Playa Ocotal was the most interesting beach we visited in Costa Rica.
The surf was very strong while we were there, so we didn’t go in the ocean much. The beach itself had dark gray sand and there was a lot of rocks at the surface, which was kind of scary considering how rough the waves were.
There were a lot of tidal pools, and places to walk around and see fish and crabs and things. We saw a couple of iguanas – one was in a little cave in the rocks, and several others were just jauntily walking around the beach like they owned the place.
One of the tidal pools was quite large, and we swam in it more than we went in the actual ocean, because it was very calm and warm. Dave got some bread from the lunch we’d packed and using little bits of it we were able to attract a bunch of fish.
In the morning, a tarantula was waiting for us by the car.
This guy was such a cool color!
Dave’s feet, a coconut, and Playa Ocotal
Exploring the tidal pools and splashy things
Lizard of the cliffs
About to probe this pool with my GoPro
This tidal pool is my jam!
Late afternoon on the beach
Our home away from home
Another delicious sunset
In late afternoon, when the tide had come in more, we saw people coming in with wetsuits, flippers and snorkels. I’m sure there was a lot to see with all the rock formations beneath the water, but I wonder how people don’t get smashed up against them with such a strong surf?
As we were leaving the beach at the end of the day, two young women approached us and asked for a ride back to Playas del Coco. They spoke to us in English, so I began talking to them. Soon, they admitted that their English wasn’t very good and they couldn’t understand what I was saying. We found out they were from Spain and they were spending two months in Costa Rica! Lucky them!
For dinner that night we went to a taco stand that we’d seen in a little shopping center in town. It was called Chorotacos and the tacos were SO good! They had a vegetarian one which was chickpeas with roasted tomatoes and roasted red pepper salsa. Dave got a meaty one, which he said was really good too. I’d definitely recommend this place if you’re in Playas del Coco and need a quick dinner!
One full day in Costa Rica was ahead of us… would we go back to Playa Hermosa or would we try a new beach?
After two days of relaxing on beaches, it was time for another adventure. Before going to Costa Rica, Dave had read about the Venado Caves near Arenal, and he was really interested in visiting those. I was less excited about the idea, due to the fact that you had to wade around in muddy water and squeeze through tight openings to get from one room to another. Thanks to Hurricane Otto and a lack of desire to take Blue off-roading any more than we had to, we ended up not going there.
So, while I was lying on the beach, flipping through our Lonely Planet Costa Rica guide, I saw that there was another set of caves in Barra Honda National Park, which was not too far from where we were in Playas del Coco. There are actually 42 caves, but only 19 have been explored and only 2 are open to the public! You can read all about it here: http://nicoyapeninsula.com/barrahonda/
It was about an hour and a half drive down to Barra Honda, and easy going, with the exception of the final several miles of dirt road. It wasn’t in terrible condition, it was just slow going and gave us the sense that we were heading into the wilderness, never to see civilization again.
Once at the park, we checked in at the ranger station. Nobody spoke English, so Dave spoke with them in Spanish and translated for me. We knew we’d have to walk to get to the caves, and the woman explained that it was a 4 km hike. That’s only 2 miles, I thought, how bad could it be? What I didn’t take into account was the fact that it would be almost entirely uphill.
We were introduced to two older men, Jose and Saturnino, who would be our guides for the hike and for the cave. We found out later that they were both in their late 60’s – Jose proudly told us he was 69. They were in better shape than Dave and I, and if it weren’t for my incessant need to stop to catch my breath or take a drink of water, they probably wouldn’t have stopped at all.
It was a beautiful hike through the forest. We saw a waterfall, lots of interesting plants and flowers, lots of Blue Morpho butterflies, and even an iguana peeking out of a hole in a tree!
The day was extremely hot and humid, so it didn’t take long for me to start wilting like a delicate flower. I didn’t want to look like a complete wimp though, so I pressed on. After a while, I didn’t feel hot anymore. I felt like a cool breeze was blowing over my skin. I even had chills from time to time. I discovered later that these are signs of heat stroke, and I probably should have tapped out right then and there.
