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NORTHERN PLAINS

© Copyright Costa Rica Travel and Surf - Surf Guide Costa Rica - Carlos Torres 2021. All Rights Reserved.   Designed by 360webmasters.com

LOOKING FOR A TRAVEL ADVENTURE IN THE NORTHERN PLAINS?

Explore hotels, cabins, rent a cars, restaurants, bars, and cafés by locality.

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40 km to the north of San Jose, crossing the Central Volcanic Cordillera, in the direction of Nicaragua, you will find this large area of flat ground. It is made up of half the western provinces of Alajuela and Heredia and the northern slopes of each of the mountains. One of these areas is protected with the Caño Negro National Refuge of Forest Wildlife as well as other areas that are used for the cultivation of rice. The northern plains are very sparsely populated; there are a few villages and the most common destination in this area is Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí and its surroundings, where there is a good network of several hotels and biological investigation centers. Los Chiles, offers the easiest access to the refuge, buses arrive here from the one day circuits to Arenal Volcano. The route to Los Chiles and the route to the Nicaraguan Border are paved.

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Choose between these 11 exiting destinations in the Northern Plains area

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COSTA RICAN NORTHERN PLAINS AREA MAP

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WHERE TO GO & WHAT TO DO

You are about to learn about 11 of the most important and exiting places in the Costa Rican Northern Plains.

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1. THE AREA CAÑO NEGRO & MUELLE SAN CARLOS

At Muelle de San Carlos Dock there are two paved roads that lead towards the northern plains, one towards the area of Caño Negro and towards the northeast, to San Rafael and to Upala, whilst the other route, that heads north leads to Los Chiles.
 
Muelle de San Carlos
It is a village located on the crossroads; one of the first routes leads to the Río San Carlos and is navigable. On the highway, there is a gas station which is open 24 hours.

 

 

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2. LOS GUATUSOS PLAINS

The counties of Upala, Los Chiles and Guatuso. San José is 236 Km from Upala, 233 Km from Los Chiles and 245 Km from San Rafael de Guatuso. Upala, the main city, is situated on the left bordering the Rio Zapote, flowing from the Nicaragua Lake, which you can get to by boat. It is a very picturesque village, as the river flows past houses, forming pools where the locals bathe. The rivers in the area are abundant in Guapote and Gaspar fish.

 

The area of San Rafael de Guatuso

It is known locally as Guatuso, which crosses the Río Frío, and is located 19 km to the northeast of Nuevo Arenal, arriving here via a dirt road of 40 km to the northeast of La Fortuna, via an asphalt road with panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano to the south. Some 10km before San Rafael, there is a gravel route of 10 km that leads to Venado, a good place for a one day visit, there are also cabins here.

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3. THE VENADO CAVERNS

Located in the district of Venado, 3 km to the east, on the road to Upala, only 67 km from Ciudad Quesada.  The Venado caverns where discovered in 1962, when the first expedition was made to the 350 meter cave and in 1969 when three explorations were made and they discovered 1.550 meters of 8 different caverns. In 1991 another exploration was made and they found four more caves, the total area of caves that have been discovered is more than 2000 meters. In the different caves there are stalactites and stalagmites and there is enough room for tourists to be able to go in and see them. You can explore this area for, 5 US$ entry, they are situated 4 km to the south of Venado.  You can contract local guides in the village, or enroll on one of the circuits that the local hotels organize in Caño Negro La Fortuna. There is a bus that leaves in the afternoon from Ciudad Quesada. Before you get to San Rafael; the route crosses an Indigenous Reserve of the Guatuso. In the rainy season, you can rent a boat to navigate the Rió Frio from San Rafael to the Caño Negro Refuge for Forest Wildlife. Some 5 km to the northeast of Guatuso, there is a 10km road which begins with a sign that says “Los Teñideros.” This route leads to the Río Celeste.
 
 

 

 

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4. TENORIO VOLCANO 

 

+ 506 2200-0135 + 506 8895-9671 + 506 2200-0135 + 506 2402-1330 + 506 2200-0176 + 506 8359-6235. Public Service Hours: from 08:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. / Schedule of entry to the Park trails from 08:00 a.m to 02:00 p.m. to complete the tour / from 02:00 p.m to 03:00 p.m. pm Only Catarata / Entrance Fees 10 US $ for foreign visitors not resident in Costa Rica, except Central American / 1.50 US $ for national visitors and residents in CR / 0.55 US $ for primary and secondary students. Is a National Park in the northern part of Costa Rica, which forms part of the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area. The jewel of the National Park is the volcano, from which it receives its name. The Tenorio Volcano was made part of the National Park in 1995 and is located about 26 miles northeast from the town of Fortuna in the Guanacaste Province. Tenorio Volcano consists of four volcanic peaks and two craters. One of the craters is sometimes referred to as the Montezuma Volcano. Tenorio is 6,287 feet high. The Rio Celeste appears blue due to the emission of sulphur from the volcano and precipitation of calcium carbonate. Thermal springs and small geysersdot the area as do rivers, waterfalls, lagoons and places providing panoramic views. The upper area of the park is dominated by primary cloud forest, while the lower regions are carpeted with rain forest. The Tapir and the rarely seen Puma reside in the area. There is a ranger station at the base of the volcano that provides visitors with basic information. The volcano’s summit can be reached via the Lago Las Dantas Trail, which winds up the volcano and passes through forested terrain before eventually reaching the peak​

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5. BIJAGUA

Is a small town approximately 26 km south of Upala in Northern Costa Rica. The town is situated in a valley between the volcanoes Miravalles and Tenorio. The population is approximately 2000 within the town and 5000 in the region. The local economy is primarily farming, including vegetable production and cattle raising. Tourism exists due in part to the primary growth rainforest located in the area. Bijagua is approximately 16 km from Tenorio Volcano National Park and the Celeste River.

