Cultural One Day Tour at Nacientes Palmichal in Costa Rica

He asked: Ligia, I want to know things to do in San José that are not a shopping center. I want to meet locals.

Mr. Yves was bored in his hotel room in San José. After doing some loops in the lobby, he came to check out the tour desk. I was sitting there with not much to do. Sunday afternoon was usually the worst day to sell tours, so I used to chat to the guests that were bored like Mr Yves.

He was one of my best clients when I worked at the tour desk in a 5-star hotel in San Jose. He was staying for 3 months with the company that brought him to Costa Rica, and he had weekends off, so he booked tours every weekend.

However, after a few months, he had done all the touristy stuff. I had sent him on tours around the city and out to the volcanoes, to ziplining, and to white water rafting.

When he came to see me that Sunday, he had rented a car and was looking for something more authentic. I checked the list of tours that the company that I used to work offered, but there was nothing that immersed visitors into to the local culture. I wasn’t sure what to tell Mr. Yves.

Looking back, I wish that I knew of the existence of projects like Nacientes Palmichal at that time. It’s perfect for people like Mr. Yves, who don’t have time explore the whole country but want that authentic local taste of the country close to San José

If I have the opportunity to sell the tour to Mr. Yves I will tell him this:

  • Duration: Full day
  • Physical Activity: Light
  • Location: Small village
  • Travel style: Local immersion, comfortable clothes, no WIFI, no English unless you pay extra
  • Price: $65 US approx. Ask directly to Nacientes Palmichal (Prices changes from season and group size)
  • Ways to get there: By Bus, By Car or Taxi
  • Distance from San Jose: 1 hour
  • Tour duration: 8:00 am until 4:00 pm

Mr Yves would take a car—he always thought taxis were expensive and the bus was too much work. He was independent and adventurous, and Waze was his best friend to get to his destination.

Rodrigo and I recently did something similar and made arrangements to visit Nacientes Palmichal. Check out more about it in our other post.

What do you do in Nacientes Palmichal?

  1. Meet the guide at Palmichal downtown and drive to “Cerco de Don Manuel y Doña Meri”
  2. Eat a typical breakfast and observe the coffee plantations
  3. Visit a dairy farm and milk a cow. It’s a nice hike getting there.
  4. Have lunch at Nacientes Palmichal lodge
  5. Drive to a farm where they will explain how they make coffee and grow orchids
  6. Participate in a tortillas workshop and drink coffee with the family
  7. Head back to San José

Our itinerary:

We recognize that we did the one-day tour a little differently since one of the families was out of town on the weekend that we visited the area.

Also, we decided to stay overnight, so that gave us more flexibility to do the things with more time.

So here is our experience doing the one-day tour at Nacientes Palmichal:

8:00 am  Our day started waiting for Sergio, the coordinator from Nacientes Palmichal in front of the Catholic church of the small town of San Pablo of Palmichal.

He welcomed us and asked us to follow him to his grandma’s house where we were going to have breakfast together.

8:30 am Dona Mery, the grandma, welcomed us and invited us to sit while she was pouring the coffee and serving our breakfast in the traditional way that breakfast was served for the farmers.

The gallo pinto, tortillas, eggs and plantains were wrapped in a plantain leaf to keep them warm and give a particular flavor. OMG this was amazing! I never tried a traditional breakfast in this way before.

I made a special connection with Doña Mery. She started telling me about her husband who passed away and how much he enjoyed protecting nature and spending time with visitors.

I felt as if I were talking to someone I already knew from before.

Sergio explained about the project and how much his family has been involved. We took some pictures while we enjoyed a beautiful patio full of fruit trees (mangos and jocotes) and a lots of medicinal plants.

After this special time where they make you feel more like family than tourists, we left the house to continue on our way to the lodge.

10:20 am  We parked the car and were introduced to the ladies who work at the lodge. We settled quickly into our rooms and Don Alexis (he is like a local guide) was ready to take us (a group of 7 people) to the dairy farm.

The farm belongs to another family that is part of the community. They produce cheese and coffee. Their employees explained the process to us.

After 30 minutes walking uphill, we crossed a river and enjoyed the views of the mountains.

We got to the dairy farm, and right away we started to milk the cow. I need to confess: I am terrible at this. I almost got kicked by the cow, but fortunately, her legs were tied.

After watching the animals of the farm, we chit-chatted with the people there, who told us that there is a viewpoint to observe the city and it is on the land that protects the springs of water.

They sell coffee produced in the area that costs about $4 each bag.

We were ready to start our way back.

12:00 pm Back at the lodge, we explored the area while we waited for our lunch. They have a greenhouse and nice gardens and the lodge is next to the river, so it is very peaceful and calm.

It was funny because that weekend, the place had been rented by one of the members of the association to celebrate a birthday party, so we were kind of in the middle of the celebration. It definitely was not something that happened every day, but it was fun to see.

1:30 pm Lunch was ready, and it was good, fresh, typical Costa Rican food.

Since our plans were to stay the night at the lodge, we had plenty of time to relax until the next activity: the “Tortillas Workshop.”

I took a nap like I haven’t done in a while with the sound of the river in the background. Amazing!

5:00 pm Our group was ready to prepare the tortillas. If you go to a Costa Rican house, your cooking skills will be measured by how good you make your tortillas. Ohh yeah!

We ate our tortillas and it was a great opportunity to talk to the cookers (group of ladies) of the lodge about the impact the project has on nature in the area.

Coffee, tortillas, good people and good conversation. I think you can’t ask for more.

7:00 pm Dinner time. More food! Oh Lord, I felt all I had been doing was eating, but oh well, I couldn’t complain.

The place gets really quiet, so you can go to sleep early or play some board games. Remember, there is not internet or TV. So it’s a great time to reflect about your day and R-E-L-A-X.

A different option of things to do in San José

I can definitely picture Mr. Yves returning to the hotel and telling me all about this tour. It was the local experience that he was looking for.

It’s a very different side of San José that doesn’t involve a city tour or shopping center.

I wish the people that have to stay in the city gave themselves the opportunity to explore the culture and see the daily lifestyle of the farmers that produce important products that people from the city eat.

People are always looking for things to do in San José. I remember from our time working at the tour desk that people wanted something close and not that expensive. However, we can help you to organize your travel experiences like this one; as I used to help Mr. Yves

Click Here for more info! 

If your time in Costa Rica is short and you don’t have a lot of time to explore, this also will be a good option to take into consideration.

Nacientes Palmichal  is a great opportunity. You will learn a lot about a community that protects nature and also you will be supporting locals while you enjoy delicious food surrounded by San José mountains and taste a different thing to do in the city.

The little-known side of San José: Nacientes Palmichal, a rural lodge pioneer in water conservation. 

Wait. ecotourism in San Jose?

It is not a secret that some people don’t think that San Jose is the prettiest city in Central America. People usually don’t come to Costa Rica thinking to spend much time exploring San Jose.

I have to admit that, like many people, I am guilty of bad-mouthing San Jose. However, not all San José is as crowded, full of traffic and dirty as people picture based on what some people will tell you about the city.

