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Plains of the North

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Earth : North America : Central America : Costa Rica : Plains of the North
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The North Zone is in Costa Rica and borders in the north to Rio San Juan Region of Nicaragua. It is known for Arenal Volcano, but it has other gems that are not-so-hidden such as Lake Arenal and the Los Angeles Cloud Forest. Arenal is the world's 3rd most active volcano and can be heard rumbling several times an hour. The lava flow changes frequently, but even without seeing the lava the mountain is impressive in size and shape.

The Los Angeles Cloud Forest is not as visited as the Cloud Forests in Monteverde, but the wildlife is abundant and the locals are extremely friendly.

Other Destinations[edit]

  • Rio Celeste - is probably the most picturesque river in Costa Rica. The river get its color by mixing minerals from two different rivers. The easy hike takes about 2-3 hours, depends how long you want to enjoy the views.


  • Fortuna (La Fortuna de San Carlos) - the town that sits at the foot of Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna is quaint and has a great local flavor complete with great restaurants and tons of tour companies offering Volcano tours, zip lines and Lake Arenal crossings.
  • San Ramon - located about an hour north of San Jose by car. The town itself is a decent size where you can stop at the local sodas or market, but don't expect much in the way of tourism. It is mostly a stop on the way to Arenal or to the Los Angeles Cloud Forest.
  • Quesada - the largest city by far in the country's North, surrounded by hot springs popular with Costa Rican vacationers


San Ramon is a moderately sized town that really only has one tourist attraction, the local church or cathedral. The church is large and in a state of repair but it is next to the town's central park which follows Japanese influence in its design. The north-eastern parts of this region are dominated by monocultural exploitation of sugar cane, citrus trees and pineapple farms.


To the locals. Find a good soda to frequent and meet the local Ticos or Ticas to better enjoy the region.

Get in[edit]

By Car[edit]

The best way to get to the North Zone is by car, the car offers the most flexibility to stop and experience the local culture on your trip to the North. Main entering routes are: Route 142 from Nicaragua border passing by Arenal Lagoon, Route 141 passing by Ciudad Quesada, Route 702 passing by San Ramon and Route 4 coming from the Province of Limon.

By Bus[edit]

Regular buses from San Jose and San Ramon are available, the most used option is from Terminal 7-10, direct buses to La Fortuna, the bus makes a 20 minutes rest stop on Ciudad Quesada, then 1 hour later arrives to La Fortuna, the bus doesn't makes too many stops but passes by towns, thus overcrowding the bus with no A/C. Second option is taking buses at UEPSA Terminal in San Jose to San Ramon town, switch to buses to La Fortuna (60 meters east side), this route is more comfortable but slower, makes several bus stops, any route decided is recommended to take a Dramamine pill or have a plastic bag with small alcohol bottle handy.

By Plane[edit]

SANSA commuter airlines serves La Fortuna during high season.

Get around[edit]

See[edit][add listing]


Do[edit][add listing]

  • La Fortuna
    • recommended visit La Fortuna River Waterfall 5 minute trip from main town.
    • enlist on a local tour company named Jungle Tours from participant hotels, the bus picks you at the hotel, is a five hour tour, starts by local town bus ride, then a 20 minute ride to Volcan Arenal Lodge Observatory, then a 3 hour hike inside the lodge's garden, includes a swimming in a waterfall and ends on hot spring session.
    • drive to Arenal town and Lagoon.
    • visit Red Lava Tours stand on the bus terminal.

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • La Fortuna
    • On Route 142 several restaurants on the road, inside the main town Pizza Latino is a great option for italian food at reasonable pricing.
    • Soda & Restaurant Sabor Tico local and american breakfast available.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Stay safe[edit]

  • La Fortuna: be careful crossing road intersections, for some unexplained reason local drivers tend to speed while people are trying to cross the road. Even though tourism is a key income factor for the town, they still don't care.

Get out[edit]

  • Private shuttle services are available using the new road to Limon, Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Panama border, no public transportation available for this route, if you travel in group shuttle services is the best way.
  • One bus terminal available 60 meters from the park, for all routes San Jose, Ciudad Quesada, Tilaran and San Ramon.
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