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  • Photos of Northern Zone
  • Map of Northern Zone
Northern Zone
Find the best services to enjoy your vacations in Costa Rica
 
  • General information
  • About Northern Zone
  • History
This territory is mainly formed by plains with some active volcanic spots and important rivers, which attract local and international tourists. The native culture, extreme sports and the conservation of flora and fauna mix together in this zone. It is a destination for everyone’s taste.

This zone includes La Fortuna of San Carlos, where the Arenal Volcano (1.633 m) is located, a volcanic cone that has been studied by scientists due to its constant activities. It’s a natural attraction you can safely enjoy; you can see lava flows contrasting with the dark of night. Before it erupted it was known as Cerro Arenal. On July 29th, 1968, it awoke with a violent eruption and since then it has remained in constant activity.

It is part of the Arenal Volcano National Park and along with the Cerro Chato Volcano and the banks of the Lago Arenal (south from the volcano), they shelter a rich wildlife, with more than 50% of all the bird species of the country and three of the most threatened mammals: the tapir, the jaguar and the giant anteater.

You can bathe in the delicious and therapeutic hot spring waters at the base of the Arenal Volcano, in the Rio Tabacon. There’s a set of pools plenty of minerals, which range near 37°C and are surrounded by exuberant vegetation. Next to it you will find the Lago Arenal (88 km²), which was artificially created in the decade of the 60s for hydropower generation. 

You can travel through its waters and enjoy the beautiful panoramic sceneries it offers. You can also practice sports like windsurfing, sailing, and fishing.

La Fortuna offers a great variety of tourist attractions, such as canopying, walking over hanging bridges and taking an aerial tram from where you can appreciate a panoramic view of the Lago Arenal and the west side of the volcano, as well as the forest’s density. Here you will also find La Fortuna Waterfall, with 70 m of stunning natural beauty, bordered by a trail that displays its entire splendor.

Towards the south of La Fortuna, in the Tilaran Mountain Range, you will find the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biologic Reserve (5.000 hectares), which is very important for the protection of the cloud forest and its more than 3.000 species of plants. It has more than 500 types of orchids, making Monteverde the place with the highest density of orchids per square meter on Earth. About 120 species of amphibians and reptiles, more than 400 types of birds and 100 kinds of mammals live here.

This place was originally inhabited by peasants that came from Miramar, San Ramon and Esparza, but it was after the arrival of American Quakers that the reserve was founded, in the 1950s.

In the town of Santa Elena, before the reserve, you can find several services and attractions in private properties, like the park Selvatura, with hanging bridges, a canopy tour and a butterfly farm that shelters one of the largest private insect collections of the world.

You can also visit the largest private reserve of Costa Rica, the “Bosque Eterno de los Niños” (Children"s Eternal Forest), 22.000 hectares of humid forest that can be visited through trails. From here you can appreciate an amazing panoramic view of the Arenal Volcano.

The Tenorio Volcano is located close to the Arenal Volcano and in its base you can find the magnificent and popular Rio Celeste, which obtains a turquoise color in the sector of Los Teñideros, where crystal-clear waters from two different sources unite and dye because of the minerals they carry. This chemical reaction makes this river a unique and incredibly beautiful attraction.

The town of Tilaran has a great commercial development thanks to wind power. You can visit the impressive wind turbines that stand several meters tall. From here you can arrange tours to other zones like Monteverde and Rio Celeste.

Towards the west end of the North Zone, in the Plains of Guatuso, you can find the Wetland of Caño Negro and the Lago Caño Negro (800 hectares), which is composed by a seasonal lake and swamps. Its three meters of depth are home to the tropical gar, a living fossil from the dinosaur era. This region is a shelter for endangered species of flora and fauna, and also serves as an oasis under the summer sun. You can take a boat tour through the wetland and appreciate its beauty.

Close to Caño Negro you will find the Maleku Native Reserve, whose native residents live in the palenques of El Sol, Margarita and Tonjibe. They keep their traditions through dances, meals, crafts (hammocks and purses), and with the use of traditional hunting weapons. You can visit this reserve and learn about their culture, an unforgettable experience you should definitely be part of.

Other impressive and beautiful attractions are the famous and amazing Cavernas de Venado (Venado Caves), discovered in 1963. They were formed by the erosion and friction of underground rivers, which created labyrinths, passageways and rooms up to 8 meters tall and 10 meters wide. These are unique limestone formations more than 2 million years old.

Towards the east of the North Zone of Costa Rica you will find the region of Sarapiqui, with high humidity and dense evergreen vegetation. La Selva Biological Station is located here, and was founded in 1954 for the study of tropical forests. It belongs to the OTS (Organization for Tropical Studies) and is one of the oldest reserves in the country.