The city is surrounded by mountains, and those mountains have beautiful towns inside with beautiful landscapes to explore. They show a complete different face of San José.

Rodrigo and I met in San José. He is from there. But honestly, San José hasn’t been my favorite part of the country.

However, I have always been interested to learn more about rural tourism and responsible travel. (If you want to know about it please check this article.)

As I was searching and reading about the topic, I came across a project that has been a pioneer in Costa Rica in sustainable tourism.

The project name is: “Nacientes Palmichal” and is located in SAN JOSÉ, but in the rural side of the city.

So we contacted the association, organized a visit and decide to try the little-known side of San José. Why not?

About Nacientes Palmichal

  • Location: San Pablo, Palmichal de Acosta
  • Distance from the airport: 40 km (25 miles) – Approx. 1:15 min from the airport. 
  • Number of rooms: 8 rooms – Capacity for 46 guests. 
  • Facilities: Lodge, restaurant, trails, greenhouse, gardens.  

A little history

The idea behind how this project started is really interesting and meaningful at the same time.

The area is located next to two important water resources for the San José population.

The Tabarcia River and the Negro River produce around 500 liters of water per second.
According to Hernán Ramírez, President of ADESSARU (Asociación de desarrollo San José Rural), same the runs

Nacientes Palmichal, has confirmed that the rivers provide water for 50,000 people.

That is a pretty significant number.

But in the 90’s, the area faced a huge pollution problem. The water pollution was the result of the coffee production in the area. The waste of the coffee was thrown into the river.

Some neighbors took action to protect the springs of water and the forest area next to them.

They created an association (here in Costa Rica, associations work like NGOs) dedicated creating the conditions to protect the nature in the area.

After that, in 2001, together with other initiatives in the country, they started to think of a larger goal of ecotourism.

They obtained some funds from an international organization to start the project of rural tourism.

As a matter of fact, our Costa Rican tourism board promotes rural tourism as the 4th strongest tourist product in the country.

In 2004, The association that manage Nacientes Palmichal got really involved in the development of alliance with people with same mindset for this type of tourism.

In 2009, the government, together with private and public organizations, signed the law of promotion of rural tourism.

It’s really inspiring to see the hard work and effort that this community does. They not only took steps to protect nature, but they also took it further to create a network of local businesses where the families will benefit from tourism.

What should you expect from Nacientes Palmichal?

The way the project is structured, it’s different than when you visit a hotel or a development tourist attraction because the philosophy and the nature of the project.

In this case, you first visit the lodge. From there, you will have to walk or drive to the other projects that partner with Nacientes Palmichal.

What are those projects?

All of the projects are family-based projects and have a direct impact in the people of the area.

They are neighbors in the area who are mainly dedicated to one of Costa Rica’s main economic activities: coffee, dairy, sugar cane, crafts, trout fishing. etc.

Tourism helps support and generate extra income for these families, especially while the harvesting seasons are low.

This way, they don’t have to depend only on one income source.

At the same time, they want you to experience their daily context. This lets you learn from the culture and interact in a deeper way with them.

  • Activities: Nacientes Palmichal offers a one-day tour in the area so people can visit different initiatives.

Each activity has an extra cost, but if you are doing a one-day tour they will take you to at least two of those activities.
In our case, we did the dairy farm tour.

Trails: There are a few trails, around 15 minutes walking distance from the lodge.

Coffee: They will take you to a house where they do the whole coffee process.

Agriculture: Also, they can take you to visit trout fish farms, organic farms that have sustainable practices.

  • Accommodation: Rustic Chalet. The room we stayed in had 1 queen bed and 2 bunk beds. 
  • Food: Typical Costa Rican Food. No alcohol drinks. No menu available.
  • Service: Warm and kind. The staff doesn’t speak English.

Who is this project best suited for?

The project has a lot of experience with groups of students and families. Their strength is working with teams (for example: local universities and international students).

But couples like us will also like this project.

For solo travelers, well, it’s ideal for the ones who are looking to step out of their comfort zone and be willing to try an experience of the local culture of Costa Rica. However, it can get a little challenging if you don’t speak Spanish.

Also, we experienced that the staff is not there all the time. There was a guard the first night but not the second night. Some people might feel lonely.

However the staff of the lodge lives across the street of the place. At least this was our personal experience.

Good place for writers, artists or anyone who wants to relax

In our case, we love being active outdoors.

We wanted to hike as soon as we got settled into the lodge.

There was not a specific trail that belonged to Nacientes Palmichal, but they suggested we walk uphill through the gravel street that was kind of a “trail”.

However, since there were several private properties around and we could see the fences, we decided that it was not a good idea because we didn’t want to break into a private property and get in trouble.

Also, it started raining that day. So we stayed at the lodge.

Once you are in the lodge, there is not much flexibility to explore around and there are not any stores to buy groceries around. There’s also no internet, so just be prepared with a book.

I am not trying to sound like it’s a complaint—actually, I love the fact that you disconnect without WIFI. But since we love to be busy, it was a challenge at first, but a good opportunity to slow down and relax.

It would be a great place for someone who needs to write or find inspiration.

So, in other words, the project is for people who want to disconnect, learn and relax.

Our recommendation is try to come with an open mind to experience the way they organize your tour. Expect rustic lodging and a lot of good food. I felt most what I did in each activity was EAT and have good conversations.

Also, you will be treated more like a friend than a client. So it’s different, but not necessarily bad.

Actually, it’s a great project to visit and learn about the rural side of San Jose to see a different perspective of their lifestyle.

We applaud their hard work and fight to protect an important resource of water for San Jose, where the majority of the population of the country lives.

Amazing! You need to visit yourself to witness the project because it will be hard to put in this article all their love and work that they do in water conservation in our country.  

Highlights of the experience

  • The lodge is next to a river and the sound to sleep is beautiful.
  • The view of the green mountains in front of the lodge were really pretty.
  • The food was good. Even when they don’t have a menu that you can pick from, they select a good variety of options, all produced locally.
  • Even for us as locals that have visited similar places, the uniqueness of this project is that they are pioneers in water conservation and rural tourism. It’s a pleasure to support the hard work that they have done through the years.
  • Meeting “Doña Mery” and listening to her wisdom was a cool moment—connecting with her and talking about the old times.

How to get there?

*From Nacientes Palmichal website

By Bus:

It requires 2 buses to get there.

  • From San José, in the area called Coca-Cola. Look for the company Comtrasuli bus stop. This company provides service to Palmichal de Acosta.
  • Tell the driver that you are getting off at the Palmichal de Acosta School.
  • Then you will have to take another bus called locally “Periferica” and this bus will get to the village of San Pablo of Palmichal. Tell the driver that you are going to Nacientes Palmichal
  • The last bus stop is 800 meters from the lodge.

Another option is to coordinate with the lodge and arrange that they pick you up at the school, especially if you are doing the one-day tour.

