Adventures on Foot
We found the best and most convenient cloud forest hiking opportunities
in the Los Angeles Cloud Forest Reserve in San
Ramón. It receives far fewer visitors than Monteverde and is
much closer to San José. Los Angeles offers unspoiled quiet and mystical
misty paths up a mountain slope. Arrange this as a day-trip or overnight
excursion with the Villablanca Hotel (. 506/228-4603), located at the
edge of the forest. They’ll pick you up in San José and bring you back for
about US $80, including breakfast, lunch, transportation and camaraderie.
The knowledgeable hotel staff serve as guides.
AUTHOR NOTE: For hiking in the forest, wear
clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and
bring some spares. Leather shoes or boots are
Consider hiking a historical path on a day-trip to Guayabo National
Monument, 19 km/12 miles northeast of Turrialba. This is Costa Rica’s
most auspicious pre-Columbian archeological dig. Pleasant, natural and
quiet, the area offers cobbled streets, ruined aqueducts, bridges and
rocky building foundations that have been uncovered from an early indigenous
settlement. It’s a serene and completely un-touristy attraction.
See our write-up under Turrialba,
Café Britt Coffee (. 506/260-2748, www.cafebritt.com) is located at
the heart of the coffee finca (farm) area near Heredia. It features a multimedia
show about coffee growing. Entertaining live actors walk with you
around some growing coffee bushes. A coffee-tasting lesson is then held.
The large gift shop features lots of coffee souvenirs, including a delicious
coffee liqueur, and it has a pleasant little cafeteria serving typical Tico
food. Britt Coffee is arguably Costa Rica’s best (and most expensive)
brand – but worth every penny. The beans are not grown by them, but
rather purchased elsewhere (top quality beans only) and roasted here.
Book with your hotel or Tico travel agency. This tour is often combined
with other area attractions such as a coffee plantation, the Aerial Tram,
K&S Microbrewery, Butterfly Farm or Poás Volcano.
My idea of great coffee is when it tastes as good as it smells.
~ Peggy Veeder, Costa Rican traveler
A different coffee tour on a working farm is the Doka Estate (. 506/
440-6745, www.dokaestate.com) off the road from Alajuela to Poás. Their
excellent roasted coffee, called Tres Generacions, is available on-line or
by phone (toll-free) in the US (. 877/789-3652). Near the Doka Estate is
a cute B&B called Siempre Verde (. 506/449-5134). This small luxury
hotel borders the estate’s fragrant coffee fields.
Take a new luxury trip on the Tico Train (. 506/233-3311), which departs
on weekends from Santa Ana at 7 am for Orotina. Once there, you
can take on any number of local tours. Total time, 13 hours. Rail travel is
in restored 1940s vintage cars, including a flatbed converted as an observation
car. Round-trip cost is between US $60 and $85, depending on
which tours you select in Orotina. A less fancy “Popular” trip leaves San
José at 6:30 am to Caldera, where passengers can swim. US $25. The
ticket office is located in the cavernous Ferrocarril Pacifico Terminal, Av
18 between Calle 2 and 4. A travel agent should also be able to book this
InBio Parque (. 506/244-0690, www.inbio.ac.cr/en) is an ambitious
project that functions to categorize the bio-diversity of the country’s ecosystems,
as well as educate visitors about ecology. It’s fascinating, but
fairly pricey at about US $15. Ask to see the numerous trays of insects,
which include a gold scarab beetle, made famous by Edgar Allan Poe. It’s
located between Heredia and Santo Domingo; take a taxi from San José.
Catch the Dulce Nombre de Coronado bus (ask the driver for the stop)
from Av. 7, Calle Central to the Clodomiro Picado Institute (. 506/
229-0344), where they research snakebite venom. You can watch them
extract venom on Fridays at 2 pm. Open daily, 9-4.
In Costa Rica, birding has a low impact on the environment and offers a
high degree of satisfaction. Ahuge number of native and migratory birds
(870 recorded species) call Costa Rica home, at least for a while each year.
At La Selva Biological Station (.506/766-6565) near Puerto Viejo de
Sarapiquí (not to be confused with the better-known Puerto Viejo near
Cahuita), over 400 bird species have been seen.
Two other outstanding areas for migratory species are Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge in the north, and Palo Verde National Park in the northwest. Brilliantly colored
toucans and scarlet macaws can be seen along the western shore
from near Jacó at Carara National Park down to the Dominical area
and over to Corcovado National Park, on Osa.
Dedicated birdwatchers should pick up Birds of
Costa Rica by Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch,
Cornell University Press. You can listen at home to the
sounds of Costa Rican nature with a stereo CD called
the Costa Rican Bird Song Sampler, an audio guide to
recognizing forest bird songs. Both are produced by
David Ross at Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology
Costa Rica’s Birding Club offers organized day and overnight birding
trips (contact John Weinberg at . 506/267-7197, http://crbirdingclub.
tripod.com). If you’re spending Christmas in Costa Rica (instead of staying
home and eating that other big bird), you can participate in the annual
Christmas Bird Count by getting in touch with naturalist
Richard Garrigues (. 506/293-2710, firstname.lastname@example.org).