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Things to Do in Central Valley - page 2

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Sarchi

The quaint town of Sarchí is famous throughout Costa Rica for its handicrafts. From the brightly painted oxcarts that were once used in the coffee industry to decorated bowls, handmade jewelry, leather goods, and furniture, visitors looking for memorable souvenirs should plan to visit the town, only an hour’s drive from San José.

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Metallic Building (Ed)ificio Metálico)

This easy-to-spot structure was built in Brussels and imported to Costa Rica via France in 1896. Upon arrival in San Jose, it served as one of the country’s very first schools. Because the original site was mostly swamplands, the Belgian company constructed the individual iron pieces overseas before assembling them onsite, once they arrive in Costa Rica.

Today, Metallic Building serves as homage to public education and two primary schools—Buenaventura Corrales and Julia Lang—still operate inside its historic halls. Visitors can explore the grounds on their own, or participate in one of the city’s historic walking tours to learn more about this iconic building.

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Yellow House (Casa Amarilla)

Built using funds donated by Andrew Carnegie in 1912, Costa Rica’s Yellow House(Casa Amarilla) is a noteworthy (and noticeable!) building that houses the Central American Court of Justice. It has since been appropriated for use as a presidential home, a temporary facility for the Legislative Assembly and, most often, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cult.

Travelers can explore the grounds on their own or take a self-guided tour through one of San Jose’s most famous buildings. Once a week, local history experts offer official tours, which include a visit to the Museum Marques Manuel Maria Peralta, a gallery named after one of the country’s most important diplomats that is stationed on site.

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Escazu
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Costa Rica is known for its diverse wildlife, breathtaking waterfalls, dense rainforest and endless outdoor adventures. But the Central Valley neighborhood of Escazu offers travelers a taste of a different Costa Rica—one that’s filled with modern architecture, posh homes and even an exclusive country club. Visitors say this hip spot is the perfect place to enjoy the best of big city life in a neighborhood that rocks a more laidback country vibe.

Travelers can wander the main streets lined with big name stores and unique boutiques or tuck into a meal at one of Escazu’s exclusive restaurants for a relaxing lunch or world-class dinner. State of the art gyms and well-kept bed and breakfasts mean visitors looking to escape the city for a weekend and experience a slice of true Costa Rican life can have it all in Escazu.

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Plaza de la Cultura
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As far as city squares go, Plaza de la Cultura leaves much to be desired. That’s because its unremarkable architecture and mostly concrete designs tend to make it one of the less visually pleasing squares in this colorful city.

Still, travelers in search of a true taste of San Jose life will do well to visit this busy square, where locals gather after weekend shopping trips and stay well into the night. Ice cream vendors sell sweet, cool treats, which are perfect for taking the edge off a steamy afternoon. Plaza de la Cultura is typically teeming with street performers and vendors and a nearby police tower means that even with the crowds, it’s still one of the safest places in the city.

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Sarapiqui River (Rio Sarapiquí)
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In 1856 this iconic Costa Rican river transported weapons, soldiers and food during the war against the filibusters. Today, Sarapiqui River (Rio Sarapiquí) has been named a national monument and is one of the country’s top destinations. Adventurous travelers can navigate the raging rapids of level III and IV white waters, while laid back visitors and families searching for fun can opt for a relaxing day tour or rive safari.

The surrounding mountains, as well as the La Selva Biological Reserve are home to scenic landscapes and plenty of wildlife. During a river safari, keep eyes peeled for turtles, sloths, monkeys and iguanas, as well as colorful tropical birds found only here! And travelers who prefer to keep their feet on land can still catch their share of rugged beauty on hikes on the reserve’s epic trails.

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Doka Estate
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Costa Rica has some of the world’s most flavorful coffee and travelers who favor this bold brew can see how these prized beans make it from farm to table on a tour of Doka Estate. This iconic plantation puts visitors right up close to the production and practices of this age-old crop. Travelers can tour the grounds, see where workers hand-pick coffee berries from prized plants and even sample some of the eight roasts the Doka Estate creates on site.

Organized small-group, on-site tours ensure visitors receive personalized attention and loads of information, while the plantation’s gift shop, Casa de Artesanias, is filled with unique and flavorful items picked fresh from the farm that are perfect souvenirs for friends and family back home. The Doka Estate is also home to a Bonsai Tree and Orchid Garden, as well as a Butterfly Farm, making it the ideal place to spend the day exploring some of Costa Rica’s natural wonders.

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La Paz Waterfall Gardens
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From jaguars to capuchin monkeys, more than 100 animal species reside at this scenic nature park. Stop by to take in the animal exhibits, dine at the restaurant, and walk the 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers) of well-maintained trails, which take you past five waterfalls scattered throughout the rain forest and cloud forest.

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Turu Ba Ri Tropical Park

Imagine soaring at 55mph while 300 feet above ground. Unlike a standard zipline, however, you’re stomach down in a “Superman” position, arms extended before you, as you fly across a lush preserve of Costa Rican forest. This is just one of the adventures available at Turubari Tropical Park, a 538-acre reserve between San José and the sea. Aside from the aerial, “Superman” cable, visitors can strap in a harness and helmet and ride the 8 different ziplines, or spend a few hours up in the saddle while horseback riding through gardens. The park is comprised of over 70,000 plants, and trained guides lead nature hikes that discuss the area’s natural flora and pristine mountain habitat. Because the park is an hour from the coast, it’s a popular choice for shore excursions while docking in Puntarenas.

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Kalambu Hot Springs Water Park

A relaxing visit to the local hot springs in the uplands of La Fortuna is a must, and Kalambu Hot Springs Water Park offers the chance not only to sit and soak, but also to have some wet and wild fun. Visitors can relax in thermally heated pools near the base of the Arenal Volcano, while enjoying the thrills you’d expect at a modern waterpark.

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More Things to Do in Central Valley

Irazu Volcano National Park

Irazu Volcano National Park

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Home to the highest active volcano in Costa Rica, Irazu Volcano National Park serves up some extraordinary panoramas. Think lush tangles of forest, gnarly cliffs of volcanic rock, and emerald-green crater lakes, all beneath an ethereal canopy of clouds.

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Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa

Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa

Far from the tourist center of La Fortuna, the village of El Castillo offers a more secluded place to view Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano. Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa, one of the few hotels on this side of the mountain, offers impressive views of the volcano, plus well-maintained hiking, horseback riding, and mountain-biking trails.

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