By Car:

From Downtown San José

  • Take the Próspero Fernández highway from La Sabana Park and drive to Puriscal.
  • 9 km before Santiago de Puriscal, at the crossroad, take the left road to Tabarcia.
  • Once you get there, keep driving 3 km east to San Pablo of Palmichal where the Environmental School Nacientes Palmichal is located.

Contact Info

Support local economies through rural tourism

*** Note: Updated July 2018. This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Supporting local economies is one of the goals of sustainable travel. However, since 1980 -1990 Costa Rica has been adopting a model of development called rural tourism.

Sustainability is a trend—a good trend—that is increasing in different areas of our life.

People are looking to have a balanced lifestyle in different things: what we eat, the way we exercise, the way that we live in harmony with nature.

Travel is no exception. People are looking to have more meaningful experiences. In our case, we found that collecting pictures and stamps in a passport will be meaningless if you don’t learn or contribute anything in the process.

From working in tourism, we have seen that massive tourism is not good for a town and sometimes can bring more harm than good.

So, a few years ago, we decided to focus on a different way of travel and have been learning more from it each day.

Rural Tourism: What exactly is it?

When I did my university graduation project about a local community in San Ramón, Alajuela, I fell in love with the concept of rural tourism.

It’s hard to describe it in a few sentences but I will do my best.

Basically, rural tourism is tourism that takes place in a rural area where the main economic activity doesn’t come from tourism.

For example, the main income may come from dairy farming or growing coffee. Since some of these activities are seasonal, tourism can bring in more income in the off-season from the visitors who are interested in learning about the daily life of the villagers.

It’s a way that the dollars you spend in a place will get distributed better in the community as a whole rather than just to a big chain.

Our experience with Rural Tourism:

Rural tourism has let us see so much more than just a tourist destination. We got to experience local culture and see people’s daily lives.

The first time I went to Bajo La Paz, a rural village 40 minutes away from San Ramon downtown, it was part of my final graduation project at university back in 2009.

The trip allowed Rodrigo and I to immerse ourselves in our own culture on a deeper level.

We found the Danta waterfall, the most delicious homemade lunch at Cafetería Flory cooked in a wood stove and the sweetest tradition of the sugar cane.

After a few visits, I realized the impact that this place had on us. It was about much more than just visiting a place—it was about learning the conservation work that they do in the nature that surrounds them.

Here are the most valuable lessons from our time learning from the community:

  • The owner of the waterfall, “Nacho,” who used to be a hunter, told us how he decided to preserve the forest after a deep talk with a university professor.
  • Doña Flory, the owner of a little restaurant, taught us how perseverance and hard work bring results. The secret ingredient of her food is love because it was 5 years until the restaurant produced enough for her to hire people from the community.
  • The Arias Family explained how they fight to preserve the art of the sugar cane process that our grandfathers did for a living.
  • Another family taught us how they get their main income from the exportation of butterfly cacoons.
Explore Tikizia Ligia

Our first time exploring Bajo La Paz, San Ramon

Explore Tikizia Rodrigo
It was a very fulfilling experience to see how we could take a theory from a college project to become a real business plan that creates a rural tourism experiences where local families get involved and benefit.

So, that experience is where we first got encouraged to promote this style of tourism.

We did different initiatives like creating a travel agency called “Tikizia Travel” and attending a fair to promote the community of Bajo La Paz,  San Ramón. We worked together with the community, and the lessons will be forever with us.

Explore Tikizia Feria

Mass Tourism VS Rural Tourism

According to an article titled “Rural Tourism – An Overview”:

Mass tourism is characterized by large numbers of people seeking culture holidays in popular resort destinations. Alternative tourism (rural  tourism) is usually taken to mean alternative forms of tourism which give emphasis on the contact and understanding of inhabitants’ way of living and the local natural environment. (Humaira Irshad – Rural Development Division, Goverment of Alberta)

Explore Tikizia Trapiche
Explore Tikizia Mariposario
So let’s look at the pros and cons of the different types of tourism…

All-Inclusive Vacations and Resorts

Pros:

  • Everything is planned for you
  • Luxury accommodations
  • Easier to make decisions when you are part of a big group

Cons:

  • Your money is going to a specific brand of hotels, so it’s not really supporting local economies
  • Long stays in the same place can turn into a boring vacation
  • Little room for flexibility to change schedules and experience the unexpected
  • The environmental impact that some hotel chains have done in our country, destroying nature to build

Rural tourism Vacations

Pros:

  • Seeking out rural areas while traveling or taking a trip can be incredibly rewarding
  • It can be an awesome and inspiring learning experience
  • The people are friendlier and you get a more personalized experience because you are not just a number
  • It could be cheaper traveling in this way, and at the same time, the money benefits local families and projects

Cons:

  • It involves more planning
  • You may not find it so easy to get to your destination, and there may be less information available online
  • If you are not an open-minded person, you will feel there is less choice
  • There is less beautiful architecture… so definitely not recommended to people itching to see the modern buildings in Tokyo or medieval architecture in Rome

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Many travelers go to countries famed for their incredible natural beauty, and yet spend all their time in cities or all-inclusive resorts. People who travel this way miss out on experiencing the heartbeat of the country.

It’s not necessary to base your whole vacation on rural tourism, but making a little portion of it would give a better taste of the culture and lifestyle of Costa Rica or the country that you are visiting.

Further thoughts …

In my personal experience, I will be honest: I understand rural tourism is not for every traveler, but the government promotes a lot of these types of initiatives for Costa Rican entrepreneurs and farmers like every single tourist is going to pick one of these trips…. That makes me think… Realistically, entrepreneurs and farmers on the other side struggle in the lack of knowledge to do marketing, especially with the constantly changing social networks.

A big group of them are not familiar with this technology at all, and even if we pretend they are super cool bloggers or  Facebook pros, my question is how can they compete with the big companies that invest tons of money in marketing and big tourist resorts?

Costa Rica has learned the lesson in a hard way with what happened in Guanacaste after the building of an airport there. Now, most tourists visit Guanacaste—around 400,000 tourists. More than the local population.

The income from touristic projects in Guanacaste ends up in just a few hands. You can learn more about the situation in our article. Watch the video. Recommend!!!

“When people go on vacation, they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.” ~ Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust

We believe in a better way to do tourism, and we know there are many people like us out there. Rural tourism makes you feel that you are in a place with an identity, not just anyplace. On the other hand, big resorts feel basically the same everywhere in the world.

You have the power to support local communities when you pick a rural tourism project. If more tourists that visit Costa Rica will decide to change the way of travel, we will have a better distribution from tourism and keep protecting nature.

This model benefits everyone, even YOU, our dear traveler! We like music not because it gives us money in return but because it uplifts our souls. It is the same with rural tourism.

What everyone ought to know about ecotourism in Costa Rica

Is “ecotourism” or “sustainable tourism” just another buzzword??  Does every destination in Costa Rica do ecotourism?

In 2017, the World Tourism Board (UNWTO) celebrated the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development”  #IY2017.

Also, the international campaign  “Travel, Enjoy and Respect” promoted actions that should be taken by travelers around the globe. The  UNWTO did this in order to walk closer together to achieve the sustainable goals for the 2030 agenda of the UN.

