Can we introduce you to a few things you can do in and around Alajuela or on your way to the next stop?
- Alajuela - Farmers Market/Plaza Ferias
- Alajuela - Museum
- Atenas - Trapiche of Morazan
- Caribbean Botanical Gardens
- Doka Coffee Plantation
- El Toledo Coffee Tour
- Haciaenda Alsacia Coffee Tour (Starbucks)
- La Garita - Botanical Orchid Garden
- La Garita - Zoo Ave
- Grecia, Sarchi & Zarcero
- La Paz Waterfall and the back road to Arenal
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens
- Palmichal - Nacientes Palmichal Rural Community
- Poas - Volcano and Vicinity
- Poas - Freddo Leche Farm Tour
- Poas - Las Colinas Zip Line
- San Ramon - San Luis Hanging Bridges
- Sarchi - Elsie Keintzler Gardens
- Sarchi - former Ox Cart Factory
- Sarchi - Rocking Chair Factory
- San Jose Day Tour
- Where to see Sloths in Costa Rica (pretty much everywhere except here)
Alajuela - Farmers Market/Plaza Ferias
We like the Alajuela Farmers Market AKA Plaza Ferias. Most Fridays we will take a trip to this excellent market about 10 minutes from the Pura Vida Hotel. On "some Fridays" join Chef Nhi on a trip to Plaza Ferias in Alajuela - the largest farmers market in Costa Rica. Book ahead as space is limited. We leave the Pura Vida at about 2:30 pm every Friday afternoon (though we are invariably late). There we'll select the freshest tropical fruits & veggies and perhaps some fresh Pacific fish from our favorite fish stand. In season we will show you how to select and taste the best mango, how to find great Papayas, the nispero stand (mmmm!), the passion fruit family and if we are lucky our favorite "mamones chino" – red and yellow varieties. We will visit the 3 generations of the coconut family and the herb dude and a host of other market friends and acquaintances. We will return to the Pura Vida around 5pm.
LOCAL TIP: you do not need us to guide you at the market, but if you want to learn about how we use neo-trpical fruits and veggies this is a couple of hours you do not want to miss.
Alajuela - Museum
We are working on the whole idea of publicizing the renovated museum http://www.visitcostarica.com/ict/paginas/caminatas_alajuela.asp yet :-)) Better info here http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g309224-d591169-Reviews-Juan_Santamaria_Historical_Museum-Alajuela_Province_of_Alajuela.html. Recommended.
Atenas - The Trapiche of Morazan
This is a wonderful visit but beware the trapiche does not run everyday. The owner also has a nice comida typica restaurant out front so if the trapiche is not running you can still visit the oxen, the trapiche and have a good lunch. If you have a good guide they can sometimes organize it so the trapiche day is your day. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bar-y-Restaurante-Chicharronera-el-Trapiche /157731194430201?ref=stream
If you want to do this email the Pura Vida Hotel and we will see if we can organize the trapiche to be operational on your day.
CBG - on the way to the Caribbean - Caribbean Botanical Garden
A delightful orchid stop on your way to the coast. Take a 2-hour tour with an orchidarium, vanilla garden and more. More info here Caribbean Botanical Garden
Make your transfer into a tour.
Doka Coffee Plantation
Doka coffee is just up the hill from the Pura Vida Hotel. Take a pilgrimage to Doka coffee (20 minutes from the hotel by car or taxi). This is the tour of vintage coffee processing using the water separation method for the coffee aficionados. This is certainly the nicest of all the commercial coffee tours and a great education in the product Costa Rica is most famous for. Doka has 3 tours in the morning and 3 in the afternoon usually just over an hour long each plus some time to sample the coffee and walk the farm.
LOCAL ALTERNATIVE: If you are interested in a family farm trip to understand how a small scale organic coffee farm works in detail - let us know and we can often book you a private tour at El Toledo (see below).
