ABOUT GUAPILES

Guápiles & Around

POP 36,500

A pleasant and decidedly nontouristy (if not terribly scenic) lowland agricultural town, Guápiles lies at the base of the northern foothills of the Cordillera Central. It serves as a transportation center for the Río Frío banana-growing region and also makes a convenient base from which to explore Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo – a 20-minute drive away – or to organize excursions to Tortuguero.

The center of town is about 1km north of Hwy 32, reached by a pair of well-marked turnoffs on either side of the impossible-to-miss Burger King restaurant. Guápiles’ two major streets are one way, running parallel to each other east and west. Most of the services are on the loop that these streets make through the busy downtown.

Sleeping

Guápiles

Cabinas Irdama

(Tel 2710-7034; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; s/d with fan US$23/29, r with air-con US$32) This well-tended motel-like structure near the center of town offers 22 clean rooms and a small attached restaurant (meals US$6; h6am-8pm) serving breakfast and casados (set meals). Look for it 50m north of the Más x Menos supermarket (about 1km northeast of the bus terminal).

Hotel Country Club Suerre

(Tel 2713-3000; www.suerre.com; s/d US$90/124, each additional person US$20; p n a W s ) On the road to Cariari, 1.5km north of the Servicentro Santa Clara, this Holiday Inn–like business resort has 98 spacious, tidy rooms and two restaurants. The meticulous grounds house a casino, a large pool, a gym, shaded tennis courts and a children’s play area.

Around Guápiles

Casa Río Blanco B&B


(Tel 2710-4124; www.casarioblanco.com;
incl breakfast US$53/77/93/107; p W ) One of Costa Rica’s original ecolodges, this welcoming place offers four cabins on a 2-hectare hillside above the Río Blanco. Devoid of cable TV and air-con, it’s a throwback to earlier days when ecotourism was all about unplugging. Croaking frogs and flickering lightning bugs provide late-night entertainment, while daytime diversions include visits to the spectacular nearby swimming hole.

Helpful owners Annette and Herbie organize rafting tours on the Río Pacuare and off-the-beaten-path day excursions through the Tortuguero canals. The lodge offers 20%-discount vouchers for the Rainforest Aerial Tram and zip line in the adjacent Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo. Additional organic meals (including vegetarian options) can be arranged, and there’s free wi-fi in the open lounge. To get here, travel 1km south of the Río Blanco bridge on Hwy 32 (7km west of Guápiles near La Marina). Call ahead or email for reservations.

Eating

Guápiles

El Rubio

The clutter of pick-up trucks out front is a clue that you’ve stumbled onto this popular family eatery serving grilled fish, roasted meats and bocas (savory bar snacks). Our favorite is chifrijo, rice and beans studded with fried pork, tomato salsa and chips. Head north 250m on the paved road just east of Burger King, then turn east another 250m.

Soda Buenos Aires

(Tel 2710-1768; hwy 32; casados US$5; h 6am-7pm Mon-Sat) Situated 600m west of Burger King on the south side of the main highway, this popular soda (cheap, informal lunch counter) is a good bet for early-morning breakfasts and affordable casados.

Más X Menos

(h7am-9pm Mon-Sat, to 8pm Sun) This huge supermarket is 800m northeast of the bus terminal, along Guápiles’ eastbound main street.

Around Guápiles

Restaurante El Yugo

(Tel 2711-0090; mains US$3-10; h 24hr) If there’s a Costa Rican truck-stop heaven, it must look something like this. Strategically placed just below Hwy 32’s tortuous climb into Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo (13km west of Guápiles), it’s the perfect spot to brace yourself for the road ahead or recuperate from the harrowing descent. A fabulous array of tasty, affordable cafeteria-style food is available 24/7.

Getting There & Away

Guapiles’ modern bus terminal, complete with eateries and internet cafe (h 9am-5pm), is 800m north of the main highway from the western Burger King turnoff.

Cariari (Coopetraca) US$1; 20 minutes; departs every 15 minutes from 6am to 10pm. Puerto Limón via Guácimo & Siquirres (Tracasa) US$4.30; two hours; departs hourly from 6am to 7pm.

Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí (Guapileños) US$2.40; one hour; departs at 5:30am, 8am, 9am, 10:30am, noon, 1:15pm, 2:30pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6:30pm.

San José (Guapileños) US$2.75; 11⁄4 hours; departs every 30 minutes from 6:30am to 7pm.

Cariari

Due north of Guápiles, Cariari is a bluecollar, rough-around-the-edges banana town. Most travelers make their way quickly through here, en route to Tortuguero. If that’s you, Cariari is your last opportunity to get cash.

If you get stranded, spend the night at

Hotel El Trópico (Tel 2767-7070; www.hoteleltropico.com; s/d with fan US$25/31, with air-con US$29/33; p a W ) on the main road 600m north of Terminal Caribeño, which has 17 tidy rooms (angle for one of the three with front-porch hammocks) and an onsite restaurant (open 7am to 10pm).

There’s a gas station and a branch of

Banco de Costa Rica (opposite San José bus terminal; h 9am-4pm Mon-fri) with a 24-hour ATM on the Cirrus system.

Getting There & Away

Cariari has two bus terminals. Buses from San José arrive at the estación nueva (new station) at the southern end of town. Those serving Guápiles and the northern Caribbean use the estación vieja (old station, also known as Terminal Caribeño), about 500m north, on the west side of main street.

To reach Tortuguero, take a bus from the estación vieja to the dock at La Pavona, then transfer to one of the several boat services that make multiple daily trips to Tortuguero.

When returning from Tortuguero, if headed
to the southern Caribbean coast, take a bus to Guápiles and then transfer to one of the regular hourly buses to Puerto Limón.
 Guápiles (estación vieja) US$1; 20 minutes; departs every 15 minutes from 5:30am to 7pm.

La Pavona for boat transfer to Tortuguero

(estación vieja) US$2.20, one hour, departs at 6am, 9am, 11:30am and 3pm. 
Puerto Lindo for boat transfer to Barra del Colorado (estación vieja) US$5, 21⁄2 hours, departs at 4am and 2pm.

San José (estación nueva) US$3.35, two hours, departs daily at 7:30am, 9am, 11:30am, 1pm, 3pm and 5:30pm.

if driving, the turnoff for the paved road to Cariari is about 1km east of Guápiles, at the Servicentro Santa Clara. drivers heading to Tortuguero can leave cars at the guarded parking by the boat dock on the Río Suerte in La Pavona (about 30km north of Cariari). Casa Marbella in Tortuguero has posted a very helpful map of the exact route from Guápiles to La Pavona (see casamar-bella.tripod.com/id10.html)

The brainchild of biologist Don Perry, a pioneer of rainforest-canopy research, the Rainforest Aerial Tram (Tel 2257-5961, in USA 1-866-759-8726; www.rainforestadventure.com; adult/student & child tram US$60/30, zip line US$50/35; c ) carries visitors to the heights of the forest canopy in a gondola. The 2.6km ride takes 40 minutes each way, affording unusual plant-spotting and bird-watching opportunities. The fee includes a knowledgeable guide, which is helpful since the dense vegetation can make observing animals difficult. A variety of other organized adventures, including a 14-platform, 10-cable ziplining tour and the new 2000m Adrenaline (longest zip line on Costa Rica’s Caribbean slope), are also available. Book online or in the San José office ( Tel 2257-5961; Av 7 btwn Calles 5 & 7; h 9am-5pm Mon-fri).

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