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Visiting the Boruca Tribe , Costa Rica

Expectations soar while driving the fifteen-mile backroad between Palmar Norte and the Boruca village. Along the way are glimpses of the massive Terraba River with its brown thalweg fed by blue side channels. Turning left at a large yellow Boruca sign begins a five-mile tree-lined dirt road that climbs to even more scenic views of lush green hillsides that feed the river below.

Sign post on tree showing the way to Boruca village.
Turn left. This sign is all that marks the way to the Boruca village.

Entering the village is not a step back in time but rather the gateway to a clean yet poor cluster of modest homes in a dirt street neighborhood. Replacing the anticipation of tribal huts and traditional costumes is the feeling of intruding on a tight-knit community of proud generations who don’t want you there. 

Man carrying branch on dirt road.
Not a stick. What might appear as a simple branch is a future carving in the eye of a Boruca artist.

Stop at the display case next to the museum and houses with art for sale signs. But realize that while they are happy to sell the traditional handmade masks they are famous for, it is abundantly clear that, just like the Spaniards that unsuccessfully tried to conquer them, they want you to go.

A Borucan artist carves a wooden mask.
Masks for sale. A Borucan artist carves a wooden mask.

Show respect by offering them a welcoming gift, such as a bag of sugar, exchanging kind greetings, asking permission before taking photos, purchasing their magnificently hand-carved artwork, admiring their museum with its mysterious stone petrospheres, and heading back the way you came.

Dirt street in Boruca village.
Don’t stay too long. Return on the same dirt road you arrived.

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Hi. We are Paul and Cindy, two biologists, fit and over 50, who enjoy exploring, photographing, and blogging about our outdoor travel. Our journey is to find outdoor activities that are away from crowds, kind to nature, and authentic. We carry backpacks, stay in clean accommodations, and feel that good food is as important as good friends.

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