One of Costa Rica’s most underrated travel destinations, Turrialba is a sensational spot for an adrenaline-filled adventure vacation destination. Nestled in the province of Cartago in the country’s central highlands and traversed by two spectacular rivers – the Reventazon and the Pacuare – Turrialba is the country’s #1 hub for white-water rafting expeditions. It is from here that we run some of our most sensational and popular adventure vacations in Costa Rica and we couldn’t think of a better and more rewarding destinations for unforgettable outdoor adventures.
Although way off the common tourist trail and certainly not featured in most travel brochures, Turrialba is well-known among dedicated circles, its striking active volcano, pristine rainforests, gorgeous countryside and quaint villages attracting adventure-seekers who crave a unique journey in Costa Rica, one that isn’t overcrowded, over-commercialised and overdone. Once upon a time, Turrialba was a popular stop-over point for those seeking to reach the Caribbean Coast from the capital, San Jose, but since the opening of a more direct route, the charming town is now back to what it once was: a chilled out little place coveted for its amazing cheese and for its smorgasbord of exceptional outdoor adventures, including mountain biking, horseback riding, zip-lining and, of course, anything that can be done on raging rivers like kayaking and rappelling.
Thanks to its incredibly fertile soil, the region around Turrialba is heavily reliant on its agricultural roots and here you’ll find some of Costa Rica’s best artisan cheese, coffee, nuts and fresh produce, much of it which feeds the rest of the country. The rural landscapes are picturesque and the towns here are quaint, with impressive archaeological sights offering alternatives on ‘rest’ days. Even if you’re not an adrenalin-junkie, we bet you’ll love Turrialba and its abundance of soft adventure options like foodie tours, leisurely horseback rides in the countryside and gentle hikes.
There’s a lot to see and do in Turrialba, so why not get off the usual tourist trail and come see what this hidden corner of Costs Rica has to offer?
Just 12 miles east of San Jose and a perfect first-stop on your way to Turrialba, the city of Cartago is the capital of the region and revered for being home to a sacred statue of the Madonna and for being the first truly successful city to be established in Costa Rica by the Spanish. Cartago carries over five centuries of history on its shoulders and was the country’s original capital before the seat of the government was moved to San Jose in 1823, a spot deemed to be safer – due to nearby volcanoes. Nowadays, Cartago attracts locals and tourists alike on Sundays as it hosts one of the most colourful markets in the region but the city really is a very rewarding place to explore at any time. The Basilica is a visual feast bar none and the city’s Botanic Gardens, home of Central America’s largest collection of orchids, is an absolutely gorgeous place to visit. Cartago is the springboard for visits to nearby national parks, including Irazu and Poas.
Heading east, you’ll come across the Orosi Valley, a place so beautiful you’ll want to plan for an overnight stay. The small town of Orosi boasts the oldest church in the country yet aside from the architectural delights, you’ll find the valley to be a spectacular visual feast. Plenty of viewpoints along the road offer 1001 reasons to stop and snap a photo. You’ll find quite a few hotels here to stretch your road trip an extra night.
Immensely charming and devoid of gargantuan resorts and hotels, Turrialba is one of the most laid-back towns in Costa Rica, one that has magically dodged the kind of over-development seen in the east. The town attracts adventure seekers thanks to its convenient location: nearby is where you’ll find almost two-dozen canyons that are a thrill-seeker’s ultimate playground. A handful of boutique hotels, some really cool cafés, fantastic restaurants and craft shops make for blissful stays and it is really no surprise that this precious spot is the heart and soul of our operation. There’s simply no other place we’d rather get totally drenched!
Turrialba Volcano National Park
One of the most captivating yet least-visited national parks in all of Costa Rica, Turrialba is an absolute gem of Mother Nature with an active volcano as its glistening crown jewel. The peak sits at just over 10,000ft, granting breath-taking views of Poas and Irazu peaks, as well as the Atlantic Coast, on a crystal-clear day. When the park is open (bar any threatening volcanic activity) you’ll find three craters to visit among almost 4000 acres of pristine forests. A series of hiking trails and plenty of wildlife make this a stunning destination for nature lovers. Do note that as one of the country’s most active volcanoes, Turrialba is often closed to the public for an extended period yet there are plenty of spots (and beautiful lodges) that offer awesome views and rewarding hikes nearby.
Guayabo Archaeological Site & National Park
Just a few miles out of Turrialba Town is where you’ll find the Guayabo National Monument, Costa Rica’s largest and most important ancient site. This fascinating indigenous citadel was built over a period of 2500 years (starting from 1000BC) and was as complete a city as any you’d see of the era, including aqueducts, private dwellings, religious buildings and walls, all intricately carved and once brimming with priceless artefacts. An engineering feat for its time and still an impressive place nowadays, Guayabo has been recognised for its prominence and advanced design and a walking tour of the site is a real journey back in time. Archaeological digging here is still ongoing and history lovers ought to check out the Museum of Jade and Gold in San Jose, before heading up here, where many of the treasures found at Guayabo are on display. The citadel is in the heart of a stunning national park and the whole landscape is evocative beyond words. Tae a guide to get the most out of your visit as the information boars are limited. There’s so much to learn about this place!
Costa Rica Rios – We love sharing our corner of Costa Rica paradise with discerning explorers who want to get off the well-trodden trail and have the adventure of a lifetime in one of the most magnificent places on earth. Fancy a week of exceptional adventures, including rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, horse-riding, rappelling and hiking? Then Turrialba is where you’ll want to be! Take a look at our Costa Rica Adventure Vacation packages, you’ll get a titillating taste of all the amazing adventures you can have here with us.