Discovering Costa Rica – Arenal Volcano

We planned a trip to see the Arenal volcano in La Fortuna. This would be my first time seeing a volcano, an active volcano, in person. I had no idea what to expect. I had seen volcanos from afar in Mexico City, 150 km away, but this time we would be staying in the foothills of the volcano.

The drive west was quite the adventure. The road was a continuous series of hairpin turns, not to mention the roads were very narrow with no shoulders. I think the steering wheel now has permanent impressions of my hands as I was gripping the steering wheel pretty tightly. To add to the excitement of the drive as we headed up the mountain, we drove in the “clouds”. Rain, fog, and blind turns for most of the drive. On the 3 and ½ hour trip to Arenal, we stopped for lunch in a small town. There were many small “sodas” and we found a really nice place. The food was delicious and relatively inexpensive. It was a nice break in the action and stress of the road.

The hotel that we stayed at was made up of various types of bungalows, of various styles and sizes. Our room had a direct view of the towering volcano and the crater, which was smoking by the way! At first, I found this to be a little disconcerting. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, right?! It was such a surreal sight like I was looking at the mountain in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. It was both mesmerizing, ominous, and fascinating. The hotel had natural mineral spring pools, surrounded by dense vegetation, that were warmed by the thermal heat of the earth. The pools were very refreshing. There was also a volcanic ash mud you could apply to your skin and feel the benefits of the natural mud.

One of the hotsprings at the hotel
An amazing view from the hotel room

There were many people riding road bikes through the hilly roads. Certainly not for the faint of heart as the climb up the hills looked rather challenging. We did not do the hiking trails on this trip since it was the rainy season and the trails were very muddy but will definitely return when it is the dry season to do hiking and exploring the various trails and see the views.

The grounds of the hotel were like nothing I had ever seen before. It was simply beautiful. There were so many different types of flowering plants and trees of every imaginable color. I could only think it was like Hawaii or some other beautiful tropical location. Colorful birds flew everywhere and hummingbirds darted from one large bloom to another. The air is much more humid than in San Jose, a nice change. The temperature and humidity reminded me of back home in Florida during the summer.

Thyrsacanthus tubaeformis (Firespike)
Arundina graminifolia (Bamboo Orchid)

It was a wonderful trip, so beautiful, so peaceful, so very different than the day to day! We look forward to returning next season.

-David