The Talamanca range extends from eastern Costa Rica to western Panama. Originally a volcanic island, its separation from other mountain ranges resulted in the evolution of many unique species of animals and plants, often with similarities to forms found in the Andes. With roughly 150 inhabitants, San Gerardo de Dota (see map below) is a beautiful hamlet on the Pacific slope of the Talamanca range. (San Gerardo de Dota is in the canton of Dota in the province of San José—not to be confused with San Gerardo de Rivas, which is in the canton of Pérez Zeledón.) Tucked at the base of a narrow, wooded valley at about 7,200’ above sea level, it feels like a different world. One of the most pristine rivers in the country, Río Savegre, runs through the area. Here the founding Chacón family planted orchards of cool-weather fruit trees such as apples, plums, and peaches. They also stock streams and ponds with their own Rainbow Trout—the original stock of which came from Minnesota (a delightful story that the family patriarch will happily convey to you).
The Savegre Hotel de Montaña (Savegre Mountain Hotel—now called Savegre Hotel, Natural Reserve and Spa; click on the logo to go to their Web site) has 21 basic cabins (“standard rooms”) with space heaters and 29 wood-paneled cabins (“junior suites”) with fireplaces. Only about 2 hours from San José, the hotel is located in a private biological reserve of nearly 1000 acres of cloud forest, ranging in altitude from 4,000′ – 8,400′ above sea level.
This area is easily accessed these days via the the Inter-American Highway—the section of the Pan-American Highway between the U.S. and the Panama Canal. Cerro de la Muerte is the highest pass (nearly 11,500′) on the entire Pan-American Highway. Crossing these mountains from the Central Valley used to require a 3- or 4-day journey, on foot or horseback. Many ill-prepared travelers died there due to the cold and rains—hence the ominous name of “Mountain of Death.” The Inter-American Highway now renders the name a mere historical novelty. A drivable road from the highway at Km 89 leads to the summit, with its cluster of telecommunications antennas.
Click here to join us in the magical area of San Gerardo de Dota.