Chirripó Indian Reserve
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Heading east from Atirro through the valley of the Río Tuis via the tiny communities of Tuis, Bajo Pacuare, and Hacienda Grano de Oro, you find yourself in an alpine plateau not unlike parts of Colorado—fabulous! You’ll need four-wheel drive.
A few kilometers beyond, about 30 kilometers east of Highway 10, the dirt road passes through the off-the-beaten-track hamlet of Moravia del Chirripó and peters out at Hacienda Moravia, from where trails filter into the foothills of the Cordillera Talamanca.
Moravia is the gateway to the Reserva Indígena Chirripó, a remote reserve that receives few visitors. The indigenous presence is strong, in local faces and in bright traditional garb.
You may be able to hire guides in Moravia for excursions into the Talamancas and La Amistad International Peace Park.
Evangelical Christians have made a serious dent in this region, eroding indigenous culture; many tourist businesses are evangelical focused.
Bajo Pacuare is a traditional starting point for white-water rafting trips on the Río Pacuare, a thrilling river that plunges through remote canyons and rates as a classic white-water run. Tico’s River Adventures (tel. 506/2556-1231, www.ticoriver.com), based in Turrialba, has received rave reviews; Aventuras Naturales (tel. 506/225-3939, www.toenjoynature.com) in [node:25102 link San José is also recommended.
Hotels and Restaurants
Rancho Naturalista (tel. 506/2554-8101 or U.S. tel. 888/246-8513, www.ranchonaturalista.net, $125 pp low season, $145 pp high season, including meals), one kilometer beyond Tuis, is a rustically elegant hilltop hacienda-lodge run by American evangelists. It sits on a 50-hectare ranch surrounded by premontane rainforest at 900 meters’ elevation at the end of a steep dirt-and-rock road. The mountain retreat is popular with nature and bird-watching groups (more than 410 bird species have been recorded by guests). It has 15 rooms, which vary. All are pleasant and feature hardwood beams and down comforters. The upstairs also has a lounge with library. Rates include three meals, guided hikes, and horseback riding.
Albergue Hacienda Moravia de Chirripó (tel. 506/2280-7842, www.haciendamoravia.com, $60 pp including all meals) is a rustic Colorado-style lodge in a Shangri-la setting, with fantastic views across a green vale. It has 10 dorms with rough-hewn bunks: Six downstairs rooms have private baths; four upstairs rooms share baths with hot water. Local indigenous people put on traditional shows for groups. The hacienda is a working cattle farm and offers horseback rides and mountain biking. You can camp here ($30 pp).
Several rafting companies have lodges in the Pacuare Canyon. In most cases, you have to be a participant on the companies’ river trips to stay there. You’ll need a rugged 4WD vehicle to reach the sublime Pacuare Jungle Lodge (tel. 800/963-1195, www.pacuarelodge.com, from $421 s, $652 d for a two-day package inclusive of transport, meals), set high on a lush jungle hilltop, overlooking the Pacuare River.
This thatched jungly retreat (owned by the Ríos Tropicales white-water rafting company) has a cozy lounge bar and gourmet restaurant. The gorgeous, exquisitely appointed palm-thatched bungalows each boast a wall of glass, teak floors, handcrafted rattan wicker chairs, and king-size canopy bed with 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens and a vast canyon view. There’s even a huge honeymoon suite with a private infinity pool fed by a natural waterfall; heck, it even has its own suspension bridge linked to a private treetop canopy! Most guests are white-water rafters partaking of fun on the river. You have to hike the last 300 meters to get here. The company offers packages that include transport.
Getting to the Chirripó Indian Reserve
Buses (tel. 506/2556-5155) for Tuis and Moravia depart from the bus center at Calle 2, Avenidas 2/4, in Turrialba.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition