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SOUTHERN

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LOOKING FOR A TRAVEL ADVENTURE IN SOUTHERN?

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THE SOUTH OF COSTA RICA
The Interamericana highway leaves San José in an easterly direction, going around Cartago before heading south. The highest point is 3.300 meters, close to the peak known as Cerro de la Muerte which is 3.491 meters. It is located 100 km to the south of San José and is almost always covered in fog. The next 30 km of this route are dangerous; the road steeply slopes down to San Isidro de El General 700 meters away. It is the first large city to the south of Cartago and is the main entrance to Chirripó National Park, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica, at 3.820 meters. From San Isidro, the Interamericana continues to the southeast, passing by the agricultural plains until reaching the border with Panama, some 200 km away. There are roads that lead to some of the most remote and protected areas in the country, the International Park La Amistad and the Wilson Botanical Garden. The small numbered yellow tipped posts, are dotted along the main road to the south of San José, they mark the kilometers.

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Choose between these 17 exiting destinations in the Southern area

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COSTA RICAN SOUTHERN AREA MAP

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WHERE TO GO & WHAT TO DO

You are about to learn about 17 of the most important and exiting places in the Costa Rican Southern.

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1. THE SAVEGRE VALLEY

his product is a joint effort of the Project for Sustainable Development of the Rio Savegre Hydrographic valley and the National Institute for Biodiversity, it’s allows tourists to get closer to the natural and cultural riches in the hydrographic valley of the Río Savegre, as well as offering tourist accommodation, meals and attractions to visit in the area. The characteristic landscape of this area shows a mosaic where natural ecosystems co-exist with high biological diversity. Visitors can enjoy the different footpaths from the Savegre, a mix of attractions, which range from the clear and noisy waters of the rushing streams, the calm tall oak trees, the picturesque rural communities camouflaged by the forest, with adventure activities, such as rafting that assure you will have a unique experience. The valley of the Río Savegre is located on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca Cordillera, in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica. It has an extension of approximately 590 km2, which represents 1, 15 % of Costa Rican territory.
 
Its Inhabitants
The inhabitants of the valley are mainly farmers that live in 35 rural communities, mostly located in the middle or lower part of the valley. The total population in this area is 3.802 people. These two sectors present the largest populations, communication lines and services, as well as the production of agricultural crops.

 

 

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2. LOS SANTOS ROUTE

It is a picturesque trip that takes you along secondary roads that part from the Interamericana and then to the north to return to San José, passing by the villages of San Pablo de León Cortés, San Marcos de Tarrazú, Santa María de Dota and San Cristóbal South and North.  The route allows you to see the beautiful landscapes of Coffee plantations and cattle. The roads are narrow and foggy, and snake through the splendid countryside.  

 

 

 

 

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3. SAN GERARDO DE DOTA

It was colonized a little more than have a century ago. The first populations dedicated themselves to the craft production of oak carbon. Later the production of agricultural products such as apples, blackberries, peaches and dates became important. Agriculture combined with tourism makes the most of the interest of the international and national visitors, allowing them to enjoy their climate, the biological diversity and the hospitality of the neighbors. It is a farming community that extends along the western foothills of the Cerro de la Muerte; it is famous for bird watching. During the months of April and May, during the nurturing period you can see quetzals regularly and during other times of the year, it is one of the best places in the country to observe this species. You can go trout fishing in the Río Savegre.

 

 

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4. MACIZO DE LA MUERTE SCENIC ROUTE

 

From San José-Cartago: If you arrive from San José, heading towards the city of Cartago, following the Florencio del Castillo highway. Instead of entering Cartago continue along the Interamericana to the south that goes along the Talamanca Cordillera and the Macizo de la Muerte. On this road, the kilometers are marked by small cement posts along the way and are always used to give directions. Approximately around the 70 kilometer post, the highest areas of the Savegre are on your right. The road serves as a limit of the valley. The entrance to San Gerardo de Dota, where you will find the largest offering for tourists, is at the height of kilometer 80. The entrance to the División is located on the 107 kilometer mark.

 

This is the highest point of the Interamericana; it is so called because before the road was built people traveled on foot or with ox drawn carts and because of the immense cold in the area many died.   Permanently wrapped in fog, it is famous for being one of the most dangerous roads in Costa Rica. During the rainy season, landslides can partially or totally block the roads. During the dark and foggy nights, visibility can be very bad, so it is better not to travel during the night.

