Northern Costa Rica Travel Guide
If you’re asking yourself what more to do in Costa Rica, this northern Costa Rica travel guide might just be the answer. Verdant, misty cloud forests, therapeutic hot springs, regal volcanoes, cascading waterfalls, lush mountains and rolling farms will make you fall in love with northern Costa Rica. The towns here are charming and picturesque and the activities are plenty. While there are no beaches located within this region, there is no shortage of natural beauty, relaxation or adventure. In this area, you will find a little bit of everything as this area is known for excursions galore.
An Adventurers Paradise
The Northern Zone is an adrenaline-junkie’s dream turned reality. Ziplining, canyoneering, rafting, hiking, mountain biking, tubing, and horseback riding are only a few of the adventures you can experience in this area. The ziplines in this area are some of the best in the country due to the area’s elevation. If you prefer a more laid-back tour, there are a wide variety of options for you as well. An excellent area for hiking, there are miles and miles of vast terrain to enjoy. Looking for breathtaking views? There are several monumental waterfalls to visit and countless landscapes to explore. Man made and natural hot springs draw water from the iconic Arenal Volcano. The Northern Zone is a region which easily please those with all different tastes and preferences.
While the town of La Fortuna is only a few square blocks, it remains one of the most popular sites for visitors to Costa Rica, and for good reason. The downtown area of La Fortuna is inviting and enamoring. It has a charming town park complete with a bubbling fountain and vivid gardens. Next to the park is the main church, which is a perfect photo-op with the sleepy Arenal Volcano towering behind. This park is a great place to relax and enjoy a gelato on a hot Costa Rican afternoon. The appeal of La Fortuna lies in its diversity of local tours and activities.
The hot springs of Costa Rica are famous worldwide. There is no better place than to enjoy the seducing waters of the Costa Rican hot springs than Arenal/La Fortuna. There are a multitude of hot springs to visit, including Tabacon, Baldi, Los Lagos and more. Each hot springs resort is unique yet elegant, inviting, relaxing, and stunning. Baldi is a great place to bring the family as it has a pool area and water slides for the whole family. Baldi also features three extreme waterslides. They aren’t suitable for young children but will definitely spike your adrenaline should you be brave enough to ride them.
We offer a fun and relaxing tour that begins with a hike to a panoramic view of the Arenal Volcano. This is the perfect opportunity to see a magnificent diversity of plants, wildlife, and lava rock formations. You will also hike to an area that provides a great view of the impressive Arenal Lake. After your scenic hike, you will visit one of the area’s many hot springs and eat a delectable dinner. Once you’re finished, you’ll relax in the sultry and therapeutic waters of the hot spring pools.
When you are ready to explore your adventurous side, try a horseback riding tour to the La Fortuna Waterfall. This awe-inspiring, cascading waterfall plummets some 200 feet into an emerald green pool. It’s ideal for a refreshing swim. This area offers excellent hiking options through dense green rainforest and hanging bridges. Traverse crystal clear rivers and enjoy the untouched nature of Costa Rica.
La Fortuna is one of the best areas in the country for ziplines, whitewater rafting, tubing and canyoneering. We offer tours for each of these activities, so be sure to explore these new adventures! There are several rivers to visit for whitewater rafting if you are staying in Arenal, so there is something available for people of many ages and all experience levels.
Not far from La Fortuna sits the fascinating Tenorio National Park. This thick, humid national park is home to one of Costa Rica’s mysteries and a jewel of nature, the Rio Celeste (Sky Blue River). Many say this river’s turquoise color is straight from a fairy-tale, or that it can’t possibly be real. Well, this river is very real and nothing short of astounding. The surreal bright blue waters are thought to be a product of the mixture of natural minerals found in the two rivers that merge in the heart of the national park.
We invite you to join a one-day tour of this natural wonder. During the tour, you will begin with a lengthy hike to the core of the national park. Next, marvel at the Teñederos Lagoon where the confluence of crystal clear waters create the perfect mineral mixture that give the river its celestial color. Then, get ready to admire the volcanic fumaroles that eject steam and evoke wonder. Last and certainly not least, revel in the regal 60 foot drop of the Celeste River Waterfall as it enters the misty turquoise pool below.
Monteverde allows visitors to encounter the mystical setting of the cloud forest which lies within the verdant foliage-laden mountains of this captivating terrain. Coffee plantations can be found in abundance in Monteverde. This area sits atop Costa Rica’s continental divide and its altitude allows for not only a fresh climate, but also for stunning panoramic views. Most lodging in this area is actually located in Monteverde’s neighboring town of Santa Elena.
In the 1950’s several Quaker families founded the town after wanting to leave the U.S. and its wars behind. Naturally, the absence of a military made Costa Rica the perfect fit. They settled in the area now called Monteverde and Santa Elena. Here they established dairy farms which nowadays supply the Monteverde Cheese Factory. Be sure to visit the cheese factory and enjoy a mouth-watering milkshake and local cheese.
While small and quiet, Santa Elena is a lovely mountain town that features rustic mountain lodges, a butterfly garden, frog museum, reptile museum, charming cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. The downtown area is home to the Tree House Restaurant which showcases a large, century old fig tree that runs right through the center of the establishment.
Recommended activities in this area include a tour of either the Santa Elena Reserve or Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a coffee tour, and of course, the ever-famous zipline/canopy tour. Hiking through the cloud forest affords us the privilege to look down on the fluffy white clouds below. The climate of this area is prime for the growth of various species of trees and plants, as well as an interesting variety of animals. We offer tours of both cloud forest reserves, which are equally beautiful and ethereal.
Coffee aficionados around the world already know that Costa Rican coffee is beyond comparison. Our coffee tour in Monteverde will take you on a tour of a local coffee farm where knowledgeable guides will explain the process of creating the world’s most naturally invigorating beverage, the history of coffee and the importance of coffee to Costa Rican culture. Lastly, enjoy a warm cup of coffee whilst admiring the alluring view of the Gulf of Nicoya.
Ziplining, while available in most areas of the country, is truly an electrifying experience in Monteverde. The high altitude makes you feel like you are flying above the world while appreciating one of the most stunning canopies and views you can imagine. The Sky Tram cable car slowly ascends the side of a mountain, providing you a spectacular view of the Gulf of Nicoya. Then, enjoy the exhilarating ziplines for which Costa Rica is famous.
Lastly, should you decide you crave more adventure, take a hike through the hanging bridges on the incredible Sky Walk.