Tilarán is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful towns and one of its best-kept secrets. It’s well off the beaten tourist path yet very close to two of the country’s greatest attractions, Arenal and Monteverde.
At 1,850 feet above sea level, Tilarán
is a hilly town with crisp, cool air and a 360° view of beautiful green mountains topped with white windmills.
Driving around this quaint but bustling town of 9,500 people, you notice two things that are different from almost every other town in Costa Rica. One is that it has amazingly wide streets, with plenty of room for all the cars, trucks, buses, and bikes, plus parking space and even sidewalks.
The other notable detail about Tilarán is that the houses are all brightly painted, and recently, with pretty gardens and other touches, showing that people here really care about maintaining attractive homes.
Tilarán is just 10 minutes from the shores of Lake Arenal. It’s an hour and 45 minutes from La Fortuna, and an hour and 15 minutes from Santa Elena, the heart of the Monteverde cloud forest. It’s less than two hours from several other national parks, including Tenorio, Rincón de la Vieja, Palo Verde and Santa Rosa.
Tilarán (from a Nahuatl word meaning “place of heavy rain”) has a picturesque downtown park surrounded by restaurants, churches, banks, and bakeries. The town has all the conveniences: grocery stores, doctors, gas stations, clothing shops, post office, print shops.
It’s a thoroughly Tico town, not even remotely “touristy,” yet many foreigners live here and love it. There are farmers markets, pickleball matches, and other lively gatherings.
Finally, the highway between Cañas and Tilarán - a black ribbon climbing into the hills through green pastures dotted with huge boulders and contented cows -- is possibly the most beautiful road in Costa Rica.