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San Carlos, more than just La Fortuna

I was born in San Carlos, this is my home. Many times I have been told by people that they visited this place and they liked it a lot, but during the conversation, I realize that they didn’t get to know San Carlos, but that they just have been in La Fortuna, close to the Arenal Volcano.

Anyway, the area around the volcano is very beautiful with its thermal waters, forests, and animals, but actually, San Carlos with almost 3348 square kilometres is the biggest canton of Costa Rica, even bigger than Cartago and Heredia, so there is a lot more to show than just the surroundings of La Fortuna. 

This is why I decided to tell you a little more about my home, my roots and the magical place where I grew up.

San Carlos is a green land, with large plains covered by pastures and forests, where cattle raising and agriculture abound. Even though it has its town and small cities, it is still a rural area where you can see farmers herding their cattle, children playing and running barefoot on the streets of the neighbourhood, hardworking people, tilled fields and very nice and guest-friendly people that will make you feel home.

Its nature and wildlife

Due to its location in the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica, there are frequent rains and this is why the mountains are always covered by lush forests and rivers. Also, the Juan Castro Blanco National Park, located in these mountains, is known as the National Park of Water, and home to many species of wild animals and plants.

san carlos biodiversidad

If you stay a little bit in San Carlos, you will learn how to live together with nature. It is very common to see deer or mountain pigs at the shore of the river (especially in the higher regions). Also, many people are used to leaving fruits like bananas, papaya or mango at the tables in their gardens, so toucan, hummingbirds, and other colourful birds come to feed on them.

Cattle raising

For many years, this area is dedicated to milk production. Today, you can still see groups of cows grazing or walking in a row to the farms. A fun fact about San Carlos is that, because it is so close to the cattle-raising areas of Cuidad Quesada, some cows escape from their grasslands and peacefully walk into the city, even until the central park!

vaca en cq

“Yellow tree” (Tabebuia ochracea)

The official tree of San Carlos is the Tabebuia ochracea. Those are big, lush trees that can get 25 meters high. During the dry season, they lose all their green leaves and replace them with yellow flowers. This bloom takes 4 to 5 days and all trees bloom at the same time, which covers the fields and forests of this beautiful canton in a shining yellow. I grew up watching these trees decorating the landscapes, running under them and watching the flowers falling down. It was something unique, almost like being in a fairytale or an enchanted forest!

piso flores amarillas

Main tourist attractions

In this area, there are many tourist centres with thermal waters, pools, rivers, hiking trails, forests, hotels and other activities that will definitively entertain you. In the following, I listed some attraction that you can enjoy in this place:

Marsella de Venecia

This little community, even though it is very little, houses a unique and exquisite natural wealth. When we get closer to the mountains we will see many private forest reserves with tourist centres, caves, great waterfalls and scenic beauty, activities like rafting or canopy, rivers as cold as ice or hot springs. Without a doubt, this place will fulfil all your expectations.

La casa del boyero (The house of the boyero)

In the district of Venecia, there is the typical museum La Casa del Boyero, which protects and gives value to the cultural heritage and the tradition Boyera (ox-men) in Costa Rica.

The colourful oxcarts pulled by ox are the most important example of Costa Rica`s culture and how the merchants transported their products in yesteryear.

In this little town in San Carlos, it is very common to see parades of Oxcarts, for example during festivals or activities of the community and sometimes even the farmers with their ox walking down the streets.

boyeros en venecia

Venado Caves

The district of Venado in San Carlos is a peaceful and quiet town, but with a unique natural element: the caves, which were discovered in the middle of the last century.

This is a fascinating place, as it is made up of a series of caves that, according to geologists, have already been in formation for several million years. Without a doubt, it is a unique experience between stalactites and ancient stalagmites, which preserve the secrets of the geological conformation of these lands.

The caves are open to the public (there is an entrance fee), but anyways they are just accessible with a local guide and the right equipment (rubber boots, helmet, and flashlight). In total there are 450 caves, but just 10 of them are open to the public.

