Over the years, the Southern Zone city of San Isidro de El General has become a crossroads for tourists traveling to and from Chirripó, Corcovado, La Amistad and Manuel Antonio national parks, and favorite southern Pacific beach spots such as Dominical, Uvita and Playa Tortuga. Travel weary tourists find this town a convenient stopover before the next leg of their journey.
One such overnight lodging establishment in the area deserves mention. Only six kilometers north of town, on the paved road to Rivas and ChirripóNational Park, you’ll find Rancho La Botija inn, located just before the legendary Piedra Indio (“Indian Rock”). According to legend, this basalt rock was once shaped by indigenous inhabitants to resemble a relief map of the Chirripó mountain range. Archeologists have uncovered one of the largest pre-Columbian settlements in the region around Rivas, and La Botija has inherited a massive rock bearing a classic spiral petroglyph symbol common in the region.
La Botija is owned by Costa Ricans Fulgencio Román, a general surgeon at San Isidro’s hospital, and his wife Delia Rosa Gutiérrez, who manages the business. Through the years, they have created a small but lovely establishment with 11 rooms, ornamental gardens, a restaurant, pool, lookout tower and conference room. They have also developed a small sustainable farm, which includes a lake with tilapia, a sugarcane and coffee plantation and several head of livestock.
At 9 a.m., Tuesday through Sunday, guests can tour the farm and archeological site to experience life a la tica. On the guided tour in Spanish led by Román – Gutiérrez leads tours in English – what impressed me was the peaceful atmosphere of the grounds. It’s a place to relax in harmony with nature, without a blaring karaoke or dance salon, and guest rooms are situated far from the highway to provide a quiet, restful night’s sleep.
The cozy restaurant is decorated with indigenous artifacts and relics of old Costa Rica, giving the feeling of stepping back into the country’s rich heritage. There’s also a small outside dining area where one can view the pool and two classic indigenous stone spheres. Mystery still shrouds how pre-Columbian natives of the DiquesValley shaped these stone orbs.
The restaurant offers a diverse menu of Costa Rican dishes, such as arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) and the house special, arroz a La Botija (rice with chicken, ham and beef), as well as fish dinners prepared in several delicious ways. Gutiérrez highly recommends the grilled chicken breast with rice, vegetables and potatoes. Mexican-food fans will enjoy the burritos, flautas, chalupas, tacos and nachos. Also on the menu are Buffalo wings, hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken and French fries, an ample selection of meat dishes and, for folks who like to eat light, several salads and soups. Prices range from ¢1,300-3,000 ($2.60-6). A full-service bar with a selection of imported wines is also available.
The comfortable guest rooms with private bath are decorated with bamboo furniture and beds. Rates range from $40 single to $79 for a four-person room; two rooms offer wheelchair access.
La Botija offers special tour packages on which you can tour the archeological site and farm, swim in the pool and receive a complimentary fruit salad for $7, or $12 with lunch included.
For reservations, call 220-2146 or 770-2147, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.rancholabotija.com.
Buses leave San José for San Isidro de El General from the MUSOC bus station, next to Hospital Carit, every hour on the half-hour during the day. Once in San Isidro, you can take a cab to La Botija for ¢2,000 ($4), or, if you are driving, head south on theInter-American Highway
for 1 km, crossing two bridges, until you reach the first left turn. The road is marked with a sign for ChirripóNational Park. Travel another 5 km, and La Botija is on the left.