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ISLS Teen Spanish and Volunteer Camp Turrialba Costa Rica

One and a half hours to the east of San Jose, in a mountain valley on the Atlantic Slope of Costa Rica, the town of Turrialba is at the crossroads of the country’s peoples and culture. Located along the now defunct Caribbean railroad line, it was an important shipping and transport center. At about half way between the capital city, with its hills filled with coffee plantations and the Atlantic port town of Limon, much of the wealth of 19th and 20th century Costa Rica passed along its rails. Locals call Turrialba, ‘El Puerto sin Mar’, the port without a sea. It also literally bridges the divide between the old colonial power bases in the Central Valley and the Afro-Caribbean culture of the coast.

Surrounding Turrialba is a verdant green valley that is crisscrossed by numerous rivers big and small. Fueled by the topical rains that pound the nearby mountain ranges of the continental divide, these waters hurtle from heights of 12,000 feet headlong down to the sea.  It is these rivers that have made the Turrialba Valley one of the best places in the world to raft and kayak. Rios Pacuare, Reventazon and Pejibaye give rafters of all ages and skill levels the opportunity to experience the rush and exhilaration of riding the water waters. All the time in the some of the most unspoiled and primary rainforest left in Central America.

The town itself is nestled in the northern end of the valley. It has a bustling and lively downtown with many markets, shops, restaurants, banks, clinics and schools. It is the economic, political, religious, educational and judicial heart of this part of Costa Rica. It is also the main transportation hub for all of the small and isolated villages high in the surrounding hills. Every Friday along the abandon railroad tracks and station there is a farmers market that attracts buyers and sellers from around the region.

Because of its history and location, it is one of the most diverse cities in Costa Rica. It is also one of its safest. Even with the importance of rafting and the tourist dollars it generates, Turrialba has escaped the overdevelopment and crime that can accompany it. This means that it has been able to keep its own unique culture and way of life.

While the city bustles with activity and commerce the people seem to stroll. They stop and greet one another and have not problem chatting with a driver who might or might not be blocking a narrow street with a dozen cars behind. They still mainly shop at local ‘tiendas’ or neighborhood markets, many of which are converted garages or front rooms of local’s houses. They are early risers. A hold over from their agrarian roots and the fact that reliable electricity is a fairly recent phenomenon. Rising with the sun is also a great way to get things done before the afternoon rains filter down the mountains.

All of this makes Turrialba a wonderful, inexpensive and safe place to see a slice of true Costa Rican culture and hospitality. Just don’t get lost, because they are famous for being helpful, not for giving good directions.

ISLS Teen Spanish and Adventure Camps

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