Indigenous culture Maleku

The Malekus (or Guatusos) represent Costa Rican Amerindian ethnic group, which is mainly located in Guatuso and San Carlos.

Due to the street conditions and its location, a tractor for tourist transportation or a 4x4 car is necessary to enter the Villa de Los Maleku. Once you get to the little town, you can see the houses made of palms, which can get 10 to 15 years old, depending on how much they take care of it. The traditional clothes of the Malekus are made of mastate tree bark, which they consider sacred.

They also consider the Red Ara Macaw as a sacred animal and use a part of its feathers for their ceremonies (they don`t kill or mistreat the animal). The parrot is a symbol of faithfulness for them because when the partner of the bird dies, they stay alone for the rest of their lives.

All in all, getting to know a little bit of their nature is learning how to live in harmony with nature, learning to respect the environment, discover the unique traditions and lifestyle which they keep alive all over the years.

Rural community tourism

Some communities of San Carlos (as well as in other parts of the country) show visitors what it is like to live in this place and give them a real and authentic experience. Visiting its schools, houses and participating in their projects of the development of the community, agriculture, lifestyle, gastronomy, and much more are part of the activities.

An example of this is the community Sonafluca, where tourists can integrate completely and live a 100% authentic experience. When I visited this place, we started the day with the school children, who gave us a complete show of typical dances and games. Afterwards, we visited a local farm and finally, we went to the typical Costa Rican Casona, which is more than 120 years old and belonged to the ex-president Rafel Yglesias Castro. There, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and learned a little bit about the culture of the region.

Would you like to experience this yourself? You can reserve this activity writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Green Lagoon (or Poza Verde)

At the mountains of the Juan Castro National Park, there is a wonderful green lagoon that formed naturally in what was once the crater of a now-extinct volcano.

To get there we had to walk for almost 2 hours, between trails, rivers, and paddocks (about 6 km to go and come back, you can also go by bike). The hike is easy, but at a slow and careful pace, since the road can be slippery and some stones. However, you will have a good time, enjoy the landscapes, nature, and breathe fresh air.

nosotros en la poza verde

The Market of Ciudad Quesada

This market is a strategic shopping point for the people of San Carlos. The shops, butchers, pharmacies, jewellery stores, saddlery and many more fill this place with a great number of high-quality products for the people. As it is highly visited, the traders fight for new stores that are offered and you will never see one unoccupied.

It still is common to eat “un gallito” (Costa Rican expression, which is a snack, normally made on bade of corn tortillas, and on top any picadillo, which is chopped vegetables or meat) at the market, since the Sodas (small typical Costa Rican restaurant) on the inside are known to be very delicious and varied. Entering this place is experiencing a part of the tradition of this canton and I don`t know anyone from San Carlos, who doesn’t have a good story from the market of Ciudad Quesada.

Rose en el mercado

Besides the majestic Arenal volcano, its National Park and the city of La Fortuna, San Carlos has definitively much to offer. It is a perfect place for all those who love nature, adventure and authentic experiences. This area has a rich biodiversity, landscapes, and attractions, so when you visit the area, don’t stay just in La Fortuna. Get to know a little bit of everything the place has to offer and discover different and unique things close to the place where you are staying.

I hope these little tips and information will be useful for you. If you have something to add, you can write us to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and it will be a pleasure to help you.

Greetings from paradise.

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  • Janaina & Dieter, Brazil

    The trip was wonderful! Your help was invaluable and without your choices it would not have been so good! I am very very satisfied and very happy with the choices you made!

    Thank you very much for everything!

    Janaina & Dieter, Brazil
  • Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo, Germany

    Hello dear Aline, many thanks to you for the great compilation and organization of the trip. We were able to spend eventful, interesting and wonderful days in Costa Rica and will keep them in good memory. A thank you also goes to the ARA Tours team, which was available 24/7 for problems and questions, which were solved and answered quickly and reliably. The punctuality of the transfers offered should also be emphasized. In summary, it was a wonderful holiday.

