Road trip in the Highlands

(continuer en français) – Published: June 5, 2021

The Central American isthmus is built around a series of cordilleras to which the coastal plains cling. In the tropics, the humid heat of the plains is often difficult to bear away from the coastline, which benefits from the sea breeze. The hills in the centre of the country were therefore the first region to be colonised by the Spaniards due to their more suitable climate.

An economy based on agricultural exports developed here, mainly coffee and bananas, which have long been an important resource for Costa Rica. The beautiful and preserved natural areas have more recently favoured ecotourism with the organisation of several national parks.

Around La Fortuna

In the north of Costa Rica, there are several volcanoes, some of them are still moderately active. Near the Arenal volcano, the small town of La Fortuna is a good base for visiting the area and its natural sights. Nearby, La Fortuna waterfall is one of the most spectacular in Costa Rica at over 230 feet, 70 metres, high. At the base of the waterfall pools offer a refreshing swim.

To reach the waterfall at the bottom of the canyon, it is necessary to walk into a luxuriant tropical forest by a precarious path sometimes difficult carved in the wall of the canyon.

There is even a zip line installation to cross the canyon in a few seconds and briefly see the waterfall.

As the entrance to the small park in which the waterfall is located is not free of charge, it is mainly foreign visitors who come here. The locals are more likely to be found at one of the rivers popular with bathers. On weekends, families spend the day in the shade and play in the waterfalls.

A little further on, the Laguna de Arenal forms the largest artificial lake in the country, bordered by the red of the volcanic land and the green of the tropical vegetation.

The agricultural tradition

The most obvious illustration of the difference in climate between the plains and the highlands can be seen in the breeds of cattle raised. The species of Indian origin, resistant to heat and parasites, are replaced by European breeds, which are more delicate but better milk producers.

The hills are occupied by small family fincas, with a rather uneven level of mechanisation.

Villages cluster at the top of the hills, providing the services and supplies that the farms need.

The roads are narrow and winding but generally in good condition.

As the road gets closer to the capital San José, the small towns gain in importance, prefiguring the conurbation of several million inhabitants occupying the Central Valley. A cultural shift is also taking place between the traditional pulperias and the fast food chains.

Zarcero

This small town is often noted as an interesting stop for its garden. The church dominates a garden with remarkable trimmed bushes.

Sarchi

The town is known for its handcrafted woodwork with characteristic colourful decorative patterns. The traditional manufacture is of these wooden carts that were used to transport coffee in the past. They remain the symbolic objects of a society built on the income from coffee.

From Sarchi, many family workshops supply all the souvenir shops in the country.

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Road trip in the Highlands

The Central American isthmus is built around a series of cordilleras to which the coastal plains cling. In the tropics, the humid heat of the plains is often difficult to bear away from the coastline, which benefits from the sea breeze. The hills in the centre of the country were therefore the first region to be colonised by the Spaniards due to their more suitable climate.

Highlands, Costa Rica
Playa Espedilla Sur, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park

The beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park are often classified as the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, which has no shortage of charming beaches on both its oceanic facades. Their ribbon of fine sand, set against a backdrop of lush greenery, rightly constitutes an image worth keeping to illustrate a successful stay in Costa Rica.

Jacó and its surf beaches

On the Pacific coast, Jacó is the closest seaside resort to San José, the capital of Costa Rica, less than two hours away by car. Jacó is enjoying the development without it being too much of a burden, there is a little modern air to it, but still with many imperfections that are part of Costa Rica’s charm.

Playa Jacó, Jacó, Costa Rica
Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Tamarindo or Tamagringo

Tamarindo beach on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica is probably the most frequented beach in the country by foreign tourists, especially beginner surfers attracted by the easier waves. To the point of earning the unappealing nickname of Tamagringo. So don’t expect to discover the lifestyle of the Ticos, the nickname of the Costa Ricans, and it’s difficult to see the pura vida here.

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13 comments

    • In the hills the tropical nature of the country means that it rains heavily, hence the green colour. In the plains the heat is worse and it is better to stay by the ocean.

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  1. I love your photos of the cows and the pretty farming villages. It’s not what comes immediately to mind when thinking about Costa Rica. It’s great that you showcased this. Costa Rica really does have a wonderful diversity of landscapes and attractions. Memories of the path to the waterfalls are coming back to me! Did you go to the cloud forest?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is true that there is a great diversity of landscapes and atmospheres in Costa Rica. Cloud forest or rain forest did not attract me due to the difficulty of taking pictures, I had left it to improvisation but it did not materialize.

      Liked by 1 person

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