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200km (124 miles) NW of San José; 20km (12 miles) NW of Monteverde; 70km (43 miles) SE of Liberia

Despite its many charms, this remains one of the least-developed tourism regions in Costa Rica. Lake Arenal, the largest lake in Costa Rica, is the centerpiece here. The long, beautiful lake is surrounded by rolling hills that are partly pastured and partly forested. Loads of adventures are available both on the lake and in the surrounding hills and forests. While the towns of Tilarán and Nuevo Arenal remain quiet rural communities, several excellent hotels spread out along the shores of the lake.

Locals here used to curse the winds, which often come blasting across this end of the lake at 60 knots or greater. However, since the first sailboarders caught wind of Lake Arenal’s combination of warm, fresh water, steady gusts, and spectacular scenery, that’s changed. Even if you aren’t a fanatical sailboarder, you might enjoy hanging out by the lake, hiking in the nearby forests, riding a mountain bike on dirt farm roads and one-track trails, and catching glimpses of Arenal Volcano.

The lake’s other claim to fame is its rainbow-bass fishing. These fighting fish are known in Central America as guapote and are large members of the cichlid family. Their sharp teeth and bellicose nature make them a real challenge.