Northern Lowlands

The Northern Lowlands Region of Costa Rica presents diverse scenery with a variety of pastures, wetlands, jungles, rainforests, cloud forests, and river webs. Situated between the Pacific and Caribbean and nestled against the Nicaraguan border, the Lowlands Region contains diverse flora and fauna as well as spectacular attractions. On the edge of the region's rolling flatland landscape, the imposing Arenal Volcano sits as one of Costa Rica's most-popular destinations, producing amazing shows of molten rock and ash.

Northern Lowlands

Costa Rica

The sweeping plains of the Northern Lowlands are home to tourism, banana plantations, and many cattle ranches. Positioned north of San Jose and the Central Valley, east of Guanacaste, and west of the Caribbean coast, the Northern Lowlands are ideally situated for a detour from the beach or city. The region contains a large number of easily accessible national parks, biological stations, and wildlife refuges- haven for any outdoor lover.

Until 1957, the region remained isolated from the country's main economic and cultural center, San Jose. Not until Highway 126 connected Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui with the capital city did the region become one of Costa Rica's most vital organs. Timber harvests throughout much of the lowlands, cleared the way for it large cattle industry. However, during the rainy season, many of these areas now flood with Costa Rica's overwhelming rainfall, creating many wet swamps and marshes.

The region's geography is composed of two main flatlands: Llanuras de los Guatusos to the west and Llanura de San Carlos to the east. Two mountain ranges border the region along its southwestern perimeter: the Tilaran Mountain Range (Cordillera de Tilaran) and the Central Volcanic Mountain Range (Cordillera Volcanica Central). Both ranges snake their way from northwest to southeast, splitting the country down its middle. To the northwest, the Guanacaste Mountain Range (Cordillera de Guanacaste) divides the Northern Lowlands from the Guanacaste Providence. All three mountain ranges are dotted with volcanoes and cloud forest. Together, they surround the region and contribute to its scenic beauty. From the mountain peaks, an intricate system of rivers and streams meanders to the lowlands, where the rivers supply nutrients to lowland fertile soil.

In order to access the destinations of La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano from San Jose, head northwest through Alajuela (46 mi, 73 km) and either continue through San Ramon, or take Hwy 141, which runs through Sarchi and Ciudad Quesada. Alternatively, pass by La Paz Waterfall, traveling north from Alajuela and turning through San Miguel and Aguas Zarcas. La Fortuna is located 75 miles (120 km) from San Jose and 16 miles (25 km) from Ciudad Quesada.

Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui can be reached by taking Highway 126 north to San Miguel. Then, head northeast on Hwy 4 through La Virgen and Chilamate until you reaching a city with the Sarapiqui River (Rio Sarapiqui). Another scenic way to drive is to take Hwy 32, the Guapiles Hwy, northeast from San Jose, which will take you through the lovely Braulio Carrillo National Park (Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo).

Top Attractions

Destinations in Northern Lowlands

14 destinations

Frequently asked Questions

Is Your Planning Service Free?

Yes! The rates are the same if you book directly with the hotels and tours. We offer the additional value of an expert planner to ensure your trip is perfect.

How Does Your Service Work?

We listen to your vision for your trip and ensure that your experience exceeds all of your expectations. Think of us as the “Zappos of Travel.” We do more than book your reservations — we take a holistic approach and create seamless plans.

Can I Trust You?

We have planned thousands of vacations for people just like you. Our mission to redefine and simplify travel planning began in 2006 in Costa Rica, and it continues to this very moment. With over a decade of travel planning experience, we are confident that we can craft your perfect vacation for free.

Costa Rica Attractions

Heres a list of Costa Rica's Amazing Sights and Attractions

Flora Fauna
Flora Fauna

Rhinoceros Beetle


House Gecko


Monkey Tail (Guaba chilillo)


Glass Frog


Common Basilisk


Great Green Macaw


White-Faced or Capuchin Monkey


Glasswing Butterfly


Spectacled Caiman




Hawksbill Sea Turtle


Leatherback Turtle


Pink Shower Tree


Fishing Bulldog Bat


Scarlet Macaw


Stinking Toe Tree


White Leadtree


Long-tailed Hermit


Boa Constrictor




Common Dolphin


Fiery-billed Aracari and Collared Aracari


Spiny Green Lizard


Ice Cream Bean Tree


Leaf-Cutter Ant






Blue-jeans Frog or Strawberry Poison-dart Frog




Walking Stick


Resplendent Quetzal


Monarch Butterfly


Long-tailed Manakin




Green Turtle


Brilliant Forest Frog


Assassin Bugs and Kissing Bugs


Magnificent Frigatebird




Common Tink Frog




Chestnut-mandibled Toucan


Green Page Moth


Two-Toed Sloth




Green Heron


Narrow-headed Vine Snake


Bare-necked Umbrellabird


Collared Peccary


Loggerhead Sea Turtle


Turquoise-browed Motmot










Orca, Killer Whale


Bottle-nosed Dolphin




Milk Frog


Guanacaste Tree (Elephant Ear)


Red-Eyed Leaf (Tree) Frog




American Crocodile


Baird's Tapir


Owl Butterfly


Tonka Bean Tree


Black Ctenosaur


Keel-billed Toucan


Helicopter Damselfly


Vampire Bat


Humpback Whale




Fin Whale






Black Witch


Spider Monkey


Squirrel Monkey


Three-wattled Bellbird


Ground Anole


Saman (Samanea saman, aka Albizia saman)


Brown Pelican


Mantled Howler Monkey


Blue Morpho




Army Ant


Arboreal Termites


Chestnut-headed Oropendola


Violet Sabrewing


Olive Ridley Sea Turtle




Giant Toad or Cane Toad


Spotted Longwing


Three-Toed Sloth




Pacific Spotted Dolphin


Bullet Ant


Golden Orb Weaver