 

 

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5. SAN ISIDRO DE PÉREZ ZELEDÓN

If you come from San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón, take the south Interamericana highway to Cartago. You will quickly go along the Talamanca Cordillera and the Macizo de la Muerte. Approximately at kilometer 110, the high valley of the Río Savegre is to your left. The road serves as a limit of the valley. The kilometers are marked by small cement posts along the road and these are usually used to give directions. The entrance to the División is located at the 107 kilometer post. The entrance to San Gerardo de Dota, is the largest area for tourist sites in the high valley, it is located at kilometer 80.

 

Some 138 km from San José. Since the colonial period several people tried to find a way through the mountains of Talamanca that join the Central Valley with the remote lands on the other side of the Dota mountain region. Finally at the end of 1860, Pedro Calderón, in response to a reward that was offered by the government, found a road through the mountains. The opening of the road lead to the valley of El General, and after the construction of the Interamericana Highway, it united San José and the Central Valley with the south of Costa Rica. Take the road from San José via Cartago. When you pass through this city, take the highway to San Isidro. The itinerary through the El General valley includes the spectacular Cerro de la Muerte, 3.491 meters in altitude. A highway to the northeast takes you to the village of San Gerardo de Rivas, where you will find the forest post of the Chirripó National Park. To the southeast another road goes along the Pacific coast and to the Dominical beaches, you can do a return trip from San José to Dominical, and to the Manuel Antonio National Park on this road.

 

Celebrations

At the end of January or during the first week in February the annual festival is celebrated. They carry out expositions and agricultural competitions, as well as horticultural and industrial competitions. San Isidro is the patron of farmers, and they take their crops to the village so that they can be blessed on the 15th of May, the day of this saint.

 

 

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6. SAN GERARDO OF RIVAS

Some 22 km to the northeast of San Isidro, this village of 1.350 meters altitude, is the point of access for the Chirripó National Park. The climate is pleasant and you can go on excursions and bird watch around the village as well as in the park. To go up to the mountain or to visit the hot springs, entry is 2 US$; open from 07:00 a.m to 06:00 p.m, continue along the road to Herradura and walk 1 km to the north, from the forest post there is a sign that points to the right. If you follow this footpath for 1 km until you get to a house, the owner will charge you an entry fee to stay in the hot springs, and spend the night; the house has a few rooms and a small soda.

 

Information

The Chirripó forest post is 1 km from the village, on the road to San Isidro. On passing this post the road forks, you will need to take a right turn to San Gerardo, if you take a turn to the left you will arrive at the village of Herradura, some 3 km away.

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7. CHIRRIPO NATIONAL PARK

Located 150 km to the south of San José, and 26 km to the north of San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón, on the mountain of the same name, with an extension of 50.150 hectares. Its main attraction is its diverse habitat: with high barren plains, oak forests, fern forests, cloud forests, marshes, glacier lakes with crystal waters, and it is the highest mountain at 3.820 meters above sea level and of the south of Central America. It is the main mountainous park of Costa Rica and one of the largest protected areas in the country.

 

Information

MINAE + 506 2771-5116 + 506 2771-3155 + 506 2771-4836. It is very cold during the nights, and you will need to take a coat and a sleeping bag. The forest post, on the outskirts of San Gerardo de Rivas, is a good place to find out about the weather conditions and know how many people are in the park. You pay the entry to the park at the forest post, it is valid for two days 18 US$. You can also park you car close to the post, and store your equipment. The horses can be rented from a local association and the best idea is to take a local guide, the prices are 23 US$ a day for a guide and a carry horse.

 

 

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8. BUENOS AIRES DE PUNTARENAS

It is a village that is located 64 km to the south east of San Isidro and 3km to the north of the Interamericana, it is the center of an important region of pineapple producers. It has a plaza filled with trees, two banks, a gas station, a disco and other services. It is also the entrance to La Amistad International Park, as well as several other indigenous reserves that are situated to the north and the Boruca indigenous reserve, to the south. A road to the east of Buenos Aires crosses remote fields and indigenous reserves, and then finally joins the road to San Vito en Jabillo.

