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Alajuela

Location : 12 miles (19 km) N of San Ramón, 50 miles (80 km) NW of San José. Information/Reservations : (506) 228-4603, fax (506) 228-4004.

Villablanca was built to resemble a small village : an 1800s colonial settlement centered on the casa grande (big house), the dwelling for the family that owned the land. The landowners in this case are former Costa Rican president Rodrigo Carazo and his wife, Estrella, who bought the site in 1989.

Individual casitas (little houses) where the workers would have lived serve as charming guest cottages. They have the look and feel of adobe, with rough white plaster and blue trim. Some are suites with separate sitting rooms. All have corner fireplaces with bancos extending out on each side, rocking chairs in front of the hearth, and writing desks. Colorful comforters on the beds and bright rugs lend a cozy look. Nights can be cool here, so the comforters and fireplaces are not merely decorative. The big house contains a dining room, bar, small library, and sitting areas. Upstairs are five rooms. There’s also a dormitory-style building (shared baths) for student groups. Meals are buffet-style.

The 48 casitas and four family villas have small gardens in front and a 2000-acre (800-ha) forest out back. The Los Angeles Cloud Forest is wet, exuberant, and green. There are two easy 1-mile (2-km) trails, with walkways of wooden planks covered with wire to prevent slipping. The forest is home to about 280 bird species, including bare-necked umbrella birds, tawny-capped euphonies, black guans, great curassows, chachalacas, and humming-birds, along with three species of monkeys, sloths, raccoons, squirrels, tepezcuintles, ocelots, and snakes. Tree ferns are magnificent. A guided walk on these trails is $22. A more difficult 3.7-mile (6-km) trail is for those who like to walk alone in the forest. The cloud-forest elevation is about 3,600 feet (1,100 m). Driest months are March to May; go prepared for rain.

A Canopy Fair allows visitors to travel through tree crowns, viewing the forest from seven platforms in five trees. After a guided walk to the site, visitors climb to the first platform, at 33 feet (10 m), moving to other platforms via cable. The highest platform is 72 feet (22 m); the longest distance between platforms is 345 feet (105 m). From a mirador about a mile from the main house you can see Arenal Volcano, Lake Nicaragua, and the Plains of San Carlos on a clear day.

Guests can also visit the farm’s cultivated land (coffee, sugarcane, vegetable crops) and the dairy operation that provides the dining room’s milk and cheese. Rent a horse to explore the farm or a two-hour forest trail. Villablanca can arrange car and driver to destinations such as Tabacón, Poás, Arenal, and Sarchí.

Day visitors are welcome. A one-day tour from San José includes guided forest walk or horseback ride, transfers, and continental breakfast and lunch;. The guided forest walks are also available by reservation to those who come on their own.

Getting there. By car : From San Ramón, turn off just past km 8 at the guard station.

Source: Costa Rica Adventures in Nature by Ree Strange Sheck, John Muir Publications, Santa Fee, New Mexico. 

Check for Nearby Hotel Villablanca

Hotel Villa Blanca in 
 the clouds
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