A large number of Costa Rica’s natural attractions are represented in this large and rewarding region - impressive smoking volcanos, acres of tropical dry forests interspersed with cattle ranges and cowboy towns and misty cloud forests.
The mainland Pacific coast is easily accessible from the peninsula by ferry, or by road and air from San José. Mountains drop directly down to the coast (which causes high rainfall) through tropical rainforest with a profusion of wildlife, and yet more good beaches. At Carara Biological Reserve crocodiles and scarlet macaws can been seen. The local seafood is excellent.
The Nicoya Peninsula is a dry tropical zone with some of Costa Rica’s best beaches, such as Tamarindo. While there are a few sprawling resort hotels large stretches of largely unspoilt coastline still exist. For those seeking privacy and a feeling of isolation, the areas of Nosara and Malpaís to the south are still mostly untouched. Here one can find some enticing small hotels and explore the coastal hills on horseback.
The areas of Guanacaste, Rincón de la Vieja and Tenorio volcano and national park are close in geographical distance, yet far apart in landscape, flora and fauna and each offers its own unique opportunities for wildlife spotting and sight-seeing.
The iconic Arenal volcano can be reached from San José (120 miles) or on the way to the Pacific coast, and its symmetrical shape make it particularly impressive and popular. This is the best base for boat trips into the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, considered to be one of the region’s richest spots for bird watching. Arenal lake is enormous, created for hydroelectric purposes and renowned amongst windsurfers.
To the south, and reached by a twisty road, is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, home to more than 400 species of birds. Heading west from Arenal you drop down into the dry heat of Guanacaste’s savanna.