 

Boruca Indigenous Reserve

Located on the outskirts of the Boruca village, some 20 km to the south of Buenos Aires, 28 km to the west of the Interamericana Highway. The indigenous community of Boruca is well known for its crafts, such as balsa wood masks and decorated pots. The women use pre Columbian material to sew cotton cloths and belts. When crossing this area via the Interamericana, you can stop in the Curré community, where a small cooperative sells the arts and crafts that have been made by Boruca.

 

Celebrations

The Festival of Los Diablitos, is a three day celebration starting on the 31st of December and ending on the 2nd of January. The men use devil masks made from wood and suits; it represents the fight of the indigenous against the Spanish conquest, a man dresses up as a bull and loses the battle. Visitors are charged for taking photos, so take the ticket you are given to make it clear that you have paid. Another festival that is held during the first week of December, to another the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, the festival of Los Negritos, with dance and costumes and traditional indigenous music, playing drums and bamboo flutes.

 

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9. DURIKA BIOLOGICAL RESERVE

Asociación Durika + 506 2730-0657.E-mail: peregrino@racsa.co.cr  www.duricka.org. Located 17 km to the North of Buenos Aires, on the foothills of Durika on the Talamanca Cordillera and forms part of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve. It is a 700 hectare private reserve. The reserve opened in 1992 the main activities include on foot excursions and bird watching. Offering one day excursions and also spending a night, camping trips to the nearby waterfalls, to the indigenous village of Cabécar in Ujarrás where arts and crafts are available for purchase and the local farms, going up to the summit of Durika at a height of 3.280 meters, in the International Park La Amistad, you can go horse riding, take yoga classes, vegetarian meals and meditation. There are five single cabins for 38 US$ per person a night, including accommodation and three meals, double 48 US$, 3 nights accommodation, three meals and transport to Buenos Aires, reservation needed. All have private bathrooms and terraces with views of the mountains. Tariffs include vegetarian meals (Bio Ovo Vegetarian ).

 

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10. CIUDAD CORTÉS

 

It is a town with the category of city and first district of the Osa canton, in the province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. The city is a small port on the shores of the Térraba River, 10 kilometers from its mouth in the Pacific Ocean, in the south of the country. The district has an area of 226.19 km² and has a population close to 10,000 inhabitants. In pre-Hispanic times it was inhabited by the Bruncas and Diquis who were characterized by their great development of the art of stone spheres, leaving it as a legacy to the current inhabitants. At the beginning of the 19th century, Chiricans, who were later joined, between 1912 and 1915, by a few Costa Ricans, formed the Hamlet of El Pozo, (Today Puerto Cortés), where they dedicated themselves to growing rice and cattle raising. In 1910 colonization began, with which the city began to form. In 1955 the town acquired the category of town, and in 1957 the title of city was conferred on it.

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11. PALMAR NORTH AND SOUTH

It is the same city on one side and at the other side of the Río Grande de Térraba Bridge, is 125 km to the south of San Isidro and 95 km northeast of the border with Panamá. The village is in the center of the banana region in the Diquis Valley and is also the center for transportation. You will have to pass through here to get to Sierpe, to Bahía Drake, and to the Corcovado National Park. This area is of great interest to archeologists because of the discovery of large almost perfect spheres; some are as big as 1.5 meters in diameter. In Palmar Norte, you will find hotels, a bus service and a gas station. Palmar Sur has an airport.
 

 

 

 

 

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12. FROM PALMAR NORTE TO CIUDAD NEILY

 

Some 40 km to the southeast of Palmar Norte, the Interamericana pass by the Chacarita crossing. The only road that enters the Osa Peninsula and leaves from the Interamericana at this point, in a south easterly direction. From Palmar Norte, to the south of the Interamericana highway, drive 48 km from Chacarita to Villa Briceño it is 37 Km, drive to

 

Esquinas Rainforest Lodge. Look for the exit sign. Follow the dirt road via La Gamba al Albergue 5 km away. Continue for a further 14 km and you will arrive at Río Claro which has cabins, restaurants, a gas station and a Banco Nacional, it is located at the junction with the road to Golfito, in Dulce Gulf there is a gas station, several restaurants and accommodation.

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13. CIUDAD NEILY


Located 17 km to the northeast of the Panama border, it is also known as Villa. It is the center of operations for the banana and palm oil plantations in Coto Colorado, to the south of the city.  It is only 50 km above sea level; it is a warm and humid place. A winding road heads towards the mountains to the north of Neily, heading towards the beautiful village of San Vito, some 30 km away, it is located at an altitude of 1.000 meters. From here the roads and buses go towards Panamá and to the small agricultural settlements.
 
