Climate: Like the province of Alajuela, Heredia includes a portion of the Central Valley and the Central Volcanic Cordillera, but the majority of its territory lies in the northern lowlands, south of Nicaragua. The geographical variation contained within this province (the smallest of Costa Rica's seven) gives it as wide a range of climatic conditions as any of the provinces, from warm and humid lowlands, to cool and damp highlands, to the mild but seasonally wet and dry Central Valley.
History: Within less than a decade after the founding of the Spanish settlement in the Valley of Cartago, other areas in the Central Valley also began to be colonized. Among the first of these areas was the village of Barva -- less than three kilometers north of what is now the city of Heredia.
The construction of churches so that the populace could comply with its religious obligations and ceremonies including weddings, baptisms, and funerals was an important criteria in the development of communities during colonial times (in modern times, soccer fields seem to have replaced this function). In 1706, the first parish church in this region was erected in Lagunilla, near the village of El Barreal, but in 1717 was moved several kilometers to the north to the site that would become the city of Heredia. It is reported that houses in outlying areas were even burned so that their occupants would move closer to the center of the developing town. Variously known throughout the colonial period as Villa Vieja or Cubujuquí, the name Heredia comes from the man who managed to obtain the title of "villa" for the newly formed settlement, don Gonzalo Fernández de Heredia. The present day church in the center of Heredia is one of the oldest in Costa Rica, dating back to 1797.
With the introduction of coffee to Costa Rica, the fertile southern slopes of Barva Volcano became populated with plantations of this crop. The steep and very rainy northern slope did not become populated until much more recently. The Sarapiquí River, which is navigable upstream from the San Juan River (which flows into the Caribbean) as far inland as Puerto Viejo (Old Port) de Sarapiquí at the volcano's base on the northern side, was an important transportation route for those few hardy settlers who first moved into this region. Although as recently as 1953, a mere three thatched-roof houses were all that comprised the village of Puerto Viejo.
1) Braulio Carrillo National Park (Barva Volcano sector)
2) Barra Colorado National Wildlife Refuge
Other Points of Interest:
1) Sarapiquí River: This scenic tropical river has its origins high on the northern slopes of Barva and Poás Volcanoes, but by the time it reaches the San Juan River on the border with Nicaragua, it has received water from as far away as Irazú Volcano via the Sucio River. With so much water flowing into it, the Sarapiquí is navigable downstream from the town of Puerto Viejo, where a number of passenger and local cargo vessels can now be found at the village dock. Wildlife viewing trips for tourists can be arranged using these boats (if you're staying in one of the area hotels, it's easiest to let them set things up). These excursions take you slowly downstream to the confluence of the Sucio River (about 10 km.), before turning around. The trip normally takes between two and three hours (depending on water levels and how much you're seeing). Commonly observed wildlife includes: both Three-toed and Two-toed Sloths, Mantled Howler Monkeys, Southern River Otters, Black River Turtles, American Crocodiles, and a wide variety of birds.
Continuing upstream from Puerto Viejo, the river picks up gradient and becomes one of the country's finest rivers for kayaking and whitewater rafting. The further upstream you go, the more challenging the rapids become. Above the town of San Miguel it becomes suicidal to attempt to run, but from there down to La Virgen it makes an intense Class IV-V run in a kayak. Downstream from the bridge at La Virgen, the river is suitable for inflatable rafts and provides an exciting Class III-IV paddle with plenty of lush tropical scenery to about the village of Chilamate.