El Toledo Organic Coffee Plantation and tour
This is a somewhat private and up front and personal trip with good friends who really understand coffee. Not too far from the hotel - about 40 minutes or less. Gabriel is famous in the area for telling wonderful stories about his adventures in coffee making. He uses methods that use less water and fully utilize all the coffee by products. If you really want to know about coffee and like non commercial activities, this is for you
Hacienda Alsacia Coffee Plantation (the one that Starbucks built)
This one is the exact opposite to El Toledo. It is an impressive effort by Starbucks to gain a diferent kind of foothold in coffee making and influencing. The place is situated about 1/2 an hour north of the hotel and easy to find on the way to Poas Volcano though very commercial. Starbucks is known to be a fair player in the coffee market and does some interesting things for it's migrant workers. If you want to see both ends of the coffee spectrum see both El Toledo and Alsacia in the same day.
La Garita - Botanical Orchid Garden
La Garita - ZOO AVE (AKA Bird Zoo though it's not)
Step down San Diego, don't bother Munich, fergetabout it London - your famous Zoos have nothing on the tiny gem of a Zoo right here near Alajuela. Actually it only looks like a zoo - behind the public area is a large bird rehabilitation area. The Zoo fees help fund this activity so you are contributing to a good cause. A beautiful natural environment, lots of room and all the animals are rehabilitated or saved from something or are breeding to reintroduce in the wild. It is sometimes difficult to determine which animals are residents and which are just visiting. Just a few minutes from the hotel - more animals than you'll see everywhere else in Costa Rica. Not a bird zoo despite the name - The Nature Restoration Foundation's work can generally divided into three broad areas - rescue and rehabilitation, captive breeding and release and reintroduction of many Costa Rican animals. Take a break with the animals and birds of Costa Rica - a gem not to be missed! An excellent 1/2 day trip. Recommended when you have just a few hours to kill.
Grecia, Sarchi & Zarcero (could be a day trip)
The famous topiary garden outside the Zarcero chruch has been photographed by thousands if not millions. One of the great curiosities of Costa Rica - the special work of our own Edward Scissorhands at the Zarcero church. A wonderful photo opportunity not to be missed and a favorite place Ticos go to get married.
Nestled in the countryside of Costa Rica's Alajuela province (30 to 40 minutes from the Pura Vida Hotel), Sarchi is the perfect place to finish off your trip and find those gifts for family and friends. You can also visit the old ox cart factory with the 1923 water wheel but it has now become part of a gift shop and is not so active anymore. This is also the area to pick our traditional wooden and leather rocking chairs - can be shipped as luggage when you return.
Other things you can do this day include the lovely Elsie Kintzler botanical garden - almost unknown to tourists and easily visited about 2km behind the Sarchi church. I love this garden!
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
About 40km up hill from Pura Vida Hotel and makes an excellent day trip when combined with Poas Volcano. With over 3.5 kilometers of walking trails, they recommend a minimum of 1 1/2 hours for the trip. Waterfall Gardens is a primarily a self-guided tour. The facility includes a most excellent butterfly garden (the Blue Morpho in flight is an amazing sight), a hummingbird garden, a snake area, the famous waterfalls, an orchid house and plenty of trails. Usually you will find yourself lost in amusement with the antics of the hummingbirds or perhaps a Jaguar scratching himself and won't want to leave.
LOCAL TIP: If Poas was too cloudy divert your driver over a few kilometers to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. More adventurous? Tell your driver to keep going to Sarapiqui on the road rarely traveled. Some guests rent a boat up there or stop by a chocolate farm we know.
Palmichal - Nacientes Palmichal
Closest rural community tour to Alajuela - about 90 minutes http://www.nacientespalmichal.com/en/ Not all activities are available all the time but sometimes you can visit the dairy farm, the bio digestor, the chicken farm, have breakfast with a local family etc etc
Poas - Volcano & Vicinity
30km up hill from Pura Vida Hotel you will find Poas Volcano. NOTE: you need to book ahead and register at: http://www.sinac.go.cr/ES/ac/accvc/pnvp/Paginas/default.aspx. If you book a van with us we will register you - we need names and passport numbers of those attending. No need to pay ahead. There is an alternate idea that works some of the time - stop about 2km short of the Poas park entrance and ask the Restaurant Quires to see what is next available slot and they will book it for you for a small fee.
