Visiting Santa Ana, Costa Rica

Where is Santa Ana?

The city of Santa Ana is located in the province of San José in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, about 15 km (9.3 miles) west and about a thirty-minute drive from the capital San José. Along with nearby Escazú and Belén, Santa Ana has developed from a small, rural, traditional town into an upscale suburb with world-class amenities and services, making it an ideal destination for families and honeymooners alike.

What to do and see in Santa Ana

Santa Ana is known for its ceramics production, a tradition dating back to Indigenous times when artisans would harvest clay from the earth to make pottery and paint it with colorful mineral-based patterns and images.

To this day there are many small, family-owned pottery shops in Santa Ana, especially in the district of Salitral. Some allow you to visit the ceramics workshop and kiln, where the pieces are created on a wheel and fired at high temperatures. Visitors can purchase smaller souvenir-type items such as candle holders and refrigerator magnets, useful pieces such as plates and vases, and large decorative urns, planters, and pots.

In contrast to its history of agriculture and cottage industries, the district of Lindora in Santa Ana has seen rapid development in recent years, with a plethora of upscale shopping complexes, supermarkets, restaurants and stores springing up on either side of the main street. Here visitors can find entertainment and services including a movie theater, mini-golf, day spas, and beauty salons. Downtown Santa Ana preserves more of the traditional culture and architecture, including the picturesque Catholic church, built from 1870-1880.

For those looking for sports and fitness activities, Santa Ana is home to several professional golf courses and a country club offering hiking trails, tennis, yoga, pilates, soccer, squash, gym, putting green, sauna, spa and swimming pools. Cycling has become increasingly popular in Costa Rica over the past few years, and Santa Ana’s rugged hills have become a popular destination for this outdoor adventure sport.

For animal and nature lovers, Santa Ana has a wildlife sanctuary that rehabilitates wild animals such as monkeys, sloths, pumas, iguanas, snakes, frogs and tropical birds including owls, parrots, scarlet macaws, and toucans. The Conservation Center of Santa Ana, managed by the Fundazoo Foundation, protects and regenerates some of the Central Valley’s last tracts of tropical forest. It has hiking trails, an agriculture museum, native tree nursery, wild animal enclosures, farm animals, garden, and a 250-year-old adobe house that has been preserved as a National Historical Heritage site.

Just beyond Santa Ana is Puriscal, also in San José province. The county is known for the Quitirisí Indigenous Territory and their traditional woven baskets made of natural fibers, which artisans sell at small stands along the road. Puriscal is an up-and-coming ecotourism destination thanks to efforts to halt deforestation and promote environmental protection in the form of private reserves and La Cangreja National Park.

Restaurants and Bars in Santa Ana

Santa Ana is home to an array of restaurants, from traditional Costa Rican sodas (mom and pop restaurants) to upscale and international cuisine including Indian, Vietnamese, Peruvian, Argentine, Mexican, Japanese and Italian fare. Santa Ana has many sports bars where fans can watch Costa Rica’s most popular sport, soccer. There are also discotecas where locals go to dance swing criollo, salsa, merengue, bachata, and other Latin rhythms.

What is the Weather is Like in Santa Ana?

The weather in Santa Ana is typically warm and tropical with two main seasons. The dry season is from DecemberApril and the rainy season is from NovemberMay, although most days are still sunny in the morning with an afternoon tropical rain shower. With its pleasant weather hovering between 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius) and 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius), Santa Ana is an excellent place to visit in Costa Rica year-round.

Beaches close to Santa Ana

Santa Ana affords easy access to Costa Rica’s spectacular pacific beaches via the 27 toll highway or the “calle vieja” or old street, a winding scenic route through small towns. Popular central pacific beaches including the sportfishing hub of Herradura Marina and the surf town of Jacó Beach are located 89 km (55 miles) about an hour and a half drive from Santa Ana. The city and port of Puntarenas is located about 86 kilometers (53 miles) and about an hour and a half drive west and north from Santa Ana. Farther to the south is Manuel Antonio beach, famous for its national park and wildlife, by way of the town of Quepos, located 161 km south (100 miles) about a three-hour drive from Santa Ana.

Events in Santa Ana

Like most Costa Rican cities, Santa Ana hosts a weekly farmer’s market on Sundays, where visitors can find a diverse spread of tropical fruits, vegetables, and locally-made products. Exotic fruits are constantly coming in and out of season, each with their distinctive colors, textures, and flavors. A few fruits to try to include the mamón chino (rambutan), guanábana (soursop), and maracuyá (passion fruit).

The market is a great place to try traditional foods such as tamal asado, a treat made with cornflour, milk, egg, and sugar and refreshing drinks such as green coconut water called agua de pipa and sugar cane juice called jugo de caña. Santa Ana has recently started hosting an additional organic market on Saturdays bringing in natural products that are free from agrochemicals from throughout Costa Rica.

Holding true to its country roots, Santa Ana hosts several Topes (horse parades), throughout the year. These events draw crowds to watch stately, trained horses promenade through the streets. The event also brings musical groups, food stands, and sponsors for a party that extends into the night. Santa Ana is also host to a yearly Onion Festival called Feria de la Cebolla, which celebrates this traditional crop and the many dishes and recipes that can be made with it.

Considering a trip to Santa Ana?

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