Part One: Arenal Area of Central Costa Rica
Rolling hills of Central Costa Rica
Only a few days ago, my husband Alan and I were relaxing on a beautiful beach at Arena del Mar Hotel, right next to Manuel Antonio State Park.Â Our vacation started with de-icing our plane in Philadelphia and ended with traveling two days to get home because of snow. But in between was one week ofÂ â€œparadise.â€
We traveled by car from San Jose to the region of the Arenal Volcano (part of the www.CostaRicaVacations.com package), which looms larger than life as seen from almost every hotel in the area.Â Rarely does the peak peek through the clouds. I happened to capture a picture of the only time we saw the entire top of the volcano in our three-day stay at The Mountain Paradise Hotel.
The tip of the Arenal Volcano peaked through for a couple of minutes & I caught it on my camera. There is smoke coming from the top.
We took a tour of the area surrounding the volcano and the guide was very knowledgeable about volcanoes in general, explaining the big difference between the kind of eruptions in Hawaii and those in Costa Rica. But what I found most interesting was the army of leaf-cutting ants that traveled across our path when we were on the tour. The leaves are as large or larger than their bodies. They carry the leaves back to their nest, add some of their own saliva, creating a fermentation that attracts organisms which become their food. Since we could not get really close to the volcano (a safety issue), I found the information from the guide more fascinating than the volcano itself.
After the tour, the guide took us to one of the many hot springs in the area.Â The one we went to was deep into the woods and was quite secluded and lovely.Â There were actually three pools of springs that are warmed naturally from the heat of the volcano, which never sleeps. Then we had a lovely dinner with the other people on our tour. All the restaurants have no walls, so you are eating al fresco (outdoors or in the open air).
The next day we went white water rafting. I did not bring my camera because I was afraid of its getting wet. And did we get wet! At times, the guide ordered us to duck inside the raft and water washed over us. The rapids were between level 2 and level 3, enough to keep us on our toes, but not enough to scare us! Then we went to the tour ownersâ€™ home where a lovely dinner was waiting for us. We also stopped for a break on the river and had watermelon and pineapple, both grown in Costa Rica. The pineapple was the sweetest we had ever tasted!
The last full day at our hotel we went on the Hanging Bridges tour, which was aÂ walk through the rain forest, high up on bridges suspended between the small valleys throughout the forest.Â This was probably my favorite tour. Again, we saw leaf-cutting ants as well as monkeys, sloths, a lovely waterfall, and huge plants.
Oh, yes, and the parrot who took the pineapple from my hand at the end of the tour. (See photo on my Home Page). Our guide (below) was also very knowledgeable and eager to show us as much as possible.
Beautiful flowers and foliage also surrounded the hotel.Â We stayed in large â€œsuitesâ€ tucked in between the trees and bushes, so there was lots of privacy. The open-air room where we ate was also surrounded by flowers. Our room even had a waterfall shower! And from our patio we watched the hummingbirds come to the plants and flowers near our room.
For the next part of our trip, we were driven to the Pacific coast to our second hotel, Arenas del Mar. On the way, we stopped at a tourist stop right before a bridge. Under the bridge we could see crocodiles lounging in the sun. I was able to catch a picture of one of them. Not sure what the object is next to the crocodile, but for the most part, all the streets and walkways were free of litter.
Part 2 takes place on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, a totally different area, perhaps more interesting because the Pacific Ocean is so vast and the sound of the waves at night is a sleep-inducer. I hope to post this second half tomorrow or Monday. TheÂ most popular saying in Costa Rica is Pura Vida. Literally it means pure life, but the Costa Ricans use it to mean all is good or living for kicks or it’s all pie in the sky. And the people we met seemed to be upbeat, although the towns we saw were not modern and “upbeat” as our shopping centers. My impression is that of a tourist and I would have to live in the country for awhile to understand better how they view life.Â But as a visitor, I loved it!
P.S. I almost forgot! Our room at the first hotel had a regular shower with plexiglass around it about 6 feet tall. BUT, next to it was a waterfall shower. The floor was stone and plants grew all around the huge bathroom. I loved it!