Visiting Turrialba, Costa Rica

Known for its abundance of nature, wildlife, and fertile soil, Turrialba’s economy has traditionally revolved around agricultural and dairy production. Today it is an authentic destination for outdoor adventure, eco-tourism, and agro-tourism activities for family vacations and the avid explorer.

turrialba costa rica

Where is Turrialba?

The picturesque town of Turrialba is located in Costa Rica’s Central Valley in the province of Cartago, about 63 kilometers (39 miles) east of the capital San José.

Where to go White Water Rafting in Turrialba?

Turrialba is known as a jumping-off point for white water rafting trips on Costa Rica’s world-class tropical rivers. The most famous is the Pacuare River, one of the top-rated rivers for rafting in the world. It has hosted the world white water rafting championships and is guaranteed to deliver an adrenaline rush year-round.


The Pacuare is ideal for adventure-seekers, whether it is their first-time rafting or if they have previous experience. The roughly 29 kilometers (18 miles) section of the Pacuare used for rafting flows through Cabécar Indigenous territory, primary rainforest, natural waterfalls, and spectacular stone canyons. Toucans, herons, kingfishers, blue morpho butterflies, and even sloths can be spotted along the riverbanks. The river has a heart-pounding series of class III and IV rapids with colorful nicknames such as “Rodeo“ and “Upper and Lower Pinball”, which aptly foreshadow the thrills to be had.

To this day, the Pacuare remains a wild and natural river, thanks to the work of local guides, Indigenous leaders, environmentalists, rafting companies, and local organizations who have successfully fought off attempts to construct a hydroelectric dam on it, which would have adverse effects on local people, fishing, wildlife and rafting ecotourism operations. Rafting companies provide everything you need for a day on the river including trained and experienced guides, rafting equipment, safety talk, transportation, snacks, and even a professional photographer.

Turrialba Volcano National Park

24 kilometers north of the town of Turrialba is Turrialba Volcano National Park, founded in 1955. At 3,340 meters (10,958 feet) above sea level, it is the second-highest volcano in the country and is a part of the same volcanic system as Irazú Volcano. It has three major craters streaked with gray lava flows, in stark contrast to the surrounding lush green vegetation.

Is Turrialba Volcano Active?

Although it has had periods of recent volcanic activity since the 1980s, it made headlines in 2016 and 2017 as Turrialba Volcano’s eruptions sent ash into the central valley’s major cities. The national park is frequently closed to visitors due to volcanic activity.


Guayabo National Monument

About 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) north of Turrialba on the northern slope of Turrialba volcano rests the only Pre-Columbian Indigenous archeological site in Costa Rica that is open to the public.

A “lost city” shrouded in jungle, Guayabo National Monument is simultaneously beautiful, mystical, and awe-inspiring. The area is believed to have been occupied by humans for about 2,400 years between 1000 BC and 1400 AD when it was mysteriously abandoned.

The best way to learn about the magnificent history of the site is with a guide who can explain the engineering, cultural, historical and architectural elements, and their significance. The interpretive walking trail leads visitors to marvel at the aqueducts, storage tanks, mounds, tombs, foundations, and extensive stone-paved roads.

Guayabo received the designation of Civil Engineering World Heritage Site by the prestigious American Society of Civil Engineers. With archeologists currently excavating and researching there, much more is believed to still be buried underneath the ground.

La Marta Wildlife Refuge

Founded in 1993, La Marta Wildlife Refuge was the first official privately-owned wildlife refuge in Costa Rica. It is located about 26 kilometers (16 miles) south of Turrialba in the district of Pejibaye. It borders La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The refuge has a biological research center, interpretive trails through the forest, an abandoned goldmine, rivers and natural pools, a rustic lodge for overnight guests, picnic area, hot water showers, restrooms, and camping area. Its mission is to conserve and protect the region’s natural and cultural heritage through environmental and social education and to promote interaction between tourists and the community.

Protecting 1,518 hectares (5.8 square miles), it is home to diverse rainforest plant and animal species. Managed by the Universidad Metropolitana Castro Carazo (UMCA), tours, lodging, camping, and meals are available by reservation.

Agro Tourism

With its history firmly rooted in agriculture, Turrialba is known for its production of sugar cane, macadamia nuts, coffee, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. In recent years small family farms have opened their doors to visitors who wish to learn about the culture and flavors of life on a Costa Rican farm.

Whether you’d like to take a coffee tour or try your hand at milking cows and preparing Turrialba cheese, agro-tourism activities afford visitors a taste of country life and can be a unique and memorable part of a family itinerary with kids. Turrialba provides the perfect setting to enjoy authentic traditional Costa Rican food from farm to table.

Say Cheese! What is Turrialba Queso?

Bearing the name of the town, Turrialba cheese is consumed commercially throughout Costa Rica. However, the most authentic cheese is made by dairy farmers in their homes and micro-enterprises in Turrialba and surrounding towns, especially the villages of Santa Cruz and Santa Teresita.

White and firm, yet mild and creamy, Queso Turrialba is a fresh farmers cheese that can be eaten on a thin tortilla as a gallo, grated and incorporated into traditional recipes or served next to scrambled eggs and the quintessential gallo pinto (rice and beans dish) for breakfast.


Mountain Biking at Casona de Pavas in Turrialba

Turrialba has a growing selection of outdoor adventure options including mountain biking, canyoning, zip line canopy tours, rappelling, hanging bridges and river kayaking. For nature lovers, Turrialba has many hiking trails that lead to beautiful and refreshing waterfalls such as Aquiares, La Muralla, Las Trillizas. Horseback riding tours are a relaxing way to explore the Turrialba’s lush forests, coffee plantations, farmlands, and scenic viewpoints.

Plan a Trip to Turrialba, Costa Rica

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