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.