The travel industry in Costa Rica is one of the main generators of employment and economic activity in the country.

According to the Tourism Board of Costa Rica, statistics informed that in 2017, tourism represented $3,864,100 (million) of revenue to the country—even more than bananas and coffee.

Costa Rica has around 2.959.869 tourists each year. From that number, 75% come to the country to do ecotourism. (Plan Nacional de desarrollo, ICT)

All those numbers will help us to understand the whole context and relation of tourism for Costa Rica.

Some people will skip those numbers, but go back and read them again!    

I will be happy if you remember the importance of tourism in the country.

Table of Contents:

 A brief history of ecotourism in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has not always been the nice and green dude that proclaims peace to the world.

We created our National Park system back in 1970 and from there protected 25% of the territory. Before that, we had cattle farms, used pesticides in our soils without control, and hunting animals in our forests was a normal practice.

At that time, we didn’t understand the potential that protecting nature would bring more benefits to the country.

After the creation of the National Parks and the increase of visitors per year.  Costa Rica started to gain popularity as the green, peaceful ecotouristic destination in Central America.

Our feelings as locals that make a living from tourism

We love tourism! However, we are not blind to the negative effects that tourism can bring to nature and our communities.

I know people want the luxurious vacation in paradise beach—relaxing under the sun with a cocktail.

My friend who went to the United States said that 60% of the people only remembered a few spots from Costa Rica: Cocos, Jaco, and Manuel Antonio and the forest … ahh yea the forest Monteverde.

We have worked in big hotel chains and traveled Costa Rica on a big bus with 60 tourists to go to the main tourist destinations. Also got tips, met wonderful people from different cultures, and enjoyed all of that touristy stuff, all-inclusive style offers.

We understand if you like fancy! Who doesn’t?

What we don’t like is when we see the other side of the coin.

So we want to challenge you to go deeper into our reality and understand that the way you perceive a country and how you travel in that country affects the economy and the environment.

The video here was a huge an eye-opener for Costa Ricans and for the international community. It shows that even though we do ecotourism, not all Costa Rica’s destinations have worked under those principles. 

Please take the time to watch the video and understand the model of tourism that we want for our country:

Three concepts, one solution

Now we want to talk, and if you are not familiar with these concepts, at least you can grasp the idea and take it into consideration when you travel.

You may think these are buzzwords that companies that are promoting themselves as green use to attract costumers. Don’t feel bad, sometimes we did. Sometimes it may seem like something that everyone is saying to be cool. But these ideas are still important.

We understand that is our responsibility to train ourselves and learn how to live under these principles. Of course, we are not perfect about it and we have also been guilty of being part of the bad practices as well.

BUT the main goal is to apply them when we travel.

  1. Rural Tourism: 

    From the three concepts, this one has been developed and used as a model that the government has tried to support in Costa Rica. Defined as:  “Rural tourism focuses on actively participating in a rural lifestyle. It can be a variant of ecotourism. Many rural villages can facilitate tourism because many villagers are hospitable and eager to welcome (and sometimes even host) visitors. ” (Wikipedia, 2009)

  2. Ecotourism:

    Ecotourism is now defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” (TIES*, 2015) Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.

    *The International Ecotourism Society

  3. Sustainable Tourism:

 This is the most recent term and can be defined as: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.” (UNWTO, 2017)

There are many definitions and they can be similar to each other, but the thing to understand is that looking for accommodation or tours that follow these concepts is a large part of being a responsible traveler.

And the solution??? The solution has become when you are aware that you can decide to be a responsible traveler and take action on your trips. 

In the end, that is the goal and the solution to minimize the negative effects of tourism in the world.

What motivated us to create this blog?

We really feel passionate about this stuff!

We believe in a better way to travel using best practices. This understanding of minimizing the negative effects of traveling requires more commitment.

If you have visited Costa Rica, you will agree that Costa Rica is beautiful.

But for those of us who live here, Costa Rica is so much more than the sun and beautiful beaches. For us, there is a culture full of people who are trying to keep the traditions, there are communities protecting the environments, and there are also problems that need to be solved.

So our goal is to be the voice of projects and places that maybe you won’t even know that they exist if is not through this platform. We also want to be part of the support of those who already have their hands in the digital world.

We want to share a more authentic Costa Rica and support those projects by creating content that features them.

What motivates us is to connect you that are reading or planning to come to this country to have a lifetime experience with our people, with our nature.

Even if you are not coming to Costa Rica right now, you can learn something and make similar actions in your travels in your own country or abroad.

Finally, we all together are helping to create a more sustainable way to travel, not as something only theoretical but also in action.

References

  • Dirección de Planeamiento y Desarrollo, Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. “PLAN NACIONAL DE DESARROLLO TURÍSTICO DE COSTA RICA 2017 – 2021.” San José, Costa Rica, Apr. 2017.
  • Music, Charlene and Peter Jordan, directors. The Goose with the Golden Eggs: Tourism on Costa Rica�s Pacific Coast – Educational Edition. YouTube, www.boundlessmedia.org *

*Note: This Video Was Commissioned by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) and Foundation Corcovado, 22 May 2017. This educational video exanimates the impacts of large-scale resort and vacation home developments along Costa Rica.

  • UNWTO, UNEP. “Sustainable Development of Tourism.” Ecotourism and Protected Areas | Sustainable Development of Tourism, Making Tourism More Sustainable – A Guide for Policy Makers, 2005, sdt.unwto.org/content/about-us-5.
  •  What Is Ecotourism? The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), 2018, www.ecotourism.org/what-is-ecotourism. The website didn´t mention an author and date of publication of this article.

Visiting the Costa Rican Organic Coffee Farm That Welcomed George Clooney

When I (Ligia) was growing up, my family learned the hard way to be more mindful about what we put in our bodies. After my dad’s health problems, organic food became very important for our family. Although, of course, it can be quite challenging to eat EVERYTHING organic.

However, Rodrigo and I try to be more mindful about what we eat. We try to learn about the producers of the food we buy. About a year ago, we, along with my parents, joined an association of organic farmers’ families.

At those meetings, we met a family that has an interesting project producing organic coffee. They have a farm with 35 hectares (86 acres) of land, called Finca Edgar Fernandez, surrounded by peace, nature, and life.

Fernández Family – Piedades Sur, San Ramón

Let me introduce you to Edgar Fernández, his wife Maria Elia, and his two children: Viviana and Richard (They are in their 20’s, so not children anymore :).

Together, they have been hard at work, growing coffee their entire lives, as it has been a tradition of the family for generations.

From an early age, he (I like calling him Don Edgar or Mr. Edgar in English) grew up as an agriculture farmer and didn’t have the opportunity to finish school.

Hard work and consistency have been the best words to describe him.

In his earlier years, Don Edgar produced coffee in the traditional way using a lot of pesticides.

Coffee farmers thought in the past that producing organic was nearly impossible. Mainly because of fungus diseases like “Ojo de Gallo” and “Roya”.

However, Don Edgar decided to get more knowledge through a program from the Coffee Institute of Costa Rica, and learn how to create systems and produce organic coffee.