    Kind regards

    Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo, Germany
  • Carina & Thomas, Germany

    Hello dear Aline,
    Now we have arrived back at San Jose Airport after a great trip. Everything worked out great and the tour was just perfectly planned and organized. Thank you very much. We take a lot of positive memories with us.
    Best regards.

    Carina & Thomas, Germany
  • Yvonne, Switzerland

    The Costa Rica trip together with my family is already behind us - it was wonderful!!! Everything went smoothly from A to Z, we had a wonderful time, no incidents and wonderful experiences.
    We all enjoyed it very much; the nature is enormous, but also the warm-hearted people, the cleanliness, the food - we are very enthusiastic!
    At this point I would like to thank you very much for your support in the preparation, for all the bookings, clarifications and enquiries!!!
    We visited the waterfall in La Fortuna and had a great view of the Arenal. In Monteverde we did a Hanging Bridges and Zipline tour and in Nosara a surf course. In Finca Rosa Bianca we did the coffee tour, it was all great, fun and interesting 😊. All in all, we saw lots of animals, always ate well, enjoyed the beaches....even in rainy weather 😊. Often we were even glad that it was overcast, otherwise it would have been almost toouuu hot for us.
    So THANK YOU again so much for everything!!!!

    Yvonne, Switzerland
  • Christina, Switzerland

    Many thanks for the extensive support (before, during and after the trip) and the professional handling of our concerns. With your support we had a smooth and unforgettable vacation in Costa Rica! Our favorite hotels: Hotel Plaza Yara and the Poas Volcano Lodge - a dream!
    All the best

    Christina, Switzerland
  • Jeanne, Bernd & Bill, USA

    Yay! I´m glad we are back on track. Thank you again for helping us with all these changes.
    I´m glad we choose ARA-you are amazing! Thanks for all your help! It made it a very memorable visit!

    Jeanne, Bernd & Bill, USA
  • Janka, The Netherlands

    Hi Eli & ARA Team,
    We have spoken to the guest and they are super enthusiastic about their Costa Rica roundtrip! Everything was well organized, nice hotels, nice mix of activities & beach and they have big compliments for you guys!!
    Many thanks for all the good work!! The guest highly appreciate it!!
    They had lunch nearby in Ara Ambigua Lodge, and they loved this place. Friendly staff and good food!
    Do you work with this accommodation? If so, we would love hear 😊
    Once again, heads off for this amazing trip!
    With warm regards

    Janka, The Netherlands
  • Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula, Switzerland

    Dear Priska
    Happily I write some words to you in English, so you can easily forward them also to Ara Tours, please. Thank you all, we spent a magic time in Costa Rica! Baumeler's and Ara Tours organisation and logistics were perfect, everything worked out even better than we expected. The tours were brilliant, we really enjoyed everything very very much!
    All the accomodation was absolutely wonderful... the setting, the quality, the food, with happy helpful friendly staff everywhere. It was a wonderful way to experience this beautiful country the way we did, on a private tour with personal guide and drivers. We saw and learnt sooo much - it would have been impossible to do so on our own.
    Especially we praise our brilliant guide Fernando Perez, we benefited so much from his truly wide knowledge and deep love for his Country which he passed on in lovely encouraging way. We even became friends and we will meet in Switzerland coming September! Also our driver Carlos Sandi was great, not only as a driver but also as a compagnion, animal spotter and photographer. Thank you!
    So.... now we just enjoy our last day...
    Sunny greetings, pura vida

    Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula, Switzerland
  • Yvonne & Andrea, Switzerland

    Hello all
    Unfortunately, our wonderful trip is already over and everyday life has caught up with us again. We would like to thank you very much for everything. The trip was planned exactly according to our wishes and we have seen so many beautiful places.
    Thank you Stefanie!
    We have felt completely comfortable and top cared for by you. Via Whats App we got immediate answers to our questions, with the car everything worked out great. In all locations we were treated very warmly and nicely. It was just so indescribably beautiful, we will dream of the beautiful experiences for a long time. In any case, we will warmly recommend you and hope for a next time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Best regards.

