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Overview

Spanning the volcanic Guanacaste and Tilarán mountain chains, this zone equates to activity central. You name it, you can do it here. On the west side the Panamerican Highway runs along the foot of the mountains, with rugged dirt roads spiraling up to Monteverde, perhaps the most popular destination in Costa Rica. Many folks flock just to see a quetzal — the holy grail of tropical birds — in Monteverde's famous cloud forest reserve. Canopy tours, a snake exhibition, ranarium (frogs), and fantastic insect collection are among the dozens of draws to this cool mountain retreat. Farther north, Rincón de la Vieja Volcano offers cattle ...

Spanning the volcanic Guanacaste and Tilarán mountain chains, this zone equates to activity central. You name it, you can do it here. On the west side the Panamerican Highway runs along the foot of the mountains, with rugged dirt roads spiraling up to Monteverde, perhaps the most popular destination in Costa Rica. Many folks flock just to see a quetzal — the holy grail of tropical birds — in Monteverde's famous cloud forest reserve. Canopy tours, a snake exhibition, ranarium (frogs), and fantastic insect collection are among the dozens of draws to this cool mountain retreat. Farther north, Rincón de la Vieja Volcano offers cattle ranches-turned-activity centers, and the dry forests of Santa Rosa National Park teem with animals and birds. Lake Arenal is the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park. This active volcano is best enjoyed while soaking at Tabacón Hot Springs. Nearby La Fortuna has blossomed from farming community to epicenter of activities, from river rafting to sportfishing and birding at Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. And Costa Rica's rainforests are nowhere as easily experienced as at Tirimbina, Selva Verde, La Selva, and Rara Avis.

Christopher Baker
About the Expert

Christopher P. Baker has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, California, and various Caribbean islands for Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic, among others.

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Christopher Baker for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: The Arenal volcano is the main attraction in this part of the Northern Zone of Costa Rica. The summit rises 1,633 meters (5,436 feet) above sea level and it has been active since 1968.
  • Language: Spanish, English
  • Currency: Costa Rican Colon
  • Research: Guanacaste | Gunacaste Province
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    December-April dry season