After what seemed like half the day, we reached the cave entrance. It was literally a gaping maw in the rocks. Not at all inviting. There were two German tourists standing nearby looking down into it. They watched as our guides began stringing up the ropes which would be used for our harnesses. They wished us luck as we got strapped into our harnesses and made our way to the ladder.
Jose explained (in Spanish) where to put each foot and how to grab the ladder properly so we wouldn’t slip and fall right there at the top. Then, he went down, and then Dave. Then it was my turn. It was awkward trying to get onto the ladder with all the rocks in the way. The first few feet of the ladder were angled down only slightly, and then it bent and was completely vertical. And dark. Very dark.
The ladder is 55 feet long. That’s the height of a 5-story building. It was slippery with mud, so going down was slow and a bit nerve wracking. I kept looking down at Dave and I could hardly see him. He was like an ant down there with Jose.
Eventually I made it to the bottom, and immediately was given a headlamp to put on my helmet. I was still feeling a bit out of sorts from the hike up, and after climbing down the ladder, I would have liked to stop for a minute to catch my breath, but Jose led us off to explore the cave. The floor was sloped down and very wet and slippery.
Of course it was incredibly dark in there, being a cave and all. Jose led us down to a lower room and showed us the different rock formations – stalactites and stalagmites and that sort of thing. I noticed that my heart was beating super fast, which I thought was a little odd.
Deep in the cave there was another area with a ladder that went down to a lower room. This ladder was only about 10 feet, so there was no harness. Jose told me I didn’t have to go down if I didn’t want to, but I wasn’t about to sit there alone in the dark while he and Dave went down without me.
Once we were in that lowest part, Jose had us turn out our headlamps so we could experience the complete darkness and silence of the cave. I swear, my heartbeat was echoing through the place at that point. It felt like it was about to beat right out of my chest.
We climbed up the shorter ladder and began walking back up to the big one. Part way up the path, I grabbed Dave and asked him to stop with me so I could catch my breath. I don’t think he realized I was having issues until this point. We stopped and I tried to relax, but my anxiety was getting out of control. I tried to take deep breaths but began hyperventilating instead.
Jose indicated for me to come closer to the ladder, and he helped me into the harness. I’ll admit, I was hoping they were just going to hoist me out of there like a stuck pig, but no. I had to climb back up that ladder. This was the only point during our vacation that I actually wished I was sitting at my desk back at work.
By this time I was basically out of my mind. I wanted out of that cave so bad. I climbed, shakily, looking up at the pinhole of light that was the exit. I climbed that ladder like you wouldn’t believe. Dave, translating Jose’s instructions, told me to wrap my arms around the edges of the ladder, in case my hands got tired gripping the rungs. I wrapped my arms around the rails and climbed so hard. I was moaning and hyperventilating like a damn fool, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get out of there!
Dave called up to me from below, telling me to slow down and rest, but I wasn’t having it. I power-climbed, smashing my knees against the rungs and at one point, pulling a muscle in my leg trying to skip a rung where the rock face stuck out too far for me to fit my whole foot on the rung. (I didn’t notice these injuries until much later).
Finally, I was at the top. I can only imagine how I must have looked to the people who were waiting to go down next. They probably heard me coming – moaning and cursing, and then saw my drained face pop up, followed by my guano-covered body. I bet I looked like a distressed swamp creature.
I stumbled away from the ladder, tore off my helmet and my harness and threw them both on the ground, and clumsily stomped over to a little picnic table. I was so happy to be out that I could cry, and I did. I sat there and cried and hyperventilated until Dave came out. He came over and comforted me, while also laughing at the hot mess that I was. Jose came out a few minutes later and poured out some water so we could clean off our hands.
I figured we were finally done and could go back to the car, but that wasn’t it. There was more to the hike, which led us to a beautiful spot overlooking a valley and the Gulf of Nicoya. If I hadn’t felt like complete crap, I would have been really impressed, but I was so done at that point.
The hike back was all downhill, but even this was difficult. I felt like it took hours and hours. I finally did catch my breath, but had absolutely no energy left. When we eventually got down to the bottom, we rinsed ourselves off in the outdoor sink and then went over to the car to change and get more drinks.
