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The Central Valley is a plateau in the geographic center of Costa Rica, surrounded by volcanic peaks. The region, which includes San Jose, is the center of commerce, industry, agriculture and service.

Suburbs such as Alejuela and Heredia stretch beyond San Jose, and are home to a third of Costa Rica's population.

Many parts of the metropolitan area, with unremarkable concrete buildings and clogged streets, are not popular with tourists, but still have energy and charm.

South of the metro area, rich farmland and plantations cover a large area.

Coffee plantations are found throughout the country especially in the hills and valleys of Orosi and Terrazu.

We climbed to the summit of Poas Volcano, but were unable to see into the crater due to heavy clouds.

Lake Arenal is located in the northern highlands of the country. It was artificially enlarged with the construction of a dam to provide hydroelectricity.

Arenal is the youngest and most active volcano in Costa Rica. Many resorts in the nearby La Fortuna area feature hot springs.

The Arenal Hanging Bridges are a series of suspension bridges in Volcan Arenal National Park. They are part of a 3 kilometer interpretive trail through the rainforest.

A number of boat tours are available to explore the river system. We travelled on the Rio Frio as far north as the Nicaraguan border.

The Tarcoles River is the habitat for crocodiles, caiman, and numerous wading birds.

Abundant estates, gardens, pools, and fountains augment the natural beauty.

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