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Introducing Tilarán

Near the southwestern end of Laguna de Arenal, the small town of Tilarán has a laid-back, middle-class charm – thanks to its long-running status as a regional ranching center. This tradition is honored on the last weekend in April with a rodeo that’s popular with Tico visitors, and on June 13 with a fiesta de toros that’s dedicated to patron San Antonio.

Because it’s situated on the slopes of the Cordillera de Tilarán, this little hub is a much cooler alternative (in climate and atmosphere) than, say, Cañas, and makes a pleasant stop ­between La Fortuna and Monteverde. Life unfurls immediately around the main plaza. Wander more than a block in any direction, and things get rather residential. Street signs are a new and limited resource.