The Northern Region stands out internationally for the Arenal Volcano, its Mountain Range of Tilarán, the Monteverde Cloud Forests and Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. From January to the end of April the temperature in the lowlands of this region reaches 30ºC, making it parts appropriate for travel. The Northern Zone has rainfall levels between 100 mm and 400 mm during the driest months of March and April. The maximum temperature in some parts is 32ºC and the minimum temperature in the highlands goes down to 12ºC.The humidity ranges between 82 and 89%.January, February, March and April show the sunniest days in this region.
Chilamate / Sarapiquí
The community of Chilamate exhibits a rare coincidence of forest and road. Chilamate is located where the SarapiquíRiver passes through the southern extension of the Sardinal Hills. Probably because of the ruggedness of the terrain, the land has not yet been deforested. The main road from Puerto Viejo to the capital city of San José, parallels the river, thus in Chilamate, there is easy access to the forests of the Sardinal Hills. In addition, electric and telephone lines run along the road through Chilamate. This coincidence of forest with road access and basic utilities makes Chilamate an ideal location for the development of nature tourism projects. Sarapiqui; has been a center of conservation activity in Costa Rica for many years, originally due to the presence of La Selva, an international research station just south of Puerto Viejo.
La Selva Biological Research Station
La Selva is the international biological research station owned by the Organization for Tropical Studies, a consortium of approximately 50 universities in the United States and Costa Rica. La Selva works closely with the surrounding community by involving them directly in the research being carried out by using their farms as study sites while at the same time educating them in new conservation techniques, new viable native species for reforestation, etc. La Selva also offers a course to train locals as naturalist guides. In the 1980s, the BraulioCarrilloNational Park was created in the mountains to the south of La Selva. The Park was subsequently extended 20 kilometers northward to connect with the research station.
Lowlands Of San Carlos / Boca Tapada / Rio San Carlos
Between the town of Ciudad Quesada and the San Juan river, bordering Nicaragua, stretches the lowlands of San Carlos. Pineapple and Heart of Palm are grown there and huge areas have been deforested in the past for cattle. In the North however, towards the border of Nicaragua, still some beautiful rainforests are remaining. The area around Boca Tapada is one of the main nesting sites of the Great Green Macaw, which is in danger of extinction.
Arenal has been a dormant strato-volcano. Young deposits were of the slopes of the volcano but it had not erupted in historic time. Arenal's status changed dramatically in July of 1968. An explosive eruption produced hot avalanches and ejected blocks that devastated the west flank of the volcano and killed 78 people. Arenal has been continuously active since 1968. It rises 1,633 meters above sea level and casts an almost flawless silhouette on the land below it. Arenal's last explosion was in 1969 but this volcano is far from dormant. Its constant rumblings are Arenal's most popular characteristics. Often spewing ash and smoke, the volcano provides a striking backdrop for photographs and video. There are several excellent look out points along the highway and several resorts and spas that have developed in the area. Starting point for all excursions is the picturesque town of La Fortuna, located about 8 km east of the volcano. Most of the hotels and Lodges are situated along the road between La Fortuna and the ArenalVolcanoNational Park.
Arenal Volcano National Park
With an extension of about 12,000 hectares it is one of Costa Rica’s smaller parks. Elevations range between 1,000 to 1,633 meters (3,200 - 5,300 feet), the habitats found there are tropical highland forest (cloud forest), tropical lowland wet forest (rainforest) and streams. A gravel road leads to the park entrance.
Cerro Chato Volcano
This dormant volcano has a collapsed crater with a small lake and can be accessed by a hiking trail starting near the Arenal Observatory lodge.
Tabacón Hot Springs
On the road between La Fortuna and LakeArenal private grounds have been developed into two Spas. Either one can be the perfect setting for a relaxing day, or better yet, evening (especially if the volcano is active).
The “real” Tabacon Hot Springs offer five natural mineral pools at varying temperatures (one with a swim up bar) set in tropical gardens, an indoor hot tub, a waterslide and a hot waterfall. Massages and mud packs are available. There is a restaurant as well as a wet-bar
La Fortuna Waterfall
This beautiful waterfall set in the rainforest near the edge of Arenal Volcano National Park is managed by a local community development group (Association de Desarollo de Fortuna) It is about a 1 hour walk from downtown Fortuna. It is accessible by a gravel road, horseback tours from downtown La Fortuna are offered. The hike down the canyon is slippery but you will be rewarded with a natural pool under the falls, perfect for a dip on a hot day. There is a small restaurant / shop at the entrance.
