Turrialba Tourist Attractions
At an elevation of 650m/2,132ft above sea level lies the small town of Turrialba. Found on the Caribbean slope of the Cordillera Central, the town is on the banks of the Turrialba river. The area produces sugarcane, bananas and coffee and the town and surrounding district have a population of 70,000.Turrialba experienced a depression when a new highway diverted traffic en route from San José to Puerto Limón. Once a major stopping point on the old highway, Turrialba lost many visitors when the new highway opened and led travellers through another town.However, in the 1980s the interest in river running grew and Turrialba, because of its proximity to a number of rivers, became a kayaking and rafting center. Today, the relaxing town is a haven for international white-water fans.
Interesting natural attractions surround Turrialba. Most popular are the Turrialba Volcano as well as the rivers that attract many travellers who enjoy white-water kayaking and rafting.
Guayabo National Monument
This is Costa Rica's most important archaeological site. Excavations at Guayabo have uncovered stone aqueducts, cobbled roads, mounds, walls and petroglyphs, although the majority of the ruins have yet to be excavated. Guayabo became a national monument in 1973, and the latest excavations began in 1989 and are still underway.The monument covers 218ha/513ac, and the archaeological site covers 10% of the monument while the remainder is premontane forest. The protected forest is some of the last of its kind in the Cartago province, and a few species of birds and small mammals can be seen. There are picnic and camping areas as well as trails within the monument.The pre-history and significance of the site are still unclear, however it seems to have been inhabited since 1000 BC. Guayabo's development peaked c800 AD with approximately 10,000 people living there. Abandoned by 1400 AD, Guayabo is believed to be an important cultural, political and religious center but specific details have yet to be discovered.The Spanish conquistadors and settlers did not leave any record as to whether they found the ruins, and local naturalist and explorer Anastasio Alfaro rediscovered Guayabo in the late 19th C. Some pieces discovered by Alfaro are displayed in the National Museum. Systematic excavations began in 1968 with archaeologist Carlos Aguilar Piedra of the University of Costa Rica.
The Pacuare River in one of Costa Rica's most exciting and scenic rivers offering excellent white-water excursions. The Pacuare flows through scenic canyons covered with virgin rainforest. Calm stretches of the river that separate Class IV rapids allow river runners to enjoy the attractive scenery of high green canyon walls that appear nearly vertical.Many travellers choose to experience the Pacuare on two or three-day trips (1 day trips are available) because of its remote location. Throughout the day there is swimming and tributaries are explored, several of them culminating at the Pacuare in dramatic waterfalls from the surrounding canyons.The Pacuare River was declared a "wild and scenic" river in 1986 (the first in Central America) and is now protected by the government. Nevertheless, the National Electric Company is investigating the effects of building a hydroelectric dam. Several tour companies offer rafting trips on the Pacuare River.
Turrialba Volcano (3,329m/10,919ft) has been dormant since its last eruption in 1866. The volcano includes three craters at its summit, and actually belongs to the Irazú volcanic massif, although it is much more remote and difficult to get to. Experts expect the volcano to erupt again in the future, however today volcanic activity is limited to the sulphurous steaming of fumaroles from the largest, middle crater.Montane rain and cloud forest are found beneath the summit, with vegetation including ferns, mosses, bromeliads and bamboo. Some travellers choose to reach the summit by horseback, while others hike from trailheads beginning at different elevations.
CATIE Research Center
CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza) is an important tropical agricultural research and education center recognized by agronomists around the world. The extensive facilities include a large library of tropical agricultural literature, teaching and research facilities, a laboratory, dairy, greenhouses, herbarium, a seed banks and experimental forest, fruit and vegetable plots.A walk through the grounds features a small lake where water-birds such as the purple gallinule can be spotted. Another trail leading to the Reventazón River also presents good birding opportunities.
Rancho Naturalista is owned by avid North American birders who have recorded over 400 species in the area, and at least 200 species have been recorded on their property. The 50ha/124ac ranch includes a comfortable lodge, which is popular with naturalists and bird-watchers.Hundreds of butterfly species are also seen on the grounds, which lie 900m/2,952ft above sea level and are comprised of montane rain and wet forest. There are many trails throughout the grounds, and horseback riding and birding trips are popular activities. Rancho Naturalista is recommended for travellers looking for birding and nature study in a tranquil environment.
The Reventazón River is one of the most scenic and exciting rivers in Costa Rica, some areas offering Class III and IV white water. The river flows from the (artificial) Cachí Lake at 1,000m/3,280ft above sea level down throughout the eastern mountain slopes to the Caribbean lowlands.This river is a favorite among rafters and kayakers. Apart from the white water sections, there are other flat and placid sections perfect for beginners. The river receives a lot of rainfall so the river can be run year round, however the best months are June and July.
Useful tips: Several companies in San Jose and the Central Valley offer complete river tours. Children younger than 9 years of age cannot ride the river. River tours range from US$69 to US$90, depending on the section of the river toured. All equipment and sometimes lunch is included.
Viborana Park Serpentarium
This serpentarium features a variety of Costa Rican snakes including some unusual albino specimens. Several large boas are also on display.