Get ready for an intro to Costa Rican chocolate, wildlife and campesino culture! Today we’re taking Highway 32 from San José, destination Siquirres. For this trip, we recommend a Hyundai Creta so you can enjoy your traveling in a comfortable and reliable car, which will get you everywhere you need or want to go and a GPS to make sure you don’t get lost.
Our next destination is a decidedly non-touristy agrarian town in San Isidro de Heredia. Here, the wild ﬂowers are abundant, the climate is mild and the rainbows are frequent. If you see somebody selling “pipa” (young coconut water) on the side of the road, pull over and try that.
After exploring countryside, make for Sibö Chocolatería, an adorable little chocolate-making business where you’ll learn the history of cacao in Central America and sample everything from a hot chocolate drink to modern bonbons with passion fruit ﬁlling (They’re open Tue-Sat, call 2268-1335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve).
Toucan Rescue Ranch
For an intro to Costa Rica’s wildlife, the next stop is Toucan Rescue Ranch, a non-proﬁt animal rehab center hidden in the hills, where an American expat nurses injured wild cats, sloths, owls, toucans (obviously) and some less common animals (tours are available Mon-Sat, 9am and 2pm, book in advance by calling 2268-4041 or email email@example.com).
Another excellent stop, particularly for travelers who have mobility issues, is Rainforest Adventures. The highly accessible park has an aerial tram within Braulio Carrillo National Park, and there’s also a short trail where many visitors often encounter the tapir – an enormous and strange hybrid of anteater, horse and pig.
Bromelias del Río and Rancho Roberto
Well before the sun sets you’ll want to be on your way to Siquirres – a humid lowland town that serves as a gateway to the Caribbean Coast and a base for the country’s best white water rafting. If you need a snack on the way, your best bets are Bromelias del Río, a delicious, riverfront bakery and restaurant on the way out of San Isidro, or Rancho Roberto in Guápiles, a palapa-topped family restaurant with good service and tasty casados (traditional dishes with beans, rice, salad, plantains, and a choice of beef, chicken or ﬁsh).
Centro Turístico Las Tilapias
Upon arrival in Siquirres, check into the rustic but enthralling Centro Turístico Las Tilapias, a collection of cabins over a manmade lagoon teeming with wildlife. The owner, a passionate naturalist named Chito, became famous for training and performing with a 12-foot crocodile named Pocho. The croc died a few years back, but Chito now takes guests on a tour of the property’s canal.
Other overnight options in the area is the high-end Pacuare Lodge, which you can raft in and out of (leaving your car in Siquirres at Pacuare Lodge parking) and Maquengue Falls, a collection of lovely houses just outside the picturesque town of Alegría. (Check your GPS to be sure you don’t miss the Turn for Maquengue Falls.)
A day filled with adrenaline and fun awaits. Tomorrow we’re heading to Limón!