February 12, 2008 - Tuesday - to the Arenal Volcano area - As I sit on
the deck this morning before we leave Sueño Azul Hotel,
I see a Kingfisher dive for his breakfast, and the Snowy Egret is wading in the
pond. There are many other birds in the trees. It has rained off and on more or
less continuously since we arrived at the hotel. Despite being located quite a long way
from the Caribbean coast, this area is only about 60 metres about sea level.
It is very wet here. At nearby La Selva Biological Preserve, they measure
their rainfall at about 4 metres (about 15 feet) of rain per year.
After check-out, we drive to a drop off point on the Peñas Blancas River and
spend two hours river rafting. I think everyone was a bit concerned about the river
rafting, however this is a Class 1 section of river, which means no white water, no helmets
or strap-ins needed - just a gentle float down a calm river. It rained hard for
the first few minutes as we loaded, but it cleared and we had perfect weather
for the whole trip down the river. There were three or four sections where the
water ran a bit faster, but nothing I would call rapids. I think everyone had
fun. I certainly enjoyed myself, since we had very good boat men in the three
boats used for the trip (Enrique in our boat). We saw lots of wildlife up close,
including Howler monkeys, a snake swimming across the river, and countless
birds. There was juice and fruit available at the end of the trip.
driver Walter was waiting for us and drove us onward to La Fortuna, where we had an absolutely wonderful lunch at the Don Rufino Restaurant.
It was mid-afternoon at this point, and we arrived at the Tabacón Grand Spa and Thermal Resort
about a half hour after leaving the restaurant. They had drinks waiting for us
in the lobby, gave us express check-in, and delivered our luggage from the bus
to our rooms. Speaking of the rooms, they are deluxe - the best grade hotel
we've stayed at for the whole trip.
The skies are cloudy and there are frequent rain showers. I don't see how we are
going to hike in these conditions tomorrow, but that's the plan according to
Diego and Steven.
Our dinner this evening was later than usual (7:30pm), in order to give us time
to digest our sumptuous lunch. We had the buffet at the Tabacón Spa restaurant. Their
theme this evening was Chinese. The food was very good, but it was quite noisy
due to the whole spa complex being very busy. The spa and hot pools don't close until 10pm.
2008 - Wednesday - Arenal Volcano - Today started off with a hike to see a
volcanic flow on Arenal Volcano. A woman in our group sat on an unstable rock
and rolled to the ground, resulting in some cuts and bruises. Otherwise,
everyone coped well with the sometimes rough terrain. There was some rain at the
start of our hike, but it was cloudy or clear the rest of the time.
Unfortunately the mountain was shrouded in cloud, which is not unusual for Arenal. When I was here 10 years ago, Arenal was in cloud as well. We
watched the volcano spit hot boulders for awhile. They are easy to see in
binoculars, since they kick up dust clouds as they bounce down the steep slope.
The Arenal Volcano Observatory was our next stop - a sublime place which has a
nice restaurant overlooking the volcano. A resort is also located here as
well as a volcano observatory operated
by the Smithsonian Institute. We had a leisurely lunch, observed the volcano
from the deck, and had fun watching the tropical birds feeding on some fruit
left out for them at a feeding station. From this vantage point I took better
photos than from our hike earlier in the day. Steven O'Meara gave us a bit of
history about Arenal Volcano, and then we got back on the bus and returned to Tabacón.
The rest of the afternoon was free, so I went up to the hot springs and spa and
soaked in the hot pools. Some of them are very hot (41.5°C) and others are as
cool as 25°C. I found a hot pool away from the crowds and alternated between hot
and cool for about an hour. Our hotel room booking includes admission to the hot
springs, so many of the group was also taking advantage of the facility. Normal
admission is $60/person for a day pass. There is a free shuttle between the
hotel and the hot springs, since they are located about a block apart.
We had a sumptuous dinner at Arenal Kioro Hotel, a resort located toward La
Fortuna not far from Tabacón. This two year old resort is situated on the
mountain and has wonderful views of the area. The whole complex is quite
spectacular. After dinner, we drive back to Arenal and park along an access
road, trying to spot the hot lava rocks as they tumble down the mountain, but it
is so cloudy we only spot a couple of rocks before giving up and returning to
the Tabacón Resort.
Arenal to San Jose 2008
Poas & Sarapiqui 2008 << Previous