Turrialba, Costa Rica is less than two hours from the capital city of San Jose, but feels worlds away. This small agricultural village is too off-the-beaten path for most tour groups so it’s rarely full of tourists, yet it offers much to those who visit: breathtaking views, strong organic coffee, outstanding grass-fed cheese, world class white water rapids, and the country’s largest archeological site, Guayabo National Monument.Guayabo National Monument — Photo courtesy of Adam Singer Within the expansive archeological site, an ancient civilization constructed a complex aqueduct system and left behind mysterious petroglyphs containing messages that have yet to be deciphered. Some of what has has been excavated is on display at the Museo de Oro-Precolombino in San Jose, but there is plenty of ground that has yet to be covered and many pieces remain in-situ.
The Rio Pacuare that runs through Turrialba, Costa Rica offers the most scenic rafting in the country, and some say all of Central America. Flanked by lush rainforest and steep canyons down the Caribbean slope, the Rio Pacuare offers a combination of fierce runs and some calm spots for taking in some of the tropical rainforest landscape that surrounds you. The Rio Pacuare’s rapids can be accesses year round, however June to October are the peak months, and they range in class from II to V. There are tour agencies in Turrialba that can book your trip, but excursions can also be arranged from most hotels in San Jose.
In Santa Cruz de Turrialba, queso is the name of the game. This tiny town is the production mecca of the country's most coveted cheese, claiming 250 dairy farms and 150 cheese making operations within its tiny borders. The annual Feria de Queso draws foodies from all over to taste the eponymous Turrialba cheese.
The rarely visited Parque Nacional Volcan Turrialba offers an excellent opportunity to explore a volcano summit; Turrialble last erupted in 1866, and the surrounding park around the volcano is a lush eco-system full of exotic flora and fauna- more than 80 species of birds inhabit the small area.
Getting to Turrialba is simple; a direct public bus runs on the hour from the city of San Jose, takes less than two hours, and costs less than $5. Driving is almost as easy, since it’s only one road once you navigate your way out of the city.