Finca Edgar Fernandez – Costa Rican Organic Coffee Producers

After Don Edgar adopted organic practices for producing coffee, the approach turned him and his family into an example to others. Eventually, it led to them being taken by Nesspreso to Switzerland in 2013!

In 2006, they became part of a program of sustainability for families and small farmers, who evaluated farms and reviewed the way they do things.

After this process, they received support and more information to improve the practices of the sustainable program. They also explained how thankful they are for the training in accountability to see if they were generating income or loss from their coffee production.

Then, in 2012, they got the news that an important visitor was interested in learning about the way they produce coffee and their sustainable lifestyle. Well, he turned out to be George Clooney!!!

For them, it was such an honor to have him there and to share their practices with him.

My favorite part of the story is when the school soccer field was used as the landing space for Clooney´s helicopter. Maria Elia laughs, saying that everyone was in shock seeing the helicopter and ran out of the house in their pajamas.

She didn’t realize who he was until 15 minutes later when her son told her!

Why did they decide on this lifestyle?

When you walk around the property, you find more than just the organic coffee. You will see all different varieties of organic fruits and vegetables growing that the family produces.

They have a Biodigester to produce their own gas, and their tap water is all connected to a cycle that gets filtered and recycled for their gardens.

Don Edgar says they always had the desire to learn and live in harmony with the environment.

Here I’ve quoted some words from him that have stuck in my head:

“We are administrators of the natural resources that God provided to us, such as food and good quality of life… if we don’t take care of nature, we lose more because nature works in this way: if you take care of her (nature) she will take care of you. I protect it and she always gave enough to live a good life. I don’t need much in life.” – Edgar Fernandez

Hearing his deep understanding of nature and his passion for producing sustainably and responsibly for our planet is truly inspiring.

Rural Tourism

The Fernandez family’s organic coffee production also led to an exciting new undertaking: tourism. They began receiving requests to provide tours for people who are interested in learning more about Costa Rican organic coffee production.

They started the tour program back in 2006, and since then, many people from Europe and other countries around the world have come to learn the process behind the organic coffee bean.

So this year, Explore Tikizia decided to organize a group of volunteers and friends to let them try out a different kind of coffee tour.

We had a great time! It feels more like visiting a family house than a super fancy tour, but still, we learned a lot.

The family would love to get more visitors so they can keep investing in their organic farm, using the extra income they make from the tours.

They are learning more every day, and we are willing to create a partnership with them to promote more this kind of tour.

Things you can see on the farm:

  • Biogas: The family produces their own gas to cook. They send the feces from 2 pigs through a system that later gets decomposed by bacteria, and then the gas from it is sent to the kitchen.
  • Organic compost: To make a better use of the kitchen scraps, they produce their own compost with a Japanese technique that is called Bokashi. The fermentation process is anaerobic. That means it is kept in a container that locks out air during the process. The micro-organisms break down the constituents of the food waste until they are effectively pickled.

  • Organic crops: They have a small greenhouse where they produce lettuce, onions, carrots and other vegetables without chemicals for their own consumption.

When they produce more than what they need, they will share with their neighbors, trying to keep the value of cooperation.

  • Bio – Garden: They learned how to do a better job with the tap water from their house. In the tour, you can learn about the system they use to treat their water. They even have fish in their water, which is cleaned by plants that provide oxygen to the water.
  • Trapiche:  The most recent investment of the family has been building a “trapiche.” The closest translation is “sugar mill.” They are trying to maintain the organic traditions for the production of sugar. For this part of the tour, some preparation will be required, and the minimum group must have 15 or more people.

Coffee Tour: 

On the tour, you will learn the whole coffee production process from the bean stage to the warm cup in your hand. You’ll also learn about common diseases the plants face and other interesting information.

  • The tour doesn’t have a lot of facilities like the biggest coffee tours in the country, but what makes this tour unique is they are a small producer with a big network. They produce the quality of a coffee like Nespresso but have decided to produce organically. Your money will go straight to support the family!

Prices:

All prices are per-person. You can pay in $ or colones to the currency exchange. No credit cards, only cash.

  • Solo Coffee Tour: $10
  • Coffee Tour + “Gallo” (tortillas with cheese): $15
  • The Coffee Tour + Lunch: $20
  • Coffee Tour + Lunch + “Trapiche”(Sugar mill):  $30 *Minimum 15 people

The coffee tour takes around 2 hours, but they are flexible if people want to stay longer and learn more.

Directions:

Where? El Carmen, Piedades Sur, San Ramón de Alajuela

How to get there? 

By Car: If you are coming from San José:

  • Get to downtown San Ramón (from the entrance drive on the main road until behind the church)
  • ⇐ Turn left and keep driving to San Pedro area
  • ⇑Pass the University of Costa Rica until you reach another intersection
  • ⇒Take a right— You are driving to Piedades Sur area, so you can follow the signs until you get to the small center of Piedades Sur
  • ⇐Turn left at the high school of Piedades Sur
  • ⇑ Drive two more kilometers until you see a bridge
  • ⇒Turn to right on a small unpaved street and continue for about 2 kilometers
  • At the right hand is the house and the property of “Finca Edgar Fernandez”

Or you can keep it simple by following Waze or Google Maps 😉

By bus: If you’re coming from San José, take the bus to San Ramón to the bus stop called “Parada de Puntarenas” or “Empresarios Unidos.” The ride takes an hour and a half, depending on traffic.

Once you are in San Ramon, the local bus stop is just less than a block away. From there, the bus leaves to Piedades Sur.

         Reference: http://www.mipueblocr.com/

The high school is the last stop on the bus, which is where you get off. You can arrange in advance to be picked up there by one member of the family or take a taxi from there. There are “informal taxis,” according to María Elia, which people from the community use frequently.

Private transportation: As locals ourselves, we can help you to arrange this. We have contacts who can definitely help you get there without the process of figuring out Costa Rican addresses and routes.

Contact information:

Maria Elia Fernandez (Don Edgar’s wife)

Note: She only speaks Spanish, but her daughter speaks fluent English. We can help you to set up the visit in case you need help.

Phone: 2445- 8337

Facebook: Finca Edgar Fernandez 

Email: [email protected]

The sweetest tradition in Costa Rica: Traditional process of Sugarcane

 



Pura vida EVERYONE! Well first of all, I NEED to say: I am so happy about my first blog, I can say that this is like buying a new camera for me… (P.S: I love photography). It’s like get a new toy on Christmas.

So you can imagine how I excited I feel.

From now on I want to show you around my country and the beauties that you can see around through each post; and to also learn about nature photography together and about ecotourism, rural tourism or more.

This is one of the first post that we wrote back in 2015. When we started this blog. 

So let’s start with a little bit about traditions of Costa Rica. This country is well known as an eco-friendly country but what else do you know about it?

Some general aspects about this country is that it has an extension of 51.100Km2 (around 19,700 square miles). By the early to mid-20th Century, the economy in Costa Rica was based on agriculture and there were many important products that could grow and be produced on this land like coffee, tobacco, cacao, corn, sugarcane and more.

