Last updated on June 13th, 2019
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?
- Meet the guide at Palmichal downtown and drive to “Cerco de Don Manuel y Doña Meri”
- Eat a typical breakfast and observe the coffee plantations
- Visit a dairy farm and milk a cow. It’s a nice hike getting there.
- Have lunch at Nacientes Palmichal lodge
- Drive to a farm where they will explain how they make coffee and grow orchids
- Participate in a tortillas workshop and drink coffee with the family
- Head back to San José
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
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.