North from the Central Valley, the Central Cordillera gives way to lower ranges that continue into Nicaragua. A morning's drive from the capital brings you to the cloud forests of Monteverde or, on the other side of the mountains, the lava-spewing Arenal Volcano.
Guanacaste ranch lands
Beyond them are the ranch lands of Guanacaste, the cultural soul of Costa Rica, and the dwelling place of the country's sabañeros (cowboys).
The seasonally parched landscape with its herds of grazing Brahma cows seems a far cry from the lush forests of the south and east.
Here you can experience a slice of an authentic rural Costa Rica, an area that retains its quintessential Tico feel. In fact the national dish, gallo pinto, consisting of rice, beans and herbs, originates from the Guanacaste region.
At weekends it is not unusual to come across a village fiesta with be-hatted riders on their proud-stepping horses kicking up the dust. Bull-fighting Latino style (where the bull is harried but unharmed) is as popular here as baseball.
Liberia, the regional capital, is a very pleasant country town worth a stop. Near its centre there are atmospheric colonial streets, partly restored, and a great many small shops providing everything from groceries, haberdashery and haircuts to complicated brightly painted agricultural machinery.
Pacific coast and Nicoya Peninsula
Beach resorts speckle the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in the far west of the region.
For further details about the beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula read this