eating a lot during your time in Heredia, but you’ll need to pull yourself away from the dinner table to get in some serious adventurism as well. Heredia is a beautiful city with breathtaking views, and with a developed tourism industry, you can easily explore all the area has to offer.
For the thrill seekers, set aside the entire afternoon to visit the swinging bridges. You’ll need to dive into the Sarapiqui rainforest, where you can use 5 different hanging suspension bridges to cross the canopy and get a view usually reserved for the exotic birds of the area. You’ll cross over jungle, banana plantations, and rivers, and a bilingual guide can help you make the most of what you’re seeing. This will be a trip to remember, but not recommended for the faint of heart.
For a more family-friendly adventure, set out on a morning hike in the Cerro Dantas Wildlife Refuge. This will be a relatively rugged trail, so you’ll need good shoes, sun protection, hiking clothes, and a whole lot of water. You can hit the trails for as long as you like, there’s something for every age and ability level. You’ll explore the jungle, learn about the exotic wildlife, and the entire family will enjoy the views.
Admittingly, our “Learn” section looks a lot like our “Eat” and “Explore” sections. That’s because Heredia is such a powerhouse in terms of local agriculture. Everything you’ll be eating and drinking during your stay will come from this very province, and you’ll want to learn about the industry. Exploring dense wilderness trails and taste-testing your way around the city is a whole lot more interesting than going to museums, so nobody in your travel group will have any major complaints about getting in a bit of education during your trip. We want to make sure that while you’re learning about the area, you’re also enjoying yourself to the max.
The best place to start is with a coffee tour. This can be an afternoon pick-me up, but is best in the morning. You’ll get your morning cup of coffee from the very plantation where it was grown, and you’ll learn about the process. For the best view of the Heredia coffee industry, head over to Café Britt coffee farm. This is an extremely popular coffee blend in Costa Rica, and there’s a good chance that you’ve already enjoyed a pot. Now it’s time to see how that pot was produced. You’ll start with a guided walk on the campus. You’ll be navigating lush trains past waterfalls, coffee farms, and tropical forests. You’ll even have the choice to stop for a zip-line tour past the most thickly forested part of the plantation. After that, you’ll head to the café and have a guided coffee testing. They’ll show you how it’s made and how to best enjoy it. Don’t forget to stop by the shop on the way out to get some small bags of coffee for your supporters back home.
If coffee isn’t your thing, then chocolate definitely is. Make a reservation for a tour at the Sibú Chocolate company. They use their very own cacao pods to create both dark and milk chocolates, and they’ll walk you through every step of the process. You’ll first taste-test the raw fruit of a cacoa plant to understand the huge difference between fresh cacao and chocolate. You’ll also taste the toasted cacao beans and the chocolate in every step of its making. You’ll hear a brief history on the chocolate industry in the region and you’ll have the opportunity to taste multiple candies to find your favorite. If you enjoy their candy, you may want to stay for a meal. Their food is delicious and the desserts are to die for.