The Northern Mountains of Costa Rica: Jungle Paradise Guide
The northern mountain area of Costa Rica (also referred to as the northern part of Alajuela Province) is big, but most of the region is small towns, jungles, and forests.
The most popular towns for tourists are by far Monteverde and La Fortuna.
The Northern Mountains at a Glance
NEAREST INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Both the Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela and Liberia International Airport are good options
POPULAR THINGS TO DO
zip lining, hiking hanging bridges, white water rafting, relaxing in hot springs
BEST WAY TO GET AROUND
Rental car, day tours with transportation
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT
Dry season is from late December until mid-April
Spanish. Most people in tourism speak English
Costa Rica Colones, but USD is widely accepted
110v/60 (the same as the US)
Map of the Northern Mountains
Towns and Cities in the Northern Mountains
The city of Alajuela located in the Province of Alajuela (yea thanks for that confusion Costa Rica) is not a city that really needs to be on your list of places to visit, but the beautiful Central Valley surrounding the city is amazing!
We suggest staying here for a few night at the very beginning or end of your trip if flying in/ out of Juan Santamaria International Airport.
A dense cloud forest destination that is almost always rainy. This area is a haven for nature and hiking enthusiasts.
The Northern Mountains Weather
The dry season and main tourism season in Costa Rica is from late December until late April. During this time of year you can expect crowds and higher prices in this area.
However, this area can be a bit cooler and more unpredictable than other parts of the country. This especially applies if you are visiting Monteverde.
From May until August prices go down a bit, the crowds go home, and the weather turns somewhat rainy.
You can expect afternoon rainstorms to last about one to two hours.
Rarely will there be a full day of rain (except in Monteverde where rain is always on the forecast).
From August until December prices usually get even lower. At this time of year, you are more likely to experience rainy days.
The temperature year-round is usually in the upper 80°F (around 30°C) during the day and dips to about 65° F (19°C) at night.
Year-round the sun rises between 5:15 and 5:45am and sets between 5:30 and 6:00pm.
Keep in mind, that in La Fortuna it is nice to visit when the weather is decent so that you can get a great view of the Arenal Volcano.
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Things to Do in The Northern Mountain Region
VISIT THE HANGING BRIDGES
In both La Fortuna and Monteverde there are some excellent places to hike on hanging bridges.
In La Fortuna we love a place called Mistico Park.
On Lake Arenal, it is possible to go kayak fishing or go out in a small boat.
Along the way, you might catch rainbow bass, tilapia, and more!
We suggest booking your trip with Captain Marc on his 19’ Sea Pro boat. He’s the best and I guarantee you’ll have a great time.
Or if you prefer kayaking, you can book your trip here.
There are a few hiking spots in La Fortuna, but we like hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park.
VISIT A BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY
The Butterfly Conservatory near Lake Arenal is a really nice place to spend a couple of hours.
VISIT THE LA FORTUNA WATERFALL
Check out La Fortuna waterfall if you want a nice half-day trip that is not too expensive. It costs $15 for entry.
WALK THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
Both Monteverde and La Fortuna have cute downtown areas with shops and restaurants that you can explore.
TRY SUP ON LAKE ARENAL
On Lake Arenal, it is possible to take a half-day stand-up paddle tour with transportation from your hotel. This is a peaceful experience and a great workout!
GO BUNGEE JUMPING
We haven’t actually done this, because we are wimpy, but a friend of ours went last year and had such a great time.
If you think that bungee jumping with cloud forest views sounds like your kind of thrill, book your trip here.
Note that this tour includes transportation from your Monteverde area hotel.
RELAX IN A HOT SPRING
There are tons of hot springs in La Fortuna!
You can check out our guide to the La Fortuna hot springs for more info.
LEARN HOW CHOCOLATE IS MADE
We love the tour at Rainforest Chocolate Tours! Plus it includes all the chocolate you can eat! This is one of those activities that people of any age will enjoy and be able to participate in.
GO WHITE WATER RAFTING
Whitewater rafting is the perfect adventure activity. In La Fortuna, it is possible to take a trip on class II/III or class III/IV rapids.
You can book your II/III trip here.
You can book your class III/IV trips here.
TRY ZIP LINING
There are plenty of zip-lining companies in both La Fortuna and Monteverde. We don’t have a favorite company to suggest because each one offers different things.
TAKE A DAY TRIP TO RIO CELESTE
Rio Celeste is a bright blue river located about 1.5 hours north of La Fortuna. It is a must-see in Costa Rica. We have a Rio Celeste guide here.
This can be done on your own if you have a rental car or you can take a tour with transportation from your hotel in La Fortuna.
The Northern Mountains Transportation
(Most Flexible Option)
We like renting a car in Costa Rica because it will definitely give you the most flexibility for exploring. In general, you should feel comfortable driving here if you are a somewhat experienced driver.
Our favorite rental car company is a local company called Adobe-Rent-a-Car. They are the most honest, trustworthy, and just overall amazing rental company we have found here.
Because we like them so much we asked if they would like to work together and they said, “yes.”
Yay to saving money!
Even if you are considering renting through another company, please read through our rental car page first. There is mandatory car insurance here that you need to know about.
WHICH CAR TO RENT
If you are visiting Monteverde it is a good idea to rent a 4×4 (especially during rainy season) because some roads are not paved.
Otherwise, we always suggest an SUV for this region because there are some steep hills.
If you are planning on staying at a resort or plan to mostly take day tours with transportation included, it is most likely not necessary to rent a car.
In this situation, you could opt for a private shuttle.
You can book your private shuttle with our favorite shuttle company here.
If you are on a tight budget, the public bus is always an option. Here is the best place for the bus schedule.
Are the Northern Mountains Worth Visiting?
We think the Costa Rica Northern Mountains are definitely worth a visit! This is there perfect jungle location for your vacation.
Here are some reasons why we think this area is great:
- You will get to enjoy stunning landscapes with lush rainforests, volcanic peaks, and picturesque vistas. The Arenal Volcano, for instance, provides a dramatic backdrop, while Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is known for its mystical mist-covered canopies.
- The region offers numerous outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. You can go hiking, zip-lining, horseback riding, or take a canopy tour to explore the natural wonders up close.
- Costa Rica is known for its rich biodiversity, and the northern mountains are no exception. You can spot various species of birds, monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife during guided tours or by exploring the reserves independently.
- Costa Rica has a strong commitment to ecotourism and sustainability. Many accommodations and tour operators in the northern mountains adhere to eco-friendly practices.
- This area enjoys a cooler climate compared to the coastal regions of Costa Rica. If you prefer milder temperatures and pleasant weather, this area might be appealing to you.
You Might Also Like Visiting
The Central Valley: Home to the biggest cities and the main international airport in the country. However, this area is also filled with sweeping landscapes, volcanoes, and coffee farms.
The Southern Pacific Coast: Also referred to as the Osa Peninsula, this is an area of raw coastal beauty, wildlife, and Corcovado National Park.
The Guanacaste Province: A popular beach area and home to Costa Rica’s other international airport. There are several nice resorts here.
….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Destination Guide page for more ideas of places to visit.