Cartago,
Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica's Best Kept Secret

Founded in 1563 near the foothills of the Irazu Volcano, conquistador Coronado reported that he had “never seen a more beautiful place”. The Spanish then built the most majestic colonial buildings and established Cartago as the capital city of Costa Rica.

Cartago, Costa Rica

Founded: 1563
Population: 156,600 (2008)
To San Jose: 15 Miles (35 minutes)
To SJO Airport: 29 Miles (1 hour)
To Jaco Beach: 78 Miles (2 hours)

Thanks to the fertile volcanic soils and the temperate climate, agriculture remains one of the most important means of economy for the area, providing a lion’s share of crops for the country. However, tourism is rocketing.

A bustling city of shopping malls and movie theaters, it is only about an hour from the international airport and is connected to San José by a four-lane highway. Lush, verdant farm lands surround the city, shade-grown coffee covers the mountain sides, and the history is palpable.

Retirement in Cartago

Cartago is a great place for anyone wanting to escape the heat and humidity of the beaches. Located at 1,435 metres above sea level, the average year-round highs are around 78 F (25 C), while nighttime lows are around 60 F (16 C). In fact, when you mention Cartago to any Costa Rican, the immediate response is always, “It’s so beautiful and the climate is so fresh and cool there.”

If you’re looking for amenities, then Cartago has you covered. There are quaint diners—known as sodas—as well as top-notch restaurants; and you can even find a plethora of boutique shops and four high-end malls. Public transportation is cheap, easy to use, and plentiful. On top of that, all of the national governmental offices are only a 15-minute drive north of the city, meaning there’s no need to travel to San José. 

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Attractions in Cartago

La Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles: An amazingly beautiful edifice, the Basilica is home to the image of the Patron Saint of Costa Rica. Half of the population attend an annual pilgrimage which takes place here every August 2 due to a miracle reported here in 1635.

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buy costa rica real estate cartago home

Jardin Botanico Lankester: The garden is open to the public, and is operated by the University of Costa Rica (UCR) as a major research centre for orchid research in both Central America and the Caribbean.

Rio Pacuare: A popular location for white water rafting, whitewater kayaking and riverboarding. The rainforests that surround the river are home to exotic animal species such as jaguars, monkeys, ocelots, and a very large number of birds. It’s considered one of the 5 nicest rivers to practice rafting.

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Santiago Apóstol Parish Ruins: Several churches have existed on this site since 1575, which is now a Costa Rican Cultural Heritage Site with a public park becoming a popular tourist destination.

Volcano Irazú: Named after an indigenous word that means “thunderpoint,” Irazú is an ever-present part of the heritage and culture in Cartago. It is the tallest of all the Costa Rican volcanoes. At its summit you’ll find a national park and once you’re on the site, you’ll walk across a black sand prairie to arrive at the crater lake, filled with turquoise green water, all with a backdrop of crystal azure skies.

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buy costa rica real estate cartago home

Mercado Municipal de Cartago: A spectacular offering of produce from the agriculturally rich Orisi Valley and surrounding area. You have to be impressed with the variety, freshness and effort that goes into non-mechanized market gardening and getting it to market at a very reasonable price. Wander through the stalls and check it out, it’s very impressive!

Tapantí National Park: This massive reserve is home to hundreds of Costa Rican species from monkeys, to tapirs, to pumas, and more. It extends far south but the most northern entrance is accessed in Orosi. There are plenty of hiking trails, hidden waterfalls, streams, and picnic spots. 

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