Santiago de Puriscal
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Santiago de Puriscal, 20 kilometers west of Ciudad Colón, is an important agricultural town. Santiago’s main plaza is overlooked by a pretty church. Midway between Ciudad Colón and Santiago, at Kilometer 30, is the entrance for the Reserva Indígena Quitirrisí (Indigenous Reserve), protecting the land of the Quitirrisí on the slopes of Cerro Turrubares.
This remnant indigenous community lives a relatively marginalized life, though members such as the women’s cooperative, Cestería Quitirrisí (tel. 506/418-6525, www.artequitirrisi.com), sell fine baskets and other weavings at roadside stalls.
From Santiago you can follow a paved road southwest to Salitrales, 18 kilometers west of Santiago. Due west from Santiago, another road snakes through the mountains and descends to Orotina via San Pablo de Turrubares.
By continuing south 11 kilometers beyond Salitrales and turning east, you arrive at Rancho Mastatal Environmental Learning Center and Lodge (tel. 506/2416-6263, www.ranchomastatal.com), a 219-acre farm and private wildlife refuge. Rancho Mastatal has seven kilometers of wilderness trails leading through pristine forest replete with wildlife. It offers environmental workshops and languages courses, and it welcomes volunteers. Horses can be rented ($10 with guide).
Rancho Mastatal adjoins La Cangreja National Park (tel. 506/2416-7068, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, $6), protecting 2,240 hectares of virgin tropical montane forest. It has three short trails. Camping is permitted ($2 pp).
Rancho Mastatal Environmental Learning Center and Lodge (tel. 506/2416-6263, www.ranchomastatal.com, $15 homestay, $20 camping, $35–40 s or $60–65 d The Hooch, $30–35 s or $50–55 d main house, $30 s or $50 d Jeanne’s House, $40 s or $75 d Leo’s House) has three rooms in the main century-old farmhouse with shared bathrooms. A porch has hammocks. Jeanne’s House has six bamboo bunks and two double beds, a stove, and electricity, indoor and outdoor showers, and shared toilets. Leo’s House is a finely built wooden cabin sleeping up to six people. The Hooch is an A-frame structure made of bamboo. Each year it adds a new structure; check the website for the latest. You can camp if you bring your own tent, or choose to stay with local campesino families. Rates include all meals.
The Hotel Paraíso Carlisa (tel. 506/2778-1112, www.hotelparaisocarlisa.com, $80 s or $90 d standard, $100 s/d suite low season; $90 s or $100 d standard, $110 s/d suite high season) nestles in the forested mountains at Alto Gloria, 16 kilometers south of La Cangreja National Park; a 4WD vehicle is required. It has 20 rooms and an apartment with lovely decor, plus a rustic-themed but elegant bar, a film room where movies are shown, and an international restaurant. Horseback riding to a huge waterfall is a thrilling specialty.
Seeking a healthful retreat? Head to Ama Tierra (tel. 506/2419-0110 or U.S. tel. 866/659-3805, www.amatierra.com, $109 s or $129 d low season, $127 s or $149 d high season), two kilometers east of San Pablo de Turrubares and 19 kilometers west of Santiago de Puriscal, set in an eight-acre estate with trails. Run by Colorado expats Bob and Jill Ruttenberg, it has 10 endearingly (albeit sparsely) furnished duplex casita “junior suites” with satellite TV, DVD player, mini-fridge, coffeemaker, telephone, terrace, and private bathrooms with whirlpool tubs. Health-conscious meals are served on a veranda with magnificent views. There’s a cozy TV lounge, game room, Internet access, and infinity-edge swimming pool inset in a wooden deck. It specializes in yoga retreats and has an open-air dojo, plus a full-service spa; Jill is a licensed herbalist, yoga instructor, and masseuse.
Getting to Santiago de Puriscal
The Ciudad Colón bus from San José continues to Santiago de Puriscal. The Empresa Comtrasuli (tel. 506/2258-3903, www.comtrasuli.com) buses to Ciudad Colón depart San José from Calle 20, Avenidas 3/5, every 30 minutes 5 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Monday–Saturday. Jeep-taxis line the square in Santiago.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition