Tilarán, about 23 kilometers east of Cañas  and the Pan-American Highway, is a spruce little highland town with a pretty square and a park with cedars and pines in front of the small cathedral, Catedral de San Antonio, which has an amazing barrel-vaulted wooden ceiling.
At this elevation (550 meters), the air is crisp and stirred by breezes working their way over the crest of the Cordillera de Tilarán from Lake Arenal , five kilometers to the northeast. The countryside hereabouts is reminiscent of the rolling hill country of England.
The last weekend in April, Tilarán hosts a rodeo and livestock show. Come here on June 13 when it celebrates San Antonio, the patron saint, with a bullfight and rodeo.
Hotel y Restaurante Mary (tel. 506/2695-5479, $16 s, $24 d), on the southeast side of the park, has 18 carpeted, homey, and somewhat dim rooms with cable TV and hot water. Its downstairs diner-style bar-restaurant (10:30 A.M.–10 P.M. daily) gets noisy on weekends, but serves comida típica plus seafood and pasta.
A recommended bargain, Hotel El Sueño (tel. 506/2695-5347, $20 s or $30 d standard, $25 s or $35 d deluxe), one block north of the plaza, is one of the best hotels for its price in the country. Sixteen rooms, all with TVs, fans, and private baths with hot water, surround a sunlit 2nd-floor courtyard with a fountain. Four more deluxe rooms have refrigerators and somewhat more ostentatious furnishings. The friendly owners provide fruit and toiletry baskets. Downstairs the Restaurant El Parque has good seafood dishes. It has secure parking.
The modern Hotel Guadelupe B&B (tel. 506/2695-5943, $28 s, $44 d), one block southeast of the square, is recommended for its spacious rooms with cable TV in a two-story block. It has secure parking and includes a gallo pinto breakfast in the rates. The restaurant (6 A.M.–9 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) is a favorite with locals.
Top choice in town, however, is La Carreta Bed & Breakfast (tel. 506/2695-6593, www.lacarretacr.com , $40 s, $50 d including full American breakfast), one block east of the church. This charming bed-and-breakfast has five simply yet pleasantly furnished rooms (several skylit), with hand-painted murals. Some have colonial tiles, lofty ceilings, and niches with pottery. Cable TVs, ceiling fans, and private bathrooms with hot water are standard. A suite features a ceramic beehive fireplace. Take one of the two rooms in the main house—they’re the best. New U.S. owners Ed and Rita have revitalized this hotel after a few years in which it deteriorated. The airy patio restaurant (7 A.M.–10:30 A.M. and 11:30 A.M.–3 P.M. daily) has WiFi and is a great place to enjoy American fare, such as waffles, granola, sandwiches, and burgers.
Understandably popular with tour groups, Aroma Tico (tel. 506/2695-3065, www.aromatico.net , 6:30 A.M.–9:30 P.M. daily), at the main entrance to town (i.e., the junction for Cañas  and Lake Arenal ), is a top choice for its clean ambience, hearty Tico fare, and an excellent selection of souvenirs. Go on Sunday afternoon for live marimba music.
Auto Transportes Tilarán buses (tel. 506/2256-0105) depart San José  from Calle 20, Avenidas 3, at 7:30 A.M., 9:30 A.M., 12:45 P.M., 3:45 P.M., and 6:30 P.M. daily (4 hours via Cañas, $3). The bus continues to Nuevo Arenal. Local buses depart Cañas  daily for Tilarán at 5 A.M., 6 A.M., 9 A.M., 11 A.M., noon, and 1:45 P.M.; from La Fortuna  at 8 A.M. and 4:30 P.M.; from Santa Elena  (Monteverde, tel. 506/2695-3102) at 4:30 A.M. and 12:30 P.M.; and from Puntarenas  at 11:45 A.M. and 4:30 P.M.
Buses depart Tilarán for San José at 5 A.M., 7 A.M., 9:30 A.M., 2 P.M., and 5 P.M.; for Cañas at 5 A.M., 7 A.M., 8 A.M., 9 A.M., 10 A.M., 11:30 A.M., and 3:30 P.M.; for La Fortuna at 7 A.M. and 12:30 P.M.; for Monteverde at 7 A.M. and 4 P.M.; and for Puntarenas at 6 A.M. and 1 P.M.
There’s a gas station two blocks northeast of the plaza.
For taxis call Unidos Tilarán (tel. 506/2695-5324), or hail one on the west side of the plaza.