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Costa Rica - Northern Region

General information

Trails here can also lead to beautiful waterfalls, making for a longer day hike. This hikes is recommended only for people in good condition, but the effort is worth it.

Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge is comprised of the Rio Frio and Cano Negro Lake. The water level in this area grows and shrinks seasonally, allowing for further travel into the marshy landscape during the rainy season. Only 6 kilometers from the Nicaraguan border, this wildlife refuge is a naturalist's paradise, especially for birders. In fact, the refuge was created to protect the diverse population of aquatic birds that live and breed in the area. On a boat trip down this river visitors can easily view over 30 of the nearly 100 species of birds found in the area, including the rare American Pygmy Kingfisher and if very lucky, the endangered Jabiru stork. It is also possible to spot 3 of the 4 species of monkeys found in Costa Rica, two and three-toed sloth's, caimans, turtles and emerald basilisk lizards. Due to the variable water levels, this tour usually begins with a 2-hour drive from La Fortuna to Los Chiles, then a continuation of the trip by boat down the Rio Frio.

Nothern region map by Google

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Travel Tips

Head north from San Jose toward the Caribbean coast, then take the exit toward Ciudad Quesada. By heading northwest, you'll find a variety of towns (and volcanoes) that will grab your  attention on either side of the road.


The weather in this particular region tends to characterize itself with warm daytime temperatures (low to mid 80 F) and relatively high humidity. There are intermittent rain showers that usually pass quickly. From late February to early  May, the rains are less frequent and afford fantastic skycaps during sunrise and sunset.

What to bring

Necessary travel equipment for this region is simple. If you're visiting during the rainy season, keep rain gear handy and wear comfortable shoes. Binoculars are mandatory when  in the area since birdwatching is excellent.

Things to do

  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing
  • Walking
  • Kayaking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Swimming
  • Wind Surfing

Places to go

Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge - Remote lagoon and wetland system with birds and other wild animals. 

Arenal Volcano - An active volcano with beautiful Lake Arenal in the background. 

Lake Arenal - Surrounded by a patchwork of farmland, forest and an active volcano. Excellent for windsurfing.

Tabacon Hot Springs - Open- air natural hot springs. Thermal waters feed all  waterfalls and pools.

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