From San José 145 kms. to Ciudad Quesada and La Fortuna. The Monteverde area is 172 kms. from San José via Río Lagarto. Lastly the San Ramón Forest Reserve lies 127 kms. from San José via Miramar - Cedral.
The Arenal Conservation Area consists of 63,000 hectares of very moist, rain and cloud forests, which grow from 540 meters to 1,800 meters above sea level. It is located on the Caribbean and Pacific slopes of the Tilarán Mountain Range, in the eastern sector or Arenal Lagoon and on the volcano of the same name. The terrain suffers the effects of constant rain and mist and is watered by an infinite number of year-round streams, among which are the River Caño Negro, which flows into the lagoon, and the River Peñas Balancas or San Carlos, which flows into the river San Juan.
By protecting the forest mass in this vast area, the useful life of the Arenal dam is being prolonged. The dam was designed to generate hydroelectric energy and to irrigate the lowlands of Guanacaste Province. At the same time many endangered species are being protected, such as tapir, giant ant-eater, resplendent quetzal, king vulture and golden toad. It is believed that Tilarán Mountains are home to 51% of the birds, 47% of the amphibians and reptiles, and 48% of the mammals that have been identified in Costa Rica. This implies that half of the vertebrates in the country are represented in these cool, rainy sites.
The rain forest of the highlands is dark and thick with a prolific growth of epiphytes and moss. It provides shelter for over 225 species of birds, which include the three-wattled bellbird. Below 1,500 metres, there are fewer epiphytes, tree ferns and palms in the evergreen forest. Some of the tree species are the yellow danto, Spanish cedar, zapote, sandwood and black oak.