We drove all the way back to the hotel without stopping for lunch, because we were covered in mud. We showered hard – I’m not sure those white washcloths would ever be white again. We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner from Le Coq and called it a day.
Honestly, I was really surprised at how I reacted to the cave. I have always known that I am a bit claustrophobic – for example, when Dave would work on my old car, he would sometimes invite me to get down under the car so he could show me something. I could only tolerate it for a few seconds – the bulk of the car looming over me made me feel anxious.
Being in the cave wasn’t quite the same. We didn’t have to squeeze through any tight spaces, but maybe it was the darkness that freaked me out? Or perhaps I was just so heat-stricken that I ceased to think rationally anymore and just lost it? I don’t know.
What I do know is that I will not be going into any caves that require headlamps or rappelling gear anytime soon. Good thing we had another two beach days ahead to recover from that stressful day!
When researching places to visit in Costa Rica, we came across Playa Conchal. A beach made of shells! This video , from the travel blog My Tan Feet, also got us interested in checking it out. Since the video was taken, there’s been some major beach erosion, so we were not able to drive onto Playa Brasilito as they do in the video (jump to 2:19).
Instead, we had to leave our rental car, Blue, parked on what I perceived to be a sand bank, and then walk the rest of the way to Playa Conchal. Only people with SUVs could really drive all the way there, or extremely brave souls who weren’t concerned about getting their car stuck in sand.
After parking the car, we gathered up all our stuff – cooler, tent, towels, bags of sunscreen and snacks, and headed off to walk across Playa Brasilito to Playa Conchal. It was strange to me that Playa Brasilito was basically just a road to get to Conchal.
After walking across Brasilito, we entered a wooded area and the road narrowed and went up over a little hill, and there we were in Conchal. Immediately locals began approaching us to sell us drinks or to rent us shade tents. I’m sure they looked at me and thought “Damn, this whitey is going to need some shade!”
We could have lost Blue entirely in this puddle!
We fended off their offers and made our way onto the beach. There were a lot more people here than at Hermosa. There’s a Westin Resort too, so there was an area set up with lounge chairs and tents for the guests. We found a somewhat secluded spot beneath some trees and set up our tent.
Cautiously, we removed our shoes. How would walking on billions of shell fragments feel? Not bad, it turns out! The shell pieces are worn very smooth. It’s not as soft as walking on sand, but not as jagged and uncomfortable as one would imagine.
The water at Playa Conchal is that gorgeous turquoise color everyone imagines when they think of beach resort vacations. I really don’t know how Conchal could be covered with shells and have turquoise water while right next door Brasilito is just regular old sand and regular blue/gray ocean water color.
After a little while we noticed the tide was creeping closer and closer to our tent, until finally a wave nearly washed it out. We quickly dragged it higher up the beach and deeper into the trees. Which made our view even more interesting…
All through the day, locals kept stopping by to ask if we would like to buy pipa fria (chilled coconut), pottery, flutes, jewelry, and even massages. A guy came by to try to entice us to rent out his jet skis, and another offered a boat ride. We declined all of them. We just wanted to chill on the beach and not spend any money!
The waves were rougher than we had expected, perhaps that was due to Otto still swirling about offshore, I don’t know. We examined handfuls of shells to see if we could find any intact ones. We didn’t, but the small, worn out pieces were pretty neat to look at and try to figure out what they once were.
We decided to wrap it up around 3:30 or so – even though Playa Conchal is only 20 miles away from Playas del Coco, it takes over an hour to get from one place to the other. When we got back to Hotel Chantel and took a shower, we found tiny pieces of seashells stuck EVERYWHERE on our bodies. It was possibly even worse than trying to get sand off your body.
For dinner that evening, we wanted to go to an Italian restaurant. As we didn’t have GPS or cell service, I’d taken to using Waze at the hotel and then screen-shotting the route so we could still find our way. Well, in this case, it did not help. It was like the place didn’t even exist. We figured out later that it wasn’t open that night.
