San Rafael de Guatuso

San Rafael de Guatuso

San Rafael is the capital city of the canton of Guatuso in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito (district) that includes the city. The district of San Rafael covers an area of 304.1 km² (1), and has a population of 7,195 (2).

The city lies at an elevation of 50 meters above sea level (1) near the western edge of the San Carlos Plain (Llanura de San Carlos) in northern Costa Rica. It is 20 kilometers northeast of Lake Arenal, 40 kilometers southeast of Upala,37 kilometers northwest of El Tanque, 90 kilometers northwest of Ciudad Quesada, 155 kilometers from the provincial capital city of Alajuela, and 183 kilometers from the national capital city of San José.

San Rafael, often called Guatuso, is an agricultural town on the Río Frío and Highway 4. Cattle ranching and rice farming are major concerns in the area. The town has a gas station, banks, medical clinic, pharmacy, and a few basic restaurants and cabinas for lodging.


San Rafael was granted the title of "ciudad" (city) by a law of May 4, 1970.

Nearby Places of Interest

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge: a watery lowland of lush sloughs and marshes, a seasonal lake, and abundant wildlife. Boats can be hired at San Rafael for traveling 40-plus kilometers up the Río Frío to the reserve. The area is a birdwatcher's paradise. (52 kilometers northeast of San Rafael via Highway 4 to Colonia Puntarenas and Highway 138 to Caño Negro)

Venado Caves: a limestone cave of eight chambers, formed over millennia by a series of underground rivers. Giant spiders, swarms of bats and eyeless fish abound. Visitors must be accompanied by a guide. (25 kilometers southeast of San Rafael via Highway 4 to Jicarito and Highway 734 to Venado; the caves are located four kilometers south of the village of Venado)

Tenorio Volcano National Park: just 15 kilometers northwest of San Rafael, this park is host to the "teñideros" where the famous Rio Celeste turns from a crystal-clear river to a magnificent light blue one. The river also cascades into one of Costa Rica's most beautiful waterfalls within the park. The park itself is teeming with lush tropical wildlife that visitors can enjoy during several hours of hiking.


(1) Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN), 2001.

(2) Estimates of Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (INEC), May 2003.

(3) [] - The official website of the Santa Fe Women's Group of Santa Fe de Guatuso

(4) [ Venado Caves Picture Gallery]

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