Tilarán is the eighth canton in the province of Guanacaste in Costa Rica. The canton covers an area of 638.39 km², and has a population of 20,708. Its capital city is also called Tilarán. Tilarán is located just 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Lake Arenal, the largest inland body of water in Costa Rica measuring 48 mi² (124 km²). There are two hydroelectric plants as well as windmills in the Lake Arenal area which generate essential electrical power for the Tilarán canton and other regions nearby. The canton itself surrounds Lake Arenal (Laguna de Arenal) except for the lake’s southeast end, which belongs to the province of Alajuela. The northern border is in the Cordillera de Guanacaste, touching the Río Corobicí at its northernmost limits. The south part of the canton is in the Cordillera de Tilarán.
Map of Tilarán, Guanacaste
Gateway to Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano, Tilarán is a charming town that lies in the northeastern regions of Guanacaste province, close to the border of Alajuela. Located along the Pan American Highway some 4 km from Lake Arenal, Tilarán is now fast becoming a key location for adventures in and around the lake area. A quaint little town 22 km from Canas, Tilarán is also a major farming zone for coffee, peanuts and macadamia nuts in the region as well as for cattle and horse ranching.
A relaxed and laid-back town where the residents are friendly and everyone knows their neighbor, Tilarán is a great place to stay. The quiet and relaxed feel of the town is one of the major attractions and because of this, it is quickly becoming more popular as a tourist destination.
Once a small farming town, it is a strong economic contributor producing coffee, macadamia and peanuts. Driving around Tilarán decades ago you would’ve seen cattle and horse ranches lining the area. To this day, ranching continues to be prevalent in the region and is an important economic contributor.
Off the Beaten Path
The wide peaceful streets throughout Tilarán make it easy and relaxing to get around, the traffic here is unhurried and the streets and houses in town are always clean. Often referred to as one of the country’s undiscovered gems, Tilarán is a great place for a nice, tranquil vacation. The center of town is where most of the hotels, restaurants, and lodging options are located, while nearby is the largest church in Guanacaste, the Cathedral Church. Sitting at 1,640 ft (500 m) above sea level, the temperature stays around a comfortable 75ºF (24ºC). The perfect temperature for enjoying everything that awaits nearby.
Partners members in this chapter may have many outdoor activities planned. For example, floating along the tranquil Corobicí River (Río Corobicí) provides consistent class I-II relaxing nature viewing adventure as the river slides down the western flank of the Guanacaste Mountain Range. The river starts at Lake Arenal and snakes its way southwest down the Guanacaste providence through the town of Corobicí until it reaches the Nicoya Gulf. Check out the nearby Cathedral Church (Iglesia Catedral), the beautiful church is also the largest in Guanacaste. Also in the area are canopy tours, aerial trams and zip-lines.
With high winds averaging 25 mph (22 knots)blowing across town from November to April, Tilarán is a great area for some world class windsurfing in Arenal Lake.
Offering some beautiful views of the surrounding locale, Tilarán has some great bird watching opportunities, as well as some terrific fishing of rainbow bass (guapote) that grow up to 12 lbs in size. Nature walks are the best way to explore the area, as one can visit the biggest tree in Costa Rica that is over 500 years old and see ancient Indian rock carvings in the hills around Tilarán.
On Lake Arenal’s north shore, is the hamlet Nuevo Arenal. Created in 1973 after the completion of the dam, Nuevo Arenal provides seamless access to many of the area’s great attractions. The lake, national park and the Arenal Botanical Gardens are all within a very close proximity. The town is very reachable from Tilarán along Hwy 142 which winds its way along the northern side of the beautiful reservoir.
Accessing Tilarán from anywhere is a beautiful and scenic drive. From San José, the Pan-American Hwy leads you 107 miles (172 km) to the town of Cañas. In the town of Cañas is Las Pumas Cat Zoo, offering a safe place to view all of Costa Rica’s cat species. From Cañas, it is a 14 mile (22 km) trek to Tilarán up a bumpy road. From Liberia, it is south along the Pan-American Hwy 29 miles (47 km) to Cañas, and then to Tilarán. La Fortuna is another nearby town with Partners members, and it is connected to Tilarán via Hwy 142, which works its way along the north side of the lake, passing the Arenal Volcano.