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82km (51 miles) N of San José; 102km (63 miles) E of La Fortuna

The Sarapiquí region, named for the principal river that runs through this area, lies at the foot of the Cordillera Central mountain range. To the west is the rainforest of Braulio Carrillo National Park, and to the east are Tortuguero National Park ★★ and Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge ★. In between these protected areas lay thousands of acres of banana, pineapple, and palm plantations. Here you see the great contradiction of Costa Rica: On the one hand, the country is known for its national parks, which preserve some of the largest tracts of rainforest left in Central America; on the other hand, nearly every acre of land outside of these parks, save a few private reserves, has been clear-cut and converted into plantations—and the cutting continues.

 

Within the remaining rainforest are several lodges that attract naturalists (both amateur and professional). Two of these lodges, La Selva and Rara Avis, are famous for the research that’s conducted on their surrounding reserves. Bird-watching and rainforest hikes are the primary attractions, but more adventure-oriented travelers will find plenty of other available activities, including canopy tours and boating and rafting trips along the Sarapiquí River.