Palmares is the capitol of the cantón (county) of the same name in Alajuela province, and one of the 81 cantóns in Costa Rica. The canton has a population of 32,000 surrounding the principle district of the town of Palmares. The town (population: 7,500 in 2013) is only 15 minutes and six km. southeast of our town of San Ramon, and only 35 minutes from the Juan Santamaria International Airport. Palmares was founded in the 1880s and, like its neighbor, San Ramon, is located right off the Autopista (Rt. 1), making it extremely convenient to everything. Buses go back and forth every 30 minutes between San Ramon and Palmares. Most of the commuters are Palmareñans, coming to and from San Ramon for work, shopping, or to go to school.
Palmares is composed of seven districts, all surrounding the town of Palmares which is, itself, one of the seven districts. The town is 1.09 square kms. and sits in a bowl at an elevation of 3300 ft. (1017. meters). It’s a little warmer than San Ramon, with a little less rain. The entire canton is small, only 38.6 sq km, with the town of Palmares at its center.
The cantón of Palmares is subdivided into seven districts (distritos):
- Palmares (the town)
- Zaragoza (home of one of our favorite restaurants, Lira)
- Buenos Aires
- Esquipulas (the home of another of our favorite restaurants, Fory Fay)
- La Granja (Granja)
Palmares is perhaps best known for its annual Fiestas Palmares, held in January. The festival is the 2nd largest in the country, with over a million people attending over the 12 days. One of the most popular events of the festival is the Tope, a huge horse parade through town showcasing over 3,000 horses and their riders (including our very own San Ramon horsewoman, Cyndy Schaub). The festival also features a Carnaval, music, along with rodeos and bull fights (no bulls are killed though many Ticos are embarrassed), firework displays, a fairground, and more.
We go over to Palmares from time to time to dine in one of its restaurants, visit friends, and do tours for folks interested in settling there. We also pass through it on our way to Atenas. Palmares is about 30 minutes from Atenas, with lots of spectacular mountain views and hairpin turns along the way. The parque central is full of trees which are home to a few large prehistoric looking iguanas, which are fed by the visitors and local fruit and vegetable vendors in the central market, along with lots of birds and squirrels.