Instead, we ended up going to to one of the sports bars that’s in Playas del Coco. It was called Zi Lounge and it was good. It was relatively quiet and our waitress was attentive. We really weren’t impressed with Playas del Coco in general. There was a lot of American influence – lots of ex-pats and lots of sports bars with loud music and loud American TV. After we ate dinner, we just drove back to the hotel, up in the quiet hills, and relaxed by ourselves.
Next up: We take a day off from the beach and go spelunking instead!
The next morning, we ate Cheerios on our balcony and gawked at the view. This area reminded me a lot of the Southern California coast – except way less developed. Maybe this is what Southern California looked like 50 years ago.
We saw all kinds of fun things from this balcony. Dogs wandering happily on their own. Dogs wandering with people in tow. Cats running from dogs. Retired Americans out for their morning constitutionals. We even saw a flock of bright green parrots! At night we saw a strange, fox-like animal which we never figured out what it actually was. We also saw (and heard) a nightjar.
The hotel has a restaurant on top, so we also overheard conversations from the diners and waitstaff. One night, after the guests had departed, we overheard one waiter laughing with another because a drunk woman had written on her receipt “I love Puerto Rico!”
To save money and time, we bought a styrofoam cooler to take to the beach with us. Thanks to our hotel kitchen, we were able to make our own ice, and we took sandwiches and lots of drinks to the beach with us every day.
Another thing we did (months before our trip) was buy a little pop-up sun tent. We weren’t sure how hot it would be, or what kind of shade options we would find on the beaches. In case you haven’t noticed, I am extremely fair skinned, and I do not like being hot. We were really glad we brought it because even though there were trees on the beaches, the tent provided more sun protection, and gave us some privacy too.
Playa Hermosa, as the name suggests, is a beautiful beach. The sand is fine and soft and clean. When we were there it was pretty quiet, with most of the other people simply out for walks. Only a few people came by trying to sell things, but after we declined, they left us alone. We probably interacted with more dogs than people, now that I think of it!
Chillin in my tent
A little dog stopped by to say hello.
This dog made me think of Ren from Ren & Stimpy
Dave with yet another dog admirer.
We returned to the hotel to shower and change before heading into Playas del Coco for dinner. We found a lebanese restaurant called Le Coq, so I wanted to eat there based on the name alone. We got wraps – Dave got a chicken one and I got falafel. It was so good!
Next up – Playa Conchal – the beach that’s made of shells!
In the morning, we had our final breakfast at Hotel Tangara. By this time I was going to weep if I had to eat another banana, but fortunately they switched up the fruit so we got to have pineapple and papaya instead.
We drove in the rain most of the way back to Ruta 1. This meant we didn’t get to see the spectacular views of Lake Arenal that I had hoped we would. It took us about 3 hours to get from La Fortuna to Playas del Coco. We found Hotel Chantel without too much difficulty. It is situated on the side of a very steep hill, which we were impressed our rental car was able to climb.
We originally planned to stay at a different hotel, but after a week of eating every meal at restaurants, we decided we had to find a place with a kitchen, so that we could eat in once in a while, and so I could actually take leftovers home. Hotel Chantel did not disappoint – the kitchen was spacious and stocked with all the service wear and cookware we needed!
This bed was enormous.
The kitchen was a must-have.
You can’t tell from this image, but the view was amazing!
For lunch, we drove down into Playas del Coco and found a soda (that’s what Costa Ricans call little Mom and Pop restaurants) where we could get some casados. Of course there was a little dog hanging around looking for scraps. There was a woman outside the restaurant who was selling pinchos, so Dave bought one to give to the dog. He was such a sweet pup, he would eat one piece and wag his tail and then look up shyly, and then Dave would give him another piece. He was so grateful that he followed us to the beach afterwards.
We weren’t impressed with the beach itself. It was small and dirty and noisy. So we ended up going to other beaches for all our beach days, which of course I will tell you about in upcoming posts!
That evening, we watched the sun set at Playa Hermosa, which was just north of Playas del Coco, and where we would spend most of the next day.
Check back tomorrow for a review of Playa Hermosa! (Aren’t you impressed that I’ve been posting every day for the last several days!?)