    Yvonne & Andrea, Switzerland
  • Anita, Switzerland

    We have arrived safely in Switzerland and have already returned to work.
    It was a wonderful trip you put together for us.
    Your excellent service, as well as the 24 hour support service from ARA Tours, was truly outstanding.
    I have already recommended you several times and would book with you again and again. Thank you very much and keep me informed if there are any interesting offers.
    Best wishes.

    Anita, Switzerland
  • Lukas & Isabelle, Switzerland

    Hello Pedro, our time in CR is coming to an end and we wanted to say "thank you very much for organizing a phenomenal week". Everything has been well organized and we have seen many beauties of nature. Thanks!

    Lukas & Isabelle, Switzerland
  • Reinout & Yvonne, The Netherlands

    Thanks Jenny for the clear answer. We will make an appointment via the link you gave us.
    Today we visited National Parc Cabo Blanco. What an amazing park, so quiet for tourists, so full of animals, really lovely and therefore together with Monte Verde, Cahuita and Corcovado the park today, Cabo Blanco, scores high in our ranking of most beautiful parks of CR.These parks give us reason, together with the Pura Vida in CR, to come back soon. We'll keep in contact.

    Reinout & Yvonne, The Netherlands
  • Dominik, Germany

    Good day Jennifer
    As we have already told Simone, the stay at Lapa Rios is extremely enriching, thanks to the well planned planting and the untouched environment we see a lot of animals. Contrary to the plans before the stay, we do not want to visit more animals in captivity at the end. We will have a look at the few hours before we leave.
    We thank you and your team very much for the excellent advice and the permanent support! We can only recommend Ara Tours.
    Best regards.

    Dominik, Germany
  • Daniel, Jana & Theo, Germany

    A big thank to you, you saved our vacation!
    Communication already worked very well in Germany. The help from you, especially through Aline, should be mentioned here. This was fantastic from the first WhatsApp message to the last. We already know Costa Rica, so we knew what we wanted and what not. Ara Tours was an important point of contact for us. We are very grateful to Aline precisely because our actual travel agent cancelled our trip 36 hours before departure. She immediately organized everything for us. Whether the hotel in beautiful Punta Leona, the tours to the national parks, even the shuttle service with the great driver Guillerno Ortega has to be mentioned here. We are very grateful to you, dear Aline, but also to the entire Ara Tours team. You too made our almost 3-week trip to Costa Rica unforgettable again. We would love to come back and of course we will book through Ara Tours again.

    Daniel, Jana & Theo, Germany
  • Alexander & family, Switzerland

    Thank you, everything really worked out great. Super organization and at any time quick info / help / support from you!
    We liked it very much. The conclusion in Quepos was crowning. We liked the beach in the National Park Manuel Antonio very much. We would have liked to stay longer, but we take home many wonderful, unforgettable impressions. PURA VIDA!
    Many thanks to you Aline! We will gladly recommend you to others.

    Alexander & family, Switzerland
  • Neumann Family, Germany

    - The route was super planned, first on the beach time to arrive and then only from Monteverde with excursions inland etc. and at the end again beach - perfect!
    - Support from Ara Tours was VERY good!!! Through Whatsapp reachability the service was great, very quick answers / very flexible, good suggestions etc. Also with the doctor Ara Tours helped with translations by phone - that was really very, very good!
    - The home stay day was an absolute highlight - very authentic - so we got to know the locals REAL, the family was super friendly and very open and have talked about everything. Not at all touristy perceived.

    Neumann Family, Germany
  • Marine & Bruno, France

    We would like to thank you personally for this beautiful trip that you organised for us and for the follow-up that you did throughout the stay. A big thank you also to Jennifer d'Ara tours! Thank you again and have a great week!

    Marine & Bruno, France
  • Walter, Switzerland

    We really appreciated your (almost) daily updates from Costa Rica on Covid and related issues. That was a highlight compared to other incoming agents worldwide! We thank you for your effort and wish you that you manage the coming time well and stay healthy.

