The Northwestern region of Costa Rica is renowned for its dramatic contrast in topography. Mountain ranges, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, and fertile plains support numerous varieties of bird and wildlife, and each offers different types of activities: visitors come to hike, kayak, horse ride, fish, and climb.

The two , or mountain ranges, are very different from each other. The Cordillera Tilaran has rolling mountains that used to be covered in cloud forests; those remaining are protected reserves of which the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is the most popular. It offers nature trails, horse riding, and canopy tours. The Cordillera de Guanacaste is a rugged and impressive string of volcanoes, some protected within national parks.

Between the ranges are Lake Arenal and the nearby active Arenal Volcano, as well as the surrounding hot springs. Further north, in the tropical humidity of the lowland plains, lies the remote wildlife refuge of Cano Negro, a vast wetlands area that is one of the best places in the Americas to see river wildlife, including numerous birds, mammals, and reptiles. The fertile plains are dotted with a mixture of agricultural fields, cattle ranches, and expanses of protected areas serviced by a maze of streams and rivers.

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