ZOO AVE (AKA Bird Zoo though it's not)
Step down San Diego, don't bother Munich, fergetabout it London - your famous Zoos have nothing on the tiny gem of a Zoo right here near Alajuela. Actually it only looks like a zoo - behind the public area is a large bird rehabilitation area. The Zoo fees help fund this activity so you are contributing to a good cause. A beautiful natural environment, lots of room and all the animals are rehabilitated or saved from something or are breeding to reintroduce in the wild. It is sometimes difficult to determine which animals are residents and which are just visiting. Just a few minutes from the hotel - more animals than you'll see everywhere else in Costa Rica. Not a bird zoo despite the name - The Nature Restoration Foundation's work can generally divided into three broad areas - rescue and rehabilitation, captive breeding and release and reintroduction of many Costa Rican animals. Take a break with the animals and birds of Costa Rica - a gem not to be missed!
LA GUACIMA BUTTERFLY FARM
Stop with the emails, I know this is not a butterfly! It is a giant Cicada from the Pura Vida gardens and makes a sound like a buzz saw most evenings here. Now we have your attention, the La Guacima Butterfly gardens are about 8km from Pura Vida Hotel.
Its best to visit the farm when it is sunny (mornings in the rainy season), when butterflies are most active. The Butterfly Farm opened in 1983 and was the first commercial butterfly farm in Latin America. For a country full of butterflies it is worth visiting to learn about them here. The butterfly farm is in La Guacima. If you have a deeper interest we have a couple of excellent guides we know who can make a day trip we call "Butterflies and Coffee" which we enjoyed a lot when we first came here.
POAS VOLCANO AND VICINITY
30km up hill from Pura Vida Hotel you will find Poas Volcano.
Start early, we will make you a breakfast to go. Leaving at 7am usually assures you a clear view. Poas is a strato volcano that soars 2,708 meters above sea level and is one of the most spectacular volcanoes in Costa Rica. Lately some good sulphurous venting can be seen around the sky blue lake in the center. It certainly is the easiest Volcano to get to in Costa Rica and you can see it from your terrace breakfast table most mornings at the Pura Vida Hotel. Extend the trip - drop by La Paz Waterfall Gardens (see below) or the Las Colinas canopy tour and have lunch at their fresh trout restaurant - doesn't get much tastier. Finish the day with run over to Doka coffee plantation. OK so you can't do all 4 things in a day - stay another night?
LA PAZ WATERFALL GARDENS
About 40km up hill from Pura Vida Hotel and makes an excellent day trip when combined with Poas Volcano. With over 3.5 kilometers of walking trails, they recommend a minimum of 1 1/2 hours for the trip. Waterfall Gardens is a primarily a self-guided tour. The facility includes a most excellent butterfly garden (the Blue Morpho in flight is an amazing sight), a hummingbird garden, a snake area, the famous waterfalls, an orchid house and plenty of trails. Usually you will find yourself lost in amusement with the antics of the hummingbirds or perhaps a Jaguar scratching himself and won't want to leave.
If Poas was too cloudy divert your driver over a few kilometers to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. More adventurous? Tell your driver to keep going to Sarapiqui on the road rarely traveled after the earthquake.
DOKA COFFEE PLANTATION
This photo is a coffee plant in bloom in the fall - this one happens to be in the garden of the Pura Vida Hotel. Take a pilgrimage to Doka coffee just up the hill from us (20 minutes from the hotel). This is the tour of vintage coffee processing using the water separation method for the coffee aficionados. This is probably the nicest of all the coffee tours and a great education in the product Costa Rica is probably most famous for. We have a special trip we can offer you if our "coffee expert" guide is available that day that we call "butterflies and coffee".
GRECIA, SARCHI AND ZARCERO
This photo is of Senor Alfaro, one of the brothers working with his old water wheel driven machinery making ox cart wheels. With him is our main guide the famous Sterling, who just coincidentally is also an Alfaro.
Nestled in the countryside of Costa Rica's Alajuela province (30 to 40 minutes from the Pura Vida Hotel), Sarchi is the perfect place to finish off your trip and find those gifts for family and friends. Travel a little further northwest and you will run into one of the great curiosities of Costa Rica - the special work of our own Edward Scissorhands at the Zarcero church. A wonderful photo opportunity not to be missed and a favorite place Ticos go to get married.
To make this into a 1/2 day tour - see Grecia, Sarchi and Zarcero together - stop for lunch along the way for some inexpensive "comida typica". Other things you can do this day include the lovely Elsie Kintzler botanical garden - almost unknown to tourists and easily visited about 2km behind the Sarchi church.
Also do not miss the Alfaro Bros Ox Cart factory - this has recently been "upgraded for tourism" which means it is not like it was. But you can still meet the Alfaros and the old 1923 water wheel still drives all the machinery. Learn about the famous Costa Rican oxcarts at the source.
SAN JOSE TOUR
Pura Vida Hotel is conveniently situated a good distance from the capital - about 20 km. Many guests want to delve into the famous gold museum or walk down paseo colon or go visit the mercado central. You can get our english speaking taxi driver and see the sights, the sounds and the, well, whatever you want.
The Gold Museum is world class and the national museum, the old Bella Vista Fortress, has recently been completely redone - well worth the visit is, like us, you have an interest in Costa Rican "exceptionalism".
IN THE "OTHER STUFF" CATEGORY
If you are a biologist you'll want to spend a couple of hours at InBio Parque, the repository of Costa Rican biodiversity. Great book store too. This is maybe 30 minutes from the Pura Vida Hotel.
We of course like the Alajuela Farmers Market AKA Plaza Ferias. Most Fridays we will take a trip to this excellent market about 10 minutes from the Pura Vida Hotel. On "some Fridays" join Chef Nhi on a trip to Plaza Ferias in Alajuela - the largest farmers market in Costa Rica. Book ahead if you want to go to the market as space is limited. We leave the Pura Vida at about 2:30 pm every Friday afternoon (though we are invariably late). There we'll select the freshest tropical fruits & veggies and perhaps some fresh Pacific fish from our favorite fish stand. In season we will show you how to select and taste the best mango, how to find great Papayas, the nispero stand (mmmm!), the passion fruit family and if we are lucky our favorite "mamones chino" – red and yellow varieties. We will visit the 3 generations of the coconut family and the herb dude and a host of other market friends and acquaintances. We will return to the Pura Vida around 5pm.