Last Updated: Mar 16, 2012
Summary: Small town Costa Rica; rated one of the world's best climates; home to coffee plantations.
Landscape: City, Mountains
Attractions: Botanical Gardens, Zoo Ave
Activities: Mountain Biking, Spanish Study Programs, Volunteering
Caters to: Day Trippers, Families, Independent Travelers
A stroll through the immaculate, palm-lined central park or lunch at one of the typical small cafes serving local food in town awaits visitors to Atenas. Located on the Central Valley’s western edge, Atenas is a slice of quintessential small town Costa Rica. With just 5,000 inhabitants (17,000 including the suburbs), Atenas is famous for having one of the best climates in the world, according to National Geographic. The words “El Mejor Clima del Mundo” are emblazoned on every Atenas bus; a valid claim as daily temperatures hover around 80 degrees and dip into the 60's at night.
Green and fertile with rolling hills, Atenas is a flourishing agricultural region known for its animal husbandry, coffee production and fruit orchards. It is a typical blue-collar working town, where townspeople are on a first-name basis and jovially greet each other in passing. Daily life is focused on family and rooted in tradition, such as the Friday farmers' market where fresh produce, flowers and cheeses can be purchased for a song, or Saturday bingo games next to the church.
The heart of Atenas is its central park, a perfect spot for enjoying an ice cream or coffee or simply taking in the local life. In the late afternoon, flocks of green parrots and the occasional toucan make their presence known in the palm trees above. Several cafes and restaurants line the park and serve delicious and inexpensive Costa Rican cuisine. The central market is bustling with vendors selling everything from fresh fruits and meats to shoes and jewelry.
While Atenas is ideal for a lunch stop on the way to the beach, visitors staying a bit longer might enjoy a swim in the local public swimming pool, a visit to Zoo Ave, or a trip to ECAG, an agro-ecotourism and animal husbandry school in Balsa de Atenas.
The temperate climate and friendly atmosphere of Atenas attract those in search of tranquil, small town life. More than 150 North Americans and Europeans now call Atenas their home; several shops and restaurants reflect their culture and cuisine.
Like much of the country, the Atenas region was originally inhabited by indigenous Indians. In 1843, the oxcart trail was created to transport coffee from the fertile Central Valley to the coastal ports of Puntarenas and Limon. As the trail passed through Atenas, development ensued and citizens from neighboring Alajuela, San Jose and Heredia relocated to the region. Located on the old road to Puntarenas in Atenas, the national oxcart driver (locally known as Boyero) monument is a tribute to the tradition and hard work of that bygone era. Atenas is now connected to the Caldera highway which equals quick access to Escazu as well as the beach towns of Jaco and Manuel Antonio.
Travelers often wonder how the town came to be named Atenas. The official version states that in 1833, Jose Rafael Gallegos Alvarado, the region’s Chief of State, admired Greek culture so much he submitted the name for the new town. There are doubts about the authenticity of this claim, but it remains popular legend.
Located on Highway 3, just east of Rio Grande and Atenas, La Garita is popular for its abundance of plant nurseries that sell both Costa Rican and exotic plants. La Garita is also home to Zoo Ave, a wildlife rescue and breeding center.
Atenas Travel Guide
Atenas Travel Guide
- Places to Stay
- Restaurants & Nightlife
- Services & Facilities
- Getting Around
- Getting There