COSTA RICA  |  Arenal Area, Costa Rica Travel Guide
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Arenal Backcountry

Arenal Backcountry

A scenic alternate way to the far side of the mountains, without going around Lake Arenal, is to head north from La Fortuna to San Rafael and up to Upala (the road between San Rafael and Upala is narrow but drivable) and take the road that crosses the valley between the Tenorio and Miravalles volcanoes. The rural road reaches the Inter-American Highway about seven km/4.4 miles north of Cañas. Three km/1.9 miles from Bijagua town is a Cooprena lodge, Albergue Heliconia (506/286-4203), run by 12 local farm families growing coffee and grain.

A rustic, all-inclusive eco-adventure lodge on the slopes of Tenorio – look for a sign six km/3.7 miles north of Bijagua, after Bar Mirador – is La Carolina Lodge (506/380-1656,, $$). This ranch-style lodge has a river and a pool for swimming and offers horseback trips or some great hikes to this little-visited area of Costa Rica. How do waterfalls, thermal springs and mineral mud pits within a national forest sound? Even better is that fact that it’s only about a two-hour drive to the beach!

Once you come to the Inter-American Highway, your choice is to proceed north to Liberia and the coast, or drive south through Cañas and backtrack up to Monteverde. If you choose, there is also a gravel road shortcut from Tilarán to Monteverde, bumpy and rough but passable with four-wheel-drive. A public bus follows the same route. If you go this way you’ll pass El Trapiche, an old-fashioned sugar mill. The route is “iffy” during the rainy season, so ask first. Along this route (six km/3.7 miles before Santa Elena) is another Cooprena lodge, Albergue Ecoverde (506/286-4203) run by 12 families of Los Olivos.

Last updated October 28, 2010
Posted in   Costa Rica  |  Arenal Area
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