The plains and mountains of the North are part of this region the Guanacaste and Tilarán mountain ranges, which are separated by the Arenal reservoir; as well as the plains of Guatuso, San Carlos and Sarapiquí / Chilamate, extend to the border area with Nicaragua.
The Tilarán Mountain Rage is part of Costa Rica’s continental division between the Pacific and the Atlantic. The main attractions of the region are the area of La Fortuna, the Arenal Volcano, the Arenal Lake as well as the therapeutic hot springs of the Tabacon River and the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
La Fortuna is an area that simply has it all. This village has been awarded internationally many times for many different reasons, being the latest one by Tripadvisor as the number one destination for Travel Experience in 2022.
This town’s economy relies mostly in tourism, there are about 100 hotels, from cozy bed & breakfast to the most luxurious unimaginable ones. The main attraction continues to be Arenal Volcano, though its last eruption was in 2010. When the sky is clear you can admire the majestic Arenal with its perfect cone shape. There is a lot more to do here than only visiting the volcano national park.
From hanging bridges, Canyoneering, rafting, zip lining, hikes to breathtaking waterfalls, birdwatching, underground caverns, hot springs and much more. It is without any doubt the best area in Costa Rica for treasuring remarkable adventure experiences.
The drive from the Juan Santamaria International airport is about 3 hours, there are also local flights, which take about 20 min.
Arenal Volcano National Park
The Arenal Volcano will be for sure the first thing that gets your attention when in La Fortuna. In the Conservation area there are two volcanoes, the 1,633 meters tall Arenal Volcano (5358-feet) and Chato Volcano which is 1140 meters tall, (3740 feet), the last one has been inactive for nearly 3,500 years and has a collapsed crater that contains an spectacular lagoon.
The trails along the park will take you discovering the humid forest, as well as lava flows that fell on previous eruptions and the imposing ceiba tree which is over 400 years old. The National Park is also a great spot for birding, with over 859 species identified within its borders. One of its highlights is the endangered resplendent quetzal. There are also white-faced capuchin monkeys, jaguars, deer, coatis, and snakes like the fer-de-lance and parrot snake.
The weather in this area varies a lot, its temperature is influenced by both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The temperature goes on average from 21 to 28 °C, and an annual rainfall which averages between 3,500 mm to 5,000 mm. The dry season runs from February to April, meaning that the rainy season goes from May to January. Another interesting aspect of Arenal, is its large role producing electricity, it supplies about 12% of the country’s hydroelectric energy.
Ready to have an underground adventure?
This archeological treasure was formed 6 to 15 million years ago, during the Miocene period. This mysterious cave was underwater, but over the years, due to the movement of the tectonic plates, came out to the surface.
Definitely hard to believe, but the cave was only discovered until 1945, when a local found it by accident during a hunting trip, although some people say the native Guatusos, (an indigenous community), knew of its existence way before then. Officially explored for the very first time in 1962 by Mr. Robert Vergenes, a French explorer.
This magnificent place, welcomes it visitors with formations of stalactites and stalagmites plus a great number of bats (4 different species). Other creatures that inhabit the place are spiders, crabs, and fish. There are in total 450 caverns, but only 10 are opened to visitors. It takes about 2 hours to do the complete tour.
The caverns are in a private property, they are not part of a National Park, but can be visited any day of the week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
As you are probably imagining caves are dark, humid and the space can feel very limited depending on the location, aspects that make it not suitable for claustrophobic people, toddlers or people with disabilities.
There is a waterfall and an underground river, so you most likely will get wet and dirty. We strongly recommend to bring an extra change of clothes, tennis or hiking shoes, towel, insect repellent and of course a waterproof camera (it’s better not to take your cell phone).
The Venado Cave is in San Carlos area, about 3 hours from the airport.
This is the home of the third most important wetland in the world. Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge is located 20 Km south of Los Chiles, near the Nicaraguan border.
Its signature is without any doubt is eco-tourism, forget about large crowds. Exploring the area on little river boats, allows you to encounter its amazing biodiversity. The experienced guides will help you spot caimans, snakes, and the emerald basilisk along with the unique flora. You could also be surprised by a group of howler, spider and capuchin monkeys; deer, sloths, anteaters and the very shy ocelots, jaguars and pumas inhabit this area as well.
Its most interesting resident is the Gaspar fish, considered a living fossil due to the fact that it hasn’t changed its appearance over millions of years. This is also a hot spot for birdwatching, storks, cormorants, ibis and ospreys are a tiny example of the 200 species of birds within the Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge.
Caño Negro is also a very important stopover for migratory birds making their way from Northern America to South America.
La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the highlights of this beautiful area. An impressive 70 meters high Waterfall, located within a private biological reserve, in 210 acres of transition premontane tropical wet forest at 520 meters over sea level.