A artificial lake with an area of about 85.5km, making it the largest lake in Costa Rica, surrounded by rolling hills that are partly pastured and partly forested. The northwest side of LakeArenal is a dry region of rolling hills and pastures, distinctly different from the lush landscape near La Fortuna. LakeArenal produces about 60% of the hydro electrical power for Costa Rica.
The caves are located close to the small village of Venado, about and 30 minutes drive from La Fortuna. Dating back over 7 million years, the VenadoCaves are the direct result of water currents penetrating and passing through the surrounding limestone rocks. Over time, the continual flow of water opened crevasses and forced sediments to flow throughout the caves, leaving in it's wake an endless network of deep tunnels. So complex and deep, absolutely no light penetrates these caves, except for a few isolated incidents which are located in one of the quarters.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Region
The town of Sta. Elena has been founded by Quaker families immigrating to Costa Rica from the United States in 1951. They came to Costa Rica because of the fact that the country does not have a standing army and, in many ways, supported their ideals. A dairy farm and associated cheese factory now produce over a ton of cheese a day, and much of the 1,500 hectares they purchased forty years ago is part of the famous Monteverde Cloud forest reserve.
Starting point to all attractions of the region is the small town of Sta. Elena, located between the most important nature reserves, Santa Elena and Monteverde . Most of the hotels and lodges are situated between the village of Sta. Elena, along the connecting roads between both preserves.
Monteverde Biological Preserve
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve is owned and administered by the Tropical Science Center (TSC). The Center, established in 1962, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization with headquarters in San José, Costa Rica. The objective of the Center is to conduct and support scientific research and education, particularly in relation to the understanding and rational management of tropical environments. Established in 1972, the Monteverde Preserve covers over 10,500 hectares, more than 90% of which is virgin forest. It contains an extremely high biological diversity, including over 2,500 plant species (among them 420 different kinds of orchids), 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects. Visitors can enter the Preserve on a natural history walk, or on their own. There are more than 20 kilometers of trails.
Half way between the town of Sta. Elena and the Sta. Elena Preserve, the „Skywalk“ is located: A complex of suspending bridges and platforms, with a total of 1800 m in length, constructed within the cloud forest. It allows a vision of the forest from a different perspective which starts with a walk on the ground taking you up to explore the treetops, a hardly discovered habitat, called the “canopy”.
Sky Trek is a system of three platforms suspended above the ground in the midst of tree boughs. Zip lines attached from one platform to another allow our to slide with the use of special equipment. A suspended bridge 90 m. (300 ft) long and 22 m (66 ft) high, gives you the best view of the inner forest. An observation platform above the canopy offers visitors a panoramic view (360°) of the Guanacaste, San Carlos, and Puntarenas lowlands. There are four cables, two of them 190 meters (633 ft) run through the inner canopy, and the other two 214 (713 ft) are outside. The whole system is integrated by a path 2300 m long (7000 feet) in length. Sky Trek gives you access to a world of incomparable beauty, tropical cloud forest canopies. Through jumping, flying, and gliding, experience what it is like to be an inhabitant of the canopy. You will never forget the Sky Trek experience, which guarantees you 1,317 meters of secure and comfortable sliding adventure.
The MonteverdeButterflyGarden is located about 1 km from downtown Sta. Elena. It was founded in 1991 by biologist Jim Wolfe. The focus of this Monteverde project is environmental education, and thousands of butterfly enthusiasts each year visit the NatureCenter and four enclosed butterfly gardens.
Serpentarium Sta. Elena
More than 25 different species of Costa Rican snakes are shown and explained. The Serpentarium is located just a few walking minutes from downtown Sta. Elena.
This herpetarium with over 20 species of frogs and other amphibians allows visitors to appreciate the beauty of the areas amphibians and to learn about their role in the natural world. Some of the species include the large Marine Toad, the colorful Poison Arrow Frog and the famous Red Eyed Tree Frog. Visitors receive an informative guided tour of the terrariums with their entrance fee. Frogs and toads are undergoing a massive global decline. Part of the proceeds from ticket sale goes to conservation and research efforts. Part of the goal is to educate and inspire others to take an interest in the conservation of amphibious life and nature in general. It is best to visit after dark as the frogs are more active and you can hear their calls.