Sitting in the rural country side of the Cartago province, is Turrialba, a small farming town with a certain charm thqt attracts visitors interested in a less touristic area of Costa Rica. Mostly known for agriculture and textiles, it’s popularity as a tourist destination is growing with authentic local experiences, outdoor adventure, historical landmarks and an active volcano.
Turrialba Travel Tips
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Turrialba Costa Rica Map and Location
Turrialba is in the Cartago province.
The city is 54 kilometers east from San Jose and is known as the gateway to the Caribbean. The town grew immensely due to the railroad many years ago when it was functioning.
The city is actually not very big when compared to the Central Valley cities like Heredia and San Jose. Since it’s not very touristic, experiencing local life comes easily. Additionally, the University of Costa Rica is right in town so visitors can witness Costa Ricans going about their normal life of work and school.
It also has an interesting mix of city and farming cultures. Only a few kilometers up in the mountains of the city towards the small towns of Santa Cruz is one of the biggest farming communities in Costa Rica, growing many vegetables and making the famous Turrialba cheese. Due to the importance of farming in the area, visitors can enjoy learning about the agriculture culture of Costa Rica.
Like a typical city, Turrialba experiences traffic and has all the basic facilities like pharmacies, banks, restaurants, buses, etc. Most locals work either in farming, textiles or tourism. The Rawlings Major League Baseball factory played a huge part in the area’s economy, providing many jobs for locals. However, they have unfortunately closed recently forcing locals to search elsewhere for work.
Luckily, tourism in Turrialba is growing significantly and more hotels, tour operators and companies are being established every year.
Due to its location past the Caribbean slope, Turrialba experiences an interesting climate. In the city, it is hot with temperatures around 90’s in dry season (mid December to beginning of May). However, the Caribbean experiences a bit of a different weather pattern so it can rain more and longer during the typical tropical rainy season (May to beginning of May) which is why this area is so great for farming and agriculture.
Up in the mountains like near Guayabo, Santa Cruz and the national park, the weather is much cooler and fresher with temperatures in the 80’s and cooler down at night.
Things to do and Attractions in Turrialba
Turrialba Volcano National Park
The main attraction is Turrialba Volcano National Park. This volcano has made international headlines the past year or so with its many intense eruptions, spewing ash as far as the Central Valley.
Though the national park is closed, visitors can still drive up to the park entrance and get very close to the volcano. The views on the drive up at beautiful as well which makes for some nice pictures.
River Rafting and Kayaking
This area has several excellent rivers for white water rafting and kayaking, making it a hot spot for outdoor adventurers. Rio Pacuare and the Rio Pejibaye are just two of the several great rivers where tourists can white water raft rapids up to Class 4 and 4+ or learn how to river kayak.
There are also river kayaking competitions and many locals are professional competitors or tour guides.
Turrialba cheese is one of the most iconic Costa Rican products that you can find in every supermarket. However, if you want to try the freshest and most authentic, then you have to take a tour at one of the local farms.
We visited Finca La Florita, a small farm run by a mother-daughter team whose ancestors were one of the original people to make the cheese. It was super interesting to learn about the process, how they run their farm and the eco-friendly steps they’ve taken to offset their carbon and methane production from having cows.
Not far from the city is the Guayabo Monument, one of the most important historical sites in Costa Rica. There you can explore the remains of an ancient civilization, dating back to the pre-Columbian times.
Take a guided tour to learn about the history and speculations archaeologists have about this civilization.
Turrialba is one of the stops of the Ruta de los Conquistadores, the toughest mountain bike race in the world. The surrounding mountains make for excellent biking, with people all over the world visiting for that specific reason.
You can read about other things to do in Turrialba in this post.
There aren’t nearly as many hotels in Turrialba compared to other cities or beach towns in Costa Rica. You’ll find more boutique inns and lodges to compliment the rural countryside and agriculture culture of the area. We stayed at Guayabo Lodge which was extremely close to the national park, Santa Cruz town and Guayabo Monument so it was very convenient.
There are a handful of good restaurants for local and international cuisine. These are the ones we liked.
Bar Treinta Y Tantos: This place has awesome drinks, a fun bar atmosphere and good bar food.
Betico Mata: Great place for gallos (Costa Rican snacks) and beef.
Wok and Roll: Not a bad place for Asian fusion.
Soda across the street from UCR (can’t remember the name)
Thoughts on Visiting
As Turrialba is still an under the radar town in Costa Rica, it’s an excellent choice for visitors who don’t want to go to super touristic destination and those who enjoy nature, local life and outdoor adventure. If you are visiting, we recommend staying a few nights so you can experience both the city, volcano and small towns in the area.
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