Turrialba, Costa Rica

The residents of Turrialba are a proud people, and following the relegation of their city to backwater status in 1991, folks here humbly returned to their coffee-cultivating roots. Railways and highways come and go, but life must always go on. By this time, rafters the world over were already whispering about Turrialba, a modest mountain town with access to some of the best white water on the planet. Tourism was suddenly on the rise, and residents were happy to share their town’s charms with curious travelers. However, when the ICE (the national power company) began making good on plans to dam the scenic waterways, the town united with conservation groups and put up a fierce fight. Fair enough – Turrialba has sacrificed enough to the bulldozers of progress.

So far, it seems as if the residents are winning the battle, though it’s always a very fine line between conservation and capitalism in Costa Rica. Information: There’s no official tourist office, but better hotels and most white-water rafting outfits can organize tours, accommodations and transportation throughout the region.

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