Turrialba & Central Valley – Volcanoes, Cloud Forests, and Waterfalls
For most visitors, a trip to the Central Valley generally starts or ends with one of Costa Rica’s two largest cities, San Jose and Alajuela, mostly to fly in or out of the country. San Jose, the business-minded capital, may be a far cry from the feast of surf and jungle experiences most travelers look for in Costa Rica, but don’t underestimate the natural wonders and culture this region brings to the table. This is the heart of Costa Rica’s Central Volcanic mountain range, which includes one dormant and three active volcanoes, cloud forests, waterfalls, and diverse, abundant wildlife. Coffee farms flourish in this region due to its rich with volcanic soil, plentiful rain, and year-round spring-like temperatures, and much of the farmland is dedicated to cultivating your favorite Costa Rican blends. The region’s numerous national parks host an enormous variety of wildlife, making for excellent birding and wildlife-spotting.
But even amid the capital’s high-rises and traffic, the historic architecture, as well as more modern restaurants, shopping centers, museums, and galleries, make it worth visiting the city itself. The San Jose airport is actually in Alajuela, just 15 kilometres northwest of the capital. With few buildings taller than two storeys, the “urban town” of Alajuela, has a slightly more relaxed feeling than the busy capital. It’s an ideal base for visiting some of the Central Valley’s natural gems, like the sparkling turquoise crater lake atop Poás volcano and the emerald rainforests and cloud forests of Los Quetzales National Park.
Outdoor pursuits are easy to find in this region, with hiking on the Poás and Irazú volcanoes or in the stunning La Paz Waterfall Gardens; rafting the white waters of the Pacuare River; and horseback riding or canopy zip lining in one of the numerous private reserves. For even more adventure, try bungee jumping from a bridge across the Colorado River in Sarchi (a town known for its fine hardwood handicrafts) or rappelling alongside a waterfall with 300-ft drop into the crater of an extinct volcano at Catarata el Toro. With so much to do within an hour or two of the airport and capital, the Central Valley is worth adding to nearly any Costa Rica itinerary.
Turrialba & Pacuare Lodge – Costa Rica, Off the Beaten Track
Turrialba is a small, pleasant city that attracts active, adventurous travelers looking to raft the Pacuare and Reventazón rivers, hike the forests surrounding active Turrialba volcano, and learn about Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian past at Guayabo National Monument, an ancient metropolis that had more than 10,000 inhabitants until 1400 A.D. when the city was mysteriously abandoned.
Today, it’s known for producing sugar cane, coffee, pejibaye (a local fruit often sold boiled at roadside stands), macadamia nuts, and a deliciously moist cheese called “queso Turrialba” and its proximity to the stunning Pacuare Lodge.
Situated in a rich agricultural region in Costa Rica’s Central Valley, Turrialba was once part of the railroad route that connected San José to the Caribbean. Today, it’s known for producing sugar cane, coffee, pejibaye (a local fruit often sold boiled at roadside stands), macadamia nuts, and a deliciously moist cheese called “queso Turrialba.” Turrialba is a great destination for those wanting to experience rural Costa Rican life without the crowds.
Overlooking the Pacuare River, in the area of Turrialba, is Pacuare Lodge. With its teak floors, exotic tropical flowers, and wood furniture crafted by local artisans, the Pacuare Lodge is a unique jungle hideaway located within a tropical rainforest on the banks of the Pacuare River (a white-water river known for its class 3-4 rapids). You can get to this luxury, riverside hotel both by road and by an adrenaline-filled rafting journey. At night the lodge is illuminated by hundreds of candles and lanterns. The palm-thatched lodge and the jungle-chic bungalows have been constructed out of native wood and perfectly designed to merge into the natural environment.
There are a total of 19 spacious, private accommodations featuring plush beds, sitting areas, and breathtaking vistas of the tropical vegetation. Food and drinks at the Pacuare Lodge are great, everything on the table is always fresh! The cuisine is inspired by its Costa Rican roots and influenced by other countries and cultures. Meals are served in the main building, a tall, open wooden hut right by the river´s edge. On-site spa services are offered so at the end of your tiring day you can relax with a massage.