The gateway to the northern section of Parque Internacional La Amistad (tel. 506/2771-3155) is Buenos Aires, a small agricultural town in the midst of an endless green ocean of piñas. The nondescript town, 63 kilometers (39 miles) south of San Isidro de El General, is the main base for exploring Parque Internacional La Amistad. The air for miles around Buenos Aires is redolent of sweet-smelling pineapples, the economic mainstay of the Valle de El General. The mountains around Buenos Aires are home to several indigenous groups.Besides the opportunity to milk the goats, make yogurt and cheese, try your hand at carpentry, and participate in organic farming, you can attend classes in martial arts, meditation, and art.A dirt road that begins in Buenos Aires leads north 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the hamlet of Ujarrás, beyond which the boulder-strewn dirt road continues four kilometers (2.5 miles) to Balneario de Aguas Termales (also called Rocas Calientes), where hot spring water pours forth amid a rock landscape. A trail from Ujarrás crosses the Talamancas via Cerro Abolado and the valley of the Río Taparí, ending in the Reserva Biológica Hitoy-Cerere on the Caribbean side. It’s a strenuous, multiday endeavor. Do not attempt this hike without a local guide. The Talamanca Association of Ecotourism and Conservation (ATEC, tel./fax 506/2750-0191), based in Puerto Limón, on the Caribbean coast, offers 6- to 15-day guided Transcontinental Hikes ($750) from Ujarrás to the Caribbean side or vice versa.
Another dirt road that begins at the gas station at Brujo, 10 kilometers (6 miles) southeast of Buenos Aires, leads into the mountains and the Reserva Indígena Cabagra (Cabagra Indigenous Reserve). The gas station’s Restaurante Brujo (tel. 506/2730-1645) serves an excellent buffet.
Southeast from Buenos Aires, the Pan-American Highway follows the Río General 25 kilometers (16 miles) to its confluence with the Río Coto Brus at Paso Real.
Durika Biological Reserve
Founded in 1989 as Finca Anael, the Reserva Biológica Durika (tel./fax 506/2730-0657) is a 700-hectare (1,730-acre) farm reserve operated by the Fundación Durika, an outgrowth of a self-sufficient agricultural community of 100 or so members who work on conservation, protecting and reforesting a mountain reserve that comprises various types of forest, including cloud forest. The community operates an authentic ecotourism project that welcomes visitors. A guide is assigned to you. Besides the opportunity to milk the goats, make yogurt and cheese, try your hand at carpentry, and participate in organic farming, you can attend classes in martial arts, meditation, and art. Guided hikes, including one to an indigenous village, plus a five-day camping trip to the summit of Cerro Durika, are available.
Durika has accommodations, including a dorm ($15 pp) and nine simple cabins ($48 s, $80 d) with private baths, but you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag. Rates include transfers and vegetarian meals.
To get here from Buenos Aires, follow the Ujarrás signs to Rancho Cabecar restaurant, then take the right at the Y fork (Durika is signed) and continue uphill 15 kilometers (9.5 miles) until you see the entrance for the farm. Jeep taxis operate from Buenos Aires. This drive is not for the faint-hearted. The first 12 kilometers (7 miles) or so are a breeze, then suddenly the narrow, rocky, muddy track plunges into a canyon and begins a long, dauntingly steep, narrow, snaking ascent that requires you to floor the gas at all times, come what may. It could well be the single most challenging drive in the nation.
Getting to Buenos Aires
Tracopa (tel. 506/2221-4214) buses to Buenos Aires depart San José (4.5 hours) from Calle 5, Avenidas 18/20, at 8:30am and 2:30pm daily; there are also indirect buses. Transportes Gafeso buses depart San Isidro for Buenos Aires every 30 minutes 6am-5pm daily. Buses depart Buenos Aires for Potrero Grande at 6:30am and noon daily; you can get a Jeep taxi from there. Buses also serve Ujarrás from Buenos Aires.
Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.