The Eastern Circle Combo Route (8 hours)
This is great, and roads are respectable the whole way. Leave early in the morning from Adventure Inn and head east through or around San Jose, and follow all signs to Cartago, the first capital of Costa Rica. You will reach it in about 45 minutes. As you enter Cartago look for road signs with a volcano picture and start gently climbing north up the side of 11,080 ft. Irazu Volcano for twenty two kilometers, zig-zagging through the sweet smell of onion fields, and feel the outside temperature drop as Cartago, and the lush Central Mesita slowly sink below in the wide open views. Irazu Volcano has been quiet lately and last erupted in 1963, covering the Cartago area in several inches of ash. Park admission is $7 then take the ten minute walk across the beige/grey moonscape to peer into the two craters, one has turquiose water bubbling and burping sulphur far below. You can imagine the forces created when it does blow. A waterproof windbreaker may come in handy.
Next, descend a total of two vertical miles, through Cartago into the bottom of the Orosi Valley. Not much in the way of colonial architecture remains in Cartago as it has been damaged several times over the years by earthquakes. As you are heading east through Cartago you will see a lovely manicured park around the remains of a large church destroyed before completion in 1910. And further east, the amazing Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels containing a shrine with a tiny figure of La Negrita, the Black Virgin, who appeared to a young girl back in 1635, and gives miraculous healing powers to this day. Each August 2nd, thousands of Ticos from all across Costa Rica converge here after a walking pilgrimage, often taking days, to pay homage to her.
As you continue your descent, just east of Cartago, on the road to Paraiso is the Lankester Gardens displaying some eight hundred of the fourteen hundred known indigenous Costa Rican species of orchids.
Continue past Paraiso taking the most southerly road towards Orosi and enjoy lunch in the Bar/Restaurant Mirador Sanchiri with amazing views of the fertile, steep-sided Orosi Valley a mile below, and the source of the Reventazon River that collects into a lake formed by the Cachi Dam, then continues to flow northeast into the Caribbean.
After lunch zig-zag down the slopes and through several miles of coffee plantations, and you will come to the cute little village of Orosi at the head of the valley. It was settled originally by indigenous people forced to leave the Central Mesita area by the Spanish. Enjoy the rustic country living styles of these relaxed people as they tend their gardens and homes with care. Discover the ruins of the oldest church in Costa Rica built in 1693 near Ujarris on the banks of the lake.
Continue east towards Turrialba, a pleasant town with two claims to fame. First, it is the starting point of perhaps the worlds best whitewater rafting on the Pacuare and Reventazon Rivers. A close, but secretive second is the Rawlings baseball factory where all major league balls are made. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public. I have even stood at their gates to try and catch a glimpse of their operations, but was turned away. Perhaps it is the pathetic 90 and 95 degree sweat box working conditions that they do not want the world to know about, as the average major league baseball player earns a thousand times more than a worker at Rawlings.
Nineteen kilometers northeast of Turrialba is Guayabo National Monument, an excavated pre-Columbian site that dates between 1000 BC and 1400 AD and once supported a population of some ten thousand people. It was abandoned for unknown reasons just prior to the arrival of Columbus. You will find paved roads, stone bridges, building foundations, gravesites and petroglyphs. This civilization could boast of its advanced technology by the use of aqueducts seen throughout, $6 admission, open 8 to 4.
If you are a botany enthusiast, the Center for Agronomy Research and Development three kilometers southeast of Turrialba towards Siquirres is one of the world's leading facilities on tropical agriculture research. Admission into the two thousand acre property is $10 (four person minimum), where you will see hundreds of varieties of cacao and thousands of varieties of coffee collected from all over the world, trees used for food purposes, and ornamental plants.
From here, enjoy the pleasant undulating drive over the hilly terrain to Siquirres, with the occasional views of the Reventazon and Pacuare Rivers far below, and the ever present Turrialba Volcano, part of the Irazu massif to the west and north.
From Siquirres, San Jose is about ninety minutes west along Highway 32, past Guapiles then climb a mile vertically through scenic Braulio Carrillo National Park with dense vegetation, poor man's umbrellas, and endless waterfalls along the way, especially in the wet season.
Once you cross the continental divide and descend into San Jose, follow all signs directing you towards the airport to get to Adventure Inn.