Sarapiquí is renowned for the diversity and abundance of is flora and fauna. This is the result of the joint conservation efforts of the local Chamber of Tourism, private entrepreneurs, local authorities and the population at large; who have expressed a dedication towards and taken action for the protection of their natural inheritance.
Toucan in La Selva Biological Station
Thanks to these conservation efforts, Sarapiquí provides visitors with and extraordinary diversity of ecosystems enhancing the observation of varied and abundant biodiversity. At the La Selva Biological Station, one of the area's most well know natural sanctuaries with over 1,534 hectares of rich bio-diverse lands covered with primary forests and wetlands; more than 500 bird species, 100 species of mammals, 2,000 plant species and 800 species of tree have been identified.
This diversity has spurred the National Science Academy of the United States to recognize the La Selva Biological Station, as one of the top 4 places in the world for investigation of the tropical forest. Each year, thousands of visitors to Sarapiquí flock to the area to observe birds, insects, reptiles, mammals and the innumerable examples of fern and orchid that compose the immensity of these lands.
The Organization for Tropical Studies – OTS, an organization founded by distinguished United States Universities, has published a complete study of the flora and fauna of the region.
Born at the ancient crater of the Poás Volcano, the 85 kilometer long Sarapiquí River traverses the Northern Plains and is also fed by the Rio Sucio and Río Puerto Viejo Rivers. The river's whirling descent to the plains is characterized by the El Brujo rapids, a excellent spot for white water enthusiasts.
Once in the plains, the river irrigates wide stretches of land resulting in great natural wealth and numerous animal species including monkeys, spectacular birds, iguanas, sloth, crocodiles, river turtles and of course, the dense an mystic forest vegetation.
In the midst of protected lands
The Sarapiquí region borders the Central Volcanic Mountain Range Forest Reserve, the Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge, the Braulio Carrillo National Park and the La Selva Biological Reserve.
While traditionally activity revolves around the production of coffee, corn, coco, cardamom, citrus, banana, heart of palm, fruit trees and cattle farming; recent planting of pineapple on the lowlands has placed Costa Rica as the world's 4th largest exporter of pineapple.
Barra del Colorado National Park
Today a fledgling tourism industry can be added to this mix, an industry based on the sustainability of exuberant natural resources, the rainforest and the warmth and hospitality of the local inhabitants.
In addition to ecotourism and scientific tourism, taking advantage of the river and its rapids, the region can also offer a plethora of adventure tourism opportunities.
White water rafting, canoing and kayaking are complemented with tours along the Sarapiquí River to San Juan in Nicaragua as well as to Barra del Colorado and Tortuguero on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast.
How to get there
There are three routes to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, county seat of the region and gateway to diverse attractions and adventure within the region.
Via Braulio Carrillo National Park
Probably the most traveled route not only because it is the shortest route but because it also traverses the Braulio Carillo National Park. Those who travel along this route will have the opportunity to enjoy a landscape that ranges from majestic mountain slopes covered with primary forest to the imposing rivers, attractive agricultural farms and cattle ranches of the Northern Plains.
Via Vara Blanca
Traveling along this route requires departing from San Jose to the city of Heredia and from here traveling north to the city of Barva, a town that still preserves architectural remnants of its colonial past. Just a few kilometers from Barva, the route enters the Vara Blanca Tropical Biological Reserve, where the road descends towards the imposing La Paz Waterfalls.
The route continues through extravagant landscapes to the town of San Miguel, the San Fernando Waterfall, the Cacho Negro Volcano and the canyon of the Sarapiquí River; continuing down through the plains of La Virgen, Pital and Rio Cuarto to Puerto Viejo. This route traverses large cattle ranches, pineapple plantations and fruit groves barely broken by small villages such as Bajos de Chilamate and La Guaria. A good portion of this route follows the trajectory of the Sarapiquí River.
Via San Carlos
Departing from San José to the city of Alajuela, this route continues along the "old road", a road that dates back to the colonial era and travels through Sarchí — a small town known as the best area for Costa Rican handcrafts. From here the route continues to Naranjo and Ciudad Quesada, seat of the county of San Carlos.
All along the route travelers will observe dairy farms and coffee plantations and few resist the temptation to stop at one of the many typical restaurants that border the road, to enjoy the delicious cheese of the Zarcero region. From Ciudad Quesada the route continues through to Aguas Zarcas, La Marina, Rio Cuarto, San Miguel and finally Puerto Viejo.