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Adventure Guide to Costa Rica

Turrialba I think of the people who came before me... they knew the placement of the stars in the sky, watched the moving sun.... Without written records, they knew the gods of every night, the small, fine details of the world... and of the immensity above. ~ Linda Hogan, Parabola magazine, 1990 The agricultural town of Turrialba used to be known as a crossroads town and was the only route from San José to Limón until the Guápiles highway replaced it in importance in 1978. Before the powerful 1991 earthquake destroyed the Atlantic Railroad, it also served as an important rail junction for shipping produce by train. Now, down but not out, Turrialba (pop. 30,000, 55 km/34 miles from San José) has reinvented itself as the whitewater capital of Costa Rica, thanks in part to the interest of eco-adventure tourism. To get here by car, go to Cartago, then Paraíso and make a left at the park in the center of town. If you’re going to and from the Caribbean side, consider taking this scenic route at least once. Adventures Proximity of the Río Reventazón, Río Pacuare and Lake Cachí make Turrialba a good, inexpensive base to kayak, raft and windsurf. See the Adventures onWater section in San José (page 135) for more details. If you’re staying in town, rafting prices are cheaper, even from the companies in San José. In addition, there are some local operators: Loco’s Tropical Tours (. 506/556-6035, www. whiteh2o.com); Costa Rica Rios (. 506/556-9617, www.costaricarios. Turrialba . 177 Central Valley com); and Dos Rios (. 506/556-1575). East of Turrialba, in Tucurrique, Kayak Costa Rica (. 506/380-8934, swanldmkc@aol.com), owned by Mike and Sally Swanson, features kayak, raft and horseback adventures and a couple of pleasant cabins available on a 300-acre reserve. Since you’re in the area, perhaps you’d like to hike the dormant Turrialba Volcano, explore the Guayabo National Monument, or just wander free. BASEBALL TRIVIA Turrialba claims to be the town where they made the baseball that Barry Bonds hit out of the park to gain the major league record of 73 home runs in one year. Babe who? For anyone who is a real fan, note that Josh Gibson hit 75 in 1931 in the Negro Leagues. On the road east of town heading toward Siquirres there’s a swimming pool, Balneario Las Americas (US $1), and also CATIE (Tropical Agronomic Research and Education Center), a major hemispheric educational research facility on 2,000 acres. The grounds have several pleasant trails (great for birdwatchers), and hassle-free entrance is made easiest by arranging a low-cost guided tour in advance (.506/556-6431). Farther east of town in the small town of Pavones is Parque Viborana (. 506/381-4781), an educational serpentarium and wildlife rehabilitation center. Owner Minor Camacho’s specialty is snakes, from which he extracts venom for study and medicinal purposes – quite a sight! Don Minor worked for years at the university of Costa Rica until setting up his own center. Large terrariums house Costa Rica’s most deadly reptiles and there’s a walk-in cage to get close to boa constrictors. Open daily, and well worth the US $5 admission. Guayabo National Monument, 19 km/11.5 miles northeast of Turrialba, is Costa Rica’s most auspicious pre-Columbian archeological dig. Pleasant, natural and quiet, the cobbled streets, ruined aqueducts, bridges, and rocky building foundations that have been uncovered from an early indigenous settlement make for a serene and completely untouristy attraction. A path resembling a Maya sacbé (a raised road believed used for holy processions) can be distinguished pointing toward the top of the Turrialba Volcano in the distance. Archeologists believe the site was inhabited by as many as 10,000 people from around 1000 B.C. until 100 years or so before the Spanish landed. No one knows why it was abandoned. Admission is US $6. Guides are available and camping is permitted. The only convenient connection to the ruins from Turrialba is on Sunday, when a bus leaves the main terminal at 9 amand returns at 4 pm. By car, watch for the park sign on the left (it’s a rough road), east of downtown. In the general area (but not open to the public because it’s being excavated by the National Museum) is Angostura Archeology Area. Please e-mail us if you find this is now open. 178 . East of Town Turrialba Volcano is now long dormant. The name Turrialba means “White Tower” in old Spanish, and the volcano was presumably named after the columns of steam that once rose from its core. With much effort you can hike to the top and overlook its three craters. To get here, make your way to the little town of Santa Cruz from Cartago or Turrialba, and turn at the Bar Cañada. The last 12 km/seven miles of this road must be done on foot. Places to Stay & Eat Our favorite place to stay in Turrialba is Turrialtico (8 km/5 miles east of town, . 506/556-1111, turrialt@sol.racsa.co.cr, 14 rooms, restaurant, $$), a venerable hotel and restaurant on a hill overlooking the valley on one side and Río Reventazón and its new dam on the other. Since 1968 the García family has run this rustic, two-story wooden lodge that has been a favorite of rafters and tourists who return year after year. There’s nothing fancy about the small rooms, but the wonderfully delicious restaurant (filled with carved artwork) downstairs draws many locals at lunch or dinner. The best room is #1. Since 1984, the brothers in the García family have run the Pochotel (. 506/384-7292, restaurant $-$$), much higher on a nearby mountain, which offers truly impressive panoramic views from its private cabinas. All accommodations have good views (best is #10), and the new cabins are especially appealing inside, with warm cedar woods for cool evenings. Eighty percent of the buildings here were made from wood left as “seconds” by loggers. The entire family combines art, ecology and accommodations very well. More luxurious digs can be had in Casa Turire (. 506/531-1111, www. hotelcasaturire.com, $$$-$$$$), an elegant new plantation mansion/hotel down in the farmlands next to the Reventazón dam and lake. We could say more nice things about it, but the management had a haughty attitude toward us, so we’re being petulant. You may fare better. Turrialba . 179 Central Valley HOTEL Hotel Prices Prices are per night for two people [No $] less than US $20 $ US $20-$40 $$ US $41-$80 $$$ US $81-$125 $$$$ US $126-$200 $$$$$ over US $200 Restaurant Prices Prices are for an average entrée $ less than US $5 $$ US $5-$10 $$$ US $11-$20 $$$$$ over US $20


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