The landscape is formed by rocky foundations of great geological value, offering a lush scenic view. Most tour operators offer guided tours by car or horse to this stunning natural attraction.
Don´t forget to bring your camera, along the trail you will discover plants, trees, and animals, which inhabit the area, including sloths, toucans, orioles, butterflies, and a lot more.
Once at the waterfall, a swim feels like the right thing to do, in the refreshing clear waters of the Arenal River or maybe just relaxing by absorbing the incredible nature around you that will for sure become part of your memories.
The Monteverde area in Costa Rica is world famous for its cloud forest. There are now two Reserves, the original Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the new Santa Elena Rain Forest.
Here, you will experience the cloud forest mystic climate and hike the trails amongst the magnificent epiphytic laden trees. There have been over 450 bird species discovered in the Monteverde area. The native birds are joined at certain time of the year by those which migrate from North America. The magnificent resplendent quetzals with their long tails feed at various locations in the area and one can at times hear the “bong” of the bell birds.
When you visit Monteverde, keep an eye open for observing life and activity in the treetops: many species of monkey, birds, snakes, could surprise you!
As if this was not good enough, visitors can live the adventure of walking over suspension bridges, gliding through the canopy on zip lines anchored to platforms, or swinging from the seat of an aerial tram.
Monteverde, means “Green hill”, will allow you to find your internal peace while exploring the forest.
Located in the heart of Monteverde, the Curi-cancha Reserve brings the opportunity to travelers to deeply connect with nature. Feel how your body starts to surrender to the peace and tranquility, the sound of the forest, the birds singing, the quite…
These 205 acres of protected land, was officially designated as a Wild Life Reserve 1997. Though it was until 2011 that tourists were allowed to explore this beautiful area. Back in the 1970´s, this land was a pasture area, but for over 40 years the trees have remained untouched growing without any human intervention.
When exploring the Curi-Cancha Reserve one could encounter with ocelots, agoutis, coatis, armadillos and kinkajous. There are three species of monkeys, white-faced capuchins, spider monkeys, and the howlers; as well as the unique Costa Rican sloths, that swing quietly hanging from their toes up in the trees.
This is also a birding paradise, with over 250 identified species of birds, including the radiantly blue-colored honeycreepers, black guans, slate-throated redstarts, keel-billed toucans and of course the king of the area the Resplendent Quetzal. Its breeding season goes from March to July, during this time your chances of spotting this brilliant bird increase considerably.
Tenorio National Park is located in the Volcanic Mountain Range in Guanacaste, and its unique Río Celeste, (Celeste River), offers a mystic senary. This natural spectacle of turquoise pristine dyed water, looks like something one could only dream of. The tale says that when God was painting his blue skies, he dipped his paintbrush in the river creating the brilliant blue waters.
One of its highlights is the Rio Celeste Waterfall, which is 30 meters tall. Followed by the blue Lagoon, which is a small pool of intense color. Previously, it was a believe that the color in the water was due to a high concentration of sulfate, calcium carbonate and sulfur, minerals found in the water, because of its proximity to the Tenorio Volcano, however what makes Rio Celeste such an interesting place is that the color is a product of an optical phenomenon that occurs as a result of the aluminosilicates that cover the rocks along the bottom of the river. This mineral, (a combination of aluminum, silicon, and oxygen), cannot absorb the color blue, which is why it reflects the blue in the sunlight creating this breathtaking illusion of stunning blue water. Is important to mention that to protect this natural jewel, swimming is not allowed.
Also, there are about 7 Km of well-marked trails that will take you through primary and secondary rain forest. The first one, will lead you to a small hanging bridge towards the waterfall. There is a staircase that goes all the way down to the river, as you descent the lush green jungle keep your eyes open to discovered its secrets.
Only two hours from San José, Sarapiquí area, its beautiful River and its unique ppicturesque town of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí are worth visiting.
The surroundings contain a great mountain range, some plateaus- used as agricultural land- as well as dry forest, which is part of the Braulio Carillo National Park.
The region of Puerto Viejo and La Virgen provides a hot and humid climate, which makes the Sarapiquí River one of its main attractions. It is a great area for the must adventurists, some of the top activities are rafting, tubing and Canopy. Sarapiquí is also known among birdwatchers as a great destination. There are more than 500 different species
of birds identified, including hummingbirds, limpets, toucans, orioles, woodpeckers, and quetzals among many others.
One of the greatest attractions within this area is La Paz Waterfall located halfway to the Poas Volcano as well as Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. With its lush natural surroundings, the falls are an extraordinarily beautiful sight.
Lodging at this area range from small rustic lodges surrounded by exotic Rainforest to more luxury resorts offering spa and other services such as Yoga Retreats.
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