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6. CELESTE RIVER

Right in the center of the mountains, with crystal water, which are an intense turquoise blue there are several hot springs along the way that are very inviting places for tourists to relax.  This is the Río Celeste de Guatuso, which is also known as Teñidero. Located on the northeast foothills of the Tenorio Volcano, some 26 kilometers from San Rafael de Guatuso. The color of the water is a product of a dye that runs from the rocks and gives it an attractive tone. To see this you will need to take the road in between San Rafael de Guatuso and Upala County; although, if you want to walk through the mountains to the source it is 5km to the south of the Río Celeste community. Be careful with the hot springs as the temperatures are very high, and visit the majestic 15 meter waterfall that is perfect to go bathing. The river, with its dyed waters is approximately 36 km in length.

 

 

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7. UPALA

This village is situated on the extreme north of the northern plains, 9km south of the border with Nicaragua. There are dirt roads that cross the border, but they are not official entry points to Costa Rica or Nicaragua. Sometimes there is passport control next to the bridge on the Southern side of the village, arriving via San Rafael de Guatuso, and another close to Canalete via the Cañas highway, from the Interamerican. This is the center of the cattle and rice industry; some Guatuso Indigenous lives here.  The secondary road to Upala that leads from the Interamerican opened in the eighties, which offers good connections with the buses from San José.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8. CAÑO NEGRO WILDLIFE REFUGEE

It is located in Los Chiles; it is made up of the Caño Negro Lagoon and the surrounding area with an extension of 9.969 hectares. It was created with an executive decree on the 20th of January 1984, based on different studies made by International Organizations such as the Scientific Tropical Center and nationals, such as the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica with an aim to protect and conserve the flora and fauna in one if the areas that has the largest biodiversity in the country, and is of special interest to ornithology enthusiasts, because of the large variety of water birds, such as ducks , pink spoonbills, storks, herons and the largest colony of cormorants in the country. It is the only area in the country where the Nicaraguan Sanate regularly nests (quiscalus quicula). In addition, pumas, jaguars and tapirs have also been seen in this area.

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9. LOS CHILES

Distance from San José, 233 kilometers. It was declared a county on the 17th of March 1970. With a surface of 1.358.88 Km2, and 43 meters altitude, it is bordered with Nicaragua, 3 Km, to the west with the counties of Upala and Guatuso and to the east and the south with the county of San Carlos. The main road is asphalt and is in good condition. The main attractions are the wetlands and the Gaspar fish considered to be a living fossil, that existed 120.000 years ago, you can only find these in the Río San Juan and its streams. It looks like half a crocodile and half a fish and can reach 1.5 meters in length.  Los Llanos Medio Queso are located in the northern region of Huetar, specifically the alluvial plains, that cover the lowest part of the Río Medio Queso,  with an extension of approximately 35 and  40 km2, it is considered to be an area of great ecological importance, because of the rich biodiversity of species.

 

La Laguna del Lagarto Lodge

The lodge is situated within 500 hectares of tropical rainforest, you can walk through paradise alone or if you want you can go with a local guide along more than 10 km of signposted footpaths where you will be able to see poisonous frogs, red as well as green and black (Dendro dates pumilio and D. Auratus), parrots, golden orioles, caimans and an incredible variety of trees and plants. More than 365 species of birds have been recognized here among them the Green Parrot (Ara Ambigua), which you will only find in this area.  

 

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10. PUERTO VIEJO OF SARAPIQUI

The village is located between the Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui River. It was an important commercial Caribbean route, the boats would travel along the Sarapiquí until they reached the border with Nicaragua, and it is there that they would also reach the sea in an easterly direction, traveling along the Río San Juan. The area is well known for its pre mountainous tropical rainforest that extends to the north as far as Braulio Carrillo National Park. Investigators and tourists can access this habitat and the hotels in the nearby forests, through a biological station. The NeoTropic biological Center is a rainforest reserve, with a museum and a hotel. The Banco Popular and Banco Nacional have an ATM and exchange currency.

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11. THE VIRGIN OF SARAPIQUI

How to arrive and leave
It is a village between Puerto Viejo and San Miguel, with good accommodation

The bus to Puerto Viejo that passes by Río Frio and Horquetas can stop at the entrance to La Selva, some 3 km before you arrive at Puerto Viejo.  From there, there are almost 2 km of road to the station. The taxis from Puerto Viejo cost close to 3 US$. The OTS offer a bus service from San José every Monday at 07:00 a.m returning at 03:00 p.m costing 15 US$ for the journey. 

 

 

 

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