Rising gently from the east coast, the Ruta Panorámica winds its way past isolated farms for 25km before running into the BOSQUE ESTATAL DE CARITE, a lush mountain forest of pino hondureño, subtropical palma de lluvia and aged palo colorado trees. Covering an area of around 27 square kilometres, the land ranges from 240 to 900m above sea level, making it several degrees cooler than the coast, and was once laced with 25 hiking trails, though Hurricane Georges washed most of these away in 1998. The most popular of those remaining is the 800m trail leading to Charco Azul, an inviting freshwater swimming hole.
The forest information office is on the north side of the reserve in Guavate, which isn’t really convenient unless you’re driving from San Juan (coming from the east you’ll have driven through the forest by the time you reach it). The more compelling reason to visit this area is to trawl the numerous lechoneras nearby, purveyors of magnificent barbecued meat.