There is no reason to stay home on the weekends here

The weekend is fast approaching, and the question alway is: What to do?

There are a lot of options for tourists and residents that can break the routine that sometimes threatens to overwhelm life here in the rainy season. Here are some suggestions:

Chicharronera Cacique Asseri is the multi-storied, 46-year-old restaurant on the main street in, of course, Asserí, just south of Desamparados and San José. The staff cooks chicharrones in caldrons. By the hundredweight. Locals parade through the restaurant in traditional masks. There is one or more cimarronas or small
bands. And there is always at least one or more marimba players.

This place is not for the Weight Watchers. No one leaves hungry. This is the spot where top government officials go for bachelor parties, despedidas and guaranteed great times. Bring a note from your cardiologist.

The chicharronía also boasts a terrific view of the Central Valley. That is something that is shared by dozens of so-called miradoras around the rim of the valley. If chicharrones are not on the diet, any number of restaurants will fill the bill, including the Le Monastère Restaurant & Cave in San Rafael de Escazú if money is not the prime concern. The view from the former monastery is worth the drive, not to mention the dark beer.

With the Caldera highway in service, the Pacific beckons for a day or weekend visit. CocoMar Residences & Beach Resort in Isla Palo Seco, Parrita, is offering anyone a free night in the facility. A lot of other hotel and condo facilities are open to the public over the weekends, and Jacó has turned from a sleepy village to a bustling community with all kinds of services for visitors. Walking on the beach is worth the trip. It is the closest beach to the Central Valley.

And anyone going west from the Central Valley who happens to find him or herself in La Garita needs to consider a quick stop at the La Fiesta del Maíz on the main highway for traditional and unique corn-based treats.

Just a few miles to the north of San José is the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, called INBio, in Santo Domingo de Heredia. The private eco-reserve is conducting what is called Bioblitz this weekend, a 24-hour marathon counting of plants and creatures at the 5.5 hectare site. INBio is great not just for the snakes in glass boxes but for a hedge maze and duck pond, adds a reporter.

Those going east can drop in on the Monumento Nacional Guayabo, some 11 miles northeast of Turrialba. This is one of the great Latin American pre-Columbian sites but is not high on the list of the average visitor. The site was occupied for thousands of years, but not much is known about the people. They were experts in constructing draining systems and pools to control the heavy rainfall of the area. Much of the area has not been excavated. It ranks along with the stone spheres in the south Pacific, although that region is a bit far for a weekend jaunt from the Central Valley.

Those who wish to stay overnight could consider the Hacienda Tayutic, which boasts that the Turrialba area with the Tayutic Valley is a great alternative to other tourism locations, like Arenal, being more authentic, with fewer tourists and now with the misbehaving Turrialba volcano.

Nearby is the Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Co. in Tejar de El Guarco, Cartago. The firm offers tours with prior appointments Friday and Saturday afternoons. Dark beer can be found here with the owners who are challenging the Costa Rican beer monopoly.

In Paraíso de Cartago is found the Lankester Gardens, an orchid garden run by the Universidad de Costa Rica. There are more than 800 orchid species on display.

Further southwest is the community of Orosi and then the Parque Nacional Tapanti with plenty of wildlife and easy walking trails. Orosi is known for the 18th century Catholic church that recently underwent a major restoration.

One cannot talk about Cartago and churches without mentioning the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in the center of that city. This manifestation of the Virgin Mary is the patroness of the nation. She is represented by a rough rock statute that is finely dressed at the top of the main altar. The faithful enter the main aisle on their knees. Others have sent elaborate clothing and other items for the statue. These are displayed in an adjacent room. There also is a line of persons seeking to fill containers with water from the spring near which the statue was found in 1635.

To the west is the ruinas de Cartago, the remains of a Catholic church in construction that was wrecked by the 1910 earthquake.

Arenal, of course, is a great place for a weekend visit. The warm water relaxes even though the volcano is not putting on as much of a show these days. The Hotel Arenal Paraíso Resort & Spa correctly says it is just two and a half hours from San José, but the drive is sometimes rough when the weather is bad. A good bet is to take a commercial vehicle that many hotels can provide even to residents.

Sunday is the time for religious services. One would not have to be Catholic to appreciate the restoration work at the more than 100-year-old
Iglesia La Merced near the park by the same name in downtown San José. Fabulous is an understatement of the $1 million effort done by church officials, the municipality and Cervercería Costa Rica.

Those seeking a service in English can visit the International Baptist Church in Guachipelín, Escazú, either at 9 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

A special program this week features Rick Muchow, former music and worship pastor at Southern California’s Saddleback Church for 24 years. He has recorded 24 CDs.

Those attending the 9 a.m. service will have time to drop by Parque la Sabana to watch one or more Sunday baseball games, if the weather cooperates.

Those attending the 9 a.m. service will have time to drop by Parque la Sabana to watch one or more Sunday baseball games, if the weather cooperates. This is real hardball, and some of the players are U.S. Major League quality. Many are Nicaraguan.

La Sabana is the place many Costa Ricans visit Sundays for picnics and family gatherings. The park is the former airport, and the former terminal and control tower is now the Museo de Arte Costarricense,
which is open from 9 to 4 Tuesday through Sundays.

If the hours are too early after the chicharrones or dark beer, the Escazú Christian Fellowship meets in the same place at 5 p.m.. That is at the Ferretería Construplaza turnoff on the Caldera highway.

The bulk of Costa Rica’s population is in the Central Valley, but editors would welcome suggestions on weekend trips elsewhere in the country. There is fishing, of course in salt water and in the lakes and streams. A.M. Costa Rica’s companion fishing title has reported on some of these. There also is rafting, zip lining, bird watching, whale watching and hundreds of other avocations. There is even a new adventure sports location north of San José on the highway to Limón.

Editors would like to hear about favorite places for readers to compile a similar, future news story. Write the editor. Please include links, although they will not show up in the story. All these locations are easily searchable on the Web.

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