– getting acquainted, a little history…
The village of San Gerardo de Rivas, situated at the base of Cerro Chirripó in Parque La Amistad – a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, has a population of approximately 350, and additionally fifty or so non-locals who have made their homes, permanent or temporary, in the area. Originally, the mountain area was inhabited by the indigenous peoples: Cabecar mainly, and you may encounter them working, visiting or playing football in San Gerardo. The Cabecar are also winning competitors in the annual Carrera Chirripó, the race 17 km up the mountain! The area was cleared by settlers mainly from Santa Maria de Dota looking to farm the rich soils of the valley starting in the 1930’s.
Evidence of early farming can be seen in the countless trails – trillos – that fan out in the local hills, and both working and non-working trapiches – the ox-driven sugar mills of times gone by. Many of the families have lived in the area for countless generations, and the Community Hall has a wall of photographs of the founding families and some of their history.
Local resources for visitors…
The village has an Elementary School with four classrooms, a Church, restaurants, a café, and bars, and stores where food and non-food supplies can be purchased. The pulpería, (store), called Abastecedor Los Nubes in the centre of San Gerardo is the largest and stocks food, general medicines, bottled water, and phone cards. You can even purchase using a credit card! Telephones have reached San Gerardo, and internet access is available at many of the hotels or in Café Bambú.
Wi-fi: El Pelicano Hotel, Café Bambú, Hotel Talamanca
Hotel El Descanso
To be expected, in a rural area like San Gerardo there are few options for eating out. And while you’re with your homestay family why would you! But it’s worth knowing a bit about some of the establishments should you feel the urge to nip out for a pint or track down a fresh-baked muffin.
In the centre of San Gerardo, open week-ends only. The café is part of Proyecto San Gerardo – a local non-profit that provides skills-training especially to women and youth in the area. The café offers a variety of coffees, teas and batidos (natural fruit drinks in water or milk), muffins, cakes, breakfast and lunch options such as crepes, burritos, pizza, pies, empanadas and free internet to anyone consuming there! Cheery atmosphere, convenient for waiting for the bus which leaves just opposite.
Roca Dura Hotel, Bar & Restaurant
Also central, facing the plaza, open daily till around 8 pm, depending on season and traffic!
This is the main ‘pub’ in San Gerardo – great for a pint while you watch a local soccer game or just passers-by. Full menu
The main offerings in terms of full-service restaurants are at Hotel Uran, Hotel Descanso and Hotel El Pelicano. Check the map for locations and www.sangerardocostarica.com for more details.
- Hotel Uran: on the road up to the Chirripo trailhead and Cloudbridge Reserve. Open daily until 8 pm. This big hotel serves good breakfast, lunch and dinner options at reasonable prices and is also a good stop-off on the way back from a hike if you fancy a cold drink, beer or a quick snack. Tel: 2742-5003/4
- Hotel El Descanso: good food at a location just 300 m down from the village centre. Open till 9 pm but please check before setting out. Tel: 2742-5061
- Hotel El Pelicano: another big, licensed dining room with a wide choice of dishes. The hotel is hard to miss as you come into San Gerardo – on the left up a steep driveway. This hotel also offers a pool and Jacuzzi to clients and is home to the Art & Culture Gallery of Don Macho Elizondo. Tel: 2742-5050
Hiking: see What to Do for a list of hiking destinations and information. Costa Rica Holiday Homestays can assist with detailed information and planning, and don’t forget your camera! The main areas of interest are:
- Mt. Chirripó – very tough day hike, normally allow one or two nights in the Crestones Lodge and prepare well in terms of clothing and equipment/food. See http://www.sangerardocostarica.com/activities/faqs/ for reservation details.
- Cloudbridge Reserve – a protected area with a reforestation project here you can visit San Gerardo’s spectacular waterfalls and some virgin forest. Quetzal are known to breed here and slowly sloth and other animals are returning to live. Day hiking – contact Costa Rica Holiday Homestay for a guided tour.
- Talamanca Reserve – operated by the Talamanca Hotel. Guided walks only available via the hotel administration that also offers all-terrain vehicles for easy access.
Biking: San Gerardo is fast becoming a destination center for mountain biking. There are racing events as well as equipment to rent.
Swimming: Choose between the hot-springs (Aguas Termales GEVI) a dip in the river (ask us for the best locations) or the pools at El Pelicano – if you are a client.
