Tenorio Volcano National Park

Nestled in the Northern Lowlands of Costa Rica’s lush landscape, in a protected area known as the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area, lies the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Four volcanic peaks stand amidst the jungles, giving the park its name. The Rio Celeste, literally translated to “The Light Blue River,” runs through the park, with majestic cascades along the way for hikers and tourists alike to enjoy. The Rio Celeste is turned its opulent blue from the volcanic sulfur that infuses the area, but local legend insists that it was turned this shade by the paint brushes used by the gods to paint the skies.

Rio Celeste Waterfall, Tenorio National Park, Costa RicaJust about a two day hike out of La Fortuna, in the Guanacaste Province, the park is easily accessible via the route to Guatuso. Paid tours are now abundant for the region, as Tenorio Volcano National Park has grown in popularity recently. Tours will take you through the park along the river, to view the magnificent Celeste waterfall or to a number of natural hot springs and picnic sites that are conveniently positioned throughout the park. There are also swimming spots accessible to visitors along some of the short trails.

Camping is not allowed in the park unless you are making your way to the top of the main volcanic peak. The summit is a day’s hike and the crater is quite a site to see.

Driving routes to the park vary. From nearby San Jose, tourists can take the main motorway toward San Carlos and on to Upala; from that point is about thirty miles to the park entrance. You may also take the Inter- American Highway toward Canas and turn toward Bijagua about six miles in; from Bijagua the park is about twenty miles out.

Paid tours can cost between twenty five and sixty five dollars, but prices fluctuate often in this part of the country. In nearby major towns, like La Fortuna and San Jose, rental cars can be procured. It is often recommended that you spring for the four- wheel drive, especially in the rainy season. The roads can be treacherous and steep if you are driving. It also may be a good idea to pack your own lunch when you are on the road toward the park. There are several stops along the way, but they are far between.

Overall the spot is great for hiking, and there is a ranger center available during the daylight hours for tourists to stop and get water or first aid. The trip can be relatively inexpensive, and more importantly—great fun!

Northern Lowlands

Costa Rica’s Northern Lowlands, heading north out of San Jose and leaving the Central Highlands behind, one enters an area that most consider the most spectacular region of Costa Rica. Bordered to the south by the volcanic mountain range of the Cordillera Central and descending into the lowlands northward to the Nicaragua border , the area offers a wide variety of land and vegetation diversity to be found anywhere in Costa Rica, thus making the Northern Lowlands, one of Costa Rica’s most popular travel destinations.

The Northern Lowlands is comprised of two main mountain ranges to the south, the Cordillera Central to the south and the Tilaran Mountain range to the to the Southwest, to the northwest separating the Northern Lowlands from the Guanacaste region lies the Cordillera de Guanacaste with all three mountain ranges providing the region with volcanoes and cloud forests. The base of the three mountain ranges gives way to two main plains extending northward to Nicaragua, to the west lies the Llanuras de los Guastusos plain and to the east the Llanura de San Carlos plain, taking in the Costa Rican provinces of Alajuela and Heredia.

Northern Lowlands Costa RicaToday, the Northern Lowlands are a popular tourist and adventure traveler destination, yet the area was mainly inaccessible until the late 50’s when Highway 126 was constructed connecting San Jose to the northern city of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui .

Sample Exploration Northern Lowlands copyTwo of the main draws to the area for travelers as well as nature lovers are the Arenal Volcano, one of the world’s 10 most active volcanoes, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest, a humid, cloudy and misty region that has become a favorite of nature lovers drawn to its high biodiversity.