Sugarcane

Sugar cane crops – In Spanish: “El Cañal”

Some memories

While growing up in San Jose, which is the capital, I would hear about the “Trapiches” (The traditional name that people use to refer to the Sugar mill).

I really didn’t know what a “Trapiche” looked like, but it was so interesting to hear my mom talk about it and how the kids used to go to a sugar mill close their house to watch the process and eat some “Sobado” or “Perica” (fudge-like, typical candy made from powdered milk, peanuts and brown sugar).

Since marrying my wife, I not only fell in love with her, but I also fell in love with San Ramón, the town where she grew up and where we currently live, as well as the town where the traditions are still alive.

When I met Ligia she was doing her final thesis about Rural Tourism, so through her I got to know this community in San Ramón called Bajo La Paz. There, I met Mr. Carlos Arias, the boss and one of the owners of a local Trapiche. The year 2010 was when I saw one of the most typical traditions in Costa Rica for the first time.

I felt so inspired when I saw this process! It makes me want to visit places and learn more about the traditions of my country that are endangered of being forgotten.

The history of the sugarcane

Costa Rican economy was based on agriculture; our main product was coffee, and this product helped our country in many aspects. Sugarcane was also important during those years. The farmers used to cut the sugarcane from their land and transport it by an oxcart, the main form of transportation during of those years.

However, they could sell the sugarcane to the owner of any sugar mill or they could pay them to process their “Tarea” (all the sugarcane harvested) or the farmer could take his own production of sugarcane, process it, and get the final product to sell.

Oxcart
Sugarcane is not a crop originally from the Americas. Christopher Columbus first brought it during his second voyage to the Americas. So this crop spread all around the continent and Costa Rica was not an exception. Nowadays in a few places around the country, you can appreciate the rustic sugarcane process that my grandfather and great-grandfather used to do.

Visiting an rustic sugarmill

When I met Mr. Carlos Arias, he invited me to the sugar mill that he owned with his other 5 brothers. Mr. Arias was so kind to me and he took part of his time to explain to me with a lot of detail how their day starts. Three important aspects of this explanation are:

Making Sobado

The closest taste will be like fudge

A-Time is SO important: This group of brothers has to start work REALLY early in the morning, at 4am. Mr. Carlos has to start to get burned wood, grass and waste from the sugarcane plant.

This is the most important task because the process depends on getting the “Ornilla” (where all the sugar juice get is boiled) in the right temperature.
Ornilla
B- Squeezing the sugarcane: Some years ago, the traditional way of getting the juice from the sugarcane was by using an Ox walking in circles and moving two big pieces of wood to squeeze the sugarcane, “Trapiche Hermanos Arias” had changed that process and now they use an electronic machine.
Squeezing
C-Getting the right texture: After the juice starts to boil, in about an hour until the juice gets into harder and stickier texture. Finally, this will allow Mr. Arias and the others to easily place the product into some wood molds that going give the shape of a top. That’s where the name comes from; in Spanish it’s called “Tapa de dulce”.

After these main steps that’s when the “Tapa de dulce” and “Sobado” are ready to be sold. They work with some dealers from San Ramon; these guys are in charge of distributing the “Tapa de Dulce” and “Sobado” all around other towns like Naranjo, Palmares, Grecia and San Jose.
Tapas de Dulce
Tapas de Dulces

Why you should visit it

Hermanos(Brothers) Arias has tried to keep this tradition alive for several years, even when just 40 years ago there were more than 25 “Trapiches” around their neighborhood.

Everyone was growing sugarcane and producing the “Tapa de dulce” that was a top seller because many housewives used to cooked a lot recipes that used this product as part of it.

Many governmental institutions started to regulating this activity with the purpose of making it more eco-friendly with our country. So that affects some of them because that TRANSITION was a required an investment of money.

Therefore many owners of the “Trapiches” decided to leave the business and some of them grew alternative crops like coffee or began to produce dairy products like cheese.

Hermanos Arias had tried to keep this tradition. This place that originally was built for their father who already pass away. A few years ago, they got a prize for the effort of keeping the typical traditions of my country.

So you can imagine that this place nowadays is like needle in a haystack.

Visit Trapiche Hermanos Arias, it is the meaning of history and dedication for more than 30 years.

Trapiche

How to get to Trapiche Hermanos Arias

This is place is located just 30 minutes far from San Ramón town or 1 hour 30minutes from San Jose downtown. The location area is called Bajo La Paz, and if you are coming by car you can follow this map.

Make sure to get to Cafetería (Restaurant) Flory which is just right next to it. There is a parking place and you can even eat something delicious at Flory’s restaurant. If you are coming by bus, you just need to get off the bus at the restaurant too.

Cafeteria Flory

Their Schedule

Every Wednesday the Trapiche is open from early morning until 4:00pm. Also every second Thursday is open. So before you visit it, make sure to call them or check their Facebook page. This is a great place to take pictures, so don’t forget to bring you camera.

Farming Cultural Tour at Corso Lecheria



A few months ago, Poas Volcano started with new eruptions that closed the park for several weeks. Government institutions are monitoring the eruptions of gas, vapor and ashes in the area.

For visitors, it is still safe to visit the zone, but there is a reasonable resistance to people going there, especially foreign tourists. Costa Ricans aren’t that intimidated by volcano eruptions.

We have had days recently when 3 volcanoes decided to make eruptions, but they were mostly steam and ashes, so yeah, no big deal!

We love this part of the country, so right now we want to support the area by joining with the local campaign the government is promoting to visit Poasito and Vara Blanca, the towns that are next to the volcano.

Tourist businesses from the area are concerned about how long the national park will be closed and the impact it will have on the economy and tourism.

More than just a volcano, the area represents a big part of Costa Rican culture.You get to learn about the main economic activities before tourism and other industries came. The Costa Rican economy was built pretty much on agriculture, cattle

The Costa Rican economy was built pretty much on agriculture, cattle farms and coffee. Also, the route through the area has a very scenic drive, with light-green rolling valleys set in between dark-forested mountains.

Corso Lecheria Tour

Rodrigo and I found the Corso Lecheria tour after we visited the Poas Volcano early last year (it wasn’t that active back then) with some friends from the US. We did a quick stop before we headed to La Paz Waterfalls. We just saw the strawberries and the cows and we definitely knew that we would have to come back.

Rural Experience

The initiative started between two local businessmen from the area of Poas. Since strawberries and milk are two of the main products that have sustained the area for decades, they decided to show people the behind-the-scenes process of how Costa Rica produces dairy and strawberries with the rich soil from the volcano.

According to the information provided, the tour takes place on the farm of approximately 220 hectares, which is the perfect setting for all the activity.

This property was acquired in 2004 with the purpose of milk production, with amazing results. It was not until 2012 were the doors were open to tourist.

What does the tour include?

In  order to provide a fun day for the visitors the tour is divided into 2 sections:

The tour includes a rural ride around the farm, a view of the volcanoes Poas and Barva, a visit to the primary and secondary forest, two strawberries fields, a milking stall, and a mini farm.

