- Summary: Verdant rainforest, a dormant volcano and mountains surround the one-time country capital, known as the "City of Flowers."
- Landscape: City, Mountains
- Attractions: Barva Volcano, Braulio Carrillo National Park, INBioparque
- Activities: Bird & Wildlife Watching, Coffee Tours, Hiking
- Caters to: Culture Aficionados, Day Trippers, Nature Lovers
- Quick Facts: 5 miles north of San Jose; 6 miles from the international airport ; 3,773 feet above sea level ; Warm days and mild evenings ; 75 to 80°F
Nicknamed the “City of Flowers," Heredia is said to be the safest city in Costa Rica. Though surrounded by incredible beauty – soaring mountains, verdant rainforest, a towering volcano, rushing rivers and expansive coffee fields – Heredia is not named for its colorful flora, but rather for the Flores family, who were important to the town’s political and social life in the 19th century. Some jokingly claim that the city’s name comes courtesy of its women’s beauty.read more close
Today, the city serves not only as a San Jose suburb, but also as the thriving hub of Costa Rica’s technology industries. Intel, one of the world’s largest tech corporations, makes its home in Heredia, as do IBM, Boston Scientific, Align Technologies and other industry giants. Together, the companies help to strengthen the local economy and offer stable jobs to area residents.
Heredia offers much more than speedy microchips and customer service centers – the beautiful province literally blooms with life. The National University, one of the country’s most prestigious, lies east of the city, lending an academic air to the small cafes and restaurants that line the sidewalks. In addition, several renowned Spanish-language institutes are located in Heredia, combining language classes with cultural immersion.
Heredia’s downtown is full of small parks, historic churches and friendly people. Street vendors sell lottery tickets, fresh fruits and vegetables, inexpensive wares and a Costa Rican treat made of shaved ice, flavored syrup, condensed milk and powdered milk known as copos.
After Sunday mass each week, Heredia’s central park comes alive with music, clowns and family festivities, drawing hundreds of the city’s residents. Additionally, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Heredia and the suburbs set up shop for traditional open-air farmer’s markets, locally known as ferias, which offer tropical fruits and local vegetables, in addition to North American favorites.
Heredia’s attractions are not restricted to its downtown delights. Due to the region’s lush scenery, cool temperatures and favorable elevation, Heredia is one of the country’s largest coffee producers. The Cafe Britt coffee farm offers coffee tours and taste testing, and red-berried coffee beans dot much of Heredia’s countryside. INBioparque, located in southern Heredia, presents a fantastic overview of Costa Rica’s flora, fauna and diverse ecosystems. Farther north, just above San Jose de la Montana, Braulio Carrillo National Park promises incredible hikes, panoramic vistas and access to Barva Volcano.
Heredia’s splendor lies in its diversity – from a vibrant downtown to quiet, green fields, the city and its suburbs are wonderful to explore and enjoy.
Europeans settled Heredia in the late 16th century, naming the new settlement Cubujuqui, a Huetar Indian name. By 1707, the area had grown, the town was officially founded, and its proud citizens constructed the region’s first church. In 1717, the church was moved several miles north into Heredia’s developing downtown, and citizens were encouraged to move as well. In fact, some reports even claim that officials engaged in house-burning campaigns to force the holdouts to relocate.
In the mid-1700’s, Fernandez de Heredia (who would later become President of Guatemala) obtained the title of “villa” for the budding town, leading to the area’s second name, Villa Vieja (Old Villa). Though the title was rescinded in 1769, the town was officially renamed in Heredia’s honor and has retained that name ever since.
When Spain granted independence to Central America in 1821, Costa Rica’s major cities – Cartago, San Jose, Heredia and Alajuela – agreed to remain neutral between each other. However, Heredia and Cartago, led mostly by wealthy aristocrats, preferred to join the new Mexican government while Alajuela and San Jose, led by liberal republicans, wanted to remain independent. By 1823, the dispute had been resolved by a small civil war that left only 20 dead. In a conciliatory gesture, San Jose, by then the nation’s capital, began a four-year capital rotation, and Heredia assumed its powerful position in 1835. Just a few years later, Braulio Carrillo negated the law and declared San Jose to be Costa Rica’s permanent capital.