Cloud forests and volcanoes are not the only draws to the region; the Northern Lowlands is also home to Lake Arenal, a large reservoir built to provide the countries electric needs has become a destination in itself for windsurfing enthusiasts as well as for the scenery surrounding the lake and its spectacular backdrop of Arenal Volcano on the lakes eastern shore. Some of Costa Rica’s premier rafting is found in the region on the Sarapiqui River. Waterfalls, hot springs, nature trails and horseback riding through out many of the areas nature parks provide a variety of opportunities for all travelers.  Cano Negro Nature Reserve is a must see when visiting the region

Costa Rica  sees a mixture of varying climates, from the cloud forest the climate is more humid and misty year round with temperatures in the high 60’s to low 70’s, descending into the plains the climate is more hot and humid, with a more pronounced dry season to the west towards the Pacific and less as you head east towards the Caribbean. The regions rainy season ranges from December to March and the dry season starts in April extending into November. If travelling to the area for the sole purpose of seeing Arenal Volcano, the best time of the year for unobstructed views is towards the end of the dry season during the months of September and October.

Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano, in the heart of Arenal Volcano National Park, is located approximately 90 kilometers northwest of San Jose, Costa Rica. Formed over 7,000 years ago, the volcano was thought to be extinct until a massive eruption occurred on July 29, 1968, which obliterated the small village of Tabacon, killing 78 residents. Arenal Volcano, measuring approximately 5,437 feet with a crater spanning 460 feet, is considered one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world, with eruptions occurring approximately 40 to 45 times per day. The perfect conical shape of the volcano offers astounding views of volcanic activity at the summit and vibrant lava flows from the crater.

Mount Arenal Volcano Costa RicaArenal Volcano National Park, spanning over 30,000 acres, is home to Lake Arenal, the largest artificial lake in Costa Rica. The lake was enlarged in 1979 during construction of the Lake Arenal Dam and development of a national water resource system, which currently provides hydroelectric power to the country. Lake Arenal has become a worldwide travel destination for water sports, including wakeboarding, boating, kayaking and fishing. The lake is one of the premier windsurfing destinations in the world, with thousands of enthusiasts partaking in the sport throughout the year.

Arenal Volcano National Park, as a natural wildlife sanctuary and rainforest, is home to over 2,000 species of plants, as well as several species of mammals and exotic birds. The area is one of the foremost bird watching sanctuaries in the world, with species including hummingbirds, kingfishers, woodpeckers, parrots and toucans. Hiking trails course through the park, all with astounding views of Lake Arenal and the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Walking tours begin in the early afternoon, reaching El Mirador, the ideal location for viewing evening volcanic eruptions.

The Arenal Butterfly Conservatory, containing exhibits of exotic butterflies, frogs and insects is a must for visitors to the park. Several atrium habitats, scientific laboratories and greenhouses are open daily, including the exotic frog sanctuary and orchid atrium. The park includes multiple volcano-heated natural hot springs, including 16 hot springs at Baldi and the multi-level hot springs at Tabacon.

A visit to Costa Rica would not be complete without a trip to Arenal Volcano National Park. Although it is only 90 kilometers from San Jose, the roads are primitive and not well marked. Travel by automobile can take up to four hours and can be frustrating. Direct bus travel and private shuttle services are available from many hotels and tourist centers in San Jose. In order to fully experience the wonder and natural beauty of the area, several days should be allocated for a visit to Arenal Volcano National Park. Lodging is available inside and surrounding the park.

Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge

Set in wetlands and surrounding lush forest near the Nicaraguan border, is the Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve. The reserve is often submerged in water due to the surrounding flooding rivers and is difficult to reach. You can meander around the outside of the park to view its beauty and wildlife, however, the best way to view the marvel of nature within the reserve is by a safari boat tour.

Tours will take you along the Rio Frio, which wraps around the canyons and flows gently to the Cano Negro Lake. The boat tours are approximately four hours long, and your guide will proudly educate you about the wildlife, culture and ecology of the region. As flowing trees bend over the waters, you’ll be able to see mammals, reptiles, bird and amphibians. There are spider monkeys, sloths, turtles, caimans and Jesus Christ lizards within the jungles that can often be spotted. Keep a watchful on the waters, and there’s a chance you’ll see the fin of a freshwater shark breaking the water’s surface.

