The Northern Zone offers a variety of activities, most of which are related to nature and adventure.
Horseback riding is a favorite activity in the region. Visitors can enjoy rides in Tilaran, Fortuna, Bajo del Toro, Caño Negro, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui and other areas and several tours use it as a way of getting to different sites of interest.
There is no limit to the variety of hikes available for observing the region’s natural attractions, including rivers, volcanoes, hot springs and waterfalls.
Breathtaking scenery and enjoying nature can be seen on several rivers, including the Frío, San Carlos, Sarapiquí and Puerto Viejo.
The region offers a variety of roads and adventure or leisure sites that allow touring on regular or mountain bikes. Interesting destinations include the La Fortuna waterfall, agricultural plantations, the Arenal Volcano and reservoir, and the trail between Fortuna and Monteverde.
Several towns maintaining very rural lifestyles offer cafes and restaurants, while others, such as Quesada City and Tilarán, feature municipal or city markets where traditional Costa Rican food may be sampled. Some lodging establishments also offer typical fare.
The outskirts of Venado are home to the largest and most accessible cavern system in the Northern Zone, enabling visitors to explore and learn about the stalactite and stalagmite formations as well as various other geological features.
The region’s natural wealth can be enjoyed in numerous public protected areas such as Arenal and Juan Castro Blanco National Parks and Caño Negro and Bosque Alegre Wildlife Refuges, as well as private protected sites such as the Danaus Botanical Garden, La Selva Biological Station, Selva Verde and the Tirimbina Preserve, to name just a few.
Tourism and recreation outfitters in several communities—including Fortuna, La Virgen and Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí—have developed facilities for enjoying adventure activities on hanging bridges, nature trails and in the forest canopy.
Photography is highly worthwhile here, thanks to a variety of scenic and cultural options and a wealth of flora and fauna, waterfalls, rivers and volcanoes, as well as picturesque ranches and farms, including sugarcane, coffee and pineapple plantations, dairies and more.
Rural tourism activities and services offered in the Northern Zone and their corresponding locations within the region are:
Heliconias Lodge, located in Bijagua de Upala, 3 kilometers from the National Bank. Activities: Butterfly garden, nature-trail hiking, hanging bridges in the canopy, visits to the sugar mill, visits to the Bijagua River waterfall or Danta Lagoon, bird-watching, visits to the Celeste River and its waterfalls.
La Catarata Lodge, located three kilometers from downtown Fortuna, San Carlos. Activities: Tours to the Fortuna waterfall, hot springs on the Tabacon River, Arenal Volcano National Park, the Venado caverns, horseback rides to Monteverde.
San Juan Lodge, located 46 kilometers from Aguas Zarcas in the community of La Gloria, allows visitors to enjoy communal life and natural riches. Activities: Guided tours through wet forest trails, bird-watching, visits to medicinal plantations, dairy tours.
Poco Sol Biological Station, located 12 kilometers west of Tigra de San Carlos. Activities: Tours on trails through primary and secondary forest, visits to the 3.8-hectare lake, waterfalls, hot springs and fumaroles.
Bosque Alegre Lodge and wildlife refuge, located six kilometers from Cariblanco de Sarapiqui. All-terrain vehicle required for the last stretch of gravel road. Activities: Hiking and nature-watching in tropical wet forest on the trail to the lakes, fishing and boat tours.