Ciudad Neily squats at the base of the Fila Costeña mountains, beside the Pan-American Highway, 18 kilometers northwest of Panamá  and 15 kilometers east of the town of Río Claro and the turnoff for Golfito .
Ciudad Neily is surrounded by banana plantations and functions as the node for plantation operations. There is nothing to hold your interest, though you are likely to see indigenous women in colorful traditional dress.
North from Ciudad Neily, a road switchbacks steeply uphill to San Vito (31 kilometers) and the Valle Coto Brus, in South-Central Costa Rica. South from town, a road leads through a sea of African palm plantations to the airstrip at Coto 47.
A decade of labor and love has gone into creating this gem of a botanical garden (tel. 506/2789-8746, www.paradise-garden.travelland.biz , 6 A.M.–5 P.M. daily), immediately west of Río Claro (the ill-marked turnoff is on the west side of the Río Lagarto bridge, opposite the Arrocera El Ceibo rice factory; the garden is 200 meters north from the turnoff).
Owner Robert Beatham, from Maine, started the garden as a hobby; today he produces 16 tons of African palm fruits per month. But it’s the heliconias, gingers, and dozens of other species that delight, while Robert’s immense knowledge keeps you wide-eyed in awe. Lunch is served as Robert expounds about the various fruits, seeds, and nuts used in the meal and introduces you to local remedies (such as “wandering jew,” good for treating diabetes).
There’s no shortage of budget hotels in town. One of the best bets is Cabinas Heileen (tel. 506/2783-3080, $15 pp, $20 pp with TVs), in a nicely kept home festooned with epiphytes. Its 10 simple but clean rooms have fans and private baths with cold water (one room has hot water). Five rooms have TVs.
The nicest place in town is Hotel Andrea (tel. 506/2783-3784, elhotelandrea [at] hotmail [dot] com, $30 s or $36 d with fans, $38 s or $43 d with a/c), with 35 rooms in a handsome two-story colonial-style property festooned with hanging plants, 50 meters west of the bus station. Rooms are clean, with tile floors and modest furnishings. All have TV and hot water, and 14 have air-conditioning. It has secure parking and the most elegant restaurant in town (tel. 506/2783-3745, 6 A.M.–10:30 P.M. daily, $1.50–15). The menu includes pancakes and honey, huevos rancheros, omelettes, onion soup, shrimp salad, pastas, and filet mignon.
The views from Hotel El Mirador (tel. 506/8841-2935, $18 s, $26 d), 600 meters above town on the snaking road to San Vito, make a stay here worthwhile, despite simply furnished rooms. It has a nice restaurant, but it also serves as a love motel!
At Río Claro, 1.5 kilometers north of the Pan-American Highway, the German-run Hotel Palmeral Dorima (tel. 506/8315-1966, www.palmeraldorima.com , $59 s or $64 d low season, $72 s or $78 d high season) offers fabulous views from its mountainside perch. Set in a tropical garden, it looks rather rough-hewn from outside, but the place is light and airy, and the 16 air-conditioned rooms in eight duplex bungalows are enlivened by bright fabrics. All have king-size beds with mosquito nets, solar-heated showers, satellite TV, telephone, in-room safe, refrigerator, and a private terrace with lounge chairs for soaking in the views. There’s a pool and hot tub.
The clean, modern Restaurante La Moderna (tel. 506/2783-3097, 7 A.M.–11 P.M. daily, $2–12), one block east of the plaza on the main street in Ciudad Neily, has an eclectic menu ranging from burgers and pizza to ceviche and típico dishes.
The airport is four kilometers south of town, at Coto 47. SANSA and Nature Air both have scheduled service to Coto 47.
Tracopa buses (tel. 506/2221-4214) depart for Ciudad Neily from Calle 5, Avenidas 18/20 in San José , at 5 A.M., 1 P.M., 4:30 P.M., and 6:30 P.M. daily (eight hours); and from San Isidro  (tel. 560/2771-0468) at 4:45 A.M., 6:30 A.M., 12:30 P.M., and 3 P.M. daily.
Buses depart Ciudad Neily for San José at 4 A.M., 8 A.M., 11:30 A.M., and 4:30 P.M.; and for San Isidro at 7 A.M., 10:30 A.M., 1:15 P.M., and 3:30 P.M. For taxis call Taxi Ciudad Neily (tel. 506/783-3374).