Under the radar day-trips in Costa Rica

 

When you think of activities in Costa Rica, you probably think of ziplining, surfing, hiking, bird watching, sunbathing, and seeing sloths (if you’re lucky!). But this small Central American country has more than just forests and beaches to offer visitors. Check out a few of our favorite lesser-known activities in Costa Rica:

Oxcart Parade (Desfile de Bueyes)

If you have not experienced the beauty of the Costa Rican decorated oxcart, you haven’t really seen Costa Rica! In 2005, UNESCO declared this tradition a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity (basically an intangible World Heritage Site). Oxcart parades are a chance to see hundreds of ox herders, faithful oxen, and brightly colored carts all in one place.

ox cart

Where: Various towns; major ones in San Jose and San Antonio de Escazu

When: San Jose’s parade is in November, and Escazu’s is in March, for National Ox Herder Day.

How to get there: Both parades are easily accessible via bus or taxi from San Jose or the airport.

What’s nearby: Museo de Arte Costarricense (Museum of Costa Rican Art)

Territorio de Zaguates (Land of Strays)

Imagine a place where hundreds of stray dogs roam free. Now imagine those same dogs healthy, spayed and neutered, and well-fed. Sounds like heaven? For dog lovers, Territorio de Zaguates, or Land of Strays, is just that – heaven on earth. This immense no-kill dog shelter in the mountains is home to some 800 mutts, most of them former street dogs and all of them up for adoption.

zaguates

Where: Santa Barbara de Heredia, in the mountains of Heredia province

When: Tourists and locals alike are welcome to experience this canine wonderland, but only during official tours which are held approximately once a month on weekends.

How to get there: On tour days, a shuttle is available from Alajuela, about ten minutes from the airport. For upcoming tour dates and complete driving directions in English, see their Facebook page: Territorio de Zaguates Oficial.

What’s nearby: Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn

Sanatorio Duran

If you are a fan of ghost stories and unusual historical sites, then Sanatorio Duran might be up your alley. This former tuberculosis hospital has long been the subject of urban legends about the patients that spent their last days there. Allowed to fall into disrepair, for many years the facility was not available for tours and was only visited by those sneaking in to confirm the rumors of resident spirits. Recently it was opened to the public, so if you’re brave enough, check it out for yourself!

sanatorio-duran

Where: Prusia, Cartago Province

When: Open from 8am to 4pm. To confirm before your trip, call +506 2240-3016.

How to get there: Sanatorio Duran is about 1.5 hours from the airport and 1 hour from San Jose. From Cartago, take Highway 291 east towards Irazu Volcano. After Potrero Cerrado, look for a left-turn sign for Prusia, then continue 500 meters to the site.

What’s nearby: Irazu Volcano National Park

Rob Harper is the Director of Business Development for Namu Travel Group.

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