  • Truck ride

The truck ride will take you to a viewpoint of the Poas Volcano. From here, you can observe the volcano if it’s clear. You can also see the cattle fields that are characteristic of the area.

Many people from San Jose find this ride interesting because they have never been on a truck or gotten to know the rural farming culture. Some of them mentioned the experience is like finding with their roots.

  • Viewpoint to observe Poás Volcano and Barva Volcano

Volcanoes attract millions of visitors every year, for different reasons. Perhaps one reason is that they are an example of the wilder side of nature and are impressive sights, just puffing out steam and smoke.

This makes this tour special as well, because the farm is located next to one of the most visited volcanoes in the country.

  • Milking stall

Maybe cows don´t sound like a lot of fun for some. We know that probably isn’t something that will stand out in your wish list of tours, BUT for tourists who want to know about Costa Rican culture or kids and locals who live in the big cities of Costa Rica, it’s valuable to see the process of dairy and beef production. It’s an activity that provides the foundation of our local economy.

Cattle ranching began in Costa Rica in the early colonial period. So the tour tries to keep that as part of our identity. The idea is you can take your own milk straight from the cow, or they put out chocolate for you to try. This is the best part for the kids definitely!

  • Natural regeneration of a forest

We were really excited to see the natural regeneration from cattle to a small patch of forest, Now, you can walk inside this trail and never imagine that the spot used to be an old milking stall.

The farm is trying to become a carbon-neutral business to reduce the impact of its carbon footprint on the environment. The trail takes around 300 meters (0.8 miles), so it is small but nice to see species of animals getting benefits from it.

  • Strawberry field

All along to Poas Volcano, you will see signs in the road for fresh “volcano strawberries.” At the farm, they took us to a well-planned strawberry plantation. We were amazed how big the strawberries grow in a controlled environment but with natural pollinators and pest control. It was very educational.

  • Restaurant

The concept of this restaurant is really typical but they offer more than “casados.”

They really focus on “Gallos.” They have the concept to bring the food from the farm to the table so you get to know what you are eating. We love that idea!

They have the concept to bring the food from the farm to the table so you get to know what you are eating. We love that idea!

By the way, we learned a new fact of history in Costa Rica food. We knew about the origin of the word “casados,”but not “Gallos.” Well, you learn something new every day.It seems that one president of the country had the tradition of inviting the people from a town to a meal.

He tried to replicate the famous Canapé (ˈkanəˌpē) but instead of the piece of bread and savory topping, he changed it for “tortillas and picadillo.” Rafael Yglesias was his name, but his nickname was “Gallo,” giving the origin to the name of the food.

We are really grateful for the time the farm administrator took to take us around. You can really see the passion and hard work behind the project. He has been there since the beginning, so that tells you how much he believes in this project.

The Corso Lecheria farm tour really represents our culture through the concept of rural tourism. Still without sacrificing the piece of convenience and service for visitors.

For us as locals, it encouraged us to get deeper in our identity and not forget also this part of our culture. After the tour, we were more inspired to honor the agriculture of our farmers that work their best in the fields to produce what we eat.

The tour is a good example for other initiatives around the country and the area. Even when they have been challenged by the activity of the volcano and the decrease of visitors to the area, they are really focused on representing our roots and economy in a real Costa Rican experience.
Here is the information you’ll need to visit the place:

Corso Lecheria Tour

Address: Located in Alajuela on the road to Poas Volcano, 3 kilometers east at the detour to Poasito and Vara Blanca, in front of Villa Calas.

Map: (Their name used to be Freddo Aventura Rural)

Phone: (506) 2482-1024

Minimum of 4 people – Schedule: 9:00 – 11:00 – 1:30

Price Range (Tour and Lunch):

  • Locals: 8000 a 12,000 colones
  • Tourist: $30 – $40

Reservations: [email protected]

Waze app: Corso Lecheria Tour

From San Jose: 90 minutes from San José. Take General Cañas freeway (# 1) up to Alajuela. In Alajuela, it is recommended to take the route from the Courts of Justice on to Poas Volcano National Park. Take a detour towards Vara Blanca – Poasito and turn right until you reach the farm.

Facebook: Corso Lecheria Tour

Instagram: Corso Lecheria 

Some pictures:

    

**** Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored blog. We truly want to support the area. So we’re really happy give a tiny help promoting projects like this one that line up with our vision ****


One Berlin at Costa Rican mountains



Wait! Is there a place called Berlin in Costa Rica? Yes, there is!
Berlin hill is one of the most visited places by locals of San Ramon, Alajuela. Over 11.2km (6.9mi) and 23min are approximately the distance from San Ramon downtown to this hill, it is pretty close!
However, people from other areas don’t know how beautiful this place could be until they visit it. I have been to Berlin hill a couple of times, my first time was with Ligia only and our second one, we spent a great time with good friends.

Getting to the hill

Driving to this hill might be a little bit tricky particularly when you see more clouds than ever, even during summer time all the way to Berlin could be cloudy. One of the reasons is the elevation over sea level and also because San Ramon is known as the path of the clouds. But as soon you get to this area, the weather changes and you get to see Puntarenas (Pacific side) from there.

The Amazing View

PEACEFUL is the word that describes to sit up there and enjoy the view. There are several view points where you can stop your car and just put a blanket on the ground and sit there while the sun goes down. Puntarenas, Caldera and Nicoya Gulf are some places that you get to see from Berlin hill.
Berlin-Gopro

Recommendations

We definitely recommend to bring a blanket or small carpet to sit on the ground. Also it is important to bring some mosquito repellent and sunscreen.
Don’t forget to bring some food like: cookies, sandwich, juice or coffee. That will make your time more enjoyable.
If you love photography, I highly recommend you to carry your camera with you. This place is great for taking sunset pictures. Other important items might be: tripod, filters, lenses blower, extra battery and extra SD/CF memory. This place is perfect for people who love to read at relaxing place. So don’t forget to carry any book.

The map

Photos

Berlin

Berlin-atardecer

Berlin-nubes

Until Next Time

Our explorer friends, thank you for reading our blog and being part of it. If you would like to read about a specific place or if you have any suggestion, don’t forget to leave your comment down below. Pura Vida!

Sunset at Berlin Hill Costa Rica


Horseback riding to Danta’s Waterfall



[:en]

Hello everyone!!

Looking for different options of waterfalls Costa Rica? Maybe here is the option for you.

Many of our friends know that Ligia and I love to visit the mountains and get to know Costa Rica in a more rustic and ecological way (although that does not mean we will miss the opportunity to visit a luxury hotel if that is presented hahaha) but actually what represents us much more is rural tourism and eco-tourism.

Rodrigo & Ligia

Well, let’s get to the point! As many know I live in San Ramón of Alajuela, a quiet town with friendly people and of course many things to do.

Do you remember the article about the Trapiche in Bajo La Paz? Well, in this article I want to talk a little about this spot (Bajo La Paz), there is one person that I have know since 2010, his name is Ignacio Arias but everyone knows him as Nacho. He likes for everyone to call him by this nickname and the people know him this way.

