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Turrialba: Area Description

The name Turrialba is derived from the indigenous word "Torriulka" which means white columns of smoke and water. Today the "smoke" is represented by the constant steam and gas emissions from nearby Irazu and Turrialba Volcanoes. These are part of the surrounding mountains that loom majestically above this verdant river valley on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica. The "water" is represented by the rivers and waterfalls that cascade through the region’s extraordinary ecosystem of exotic plants and animals. It also creates a year round whitewater paradise for river enthusiasts from around the world.

Attractively hidden from the main flow of tourism, Turrialba’s location lies on the border between the provinces of Cartago and Limon in a mountain valley on the Atlantic slope at an elevation of about 2000 ft. To the north lies Braulio Corrillo National Park, which features over 6,000 plant species that account for half the total amount in the country. The park is also full of primary forests, cloud forests and rain forests full of different types of animals. To the south lies the second highest peak in Central America, the 12,900-Ft. high Mount Chirripo. From its summit on a clear day, hikers can see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, truly one of the most amazing sites in all of Costa Rica. Also to the south is the Chirripo Atlantic River basin, locally known as ‘The Grand Canyon of Costa Rica’, which connects this region to the largest National Park in the country La Amistat. Eastward the mighty Reventazon River churns and rumbles its way downward towards the Caribbean coast paralleled by one of the top 10 rivers in the world to raft and kayak the majestic, wild and breathtaking Pacuare River.The well-kept secret of this unique mountain community is its people, both in the town center and in the numerous pueblos in the surrounding area. There are over 70,000 inhabitants of the Turrialba valley and the town is its social, political, economic and cultural heart. Here, the people are famous for their love of life, outgoing natures and devotion to family. This spirit radiates to all who visit and spend time here. Visitors become a part of this extended family and can feel as safe and secure as if it were their own hometown.

The central part of town is a 10 square block area, which encompasses the soccer stadium, 2 theaters, 7 gymnasiums, 4 banks, numerous churches and a central park. There are also over 23 restaurants and bars as well as 3 dance clubs for those seeking excitement and nightlife. For the more adventurous, the surrounding countryside has become a focal point for many different outdoor activities. Just a few minutes from downtown you will find mountain biking, rock climbing, repelling, bungee jumping and horseback riding.

The valley of Turrialba presents a great diversity of habitats, and is one of the most important regions in the country for supplying drinking water and the production of hydroelectric power. When it comes to wildlife, incredible is the word that best describes the fauna of the area. In this valley alone there are over 550 different types of birds, 150 different mammals and more than 130 species of amphibians and reptiles.

Not far from town to the north is the most important archaeological site in all of Costa Rica, the 3,000 year old Guayabo National Monument. This is an extremely interesting discovery and sheds new light on the mysterious inhabitants who once lived in the region. Since there were no great civilizations in the region such as the Mayans or Incas, very little is known of the life of the small and scattered tribes in the area that has become Costa Rica. Each year more discoveries are unearthed and with them greater understanding of Costa Rica’s past.

AEC, through its different activities, excursions and tours endeavors to present this amazing and wonderful area of Costa Rica to our students. Turrialba is a hidden away part of this remarkable country and a joy to all who have made its acquaintance.