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Quesada is down in a lush grassland valley !!

You may delay, but time will not. ~ Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790

The northern region around Quesada, formerly known as San Carlos, lies southeast of Arenal, where mountain slopes transit from the drier north to the hot and humid tropics of the Atlantic side.

A loop from San José – through the coffee towns to Quesada, over to Aguas Zarcas and the eastern side of Poás Volcano, and then finally back through Heredia past La Paz Waterfalls – can be a great drive done in a single long day, or two or more if you want to stop and explore.

Quesada is down in a lush grassland valley at only 650 meters/2,138 feet above sea level. It is the agricultural capital of the north, famous for its delicious string-like cheese. However, it was not renamed for the Spanish word for cheese, queso, but to honor the poet, Napoleon Quesada.

Several very enticing properties offer bases from which to explore the area, including Arenal and the north.

Ten minutes outside of the city, Termales del Bosque Canopy tour restaurant, breakfast included, offer what their name implies: relaxing hot springs in a forest. The natural spa consists of several warm mineral pools in the shade next to a bubbling stream. There’s a canopy tour too. Non-smoking cabins. Good value with simple rooms.

Also a working farmHotel La Garza pool, restaurant, north of Ciudad Quesada, is a 304-hectare/750-acre hacienda that offers horseback riding, tours of the working ranch and hearts of palm plantation, plus nearby La Garza Biological Reserve.

Plus, there’s a canopy slide. In the community of La Gloria, near Aguas Zarcas, is Albergue San Juan (. 506/259-3401, www.agroecoturismo.net, $), a cultural cooperative with rustic cabins. You can take a tours of their protected rainforest and medicinal plant gardens, or hike to see green macaw nests.

UpscaleTilajari Resort, pool, tennis, restaurant, near Muelle, is a country club in the country, with spacious rooms, big pool and popular tennis courts. Lovely grounds and excellent restaurant.

Ecocenter La Finca Lodge ( 506/476-0279, lafinca@sol.racsa.co.cr, $$) is in Los Angeles de Río Cuarto, near San Gerardo. The lodge is a pioneer project to protect and aid in the reproduction of tapirs, wild boars, spider and white-faced monkeys and green macaws. Rustic and educational.

The most remote of all these lodges is La Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, which sits north of Pital and Boca Tapada, not far from the Nicaraguan border. It’s a naturalist’s and eco-tourist’s paradise set way out of the way. More than 90% of owner Vinzenz Schmack’s 500 hectares / 1,235 acres of land are forested, with a well-maintained trail system. Several lagoons can be explored via canoe.


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