Nacho and his family are landowners in the area; they have different farms used for tourism.

When I met Nacho for the first time, the first question that came to my mind was: How did he learn about conservation? He used to hunt wild animals about 10 years ago, as it was common practice by his father and family.

For years in his mind he had no idea how to promote conservation and neither protect animals. But this changed!

It was a slow process, but Nacho told me that the help of others has been important. Locals and foreign groups contacted him often and organizes tours to different parts of the area like hikes. Now he has become a local guide in the area who perfectly knows the trails and even nesting times of the quetzal (a spectacular bird which can be seen in the area).

Quetzal

One of my favorite activities was the ride to the Danta waterfall! This waterfall is located on private property, where you arrive after an 1 hour and a half of horseback riding. It usually leaves from Nacho’s. He has a great experience that allows one to quickly learn how to handle a horse. In an intensive class! Hahaha

The road to the waterfall is spectacular; trees with moss, birds of different colors and even the sounds are part of the route. It is noteworthy that the climate is highly variable but most of the time will be cloudy and a little cold. In summer (December to April) it is a little warmer but this does not mean the weather cannot change.

When we arrived at the farm, the horses rested and we walked for about 40 minutes to the Danta waterfall. This is a measure of approximately 40 meters.

What is a Danta? It is one of the largest mammals to be found in Costa Rica, it is also known by the name of Tapir.

Bathing in the waterfall is a very good choice but let me tell you that the water is a bit cold. 🙂

After sharing and enjoying nature; Nacho indicates when it’s time to return, you should walk back to the horses and then ride to the starting point. My personal experience was wonderful with a tour totaling four hours. I have done this tour on several occasions.

Cabalgata

Catarata Danta

Group of people enjoying waterfalls Costa Rica

Catarata

5 of my reasons for doing this tour are:

-Excellent travel and natural appeal.

-Very good service.

-Reasonable price and consistent service. ($30USD per person)

-Support local economy.

-Support rural tourism.

At the end of this tour you can visit the delicious Soda Dona Flory, which is next to Trapiche Hermanos Arias. Excellent regional food made in a firewood kitchen, just delicious. 🙂

How do you get to Bajo La Paz?

It’s very easy! First, you have to get to San Ramón of Alajuela. Then take the route to Piedades Norte which ultimately leads to Bajo La Paz. Below is a map:

[wpgmza id=”8″]

If you have any questions please write to [email protected]
Hope you like my article and do not forget to share it. Pura Vida!


Sanatorio Duran: Cradle of urban legends in Costa Rica

On a sunny Sunday morning, after visiting the Irazu Volcano, we came down the curvy road from the highest volcano in the country that has amazing views of Cartago and San José.

We decided to stop and visit the haunting Sanatorio Duran.

So many of our college classmates had stories about this place. They would visit and spend the night (a famous thing among young people in the central valley to test if they are brave enough to try and verify the urban legends that have been told). If you are from Costa Rica, you know what I am talking about.

If you are from Costa Rica, you know what I am talking about.

Sanatorio Duran

Sanatorio

Now all I personally knew about this place was a lot of urban legends that my friends had told me in the past.  For example, people always see or hear something strange like a woman or a nun who is walking through the rooms. They also said that the place had been used for satanic rituals.

I have read some history that says the place was originally built for Tuberculosis patients in the early twentieth century. Nowadays it is a great place to explore. Around the main building, you can see abandoned houses that once belonged to the doctors and nurses from the hospital.

I was impressed by the stories but since my husband loves photography our main goal was to explore and take some pictures.

On sunny days you can get really nice photos with the lights coming through the windows or on a foggy day you can get more gloomy photos.

I remember feeling sad while I was there simply knowing had been a lot of suffering there. Originally the place was used as a hospital but later a prison and finally an orphanage.

The other people on the tour we took really wanted to see a ghost and seemed to be there only to see if the place is haunted or not.

Why is it called “Sanatorio Duran”?

The Sanatorio was named after its founder: Carlos Duran Cartín, he was a president of the Republic of Costa Rica and graduated as a doctor after studying in France and England.

He had a lot of politic influence that made the creation of the Sanatorium possible. After his daughter got tuberculosis (an infectious bacterial disease characterized by the growth of nodules (tubercles) in the tissues, especially the lungs), he went to Loomis in Liberty, New York and brought the model of the Sanatorium.

The building was created with initially around 300 beds like a first world country hospital. They believe that the weather there along with healthy food and fresh air and natural light were ideal conditions for those patients.

Carlos Durán Cartín

So where did the story of the Nun come from?

The Sisters of the Charity of Santa Ana were the nuns that lived and worked at the Sanatorium. They came in 1925 from Venezuela and arrived by an oxcart; they became the right hand to many doctors to provide the respective patient care at different levels. Some patients believed they saw a ghost nurse helping the patients during cold nights.

Sanatorio Duran 3

How to get there?

If you are going by car it is 18 km before the Irazu Volcano, take a left on the way to Prusia. It is located in Tierra Blanca de Cartago.

From Cartago by bus:

  • Take a bus to Cartago
  • Bus Station:  Located 275 meters north from the northwest corner of the Cathedral.
  • Take the bus to Tierra Blanca/Volcan Irazu. Get off at Prusia stop because it is a rural area and the buses don´t go often.
  • Buses leave every hour except during peak hours (between 5:00-7:00 am and 2:00-10:00 pm) running every 30 minutes. Always ask the driver in advance for the bus stop. The price is $1 one way.

Who manages the place?

The Sanatorium is run by UPANA (National Union of Small and Medium Agricultural Producers), they are the ones that are currently managing the place.

The cost to enter is $12.00 however, children under 6 years of age are free and parking is free as well.

The area or any of its buildings may be rented by large groups.

The hours are Monday through Sunday from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm.

To contact them their phone number is 2240-3016 and email is [email protected]

Sanatorio D

Highlights of the trip

  • Walk through the abandoned complex including the old hospital, church, staff houses, barns and more
  • Hiking / Biking
  • Ask locals about strange stories and legends
  • Pack a picnic and relax outdoors
  • Pets are allowed
  • Great place to take pictures
  • Strawberries and cheese are sold outside. They are both local and delicious

 After my experience at the Sanatorium Duran, I personally still believe that the government should rebuild it and make a museum or something similar as a means of preserving such a famous place in Costa Rica.

As a matter of fact, many bands went there to make their music videos years ago.

Ironically after my trip to the Sanatorio, my perspective of the location changed a little bit. I think the place has a lot of history but unfortunately, inside there is no map to use on your tour, you will just find signs on top of the frame of each door.

We know the Sanatorio is not a tourist destination that most of the tourist guides will include but is a historical and cultural experience for sure. So why not include it on your next trip to the volcano and add some mystery and adventure? Are you brave enough to stay overnight? If you do, please share your experience with us!

Some pics were taken at the place

Li at Sanatorio

Ligia at Sanatorio Duran

Ligia at Sanatorio

Rodrigo at Sanatorio

Sanatario Duran 1

Sanatorio Duran 2

 

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