We spent our final full day in the Arenal area doing the most adventurous stuff we could handle – ziplining and whitewater rafting!
I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about it. I’d never ziplined OR whitewater rafted before this. I’m not really afraid of heights, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about dangling from a wire, hundreds of feet off the forest floor.
After we arrived at Arenal Sky Adventures, we had to wait a while. This wasn’t helping my nerves any. Finally, we were united with Luis, who would be one of our guides. He got us fitted with our harnesses and showed us how to use the carabiners. He noticed my hands and had me demonstrate that I would be able to open and close the carabiners and hold on to the ropes.
We had to climb a little to get to the first zip line platform. We had worn our water shoes, so it made it a little awkward to walk on the rocks and climb up the dirt paths, but we survived. The next thing I knew, I was up on the platform, getting hooked up to the cable. By this time, I wasn’t nervous – I was ready to do it!
Off I sailed, over the treetops. I must not have been holding my body at the right angle, or maybe I was braking too hard, because before I arrived at the landing platform, I came to a complete stop! I had to reach up and pull myself along the last 30 feet of cable. It was awkward, but hey, that’s how I roll.
After I was on solid ground again, Dave came sailing in really fast, and then Luis. We had two more zip lines to go. I came in faster on those – which was fun!
As we made our third landing, I remembered that we would have to rappel down from that platform to get down to the river where we’d go rafting. Oh my. I’m going to hazard a guess that it was a good 100 feet down. Maybe even higher, I’m not that good with numbers.
Luis rappelled down first so he could start getting the tubes set up, and so there would be someone there to help Dave and I when we landed. Drex, the other guide, stayed at the top to help us. He hooked me up first and I pushed off. It was a weird feeling to be hanging that high up. My stomach felt fluttery at first, but as I looked around at the beautiful rainforest all around me, I was distracted from any feelings of fear.
Once we reached the bottom, we had to turn ourselves around and push off a rock face, swing over the river and grab Luis’ hand, who was waiting for us there.
Here’s the video I made of our GoPro footage. It’s only the zip line part. I’ll post the whitewater part later!
Now came the whitewater rafting part. The water was higher than normal because of the recent storm, but I think that made it more fun. We were bouncing around, crashing into rocks and dropping over little waterfalls. At one point we stopped, got out of our rafts and walked over to a waterfall. We stuck our heads under it and got totally soaked. The guides were saying how cold the water was, but to me it was comfortable. I mean if you’ve experienced the spring-fed, ice-cold waterfalls in Vermont, you’d think Costa Rican river water was like bathwater.
Our river adventure lasted another hour or so – but I would have been happy to keep going. When we got out of the water, we walked up a little hill to a place where we could change back into our dry clothes. They gave us a hot drink made with sugarcane, in case the river had chilled you. Then, we got on a bus that took us back up to where we had started.
After that, we were off in search of lunch. We saw a sign for a vegetarian and gluten-free place in a nearby town called Castillo, so we headed there. It was called La Ventanita (the little window), and it was part of a guy’s house. Dave got a burrito and I got quesadillas, both of which were really good. We noticed that the man was American, although he spoke perfect Spanish too. It appeared his wife was Costa Rican. So we wondered what their story was. I would have asked, but they seemed to be in the middle of preparing some kind of dessert and they looked really busy, so we just ate and went on our way.
In the road on our way back, we saw a beagle playing catch by himself. He was throwing back his head and letting the ball fly up in the air, and then running to catch it. He was barking and wagging his tail. It was the cutest thing ever.
After that adventurous morning, we went back to the hotel to take showers and grab a nap. We had dinner at a restaurant called Lava Rocks. We both got casados, of course! How else would we have celebrated our last night in La Fortuna?
The next day, we would be heading off for our second week in Costa Rica – on the Pacific Coast!
We spent Friday exploring the hanging bridges at Arenal Sky Adventures.
It was a very warm day, and there was a lot of hiking to get to each bridge. We saw many cool trees and plants, and we even saw capuchin monkeys! The hanging bridges were neat, since they let you walk up in the tree canopy.
