Central Valley: Alajuela: Turu Ba-Ri, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Poás Volcano

The city of Alajuela is home to the Juan Santamaría International Airport, which was Costa Rica’s sole airport until the opening of the Liberia Airport to international flights. The airport is named after a Costa Rican national hero, who as a young boy who set a house in fire where foreign invaders were hidden during the Battle of Rivas in 1856.

The city’s Central Park, the cathedral and the colonial building of the Juan Santamaría Museum are great spots for visitors.

Turu Ba-Ri Tropical Park

All routes to the city of Turrubares provide a scenic trip and curvy roads break through green mountains. And hidden in the midst, the Turu Ba-Ri Tropical Park awaits.

Once an ancient cattle ranch, Turu Ba-Ri is Central America’s biggest tropical park. Seven years ago, the property’s owner decided to create something special. Thus, the 495-acre tropical park was born.

Turu Ba-Ri, an indigenous expression of the ancient Huetar tribe, means “Clear moon river” in allusion to the Greater Tárcoles river.

The entrance to the park is the Sky Ride, an aerial tram 2,000 feet long and 265 feet high. It features a wide view of the park and the Grande de Tárcoles river, an important river.

Turu Ba-Ri Tropical Park has two areas, one for adventure and another comprised of tropical gardens.

To reach the gardens, a guided hiking tour is available. The plant collection includes palms, cactus, bromeliads, orchids and almost 400 species of trees. And as many as 35 different species of butterflies flutter in their natural refuge.

An important feature of the park is its wheel-chair accessibility as all trails and bridges over the stream are paved.

The Countryside Farm features a typical indigenous ranch with utensils and tools used by the Huetares including a corn grinder and a sugar mill.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a private wildlife refuge and nature park located in Vara Blanca, which protects over 70 acres of forest. It features five amazing waterfalls, one dropping 120 feet. Names like Templo, Magia Blanca, Encantada, Escondida and La Paz pay tribute to nature’s grandeur, which undoubtedly will leave visitors in awe.

The nature park also has a Hummingbird garden, which houses the smallest birds in the world, only found in the American continent.

For their size, Hummingbirds have the largest proportional heart and brain of all animals. Their wings beat around 60 times per second, their hearts beat from 500 to 1,200 times per minute and they consume twice their weight daily. Another interesting fact is that their colors are produced by refraction of light and not by pigmentation.

The captivating atmosphere created by Hummingbirds through their colorful wings is quite similar to that of butterflies.

Some 20 butterfly species can be seen in the butterfly observatory, the world’s largest. Species include the monarch, best known for their migration each fall in the northern part of the continent. However, the Costa Rican monarch does not migrate due to the country’s comfortable year-round temperature.

Other species include Morpho peleides, Papilio thoas (known as the Swallow-tail due to its back wings shaped like tails) and 13 different kinds of Heliconius, one of the easiest to observe. Costa Rica has approximately 90% of the butterflies existing in Central America, and about 18% of all butterfly species in the world, because of its huge diversity of zones.

Poás Volcano

This volcano has one of the largest craters in the world, nearly one mile wide and 984 feet deep.

The Poás Volcano National Park, founded in 1971, protects the semi-conical active shape and the four principal habitats around it, mainly the cloud forest. The park receives the largest number of visitors in the country. And it’s understandable, the spectacle of being on the edge of this giant is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The park has some great attractions, including the main crater with its lake of sulfuric acid and steam columns; the Botos Lake, which occupies the extinct cone of another crater; the Von Frantzius cone, the oldest eruptive center at the top, and the visitors’ center with a small museum, souvenirs and coffee shop.

Natural trails feature epiphytes, tree ferns, wild papaya, moss, palms, orchids, bromeliads, pitch apple and oak trees. This habitat includes approximately 80 species of birds including hummingbirds, sooty thrush, quetzal, rufous-collared sparrow, black guan and emerald toucanet. Mammals are not abundant, but it is possible to see rabbits, coyotes, weasels.

Poás is located 25 miles northwest of San José. If driving, use the Pan-American High way to Alajuela and follow the signs. Buses, on the other hand, depart daily from San Jose’s Tuasa station.

Once in the main crater, if symptoms caused by exposure to gases, including coughing, nausea, irritation in the eyes or respiratory tract, the area must be evacuated as a precaution. For safety purposes, stay on marked trails.

Travel Tips

Turrubares is located in between Puriscal and Orotina, with two routes to choose from. The first route is through Puriscal using the Próspero Fernández highway. The second is through Jaco Beach, taking the Turrubares route from Orotina.

If you want to see all the attractions, it is better to arrive in the morning to the area.

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Costa Rica Travel: Travel Information & Tips

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