    Walter, Switzerland
  • Ronald, Germany

    Our great compliments for keeping us informed every day on the developments. We wish you all the best and keep yourself and families in good health and mood during this unprecedented period!

    Ronald, Germany
  • Kathrin, Germany

    You are really super! It is impressive how you manage the crisis with your super flow of information and the great reversal. Hats off!

    Kathrin, Germany
  • Michael, Germany

    Hello, we were on a round trip in Costa Rica from 27.11., which was booked through BigXtra and organised by them. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much. The tour was simply amazing! The support by Carlos was just great. We have done many trips before, but this one was an unforgettable experience thanks to Carlos. Carlos speaks very good German and was able to sensitively introduce us to Costa Rica, its incomparable nature and its great, friendly inhabitants. Pura Vida became for us a term for the attitude towards life in Costa Rica. Please say hello to Carlos from us and once again a huge thank you to him in the name of the whole group of 8. We wish him only the best for his future.

    Michael, Germany
  • Evelyne, Switzerland

    Wie just did a 4 week trip in Costa Rica which was organised from ARA tours and we really liked it - well done Ara Tours! We also had a guide - his name is Enrique. His German is really good and he knows a lot about Costa Rica and he showed us a lot of animals. We had a wonderful time with hime - thank you so much Enrique!

    Evelyne, Switzerland
  • Tanja, Germany

    perfect tour perfect tour guide pablo, everything very well organised 👍👍👍👍🇨🇷🇨🇨🇷 were thrilled

    Tanja, Germany
  • Ines, Germany

    Many thanks and great praise to our tour guide Mauricio and our bus driver Adrian! We felt very comfortable during the 2 weeks in Costa Rica. The wide-ranging knowledge of Mauricio and the super driving skills of Adrian were particularly admirable. Thanks to the eagle eyes of both of them, we had the opportunity to observe a variety of animals in Costa Rica. Thank you for everything!

    Ines, Germany
  • Sabine, Germany

    I can only recommend ARA Tours. Thanks again to Nicole for the great planning of the tour and the support. Our tour guide Peter Käser was simply incredible (a walking encyclopaedia) and always had an answer to all my questions about the flora and fauna and the history of CR. Our driver Julio carried my father on his hands, for which I am very grateful. CR is also worth a trip for wheelchair users at any time (with ARA Tours, of course).

    Sabine, Germany
  • Thieme Family, Germany

    We would like to thank you once again for organizing our trip [...] through the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Our special thanks go to our tour guide Enrique, who with his extensive knowledge of flora and fauna about his country brought it very close to us and made us want to come even a second time. We were very glad and happy to travel with him, as he was also very committed to our problems on site, in addition to his competent function as a tour guide.

    Thieme Family, Germany
  • Antonia-Maria & Boris, Austria

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sensational effort! I do not know such a competent tour guide as with you really from nowhere else... and we have already traveled a lot... 🙏🏻🍀

    Antonia-Maria & Boris, Austria
  • Katja, Germany

    I wanted to thank you again for the great Costa Rica trip. We flew back home very happy and with many great impressions. A compliment for the super organisation. Everything worked out perfectly (except for the handover of the rental car, which was force majeure...). So thank you again and I have already recommended you to friends:-)!

    Katja, Germany
  • Denise & Alain, Switzerland

    Thank you very much for your email and the tickets. We really appreciate how quickly and efficiently you deal with our requests each time!

    Denise & Alain, Switzerland
  • Philippe, Switzerland

    Hello Christine Thank you very much for this information. The support is super👍 many thanks Gruss

    Philippe, Switzerland
  • Marianne & Stefan Gräub, Switzerland

    Otherwise, the planned trip was a complete success. Everything went well and the visits you organised were all very interesting. The visits you organised were all very interesting and gave us a great insight into the respective topics. The fact that the Ticos are very friendly and always ready to help was fully confirmed.

    Marianne & Stefan Gräub, Switzerland

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