The Meseta Central - Central Vally
A mountain range starts near Costa Rica's border with Nicaragua and marches south until it crosses the border
of Panama. It's known as the Cordillera, a picturesque complex of high ridges, valleys, peaks and
covered with green vegetation and teeming with wildlife. The mountains vary from rounded promontories to the rugged
peaks of the Talamanca Range, dominated by
12,600-foot Cerro Chirripo. Valleys and
rolling tablelands are interspersed between steep mountains and volcanic formations, providing fertile agricultural
San Jose, the largest city in Costa Rica, nestles in a
wide depression about halfway down the Cordillera, at an altitude of 3,750 feet above sea level. The city of 350,000
inhabitants is surrounded by dozens of satellite towns and villages, and with small cities such as Heredia, Alajuela, Escazú and Cartago perched at various elevations on the uneven plateau.
About 15 miles wide by 40 miles long, this break in the mountains is area you are treated to views of the high mountains
that form a half-bowl around the Meseta Central. This is the place most folks live, and it is the most heavily
populated area in Central America.
The towns and villages that surround the capital have grown to the point that it is sometimes difficult to tell where exactly
one ends and another begins. Although there is plenty of greenery and small farms scattered about, the Meseta
Central blurs into a loose suburban complex.
Why so many choose to live in the Meseta Central is a question answered in two words: superb climate. This
is the land of perpetual spring. San Jose's daily high temperatures are almost always in the 70s--creating newspaper
headlines on occasions when the thermometer climbs into the 80s. Low temperatures are always in the 60s. Understand,
these aren't average temperatures, which can give a distorted picture, but average high and low readings.
Because Costa Rica is so close to the Equator, temperatures vary little between summer and winter.
Even this weather doesn't please everyone; some prefer temperatures in the 80s and even 90s, others feel more
comfortable in the 60s and low 70s. Fortunately, in Costa Rica, it's possible to "fine-tune" your weather
simply by moving a few kilometers in one direction or another. Temperatures and weather patterns are determined by
altitude in the tropics. Just a hundred feet higher or lower elevation makes a difference. A 15-minute drive from anywhere
on the Meseta Central brings you to a slightly different climate, with more or less rainfall, warmer or cooler average
Each town or community brags of having the "best climate in the world." Each is right for at least someone.
Alajuela is proud of being a few degrees warmer than San Jose, while Escazu is happy about being a few degrees cooler.
Poas boasts about being even cooler than Escazu, and La Garita Atenas brags about its rating by National Geographic of
having one of the three best climates in the world. The wonderful thing about all of this is that these choices, however so
slight, are available for you to make.
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