Start early, we will make you a breakfast to go. Leaving at 7am usually assures you a clear view. Poas is a strato volcano that soars 2,708 meters above sea level and is one of the most spectacular volcanoes in Costa Rica. Lately some good sulphurous venting can be seen around the sky blue lake in the center. It certainly is the easiest Volcano to get to in Costa Rica and you can see it from your terrace breakfast table most mornings at the Pura Vida Hotel. Extend the trip and make a nice day trip - drop by La Paz Waterfall Gardens (see below) or the Las Colinas canopy tour and have lunch at their fresh trout restaurant - doesn't get much tastier. Finish the day with run over to Doka coffee plantation. OK so you can't do all 4 things in a day - stay another night?
LOCAL TIP: ask at the gate if you can see the crater, if they say no, head for La Paz and come back to Poas in the afternoon.
More local info (in Spanish) can be found here with the local tourism chamber for Poas. Contact by email: Camara of Tourism Poas Volcano or Phone: + (506) 2482-1211 or on the WEB at: Poas Volcano Costa Rica
Poas - Freddo Leche Tour
From the owners of the excellent Fresas Restaurant on the way up to Poas - milk cows, make cheese, strawberry farm visit, trail https://es-es.facebook.com/pages/Freddo-Leche-Tours/297452883726035?sk=info
Poas - Colinas de Poas Zip Line and Trout Restaurant
Zip line, trout restaurant where you can catch your own lunch, trails http://www.colinasdelpoas.com/
San Ramon - Canopy San Luis
Nice trails, butterfly farm, hanging bridges, zip line, delicious rice and chicken restaurant http://www.sanluiscanopytour.com/
Sarchi - Elsie Kientzler Gardens
A little dificult to find up behind the main church in Sarchi (look for the giant ox cart and then head north). Look for the factory gate and a sign - ask to go in and drive back to the gardens hidden behind this industrial front. A nice visit if the botanist can take you around.
Sarchi - The old Ox cart factory/Fabrica de Carretas Eloy Alfaro
This beautiful old ox cart factory is now part of a large gift shop just about west of the main church in Sarchi. Guests who read the guide books are confused about this as the photo on the Tripadvisor shows the old factory as it was when the Alfaro brothers crafted ox carts and wheels for maybe a century. This is their facebook page.
Sarchi - Rocking Chair Factory
This is on some people's tours though it is very short tour and worth looking at if you are already shopping in Sarchi - go up to Sarchi from Naranjo.
San Jose Tour
Pura Vida Hotel is conveniently situated a good distance from the capital - about 20 km. Many guests want to delve into the famous gold museum or walk down paseo colon or go visit the mercado central. You can get our English speaking taxi driver and see the sights, the sounds and the, well, whatever you want.
The Gold Museum is world class and the National Museum, the old Bella Vista Fortress, has been completely redone - well worth the visit if, like us, you have an interest in Costa Rican "exceptionalism". The National Museum was recently revamped and definitely worth a visit. We also have a brand new Jade Museum. While in San Jose try not to miss the Namu Gallery for the best collection of indigenous arts in the country. It is really a shop but you will not find anything like it even in museums here. San Jose's Mercado Central is impressive and a throw back to the 19th century way of doing "supermarkets". We have a smaller one in Alajuela.
LOCAL TIP: leave your baggage at the hotel and then the guide can also leave the van and show you more of the underbelly of San Jose.
Where to see sloths in Costa Rica?
The answer is pretty much everywhere but not in the cities :-)). The good folks at Mytanfeet came up with this lovely description in your search for sloths. Click on Mytanfeet.