From the Central Highlands , Highway 3 (the old highway via Atenas ) and the new Autopista del Sol (from San José ) toll highway descend to Orotina, gateway to the Central Pacific . Highway 3 drops steeply, with hairpin bends, washed-out sections of road, slow-moving trucks, and Costa Ricans overtaking like suicidal maniacs. It’s a single lane in each direction. Drive cautiously!
Orotina is centered on an attractive plaza shaded by palms and has a railway track running down the main street.
The Canopy Tour Mahogany Park (tel. 506/2291-4465 in San José, www.canopytour.com ) is on a 120-hectare forest reserve at Jesús María, 11 kilometers northwest of Orotina. It has tours at 8 A.M., 10 A.M., noon, and 2:30 P.M. daily ($45 adults, $35 students, $25 children). You’ll ascend to the treetops and traverse from platform to platform using pulleys on horizontal cables.
Ecojungle Cruises (tel. 506/2479-9002, www.ecojunglecruises.com ) offers a shaded boat tour through the Guacalillo mangroves, which extends along the shore from the hamlet of Tivives, southwest of Orotina, to the mouth of the Río Tárcoles. Expect to see anhingas, monkeys, and crocodiles.
Transportes y Ferroviarios Costarricenses (TRANSFECO, tel. 506/2258-1765, transfeco [at] hotmail [dot] com) operates sightseeing tours by train from San José to Orotina and Mata de Limón.
Want to ride a water buffalo? Or milk a cow? Or see a zebroid (half zebra, half horse)? Then head to this international farm-focused theme park (tel. 506/2427-9485, www.panaca.com.co , 8:30 A.M.–6 P.M.daily, $15 adults, $12 children), at San Mateo de Alajuela, about five kilometers northeast of Orotina.
The Parque Natural de la Cultura Agropecuaria (Natural Park of Agriculture and Livestock) was conceived as a place for city-dwellers to learn about and interact with farm animals. The splendidly conceived, sprawling facility features six themed stations (equestrian, hogs, cattle, etc.) and has more than 2,000 animals, including African watusi cattle, the giant French Percheron draft horse (among 32 equine species), and even 150 breeds of dogs.
Kids from 7 to 70 will love the horse-drawn carriage rides, the parade of oxcarts, equestrian shows, and even a dog show. It also has zip lines.