Cano Negro Wildlife RefugeThe Cano Negro Wild Life Reserve is renowned for its collection of migratory birds. With over 200 species resting in its lush trees, the reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The banks of the Rio Frio overflow during the wet season, which occurs from July to November. During this time period, the reserve transforms into a shallow lake. Migrating American birds fly to the reserve as their wintering site. The water level continually falls during the dry season, and only the Rio Frio’s main channel remains. Some birds make their nests and stay year round, like the Olivaceous Cormorant. However, the majority of birds appear during the dry season. These include White Ibis, Wood Stork, Merican Widgeon, Snail Kite, Green Backed Heron, Anhinga and Glossy Ibis. The reserve is the best place to view the Nicaraguan Grackle, whose only habitat is within the Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve. The Nicaraguan Grackle is the largest bird in Central America and falls within the extremely endangered species.

The Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge is a wonder of nature and many tourists flock to view the beauty of the migratory waterfowl in these lush lowlands. The reserve is located in Alajuela Province, which is 80 miles north of San Jose. From San Jose, get on the highway to Alajuela. From there, drive to San Carlos. Follow the signs to Los Chiles. Four miles before you reach Los Chiles, you will see a turn that leads to the new bridge of Cano Negro. The bridge will lead you to the reserve.

La Fortuna

La Fortuna is a small rural city in the Northern Lowlands of Costa Rica with a lot to offer. La Fortuna offers peaceful green landscapes, a rainforest, and a panoramic view of an active volcano. Natural hot springs are abundant in La Fortuna and can be enjoyed in several local spas in the area. Because the temperature is in the comfortable 80’s, outdoor activities like horse back riding, whitewater rafting, and hiking are very popular in La Fortuna.

Arenal Volcano
One of the most beautiful and intriguing sites in La Fortuna is the Arenal Volcano, an active volcano rising over a mile high. After centuries of inactivity, the volcano had a severe eruption in 1968 which destroyed the nearby town of Tabacon. The Arenal Volcano is the most active volcano out of the six in Costa Rica with steady activity that produces regular smoke plumes, gas, and lava flows. The Arenal Volcano can be explored by guided hiking or horseback tours.

La Fortuna Central Plaza and Arenal, Costa RicaEco Termales Fortuna
Experience the ultimate in relaxation, privacy, and self-indulgence at the family run Eco Termales Hot Springs, nestled in a lavish rainforest. The Eco Termales offers four different crystal clear natural hot springs pools with water temperatures between 91 and 105 degrees F. Each pool has a unique design including a gentle cascading waterfall. Private walkways connect the pools and lead to the changing rooms and the restaurant, which serves the finest in Costa Rican cuisine. The gardens are meticulously manicured and the beautiful pools are surrounded by natural jungle foliage. Eco Termales Hot Springs accepts only 100 visitors at a time making reservations necessary.

La Fortuna Waterfall
Set out on an adventure on foot or horseback through green pastures and a rainforest to the La Fortuna waterfall. The waterfall rises 200 feet above an emerald green pool surrounded by dense green jungle foliage. Along the way, hikers and visitors can expect to see local tropical wildlife like monkeys and an occasional toucan. The La Fortuna Waterfall is a great place to picnic, enjoy nature, and take amazing photographs.

Cabalgata Don Tobias
Take a once in a lifetime tour of an active volcano on horseback provided by the Don Tobias stables. Ride on horseback through lush green forests, cattle pastures, and stop at a small lagoon to refresh the horses. The tour ascends to the look out point, which is the highest and closest point to the volcano allowed, before turning back toward the Don Tobias stables. The tour takes about three hours to complete.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve will amaze travelers with its magnificence and diverse environment. Within its grounds are rainforests with mosses, orchids, ferns, and bromeliads, and small woodlands carved out by the winds.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is in the Cordillera de Tilaran Mountain range inside the Alajuela and Puntarenas provinces of Costa Rica. Currently the preserve has over 10,000 hectares. The Preserve contains six ecological areas with more than 90% virgin forests. Within its diversity, it has 2,500 species of plants, 400 different kinds of birds, 100 mammal species over 100 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, and thousands of varieties of insects.Suspension Bridge, Moteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa RicaThe Monteverde Cloud Forest had its beginnings after a group of Quakers left the United States in the 1950s to avoid the draft for the Korean conflict. They set up farming in Monteverde and helped establish Monteverde and the Santa Elana Cloud Forests Reserves 20 years afterward. In the 1970s when local farmers tried to expand their farms in the forest, scientist George Powell and Wildford Guidon supported the development of the nature preserve. The private scientific organization, the Tropical Science Center, took up the job of owning and managing the area. The original 300 hectares was the basis of the preserve.The preserve has guided tours that lasts 2.5 hours and are in Spanish and English. Tours can be arranged at the website guide@monteverdeinfo.com. Visitors also have the alternative of a guided early morning bird watching tour. The cost for the tour also covers the cost of the reserve’s entrance fee.

