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.

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.