Football/soccer: Between December and the end of February the annual campionata or championship tournament takes place alternate Sundays at the plaza in San Gerardo. This is a great spectator sport and you’re likely to see all the village out to support our teams (men’s and women’s). At other times you can inquire at the store to borrow a football to kick around, or bring a frisbee to work off those calories gained thanks to your delicious homestay meals!
Volleyball/indoor soccer: a recent extension to the community centre has allowed for a very welcome indoor space for volleyball and soccer in the rainy winter months. If you fancy joining in you will be welcome Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Just show up!
Fishing: Local rivers are not stocked so your best bet is Truchero Cocolisos for easy family trout fishing – Costa Rica Holiday Homestay can arrange your visit to fish and/or lunch. Alternately, enjoy a day at Dominical where you can arrange a sports fishing outing. Ask us for details and prices.
San Gerardo spreads itself along the banks of Rio Chirripo and the Rio Blanco with three main arms extending north-east up the ¨Chuma¨ to the Chirripo trailhead, Cloudbridge and Talamanca Reserves, north up the ¨Chispa¨ to the farms, and south-west towards Herradura and the road to San Isidro. You can get about on foot fairly easily, as everything is within a 30-45 minute walk. So although a hire car is a great idea for getting to San Gerardo it´s certainly not needed once you are here. In summer you need walking shoes and a hat/sunglasses for the strong sun, in winter a rain jacket, umbrella and waterproof footwear are important. A sweater or fleece for after dark is always useful – surprisingly more so in ‘summer’ as temperatures don’t vary much between the wet and dry seasons, but at night it can be cooler in summer because there is little or no cloud cover. Don´t forget the flashlight at any time of year as it´s romantically dark at 6pm year round!
There are a number of local fiestas or festivals, but the most significant is the annual La Carrera Ecológica Cultural Internacional Campo Traviesa Chirripó (Chirripó Race) that takes place on the third Saturday of February. Around 225 competitors – men and women, adults and seniors classes – race 34-km up and down the country’s highest peak – Cerro Chirripó! Starting at 7 a.m. runners leave from the Plaza in San Gerardo de Rivas, heading uphill to the Crestones base camp and down again. The winner usually returns in just over 3 hours, though the fun goes on all day as the competitors return to a hero’s welcome in the plaza. The actual fiesta spreads over 3 days and includes dances, the regional soccer championship finals, a well-stocked cantina, a volunteer-run cafeteria, a beauty pageant, and exposition. It’s worth knowing that many homestays are booked well-ahead for this event – so don’t delay in making a reservation if you want to enjoy – or participate! – in the race.
Map of San Gerardo:
San Gerardo de Rivas is situated next to three other villages: Canaan and Los Angeles to the west and Herradura to the north-west. Each community is a bit different. Los Angeles, located 1 km. from central San Gerardo, is typified by hilly farmland bisected by country roads ideal for walking and wonderful vistas looking back at San Gerardo and Canaan. Most of our riding tours head for this pretty village with its dairy farms, bougainvillea and delightful gardens. There is also a wonderful folkloric gallery called ‘Arte Mia’ we can drop by. Los Angeles is also important for its religious significance and twice a year the image of Our Lady is carried from Los Angeles to neighboring villages to celebrate Mass. Los Angeles’ main fiesta is at the end of August.
Canaan sits astride the main road from San Isidro to San Gerardo, about 2 km away. It can be quite a busy place as the local high school is situated there. Canaan was the original settlement area for the farmers arriving from the north and had the first elementary school, store and community centre. Many of the families in San Gerardo originated in Canaan. Canaan hosts their fiesta a week before San Gerardo, roughly the 15th February. Their rodeo, complete with riding the bulls and lassoing the calves, is famous – and just try those delicious pinches – kebabs!Canaan is also home to Quesos Canaan – a handmade cheese farm and Samaritan Chocolate – so you won’t go hungry on a tour there!
Herradura is the final village on the road that climbs into the Talamanca range from San Isidro. It’s located 3 km from San Gerardo and lies along either side of the Rio Blanco and extends for mile after gorgeous mile into the hills with farms, forests, waterfalls and a totally un-spoilt ambience. Costa Rica Holiday Homestay offers optional horseback riding and hiking in Herradura. Please contact us if you wish to visit.. The local fiesta takes place at the end of January each year.