The hours for the restaurant, art gallery and shop are 7 AM until 4PM. The park has restrooms at the entrance to the park but there are no restrooms on the trails.

Visitors can hike the trails in Monteverde. The trails are well kept. Visitors do not need rubber boots or hiking boots for a daily hike. However, hiking boots are recommended if visitors plan to stay overnight in the huts on the trails.

The park is located 3.6 miles from Santa Elana, Montverde.
Buses leave from Banco Nacional in Santa Elana at 6:15 AM, 7:20 AM, and 1:15 PM. Buses return from the reserve at 11:30 AM, 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM. The fee is $1. Travelers can get on the bus at any point along the road from St. Elena to the reserve. Taxis from Santa Elana cost $10 each way.
Travelers can reach Monteverde by bus from many Costa Rican cities: San Jose, Puntarenas, Guanacaste, Liberia, northern Costa Rica, and from the southern Pacific beaches, La Fortuna or the Arenal volcano area.

When driving by car, from San Jose, take the Pan American Highway north, continuing north through Miramar to a restaurant called Caballo Blanco where there will be signs for Monteverde. There is a turn off and follow the signs. The trip is approximately 3.5 hours. There are also directions from Arenal and Liberia.

La Selva Biological Station

The rain forest is a precious thing. Research facilities and nature preserves such as La Selva Biological Stationnot only help protect these valuable resources, they offer people the chance to see the world in its natural state. The nearly six square mile rainforest that surrounds the center is home to more than 500 species of butterflies, 420 types of birds and 460 different types of trees and plants. Spider monkeys, the collared peccary and poison dart frogs are just some of the rare creatures that call La Selva home.

Half and full day walks through the forest are offered, lead by bilingual naturalists. The group is limited to 12 people, giving you a more intimate experience. Walks are roughly 3 ½ hours long, mostly on wood or cement trails and suitable for most fitness levels. Some of the trails are easily accessed by the physically challenged.La Selva Biological StationPrivate tours include the Early Birding Tours that leave at 5:45 am. These are by reservation only and about two hours long. For a totally different experience try one of the Night Tours, also by reservation. These walks leave between 6:00pm and 7:00pm, the best time to listen for the croaking of the forest frogs and the evening songs of tropical birds.

Workshops include the day long Bird Watching 101, teaching about the types of birds in the forest and how to find them and identify them. This workshop gives you a more in-depth education about nesting, reproduction and habitat. Day long classes/seminars are available for scientists as well, offering the chance to do first-hand research in a tropical rainforest.

Cabins, two room family houses and dormitory-style accommodations are offered at La Selva. Meals are served in a family style dining room and box lunches are available. A gift shop, academic center, library and laundry are also onsite.

The research/ecology study center is located in the north-eastern lowlands of Costa Rica about a five minute drive south of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. The larger city of San Jose is roughly a two hour drive south. Braulio Carrillo National Park is on La Selva’s southern edge. The most convenient way to get to La Selva is by private car, but there is public bus service between San Jose and Puerto Viego de Sarapiqui. It runs about every two hours between 6:30am and 6:00pm but it’s best to check the schedule. Puerto Viego de Sarapiqui is two miles from the main entrance to La Selva.