Upala City

Upala City

Upala is the 13th canton in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. The canton covers an area of 1,580.67,  and has a population of 48,910. Upala Canton is bordered by Nicaragua on the north, the Río Las Haciendas on the northwest, Río Rito on the southeast, and the Cordillera de Guanacaste on the south. The Rincón de la Vieja, Santa María, Miravalles and Tenorio volcanoes are landmarks along the southern border. The canton was established by a decree of March 17, 1970. Upala is the capital city of the canton of Upala in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito (district) that includes the city. The district of Upala covers an area of 245.62 km2 , and has a population of 13,518. The city lies at an elevation of 48 meters above sea level in the northwest corner of the San Carlos Plain (Llanura de San Carlos) in northern Costa Rica, 76 kilometers  southeast of La Cruz, 124 kilometers northwest of Ciudad Quesada, 195 kilometers from the provincial capital city of Alajuela, and 214 kilometers from the national capital city of San José. Upala is a supply center for cattle ranchers and rice growers in the area. A hospital, bank, medical clinic, pharmacy and gas station are here. There is a busy commercial marketplace in the town center where vendors sell fruits, vegetables and a wide array of other home-grown products. Several small restaurants share the market area, and there are other restaurants and a few places to stay in the town.

This village is situated on the extreme north of the northern plains, 9km south of the border with Nicaragua. There are dirt roads that cross the border, but they are not official entry points to Costa Rica or Nicaragua. Sometimes there is passport control next to the bridge on the Southern side of the village, arriving via San Rafael de Guatuso, and another close to Canalete via the Cañas highway, from the Interamerican. This is the center of the cattle and rice industry; some Guatuso Indigenous lives here.  The secondary road to Upala that leads from the Interamerican opened in the eighties, which offers good connections with the buses from San José.

Where to eat and sleep

Cabinas Buenavista Ph (506) 2470-1086. Rooms 12 US$ per person. It is located close to the San Martín Supermarket. The rooms have a fan with a private bathroom. There is also parking.

Cabinas Maleku Ph (506) 2470-0142. Single / double 12 / 19 US$, double with air conditioning 25 US$. Located next to the plaza, behind the bus station. The rooms have a private bathroom, fan and television.

Hotel Restaurant Upala Ph (506) 2470-0169. Single/ doubles 12/ 19 US$. Located on the exit to the plaza, rooms with private bathroom, fan and television. There is parking.

Hotel Rosita Ph (506) 2470-0198. Rooms 8/ 12 US$ per person. Is located over the bridge.  The rooms have a private or shared bathroom.

Cabinas del Norte Ph (506) 2470-0061. Rooms 8 US$ per person. Located next to the bus station and the market.

How to arrive and leave

Auto Transportes Upala Ph (506) 2470-0743, departing from the market 10:15 a.m, 3:15 p.m, 3:45 p.m, cost 3.30 US$ and from San José Ph (506) 2221-3318, departing from the Merced Church 400 meters north on 12th Street, schedule from 10:15 a.m, 3:15 p.m, 3:45 p.m (via San Carlos) and 5:15 p.m, everyday, cost 3.30 US$.

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

It is located in Los Chiles; it is made up of the Caño Negro Lagoon and the surrounding area with an extension of 9.969 hectares. It was created with an executive decree on the 20th of January 1984, based on different studies made by International Organizations such as the Scientific Tropical Center and nationals, such as the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica with an aim to protect and conserve the flora and fauna in one if the areas that has the largest biodiversity in the country, and is of special interest to ornithology enthusiasts, because of the large variety of water birds, such as ducks , pink spoon bills, storks, herons and the largest colony of cormorants in the country. It is the only area in the country where the Nicaraguan Sanate regularly nests (quiscalus quicula). In addition, pumas, jaguars and tapirs have also been seen in this area.


The refuge forms part of the Arenal-North Huetar Conservation area, there is a forest post Ph (506) 2471-1309 in the area of Caño Negro and the sub regional office of Los Chiles in San Carlos Ph (506) 2460-6484, fax (506) 2460-5615. Entry costs 4 US$ foreigners/ children, foreigners younger than 12 years of age 1 US$/ nationals 1.10 US$/ children younger than 12 nationals 2.5 US$. There are also several associations such as: Asomucan Ph (506) 2471-1450, located in the Delipan Bakery next to MINAE, offering a visit to the butterfly farm for only 1.10 US$ the visit and photographs cost 2.20 US$, also offering a food service for 3.32 US$, The Association for Footpaths 1.35 US$, offering excursions to the footpaths lasting ½  hour, The Turtle Association   Ph (506) 2471-1063, offering turtle observation for 2 US$, the Tour Association Ph (506) 2471-1369, Offering tours to La Laguna for 40 US$  lasting 2 hours. You are not allowed to fish during April and June, but you can during the rest of the rainy season, you will always need to carry a license, which you can get from the forest post for 40 US$.  There are also horses for hire.

Where to eat and sleep

Cabinas Arguedas Ph (506) 2471-1496, Cellular (506) 810-2837.Camping 5 US$, rooms 6 US$; tariffs per person.  In the extreme east of the area, at the exit to the main road. There are 10 rooms with a fan and a private bathroom, boats for rent, and they organize trips along the river.

Cabinas and Restaurant Machon. Rooms 8/ 10 US$ per person, close to the center and it is very quiet.

Hotel de Campo Caño Negro Ph (506) 2471-1012/ 2471-1490/ 2656-0071,  fax (506) 2656-0260 in Samara. E-mail: info@canonegrolodge.com www.canonegrolodge.com.   Single/ doubles/ triples/ quadruples 45/ 45/ 57/ 69 US$; including meals, additional bed 12 US$. There are 14 rooms with private bathrooms with hot water and a fan. The restaurant is open to non guests, serving meals from 10 US$, a lot of fishermen come here. There is a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, mountain bikes and a games area.

How to arrive and leave

By Bus and By Boat

From Upala and Los Chiles you can get here by land and by boat, from Los Chiles or San Rafael de Guatuso. The buses to/from Caño Negro stop in the center of the village. From Upala there is a daily bus between Upala and Caño Negro. From Los Chiles, there is a bus to Upala that leaves on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1:00 p.m passing by Caño Negro. Many boats go down the Río Frio on one day trips. During the rainy season the boat that goes down the river can also arrive as far as the lake in the center of the park and stop at the Hotel de Campo Caño Negro, close to the village and the forest post. There is a bridge over the Río Frio that joins Los Chiles and Caño Negro, as well as a ferry for cars.

By Car

To get to San Rafael de Guatuso, via the southeast route, you will need to travel 11 km, when in Colonia, Puntarenas there is an exit that says “Caño Negro” continue a further 26 km. The road is not tarmac and is 19 km long; it will take you to Los Chiles – Muelle, some 10 km to the south of Los Chiles.