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  - Costa Rica

Ciudad Quesada

Ciudad Quesada

    Ciudad Quesada Snapshot

  • Summary: Agricultural town near Arenal; excellent place to purchase handcrafted leather goods and saddles.
  • Landscape: Cloud Forest, Mountains
  • Attractions: Craft & Artisan Markets, Hot Springs, Termales del Bosque Hot Springs
  • Activities: Shopping
  • Caters to: Budget Travelers, Independent Travelers
  • Quick Facts: 59 miles from San Jose ; 2,138 feet above sea level ; Moderate days with frequent light rain ; 62-80°F

Ciudad Quesada, affectionately known as San Carlos by its inhabitants, is nestled in the green valley of the San Carlos plain, southeast of Arenal. Named after the poet, Napoleon Quesada, the town is worth a stop on the way to Arenal, if nothing else to enjoy the friendly locals and to sample some tasty string cheese, a specialty of the region.

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With an abundance of rich volcanic soil, agriculture and ranching are the heart of the town. This is Costa Rica’s cattle country, and serves as a vital producer of beef and milk products for the entire nation. The town has a lovely central park, around which several restaurants serve simple yet delicious food. Ciudad Quesada is known for its leather goods and saddler stores, which sell specialty, high-end horseback gear at very affordable prices.

Visitors can purchase a handsome western saddle for as little as $150, while more intricate, handcrafted saddles average between $300 and $600. The region's verdant hills and fresh, country air make for a pleasant stop. Ciudad Quesada has great shopping, and serves as a nice break from the hustle and bustle of more visited areas.

Enjoy the town’s open-air market that overflows with fresh fruits and vegetables, or go for a stroll in the central park. Visit during April to enjoy a huge cattle auction; it is among the largest of this type in Costa Rica. Festivities include a small carnival and horse parades. Browse arts and crafts at the Mercado de Artesania, located on the northwest corner of central park.  It is less touristy than most Costa Rican craft centers, and there are some great bargains to be had if you take the time to find them. Termales del Bosque, located five miles outside of town, offers day passes to its hot springs, and has well-appointed cabins, a restaurant and a day spa. 

Day Trips:

La Marina Zoological Park at Aguas Zarcas: This private, nonprofit park cares for orphaned animals. It proudly displays a variety of rescued wildlife, including tapirs, jaguars, peccaries, badgers, monkeys, and many species of birds. 

Arenal: The area surrounding Arenal Volcano is lush and green, providing some of the best wildlife viewing in Costa Rica.  On clear evenings, Arenal is the only place in the country for experiencing late night lava explosions from a safe distance. 

Getting There:

By Car: Follow the Inter-American Highway west to the Naranjo exit; continue 18.6 miles north past Zarcero to Ciudad Quesada. 

By Bus: Buses depart San Jose hourly for Ciudad Quesada (Autotransportes San Carlos) from 5 a.m. until 6 p.m from the Terminal Atlantico Norte. Buses depart La Fortuna for Ciudad Quesada at: 6 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:15 p.m. and 6 p.m. from the central bus station. 

Ciudad Quesada in Pictures

Ciudad Quesada Travel Guide

Ciudad Quesada Tides

Sunday, July 21, 2024
High 2:30 a.m. 8.17 ft. (2.49 m.)
Low 8:05 a.m. 1.25 ft. (0.38 m.)

Two-week Tide Forecast >