Visiting San Isidro de El General

Guide books often refer to San Isidro as a nice town to pass through traveling down the Interamericana to the Southern Zone of Costa Rica, or as the access gateway to Cerro Chirripo, the highest mountain peak in Costa Rica.

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Not infrequently they will mention the drive from San Jose, over 'Cerro de la Muerte', as a dangerous road. Well, there are truths in those statements, but the 'Mountain of Death' actually acquired its name when weary travelers caught their 'death of cold' crossing the mountains long before the highway was built! And though many travelers will pass through San Isidro, it is certainly worth a stop. To whet your appetite:

  • The Interamericana from San Jose is a truly wonderful journey crossing the highest point in Central America, passing through oak and rain forests and the unique paramo at the mountain top
  • Extensive work has been done to clear encroaching vegetation from the road side and widen the road
  • Views down roadside valleys are awesome and there are plenty of stopping places for dramatic photography. At high altitude, the experience of driving above or alongside clouds is mystical, though driving through them can be wet!
  • Costa Rica is most often sold on its wondrous bird life but this journey is a joy for tree and botany enthusiasts. The roadside vegetation varies throughout the year so the drive is never dull
  • The road passes through cloud forest and there are excellent lodges where birders can break their journey in pursuit of the resplendent quetzal, or where botanists can stop to pursue their interests
  • Beyond San Isidro and driving south to the Osa Peninsula, the country opens into a wide agricultural valley with the Talamancas as a backdrop to the east before it narrows and follows the Rio Grande de Terraba to Palmar Norte. This journey travels through rich farming and pineapple country - vast plantations where visitors see what ends up in the Del Monte can!
  • San Isidro is the largest town outside the central valley, and the centre of a thriving rural community. The town square has been re-designed and its central Cathedral is a landmark worth visiting. The weekly feria (farmer's market) on Thursdays and Fridays attracts customers from miles around
  • The town is a busy shopping centre with many supermarkets where independent travelers can replenish their stocks, or visitors can buy shoes and clothing at bargain prices. For those staying in the area, there is a good - and expanding - choice of restaurants
  • Chirripo is of course a climb for the serious; tickets to the Park's facilities are limited, usually needing booking in advance but can be obtained from the park rangers' office for next day entry. There are very good, shorter mountain/forest walks that do not need advance planning. There are also many pleasant drives up surrounding valleys, with good walking, good birding, sights of Costa Rican agriculture and even trout fishing
  • Nearby, Los Cusingos, home of the late Alexander Skutch (Co-author of A guide to the birds of Costa Rica) is now maintained as a nature reserve - well worth a visit, a sentimental spot for bird lovers.
  • Las Quebrados Biological Reserve also offers beautiful woodland trails and excellent birding.
  • Visitors can also enjoy bathing in hot springs, viewing spectacular waterfalls, horse trekking, visiting our local reptile park and beautiful beaches on the Pacific coast.

To arrange trips in the area, visitors may wish to contact our local travel agents, Selva Mar: Tel: (00506) 2771 4582 E mail: selvamar@racsa.co.cr

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