San Rafael de Guatuso, Alajuela

Costa Rica River
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The tiny town of San Rafael de Guatuso is conveniently located near several of Costa Rica's most beloved attractions, including the Venado Caves, Arenal Volcano National Park and La Fortuna de San Carlos.

This predominately agricultural center is also home to the few remaining Maleku, an indigenous people native to Costa Rica. Although San Rafael is the capital of the Guatuso canton in the province of Alajuela, it boasts a laid-back atmosphere and doesn't see a high number of travelers. However, if you enjoy off the beaten path locales, San Rafael de Guatuso may be a best bet for your next Costa Rican adventure!

San Rafael de Guatuso is about 20 kilometers from the most magnificent volcano in Costa Rica: The Arenal Volcano. Sitting at 5,437 feet, the looming volcano sits alongside lush green hillsides. Although Arenal was one of the most active volcanoes in the country for many years - putting on miraculous light shows on a regular basis - it has not had an eruption since 2010. While Arenal is a highlight in its namesake national park, there is plenty to do in the Arenal area. From horseback riding to relaxing in hot springs to repelling down waterfalls to walking on old lava flows, the park and surrounding area is an outdoor playground of the finest pedigree.

Discovered in 1945, the Venado Caves is the perfect rainy day excursion. This eight-chamber limestone cavern is an adventure for the rough and tumble. Visitors can't be afraid of getting a bit dirty, climbing through small crevices, and - be warned - having encounters with bats and large spiders is the norm. Created anywhere between 15 and 20 million years ago, the Venado Caves are a geological marvel that spans 2,700 meters.

This region is also home to the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, which is one of the more untouched regions of Costa Rica. Although travelers aren't allowed within the limits of the refuge, the surrounding area is just as stunning. Tours run along the winding Rio Frio, allowing visitors the unique opportunity to view unmatched wildlife in a relaxing setting. Bird watching is a popular activity here, but depending on the season, different species will be viewable. Migrant American birds can be seen during the wet season, and native species like the highly endangered Nicaraguan Grackle are more viewable during the dry season.

Costa Rica is home to some of nature's best, and there's no better way to experience the country than in an authentic city. San Rafael de Guatuso boasts all the necessary amenities for a traveler to enjoy their stay without the hectic density of tourism.