Everyone needs a getaway. But if time is short or travel is inconvenient, a oneday vacation to Los Trapiches in Santa Gertrudis Sur, just north of the Central Valley coffee town of Grecia, will relax you, entertain you and provide exercise in a cool, refreshing country environment.
Los Trapiches lies halfway between Grecia and the town of San Pedro de Poás, about 36 kilometers west of San José. This is sugarcane country, and Los Trapiches was once a sugar farm with a trapiche, or sugar mill, which pressed and processed sugarcane grown in the area. The mill and the pailas (huge pans in which liquid sugar is boiled) were imported from Scotland in 1868, when Britain manufactured sugar mills for its Caribbean colonies. The mill is still there after 138 years, and on Sundays you can see it in action.
Here, the PrendasRiver runs fresh and clear, tumbling along with enough water to fill the swimming pools and the duck pond and to turn the huge mill wheel, as well as offer serenity for walking along the curved shore. Fruit trees, water apples and guavas in season provide snacks for strollers.
There are two ways to enjoy Los Trapiches. On Sundays, it’s a national party when families and groups come. The 20-acre park is big enough to accommodate all, and there is something for everyone.
Shady areas with huge trees dating back to the days when this was a farm provide a cool cover for walks along the river and over the rustic bridges that abound here, as the river branches or is channeled for the mill or the ponds. There’s water everywhere!
On hot days, everyone wants to try the pool. There are two: one is shallow and is for the kids, but is also fine for sitting on the underwater steps to catch the cool water in laps; the other, though only 10 meters square, is deep enough for a real swim or a dip. Dressing rooms and bathrooms are available nearby.
Picnic areas under tall pines offer tables and benches, and there are covered electrical outlets to plug in a radio (but not too loud, por favor) or coffee pot.
Some visitors try their luck catching tilapia in the fishpond. Others like to row around the mill pond in one of the two rowboats.
If Sunday is your day for dinner out, the rustic-style restaurant offers a full menu of típico food, including arroz con pollo, picadillo de arracache or other selections on this full menu, at reasonable prices. Oscar the cat will assure you it’s all finger-licking delicious.
Beer is available. Or, if you prefer, stop at a store in Grecia or Poás on your way to pick up buns and fillings for your own picnic.
Sunday is showtime, with a demonstration of how sugarcane is made into tapa dulce, brown-sugar loaves common in country kitchens and still used in pastry, and agua dulce, a hot sugar-water drink. The huge waterwheel starts turning in the mornings to press enough cane to fill the pailas with liquid sugar to be boiled up to 100 degrees Celsius (210 F) and siphoned from one huge pan to another to purify. A guide explains each step of the way as finally the liquid brown sugar is ladled into wooden troughs to harden and to taste. All visitors get a sample.
But there’s more! By adding peanuts and twisting long ropes of taffy hanging from hooks, we now have peanut brittle, another delight for all.
The day does not drag on, because later there is music: folk, salsa, ranchera or cumbia for dancing, or watching and listening.
And karaoke. All this takes place in the pavilion under a roof so that rain cannot dampen the day.
On weekdays, Los Trapiches presents a different face. Few people come, so there is space and quiet for contemplation of nature, to listen to the birds singing and the river rippling, to relax with a book or a friend in the sun or the shade, have an uninterrupted swim in the pool and take your time over a meal in the restaurant.
Los Trapiches is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. The entrance fee of ¢1,000 ($1.90) or ¢700 ($1.35) for senior citizens includes parking, pools, the picnic areas and Sunday’s entertainment.
For information, call 444-6656.
By car, take the
to Grecia and follow the road past the Cooperativo Victoria to Santa Gertrudis. From Alajuela, it’s much shorter: taking the road to San Pedro de Poás, turn left, then right (can’t miss it – it’s a very small town) to San Rafael and follow signs to Los Trapiches.
Buses leave Grecia for Poás in front of the market; from Poás, they leave from in front of the park every hour and stop near Los Trapiches.