Monday, June 15, 2009

Costa Rica, Post 2 - Arenal Volcano

After Monteverde it was off to Arenal Volcano. It's about a 3 hour trip by car which is about 1/2 paved and 1/2 dirt road (with pot holes), but again, not that bad. That being said, we did rent a 4 wheel drive car and if it would have been raining we probably would have needed it. Also, I should mention here a few things about driving in Costa Rica. 1. people will walk in the middle of roads. As well as dogs, chickens, and whatever else pleases. 2. The street signs/speed limits are more of guidelines. If you're not going fast enough, people will just pass you. You can pass anywhere and everywhere you think you can make it. 3. There are "man holes" on some of the dirt roads. So usually going about 20kph is recommended and is about all you can do. But the road to Arenal wasn't that bad, so we could go a little faster. Also, along the roads you'll pass a bunch of small restranuants. The tico's (locals) call them Soda's and they have the BEST food, even though they look fairly sketchy. Apparently the only requirement for a restrauant in Costa Rica is that you have a porch, a sign, and at least two tables. Anyway, back to Arenal.

We decided to stay one night at the Observatory Lodge. This is a lodge right near the volcano (the closest you can get) that was origionally built for scientists. It's also on the side where the lava flow is currently. It was fairly cloudy when we arrived (we stopped along the road to watch our first sighting of monkeys playing in the trees), so we couldn't see the lava, but we could hear the volcano rumbling. After eating, we settled into the room and around midnight were awakenened by the sounds of the volcano. We rolled over and looked out our big bay windown to see lava flowing down the volcano. It was awesome to lye in bed and just watch the show. We lasted about an hour before falling back to sleep. The next morning we did a guided hike at the Lodge (which was included in the price) and saw some cool animals and a nice waterfall. The best was that we got to see two tucans! After the hike we moved to the other side of the volcano. At this point the west side is where the lava is flowing, but the east side is where all the hotels and activities have sprung up. We stayed the next three nights at Arenal Volcano Inn. Again we had our own little cabin with a view of the volcano. The weather proved to be very nice so we could see the volcano most days and the clouds even parted enough that we could see the top at times. This place was pretty cool, and breakfast was included. I'd give it a 4/5. While in Arenal we took a horseback ride to the La Fortuna waterfall and then hiked down (and up) 480 steps to swim in it, which was awesome. I would recommend this tour, but ask for a fast horse, mine didn't seem to want to gallop too much, unless the guy yelled at it. We also hiked the Arenal National Park, and spent a few hours at the Tabacon Hot Springs one night (awesome!!!). The food was mostly good and we did drive about 10km outside of town to find a small little Soda with a great view. The town near the volcano, La Fortuna, is an okay town, but nothing to really write home about. Next it was off to Montezuma Beach.

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