Foxy and I heard about Atenas Costa Rica from the authors of Sleeping with the Toucans, one of our favorite books about Costa RIca. They described it as the real deal, pleasant, charming, not too touristy. In a lot of ways they were right. It isn't touristy. Nobody seemed to notice us much at all, though they were generally polite. We loved being able to blend into a real Costa Rican town. I was, however, disappointed by Atenas's general lack of prettiness. Shallow? Perhaps.
Like most towns in Costa Rica, the church and park are at the center of town. These are pretty. The shops along the roads, however, are entirely functional. Not that I like places filled with tourist crap, mind you. Just that the convenience store here is the nicest thing I could find to photograph, store-wise, in Atenas Costa Rica.
The park/plaza is below, and as you can see it's pleasant and green, with lots of places to sit.
There's an open market in Atenas Costa Rica, which mostly sells food for people waiting at the bus station. It's grimy and hot, but there's an inside area that offers some green relief.
This photo is a typical view of the street in Atenas. I photographed a hostel in case you want to stay there. It looked OK from the outside.
We took a taxi from the airport to our lodgings outside Atenas. We were beat from an overnight flight and we weren't looking for any shortcuts. BUT! The cabbies at the airport charge way more for a taxi ride than anyone else in Costa Rica. We were soaked for $60. Our host, Fredi, said they are robbers. :)
There's a public bus from the airport to Atenas Costa Rica. Take that, then take a cab to Fredi's place for $5 or ask if he'll pick you up. The public buses are perfectly fine and comfortable, though they don't have air conditioning, and they are very cheap.
We stayed at the sweet El Paraiso Verde B&B, run by a Swiss couple on land out in the country. Only Fredi was there (his wife was in Switzerland) but he was a wonderful host and fixed a glorious breakfast for us each morning. Foxy found the best ceviche she'd ever eaten on his advice, and he took us on a field trip to our first waterfall and hanging bridge, too. It was amazing. This is me on the bridge, grinning like mad.
Fredi of Paraiso Verde drove us outside of town to a gorgeous waterfall. We paid $6 and a guide led us down a magical path to several hanging bridges and two waterfalls. (Interesting side note: many parks in Costa Rica are privately owned. This was not a public park, but a private one where you had to pay to get in. Ah well. We pay to get into public parks in California.)
Excited? Of course you are, sugar! Get thee from Atenas Costa Rica to my travel tips page pronto.