Main cities of the country
Capital and largest city of Costa Rica, it was founded in 1738 under the name of "La Boca del Monte de Curridabat" and became capital in 1823 instead of Cartago. Still sparsely populated in the 1950s, San José has since experienced a strong development and its agglomeration now concentrates about 30% of the population of the country, so approximately 1.5 million of people. Although rarely included in standard touristic itineraries, San José may surprise you and, perhaps, even seduce you. Between its old quarter, its central market, its bars and restaurants, as well as the richness of its museums (like that of the Gold museum, the museum of Jade or the national museum) you will be able to spend pleasant days there.
Founded in 1563, Cartago was the capital and most important city of the country until 1823. It was its defeat during the battle of Ochomogo that made it loose its title in favor of San José. It is known to be the city of the conservatives and old Catholic farmer families of the country in opposition to its rival San Jose which would be the city of liberals.
Although the oldest city in Costa Rica, Cartago has very few remains of its colonial past. Indeed, the city was destroyed twice, in 1841 and 1910, by violent earthquakes that made the historical heritage of the city to almost completely disappear. However, you will be able to admire there the majestic "Basilica of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles"! It’s the most sacred sanctuary of Costa Rica since it shelters La Négrita (or black virgin), patron saint of the country. The Legend says that the small statue was found on the site of the present basilica by a woman who, in vain and twice, tried to take her away. Each time the statue volatilized to miraculously reappear at its original location. As a result it was decided to build a sanctuary around her! Every year, on August 2, pilgrims from all over the country, and even beyond, travel on foot, in a tremendous procession, the 22km that separate San José from the Basilica of Cartago, to pay homage to the Virgen de Los Angeles.
Capital of the province of the same name and largest city of the Caribbean coast, Limon is also the cradle of the United Fruit Company! Indeed its here that was born the idea of making banana growing an agro-industry. At the end of the 20th century, thanks to the arrival of the railway, Limón became the main port of the country in front of Puntarenas and the main export point for banana, the country's leading agri-food sector! However, in 1913, diseases ravaged crops and part of the banana production was relocated to the South Pacific coast at Quepos. The Afro-Caribbean population, workforce of the plantations of Limón, couldn’t follow and settle in Quepos because of a segregation in force at the time which forced them to remain in the zone of Limón... Although still an important port, and the main area of banana production, the city impoverished and its buildings are falling into disuse. However, the colorful architecture typical of the Caribbean culture as well as the remains of the prosperous period, give a certain charm to this seaside city!