The road from Cartago to Turrialba is spectacular as it winds up and over the mountains. Ahead are the only archaeological monuments in the country and fantastic river rafting, birding, and hiking.

Turialba town is the center of a rich agricultural region, and a increasingly destination for nature and adventure travelers. No need for an alarm clock here ,at 6 a.m. three strong blasts of the town's fire alarm do the trick. Once you're up, there's plenty to do. Kayakers and white-water rafters use the town as a base for forays on the Reventazon and Pacuare Rivers. Its location is ideal for those interested in archaeology, agriculture, and nature. Turrialba is 40 miles (64 km) from San Jose.

In the town of Cervantes, watch for La Posada de la Luna restaurant. you cannot pass this place without stopping for a freshly made tortilla de queso (cheese tortilla) and a glass of hot agua dulce con leche (a hot drink made with boiling water, brown sugar and milk) - Some people swear that the best gallo pinto beans and rice) in the country is served here. Showcases hold bits of history, from Indian artifacts to old telephones, radios, and flatirons. Open 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., closed Monday.

The agricultural lands around Juan Vinas are among the most beautiful in Costa Rica. Fields of sugarcane wave across this top-of-the-world setting. 'Men comes the winding descent into the Turrialba Valley.

On the Way to Turialba
A back door to Turrialba snakes through San Isidro de Coronado and Rancho Redondo, dairy country, and oak forests often shrouded in mist. Flowers strewn in the road marked the path of religious processions in village after village. In one, a milk cow stood in the middle of the road eating the flower petals while worshippers sang in a nearby church. Past Llano Grande is the turnoff for Irazu Volcano. Continue on to Cot and Pacayas for Santa Cruz, watching for waterfalls on the skirts of Turrialba Volcano. At Santa Cruz, turn to Turrialba. This road is passable even in the rainy season. From Santa Cruz, a jolting road goes on to Guayabo and the national monument.

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