Atenas, Alajuela

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Surrounded by rolling green hills, coffee plants and sugarcane, the small town of Atenas—which also happens to be the capital of the Atenas canton—offers a true taste of Costa Rican culture and a glimpse into the life of locals. Located less than an hour outside the bustling city of San Jose and half-hour from the international airport in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Atenas is the perfect destination for those who want authenticity without sacrificing convenience.

Coffee and Climate

Atenas is reported to have one of the best climates in the world, with year-round temperatures remaining at a mild mid-70 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summer, you can enjoy slightly warmer weather as temperatures rise into the mid 80s, and in the winter, all you will need to keep warm is a light sweater and pair of jeans, as temperatures only dip into the 60s.

The mild Costa Rica weather, combined with the area's rich volcanic soil, is ideal for growing coffee beans, one of the country's economic staples. In fact, Athenas is located right along the historic oxcart trail, which was used primarily to transport coffee beans from the Central Valley to ports on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts in the 1800s. When you're in town, you can enjoy the nice mild temperatures, a good cup of Joe and the fragrant smell of coffee beans.

Central Park of Atenas

Central Park of Atenas is perhaps one of the most popular destinations in this part of the country. As its name implies, the park is in the center of the bustling town, with shops, restaurants and entertainment on all sides. If you want to relax, you can enjoy a nice, quiet afternoon in the shade of the palm trees while you people watch, bird watch of both.

If you get hungry, stroll on over to one of the many cafes or restaurants, where you can snack on flavorful toronjas rellenas (stuffed grapefruits) or fill up on authentic Costa Rican cuisine. Pick up a few souvenirs for yourself or loved ones back home from one of the local vendors. You will find handmade jewelry, clothing and other goodies unique to the area and which you cannot find at any consumer mall.

Zoo Ave

Whether you have small children whom you want to entertain or simply appreciate wildlife, Zoo Ave offers a chance to get up close and personal with some of the country's most exotic creatures. Unlike many other zoos, which are focused on profit, Zoo Ave's main goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and breed. You will find more than 130 animal species within the Zoo's confines, the likes of which you may never have an opportunity to see elsewhere.

Nature's Beauties

Step outside the confines of the city for a few hours and explore the true wonders of Costa Rica. Located less than half hour outside of Athenas in the village of Desmonte is Las Minas Waterfalls, or The Mines Waterfalls. This set of waterfalls is hidden in deep country and at the site of an abandoned gold mine up the river. When driving there, you may think that you're lost at first, but you'll know you've reached your destination when you catch a glimpse of the crystal-clear water and swimming holes.

Atenas also boasts a flourishing botanical garden. Botanical Orchid Garden cultivates the complex flowers in a lab and transplants them in the wild when they're ready. The garden opens its doors to visitors, allowing them to catch a glimpse of the exotic bloom in all stages of its life cycle.

Costa Rica Churches

Religion is a huge part of the Costa Rican culture, so no visit to the country is complete without a visit to a local church. Athena boasts one central church-- Oasis De Esperanza Atenas—which has the look and feel of any church you might expect in a rural Costa Rican village.

If you're planning a stay in the greater San Jose area, put a visit to Athenas on your list. With a rich culture and plenty to do, you won't be disappointed.