Local tourism centres on the Turrialba volcano, Guayabo National Monument (20 minutes away from us by car, an hour and a half on foot), Juan Espino Blanco Reserve (private, ten minutes by car or 30 minutes on foot), and white-water rafting and canoeing on the Pacuare, Reventazón and Pejibaye rivers. The whole area is wonderful for mountain-biking and hiking. There are at least two spectacular waterfalls within a short distance. One is in the coffee town of Aquiares and is much visited by tourist groups, but the other (La Muralla) is close by our house on private land and must be close to 60 meters high. It´s in a beautiful spot. Bird-watching, or birding as the Americans say, is first-class throughout the area. Near Turrialba, for example, is the town of Tuis at the entrance to the Sierra de Talamanca. One of the most famous bird-watching lodges in Costa Rica, the Rancho Naturista, is located near here, boasting some 290 species identified solely on the grounds of the lodge or at the nearby Rio Tuis. Another excellent birding spot is La Marta Reserve, near the town of Pejibaye.
I have so far identified 204 species at the house here in San Antonio, and a further 120 species in our area close by. You can check my birding blog at http://birdsforbeer.wordpress.com/
Resplendent quetzals are to be found only a few kilometers up the mountain at El Tapojo. From Los Bajos del Volcan, a little higher up, the Caribbean lowlands can be reached via a strenuous 8 hour walk through cloud forest and rain forest. On the other side of Turrialba, uphill from Tuis on a stunning mountain road, is the Chirripó Indigenous Reserve (Cabécar tribe). Turrialba is one of the few Costa Rican towns with regular visits from indigenous people. The Caribbean beaches are three hours´drive away on good roads, the first one winding through the mountains to Siquirres, and the second being a straight run from Siquirres through the lowlands to Limón on the coast. A one and a half hour drive roughly in the same direction gets you to the hop-off place to take boats to Tortuguero. The modern capital of Costa Rica, San José, is only 35 miles away in the other direction, but it takes two hours to get to the airport at Alajuela, because of the traffic in San José and because of the slow mountain road to Cartago (colonial ruins and basilica), ex-capital of the country located one hour from us. You can get to the Pacific beaches by a spectacular dirt road from Cartago without going through San José.
The weather here in the mountains is delightfully cool year-round (a nice relief when returning from the heat of the lowlands), so we require no air conditioning or heating. We do have a fireplace, which adds a nice touch in rainy weather. The local people are the nicest folks you could ever wish to meet. They are country people who chiefly raise dairy cows and produce milk and other dairy products, including Turrialba cheese, famous in Costa Rica. We are located directly in the village, opposite the church and school, so we are part of the community. The village (a few hundred inhabitants at most) has one small store that stocks only necessities, and a bar. Local food specialties are chicharrones, cajetas, Turrialba cheese, tamales and pancitos, not to mention trout and tilapia for those who like fish. The picturesque larger village of Santa Cruz (pop. 4,000) is four kilometers up the hill and offers two small supermarkets and a few other businesses. There are several nice restaurants on the mountain road. The large town of Turrialba (pop. 40 000), offering all amenities, is 11 km downhill on a spectacular road, while the Turrialba volcano is about 20 km uphill (passing through Santa Cruz and La Pastora) on an even more spectacular one. An hour's drive beyond La Pastora and Pacayas is the turn-off to the Irazú Volcano, the highest in the country. Just outside Turrialba are the wonderful tropical botanical gardens of the CATIE University, which specialises in agronomy. CATIE's bird checklist currently stands at 371 species.
Bus stops right outside the house but the service is limited. Most guests rent a car for excursions.