After we’d gone over the bridges, we came to a trail that went down to a beautiful waterfall.
We ate lunch in the restaurant on site. The view was breathtaking. It looked out over the volcano and Lake Arenal.
I can’t recall much else about that day (this is what happens when you try to blog about something 3 months after the fact…), so I will let the pictures do the talking.
The road there was a little rough!
Our rental car, Blue!
We saw this blue dragonfly hiding inside a rotted out stump.
Into the woods we go.
I was in heaven with all the trees!
A miniature world.
Trees and things
See the very bright bug in the center of this photo?
Thanksgiving has long been a favorite holiday of mine. Getting together with my loved ones and sharing massive quantities of food – what’s not to love?
Thanksgiving 2016 strayed a bit from tradition for us. Not only were we in a foreign country, far away from family, but said country was expecting to be hit with it’s first hurricane on record.
Snacking and watching TV… maybe not that much different from a usual Thanksgiving day.
I sent this to my family, who was worried about our safety. I’m sure it comforted them.
That morning we ventured out to stock up on drinks and snacks. We got powdered milk and cereal and lots of water, just in case we lost power or got stuck in the hotel room for a long time.
The storm wasn’t supposed to make landfall until later in the day, so we wandered around town in the rain. It was eerily quiet and empty. Many of the stores were closed, and the big plate-glass windows had tape crisscrossed over them. The only people who were out and about were other tourists who were waiting out the storm just like us.
Familiar cereals… sort of
Otto is a pineapple scented shampoo octopus?
Hope nobody wanted fried chicken today…
I learned that Hnos. is short for hermanos, like Bros. is short for brothers.
Arenal hiding in the clouds
We saw a lot of cool wood carvings. A bit too large to take home with us.
Last meal? I’m enjoying this gelato immensely.
Dave had tres leches.
We checked out a couple of souvenir shops at the far edge of town, had lunch and then headed back to bunker down in the hotel room. We slept, ate snacks and watched TV while the rain pummeled the roof. The hurricane ended up making landfall in Nicaragua instead of Costa Rica, so other than a lot of rain and wind, La Fortuna was just that – fortunate.
In the evening, after the rains quieted down, we went into town to get some dinner. (We really weren’t looking forward to having powdered milk and cereal.) All in all, it was a very quiet day, but of course we were very glad that we were not severely impacted by the storm.
We would resume our adventures the next day by checking out the Arenal Hanging Bridges.
Ecotermales, Tabacon, Baldi, The Springs Resort, or the free springs by the side of the road?
We decided to go to Baldi Hot Springs because a.) it was the cheapest, and b.) it offered so many different pools (supposedly 25, but that’s counting the little cooling-off pools next to the big heated pools), with temperatures varying from ‘bath water’ to ‘hot as hades’.
We’d stopped by the previous day just to have a look, and they gave us a tour of the place. Then, the travel agent at our hotel hooked us up with day passes that included dinner, so we were good to go.
It was a drizzly, overcast day (Hurricane Otto was on his way) and Baldi was practically empty when we got there in the late morning. The resort is built on a hill, with the geothermally heated water filling the pools at the top and then cooling the further down you go. We started at one of the lowest pools, which was mildly warm.
We progressed up the hill, spending varying amounts of time in each pool, depending on how much we liked it. Each pool had a different vibe to it – some were quieter and offered more secluded areas, while others were bigger and more open. One even had three water slides going into it!
I was glad it was an overcast day, because I am sure I would have felt sick being in the hot sun in a hot pool. Instead, the drizzly, cool day made it just right for soaking in warm water.
The pool at the very top was unbearably hot, in my opinion. Dave liked it – he laid down on the built-in lounge chairs, but I could hardly even stick my foot into it. At one point, I bit my lip and put my feet in for probably 30 seconds. When I took them out, they were bright red!
I decided to take a walk around while Dave boiled himself in the water. There are some trails around the edge of the property, so I checked out the tropical plants, and at one point, I peeped through the foliage at the edge of the park and discovered a view over a big field with cattle grazing in it.