Of all of these, the closer cities of Golfito and San Vito are the most interesting.The visitor will find hotels and cabins where he can spend the night, and also sodas and restaurants. There are also some tourism centers near from the city that offer a nice place to have a good time in the day. Between the services that these centers offer are the swimming pools, soccer place, green zones and restaurants. In the city of Ciudad Neily you can find a Hospital, the Banco Popular, Banco Nacional and the Banco de Costa Rica and also the Coopealianza, schools, colleges and just there in that same place are the buildings of Universidad Nacional (National University). In Ciudad Neily there is all kind of commerce, such as fuel station, stores, hardware shops, home supplies stores, restaurants, drugstores, hotels, cabins, supermarkets and bakeries. Regarding to the services, in Ciudad Neily are also available the services of lawyers, topographers, doctors, dentists, and fire station between other.
 
 
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14. PASO CANOAS BORDER WITH PANAMA

 

Is located on the Interamericana, on the border with Panamá, which makes it the main point of entry between Costa Rica and the neighboring country. It is a border city that is very popular with Tucos who come to buy cheaper products compared to San José. The hotels and stores are on the Costa Rican side. Tourists that leave from Costa Rica should go directly to the border, situated 200 meters away, close to the TRACOPA terminal.

 

 

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15. SAN VITO

The Villa Neilly-San Vito highway was built in 1945 by the United States as a military security measure as it is a region that is situated to the west of the Panama Canal. The road is asphalt and goes up to San Vito, a small village that is located 960 meters above sea level.  San Vito was founded by Italian immigrants after the war and received support from the Costa Rican government to settle here. The Guaymi Indians sometimes come to the city, without shoes and with their traditional clothes. The bus continues the route via Sabalito, a village that has a gas station and a hotel before you arrive at San Vito. Other buses take a more direct route, from Agua Buena, passing by the Wilson Botanical Gardens, some 6 km from San Vito.

 

 

 

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16. LAS CRUCES BILOGICAL STATION & WILSON BIOLOGICAL GARDEN

 

Las Cruces Biological Station and Wilson Biological Garden + 506 2524-0628  + 506  2524-0629. Located in Las Cruces, 6 kilometers from San Vito. Address in San José: Sabanilla, 200 meters east and 25 meters south of the UNED, inside the Center of Investigation of the UCR. E-mail: nat-hist@ots.ac.cr www.esintro.co.cr www.ots.ac.cr.  Entry 6 US$; open every day  from 08:00 a.m to 04:00 p.m. Las Cruces, is the best Botanical garden in Costa Rica, and has the most important collection of plants in Central America with more than 1.000 species. With an extension of 12 hectares and surrounded by another 254 of natural forest, the garden was created by   Robert and Catherine Wilson in 1963. In 1973 it went under the protection of the Organization for Tropical Studies (OET), and in 1983 it formed part of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO. Accommodation: Offering equipped cabins 2 single beds, private bathroom, fan and balcony. Single/ double 78/ 70 US$, extra person 63 US$, children from 5 to 12 years of age 25 US$. Meals: served in the dining room which has a capacity for 75 people, serving buffet style meals, at fixed hours, for breakfast lunch and dinner.

 

 

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17. LA AMISTAD NATIONAL PARK

https://areasyparques.com/ 
 
It has an extension of 195.000 hectares; it is the largest protected area in Costa Rica. It is known as the International Park because it crosses the border with Panama. Next to two other National Parks that are on the border, indigenous reserves and biological parks, La Amistad is part of an immense biological corridor that protects a large variety of tropical habitats, that range from the tropical rainforest to the high barren plains, which has attracted the attention of biologists, ecologists and conservationists from around the world. In 1982, UNESCO declared this area the Biosphere Reserve of La Amistad, and a year later received the status of Heritage for Humanity.  Conservation International and other organizations continually work with the Costa Rican authorities to put into practice an adequate management plan.
 
Information
The MINAE office in San Vito + 506 2773-3955. Entry costs 6 US$ every day and camp for some 2 US$. The Central Office of the park is in the Altamira station, close to the protected area of Las Tablas, that is the area that is best equipped; there is a forest post, a small exhibition room about flora and fauna from the park, a camping area, bathrooms with drinking water, electricity and a security tower.

 

 

 

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