Caribbean Coast Feature

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Rain Forest Adventures

Just 15 km (9 miles) beyond the northeastern boundary of Braulio Carrillo, a 1,200-acre reserve houses a privately owned and operated engineering marvel: a series of gondolas strung together in a modified ski-lift pulley system. (To lessen the impact on the jungle, the support pylons were lowered into place by helicopter.) The tram gives you a way to see the rain-forest canopy and its spectacular array of epiphyte plant life and birds from above, a feat you could otherwise accomplish only by climbing the trees yourself. Purists complain that it treats the rain forest like an amusement park, but it's an entertaining way to learn the value and beauty of rain-forest ecology.

The 21 gondolas hold five people each, plus a bilingual biologist-guide equipped with a walkie-talkie to request brief stops for snapping pictures. The ride covers 2½ km (1½ miles) in 80 minutes. The price includes a biologist-guided walk through the area for ground-level orientation before or after the tram ride. Several add-ons are possible, too, with frog, snake, and butterfly exhibits, a medicinal-plant garden, and a zip-line canopy tour on-site ($45), as well as a half-day birding tour ($83). You can arrange a personal pickup in San José for a fee; alternatively, there are public buses (on the Guápiles line) every half hour from the Gran Terminal del Caribe in San José. Drivers know the tram as the teleférico. Many San José tour operators make a daylong tour combining the tram with another half-day option; combos with the Britt Coffee Tour or INBioparque in Santo Domingo, both near Heredia, are especially popular. Nine rustic (no air-conditioning or TV) but cozy cabinas (cottages) are available on-site (reservations are required). Electricity shuts off after 9 pm. Cabin rates include meals, tram tours, and guided walks. A café is open to all for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you're traveling the Central Pacific coast, you'll find similar installations near the town of Jacó 3 km (2 miles) north of Supermercado Maxi Bodega, although without the accommodation, and a restaurant open for breakfast and lunch only. The admission price at the Pacific facility includes the tram ride, nature walk, snake exhibit, heliconia and medicinal-plant gardens, and transport from Jacó-area hotels. The company also operates trams in the Caribbean-island nations of Jamaica, Dominica, and St. Lucia, all outside the scope of this book.

Teleférico del Bosque Lluvioso, Avda. 7 and C. 7, San José 2257–5961, 866/759–8726 in North America www.rainforestadventures.com $55; $104 includes all attractions Tours: Mon. 9–4, Tues.–Sun. 6:30–4. Call for reservations 6 am–9:30 pm.

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