We decided that the next pool down from the top was the most agreeable temperature to us both, and spent a lot of time in there. It had a swim-up bar, but unfortunately for us, that was closed. I’m not sure if it was because it was the off-season, or because there was a hurricane coming in the next day, or what. It was probably a good thing, because we didn’t spend any money on drinks.
For lunch, we changed back into our clothes and drove back to town to grab a bite at La Parada. Then, we found an electronics store where we bought a new SD card for the GoPro. Dave had figured out that all the problems we were having with the GoPro was because we didn’t have the proper rated SD card! The poor little SD card just couldn’t keep up with our adventurous, high-definition lifestyle, apparently.
After we’d taken care of that business, we headed back to Baldi. By then it was late afternoon and there were more people there. We put our wet bathing suits back on (ick!) and hit the pools again. It was pretty cool looking once it started to get dark and all the lights in the pools came on.
We lounged about for another few hours. Dave even tried one of the water slides. By then, it had been drizzling constantly for a while. Our towels were soaking wet because there weren’t really any covered areas to hide them. So, we changed back into our dry clothes and set out for the dinner buffet. It took us a while to figure out where it was – they had changed the location due to the oncoming storm.
We ate in a big dining hall with a brightly decorated Christmas tree. I had almost forgotten that it was Thanksgiving eve! Definitely the first time I’ve spent that day in my bathing suit.
The main attraction of La Fortuna is Volcan Arenal – the tall, nearly-perfect cone that lurks just west of town. The history of the volcano is so interesting to me – people used to live and farm at the base of it, either not realizing it was a volcano, or thinking that it was dormant.
On the morning of July 29, 1968, the volcano spontaneously erupted, and continued to erupt for several days. The ash, lava and rocks from Arenal covered an area of about 6 square miles. It destroyed three small villages and killed many people, livestock and crops. You can read more in-depth about it here: http://www.arenal.net/arenal-volcano-1968-eruption.htm
Arenal remained active until 2010. It was a huge tourist draw – people wanted to stay in hotels with a lava view! By the time Dave and I heard about Arenal, it had stopped spewing rocks and lava, although apparently it still releases hazardous gases, so hiking up to the crater is prohibited.
On Tuesday, we headed over to Arenal National Park to check out the hiking trails. There are two hiking options that take you around the lava flows from the 1968 eruption. The landscape is prehistoric looking – I kind of felt like we were walking around in Jurassic Park, except without the dinosaurs.
We took a lot of GoPro videos, which I haven’t yet compiled and edited, except for this little cameo right here:
Towards the end of the hike, we came across a couple of capuchin monkeys. They had been in the middle of the trail, but then they hid themselves as soon as I saw them. We were trying to get a peek at them, and we could hear them making scary growling noises, but we could not see them! For a moment, I was afraid they might jump out of the grass and attack us, but luckily they aren’t those kind of primates.
We grabbed casados for lunch in La Parada, which became one of our regular restaurants for a quick, delicious meal. Then, we spent the afternoon chilling by the pool at the hotel. Oh yeah.
One of the many street dogs. This one looked like my dad’s dog Bruce.
Veggie casado for me and lengua in salsa for Dave.
Swans on our bed!
Not too shabby…
This is the life!
That evening we went back to Ecocentro Danaus for our night rainforest tour. Our guide was a young guy named Elias who spoke perfect English, which I appreciated. Right away he showed us a momma and baby sloth and told us all about how the green algae that grows on sloths is a symbiotic relationship. The algae gets passed on from the mother to baby during the baby’s first months of life. Not only does it help to camouflage the sloths, but they can obtain nutrients by licking it! He also explained how the sloths will climb up or down in the trees, depending on the temperature. And here I just thought they were super lazy.
In addition to the sloth, we saw all kinds of frogs, insects and even a little caiman. Elias apologized for there not being more animals to see – he had hoped to show us the big caiman and some snakes, but I was happy with what we saw.
After the tour, we had dinner at Life House, which was the place we’d eaten lunch at the day before. It was kind of late, so we were one of the only customers in the place, which made it feel a little awkward. But the food was good!