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San José without paying an arm and a leg !!

Adventure Guide to Costa Rica

Adventures on a Shoestring If you can count your money, you don’t have a billion dollars. ~ J. Paul Getty, American billionaire

Anumber of things can be enjoyed in San José without paying an arm and a leg – some are even free! We’ve already mentioned the two town cemeteries (cemeteries are our personal fascination) and La Sabana Park (bring your sneakers just in case you join a game). Plus, we thrive on wandering around fruit and vegetable and flower markets, or window shopping in town mercados. Some museums offer free admission on Sundays – you can’t beat that for a deal.

There are also numerous band concerts in squares and parks; just walk up and listen. Professional concerts, such as the Symphonic, are a fraction of the cost of European or American performances. One of our favorite budget adventures is just getting on a bus and going somewhere in a different neighborhood, or to nearby towns such as Heredia or Cartago. It’s cheap and fun.

Hot Springs
Get cool in the hot spring swimming pools of Orosí by taking the bus to Cartago, then catching the Orosí bus. There are locker rooms and a restaurant. Orosí is a small town on the floor of a deep valley – we like it so much that we nearly bought a vacation home here. Its dramatic topography appears as you turn a corner – on the floor is the meandering Orosí River, while the steep valley walls are lined with deep green coffee bushes. The view from the overlook just before the valley entrance is spectacular. Notice an odd-shaped white building among the coffee bushes below – it was the summer home of Michael Landon, the actor. This trip can be combined with visits to Cartago, Lankester Gardens (on the way), and the Orosí Valley overlook park.We can’t think of a better way to spend a day.

The same type of attraction at a different location is Ojo de Agua in San Antonio de Belén, not far from San José. It features five swimming pools and a park for sports and picnics, plus a restaurant. Hourly buses from the Coca-Cola terminal, Calle 10, Av 4 & 6. Admission is about US $2.

Road to Nowhere
Walk and ride.We took a Tico Times reporter’s advice for a cheap date and caught the public bus (US 80¢) to Bebedero, also marked “Vista de Oro,” from Av 6 at Calle 14, just behind the Hospital San Juan de Dios. The local bus runs through wealthy Escazú and up a steep mountain through rural suburbs of adobe and wooden houses, many with the old oval brick ovens scattered among terraced farms and gardens. It’s a good way to look down on San José spreading through the Central Valley below you. The bus route ends in the middle of nowhere on the side of the mountain at a quiet church. Rather than just hang out until the bus was ready to return – if you do, be sure to get a front seat for the view – we walked down the dirt road to the side of the chapel and followed it downhill. We were rewarded with some stunning vistas of the countryside.

AUTHOR NOTE: If you follow in our footsteps, be aware this route takes a lot of them. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

On either side of the road are verdant farms enclosed by “living fence posts” – tree branches or trunks that have been cut to post size and pounded into the ground, where they sprout roots in the rich soil and grow into new trees. Nearly halfway down the mountain is a small store, where you can stop for snacks and cold soda. Go just a bit farther and you reach a great little restaurant (Tiquicia, reviewed on page 164) that offers stunning views. Do this trip on a Saturday, the only day the eatery is open for lunch. (There’s a little soda open daily just down the road for snacks and drinks.) This excursion could also be done in the early evening, which would allow you to have dinner at Tiquicia, overlooking the valley’s twinkling lights. You’ll need determination, a good flashlight and sure feet! At night, have the restaurant call a taxi for the ride to San José or Escazú. The walk from Tiquicia back to where we could finally catch a bus back to San José took us one hour and 15 minutes. Huff and puff.


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