Orientation Palmichal de Acosta is a community of roughly 4,000 people nestled in the foothills of the Cerros de Escazu mountain range. Only 40km from Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, Palmichal de Acosta features some of Costa Rica’s best coffee – “Calidad Palmichal” is a designation of prestige, much as that of nearby Tarrazu – […]
Palmichal de Acosta is a community of roughly 4,000 people nestled in the foothills of the Cerros de Escazu mountain range. Only 40km from Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, Palmichal de Acosta features some of Costa Rica’s best coffee – “Calidad Palmichal” is a designation of prestige, much as that of nearby Tarrazu – and has spent the last 100 years refining its processes, and currently features two full scale coffee processing factories as well as a micro-production factory. Due to its topographic location, Palmichal is at the foot of some of the most virgin primary cloud forest in all of Costa Rica, rivaling more famous Monteverde to the northeast without the hustle and bustle of mass tourism.
Local organization ADESSARU launched its eco-hotel, Nacientes Palmichal, at the turn of the millenium to provide revenues to its environmental conservation initiatives, and ever since has attracted a steady stream of guests seeking some of the best in educational and rural tourism. Nacientes Palmichal was a founding member of ACTUAR – the Costa Rican Rural Tourism Association – and pioneered the creation of national laws fomenting rural tourism development and promotion. Additional, Palmichal features a women’s artisan association, numerous trout ponds where you fish for your meal, tours of the coffee production process and even families available for homestays to give you a more authentic look at rural Costa Rican life.
From San Jose, take the highway toward Orotina/Jaco, turning off at the Toll Booth just past the Ashley Furniture, headed to Ciudad Colon. After passing through Ciudad Colon, take the winding mountain highway through the Quitirrisi Indigenous Reserve, and take a left at the “Cruce de Tarbacia” – signs for Tabarcia and Palmichal will indicate some 300m before the turnoff. Once you arrive in Tabarcia, follow the main road through town, turning left just past the cathedral (where the road only goes left or right). Follow the road to the center of town, where you’ll see a sign leading the way for Pesca de Truchas San Pablo and Nacientes Palmichal.
Alternatively, by bus, take the Palmichal bus from the Comtrasuli bus terminal (100m west of the Coca Cola bus terminal). Buses leave 18 times a day, with greater frequency in the afternoon.
ToursNacientes Palmichal (2418-4328) offers any number of different tours, including to an original Costa Rican “cerco” where you can hear traditional stories from town elders; a working dairy farm, where participants can milk cows and turn milk into cheese; and certain coffee tours, upon request.
The Beneficio de Palmichal (coffee processing plant) offers a tour of the processing plant, where participants can watch coffee being unloaded from the trucks, washed, processed, dried, and eventually toasted to perfection. It’s managing director, Rodolfo Valverde, also offers coffee tastings (also known as cuppings).
Rodolfo Valverde offers tours of his traditional Costa Rican ranch, Finca Integral Doña Rosa, where you can watch sugar being pressed from the cane, watch a small-scale coffee farmer toast his very own coffee (and package it in front of you), as well as taste all the many fruits and vegetables grown organically on his farm.
The Tabarcia River, while rather cold, is a great place to find a small swimming hole, bring a picnic and enjoy clean, refreshing mountain water in the middle of pure wilderness, on the edge of primary cloud forest and a soon-to-be national wildlife refuge.
Salvaje – literally meaning “Wild” – is a forest east of Palmichal. It is a great place to lose the crowds, and views of the surrounding Central Valley are incredible.
Passing the turnoff for Salvaje, the slightly precarious mountain road leads to Caragral, an incredibly quaint community completely off the map and lost in time. The school and church are made of wood, homes are traditional and seemingly untouched by time, and the people you meet are about as authentically Costa Rican and campesino as it gets. This is one of the true gems of Costa Rica, and isn’t on anyone’s radar.
The most common type of artisan good in the community is bamboo products – “Artesania de Bambu” – in particular, produced by doña Rosalina Montiel just west of Palmichal, on the main road to Pueblo Nuevo. Products include mobiles, chimes, pens, earrings, mirrors, and even small furniture pieces, and are usually combined with the seeds of endemic Costa Rican tree and plant species for an all-natural, truly beautiful effect. Her business started several years ago when she was given a start-up grant by a Costa Rican social welfare institute, and her business has thrived with tourists ever since.
More expensive, but with a dramatically higher quality, are doña Rosalina Valverde’s glass mosaics. Most mosaics take some 2-3 weeks to produce by hand, as she is a one-woman operation, and recently she has slowed production as she is 82 years old and has been experiencing health problems. She first began to produce mosaics when she received a course from the National Learning Institute (INA) several decades ago, and she has been prolific ever since. Themes of the mosaics oftentimes include birds endemic to Costa Rica, as well as traditional scenes (such as ox and oxcarts), religious depictions (such as an extravagantly intricate rendition of the Virgin Mary), fish, and other nature-inspired scenes.
Nacientes Palmichal: an eco-hotel with sustainability in mind, 8 different rooms with a mix of bunk beds and queen-size beds, with an environmental classroom, a modern kitchen and dining room, a traditional Costa Rican kitchen (great for hand-making tortillas).
Pesca de Truchas San Pablo: three well-appointed cabinas along the Tabarcia River, plus a restaurant where Ivan and family cook what you catch.
There is a group of families offering homestays in San Pablo de Palmichal, but are not necessarily organized into a solid group, and only offer it on-demand through Nacientes Palmichal.
Vivian, the head chef at Nacientes Palmichal, owns a house in front of Nacientes Palmichal that comfortably fits some 10 people and rents it out, particularly to groups.
Pesca de Truchas San Pablo is about 2km from Palmichal centro, in San Pablo, and features two trout ponds from where you can eat for dinner what you’re able to catch! Trout can be served fried or grilled with a generous helping of sides.
Rancho Maria is about 1km from Palmichal centro on the way to San Pablo and features two ponds – one with trout, one with tilapia – to catch your own dinner. Cost is based on weight, and fish is served fried with several sides.
Soda Piby – in the dead center of town, the Soda Piby is a relative institution. Primarily catering to people passing through, Piby serves all your typical Costa Rican fast food favorites – gallos, casados, tortas, ensaladas, rice, beans, picadillos, etc.
Salon La Union – a bar and restaurant serving incredible everything, from ceviches to chicharrones, along with a cold brew, cocktails and a lively atmosphere., at times featuring bailes and karaoke.
Soda Freddy – a locals bar on one side, a small “soda” on the other, Soda Freddy offers basic fast food dishes, such as gallos, french fries, and hamburgers.
Rodolfo Valverde, managing director of the Palmichal Coffee Processing Plant (offers tours) as well as the Finca Integral Dona Rosa (traditional Costa Rican ranch) in nearby Piedades de Pursical. firstname.lastname@example.org
Hernan Ramirez, executive director of Nacientes Palmichal: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ivan Azofeifa, owner of Pesca de Truchas San Pablo: 2418-4454
Seidy Ureña, owner of Rancho Maria: 8301-9879