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From all over the valley they come here to barter !!

San Ramón The heavily agricultural city of San Ramón is famous for its Saturday Farmers Market in the center of town.

Farmers and buyers from all over the valley come here to barter, and the atmosphere is festival-like when the weather is good.

The Catedral de San Ramón, on the square, is modern, despite its pseudo-Baroque style. On the north side of Parque Central is the 1893 Palacio Municipal (admission is free, open 9-4), built in the style of a Spanish mansion and complete with high ceilings and an inner courtyard.

Admission is free to next door’s student-run San Ramón Museum, and interesting and quaint distraction. If you’re around in January, take a detour into the nearby town of Palmares for the rodeos, celebrations and parades of the Fiesta de Palmares.

The area’s biggest attraction is the private, 809-hectare/2,000-acre Los Angeles Cloud Forest, 20 km/12.4 miles north of town. Villa Blanca is owned by ex-President Rodrigo Carazo, and his wife, Estrella, this little-known ecological paradise is a good alternative destination to the long hard ride to Monteverde. It’s close enough to be done as a day-trip from San José. Los Angeles Cloud Forest is a delight for hikers, eco-minded tourists and birders interested in seeing a quetzal, the colorful national bird of Nicaragua.

Cloud forests, a type of rainforest, get moisture more from the fog-like clouds that sweep up the mountainside, depositing water in the form of dew. A naturalist offers tours and explains the diverse eco-system, in English and Spanish, twice daily (9 am and 1 pm, US $25). Hotel Villablanca borders the preserve and serves as a magnet for seniors as well as young students (who sometimes stay dorm-style for US $35, including meals and forest entry – a real bargain).

The casitas, bungalows, are built in adobe style and beautifully decorated inside, each with its own fireplace – warmly reassuring when the temperature drops. Floors are tiled, as is the vaulted ceiling of the striking La Mariana Chapel here. Meals are offered in the central lodge, where you can mingle with fellow travelers. The hotel can arrange day-trips from San José or, better yet, stay overnight and go back the next afternoon. Horseback riding and other adventures too.

In a hidden valley, Hotel Valle Escondido, 31 rooms, pool, restaurant, jacuzzi, canopy slide, is about 30 minutes north of San Ramón on the way to Arenal Volcano, which is about an hour’s drive more. This 101-hectare/250- acre private reserve sits on the floor of a steep valley whose walls are lush with vegetation. Great for a get-away-from-it-all vacation. Indulge in nature activities or relax and let nature come to you.

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