The Rio Sarapiqui is the main attraction of this region and its wavy flow goes between farms and dense forests. Its different complexity levels make it perfect for rafting, where adrenaline blends with nature.

Another interesting site is Los Chiles, a city located next to the Rio Frio, a few kilometers from the border with Nicaragua. Here you will find a river channel system that can be traveled by boat. From here you can arrange tours to Caño Negro.

There’s also Ciudad Quesada, the header of the canton of San Carlos and administrative center of the North Zone. You can visit one of its attractions, which is the Central Marketplace, where you can have delicious breakfasts.
 
 
Weather
This zone is very rainy, so it doesn’t have a well-defined dry season, like in the Central Valley or the Pacific Zone. It rains the less during March and April. The months of May and February have irregular rainfall and are considered transition periods. The humidity that comes from the Caribbean Sea keeps this zone under constant rainfall, so you must be prepared for it.

Temperature
The average temperatures in the plains and low areas range between 20°C, and 30°C in the driest months. In the zone of Monteverde (high altitude zone) the temperatures range between 15°C and 22°C, with high humidity and cloudiness.

Geography
The Plains of Guatuso and the Plains of San Carlos are part of the North Sub-Slope, with the rivers Frio, San Carlos and Sarapiqui. Most of its lands are dedicated to grazing. The Plains of San Carlos are covered with grass in a 50% - 70%; the plains of Guatuso and Sarapiqui are covered with 
grass in a 30% - 50%; and in Los Chiles, pasturelands don’t exceed the 30%. 

The zone of San Carlos used to be a livestock producer but is currently focused in dairy farming, motivated by the movement of livestock due to the eruptions of the Arenal Volcano in the 60s.

The zone is irrigated by many rivers that flow into the Rio San Juan and the Lake of Nicaragua. The main rivers are Frio, San Carlos and Sarapiqui.
Monteverde has a different topography from the plains. It is part of the Tilaran Mountain Range, which is rich in quartz deposits with gold traces. 

They were especially found in the Mountains of El Aguacate, south from the Tapezco Depression, which is why these mountains were very important during mining explorations. The zone of Monteverde is very steep and has a very irregular territory. In short distances you can ascend or descend several meters.


 
 
 
 
 
Cities
Arenal - La Fortuna
In these fertile plains of La Fortuna of San Carlos, the Arenal (...)
Monteverde - Santa Elena
Monteverde is one of the most famous names around the world for (...)
Sarapiqui
The zone of Sarapiqui is one of the most biologically rich (...)
News
Children’s Eternal Forest is the largest private reserve in Costa Rica
Octuber 16, 2012

Walking through the trails with a guide, visiting the Biological Stations of San Gerardo and Pocosol, or observing the flora and fauna, are some of the activities visitors can enjoy during their trip
Monteverde celebrates 40 years protecting nature
September 19, 2012

Since its creation in 1972, the Monteverde Biological Reserve has worked to expand, consolidate, protect and manage more than 4.025 hectares and dedicate them to research and education
Take an all-natural ride through the Monteverde Biological Reserve
July 30, 2012

Get to know the sanctuary of flora and fauna of the Monteverde Reserve, where you can release your adrenaline in the trails, waterfalls, rivers and the observation area of the park
An agreement for implementing the Forest Conservation Program was signed
July 24, 2012

Besides improving the conditions of the different Conservation Areas and National Parks, they will invest resources in high-technology equipment to prevent forest fires
Don’t miss great adventures during rainy season
May 29, 2012

A canopy tour, hanging bridges, horseback rides, hikes through trails and fishing are some of the adventure activities you can enjoy during rainy season
Celebrate the National Parks Day in Costa Rica
March 27, 2012

The main objective of the celebration is to project the need to preserve and use rationally part of the forests, wetlands and wildlife the country has
San Carlos will taste like honey in June
March 21, 2012

In this activity the visitors can find quality honey as well as other products like royal jelly and pollen
Costa Rica wins again the award to the best stand in Germany
March 19, 2012

The graded aspects to give the award were design, use of technology, service and the activities arranged to attract the visitors to the stand
Costa Rica is the fifth most ecological country in the world
March 08, 2012

One of the aspects that contributed with the choice was that the country produces very low levels of carbon dioxide, which affects in global warming
Campaign “Costa Rica’s Million Dollar Gift of Happiness” starts its second phase
March 02, 2012

Starting on March 2012 and until February 2013, the campaign will keep the idea of selling the country as the place to share happiness