Perched on the northern slopes of the Cordillera Central, 650m above sea level, SAN CARLOS (also known as Ciudad Quesada, or simply Quesada) has a decidedly rural atmosphere – fresh produce overflows from market stalls onto the streets, and campesinos with weathered faces hang out in the main square in front of the church. You’re likely to pass through here on the way from or to La Fortuna; there’s little to actually do – locals only come into town to have a drink on Friday night or to sell their wares at the Saturday market – though therein lies its charm. Strolling about town, you get a real feel for what drives Costa Rica’s economy: much of the nation’s milk, beef, citrus fruit and rice come from the large-scale agricultural holdings in these parts. Positioned at the heart of cattle country, San Carlos is also something of a saddlery centre; it’s well worth dropping by one of the expert saddlers, if only to watch them skilfully working the supple leather.

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