Rancho Margot (tel. 506/479-7259 or 8302-7318, www.ranchomargot.org ), on the banks of the Río Caño Negro, at the end of the dirt road west of El Castillo , is a fascinating self-sufficient organic farm, an activity/ecological center, and a Kibbutz-like teaching community based on sustainable rural tourism and conservation.
Pigs and cattle are raised; prosciutto, cheeses, and other products are made on-site; and visitors can participate in farm activities. It’s based around an ivy-clad farmstead in traditional colonial style. Educational tours are offered; you’ll get to see the pig-waste compost heater (which provides methane that heats a swimming pool) and learn why it doesn’t stink.
Activities include horseback riding ($35–50), kayaking ($40), rappelling ($55), and hiking ($20) in the property’s 152 hectares of forest bordering the Children’s Eternal Rainforest Reserve . It also hosts yoga retreats and Spanish-language programs, and has a wildlife rehabilitation center housing deer and monkeys.
Comida típica meals are served hot from the stove. The ranch operates its own bus from the plaza in La Fortuna  at 7 a.m., noon, and 5:45 p.m.
Appealing to the Indiana Jones within, Rancho Margot hosts Raid Arenal (www.raidarenal.com ) tours. These 1- to 3-night army-style overnight rainforest adventures will have you wading through rivers, hacking your way through the jungle with a machete, and sleeping bivouacked suspended from a tree.