Thursday, February 5, 2009

Costa Rica - Arenal Volcano

We drove up to Arenal Volcano on Tuesday morning. It was about a 3 hour drive. Miraculously I haven't felt car sick with all the winding driving we've been doing in the Costa Rican countryside. We had lunch when we reached the town of La Fortuna then we were off to our hotel. Originally we'd planned on checking in and going for a hike at the La Fortuna waterfall. That went to the wayside when we saw our hotel though.

Arenal Nayara was off the main road and down a dirt road. Upon entering the main lobby we were greeted with a welcome drink and a cool scented towel to cool off with. We were taken by a golf cart on a tour of the grounds, which actually aren't that big since there was only 24 units total. Our room was absolutely gorgeous. A beautiful porch overlooking the volcano. Both an indoor and outdoor shower. And a jacuzzi on the porch. Best of all each unit is secluded.

The pool was likewise gorgeous and this is where we decided to plant ourselves for the rest of the afternoon instead of going on a hike. There were whirlpools within the pool and a swim-up pool bar that I used extensively. I decided to get a massage since I can never resist a spa. Prices were high but they had a 15% off coupon. Since I was in volcano territory I had a volcano mud massage by Lillian which was excellent.

Because we were lazy and the massage was later in the day, we decided just to eat dinner at the hotel. I had the onion soup which was good and the paella which was okay. The Husband had the tortilla soup which was okay and tropical chicken breast with mango sauce which was good. Prices for dinner weren't too bad considering it's a hotel.

The next day we tried canyoning. Now this was intense. Canyoning included rappelling down small waterfalls while using the rocks and sides of the waterfall as footholds or basically dropping yourself down large waterfalls and kind of free-falling. We also did some intense hiking through the jungle along and in the river. I say intense since we were hiking in the small river along slippery rocks. You had to watch every foot placement so you didn't slip and land on the rocks. There were many rock formations you had to climb down including one that had no footholds so you had to jump into a pool of water located right between two steep rock faces. I am shocked I didn't fall or scrape against the rocks and become a bloody mess although I did get fairly beat up during this whole excursion. Very cool but be prepared that it is exhausted. I thought we were just going to drop down the waterfalls, nothing was mentioned about this long hike. Also, this will be harder for shorter people since it's harder for your legs to stretch to find the footholds. I had a much more difficult time with this than The Husband since I'm about 5 inches shorter than he is.

That night we headed for the hot springs that Arenal is famous for. There's a couple different ones you can choose from. Baldi Hot Springs is like going to Daytona Beach. Completely cheesy, young and cheap crowd, lots of drinking. It is the cheapest option. I don't know much about Ecotermales but it's a smaller hot springs and often reservations are needed. Tabacon until recently was known for being the fancy hot springs. It's also pretty expensive. We decided to try the newest hot springs at the hotel called The Springs. This place just opened 6 months ago and were offering a great deal. 2 full days of hot spring usage for $40/person.

I had really been looking forward to the hot springs but I was quite disappointed. At first we were very impressed by The Springs but then it kind of wore off on us. It was quite Disneyesque. Everything was manufactured. They even had some fake tree stumps. They have 18 total pools. Several are cold, several are medium, and several are hot. There are 11 of these total right outside the back of the hotel. There are also 7 in the forest a couple hundred meters down a path. These are all hot There they had built a slide right into the hot springs that we really enjoyed. They were not hot enough for us though. It was like lukewarm bath water. We tried the hot ones near the main building and they were hotter. We had planned on eating dinner here but the prices were pretty exhorbitant compared to our own hotel so we decided to just head back. Likewise spa prices were ridiculous. The weirdest thing was the whole place was empty. Eventually they're going to have a large amount of rooms but right now only a fraction of the rooms are open. (Note: the rooms are high priced as well.) But apparently hardly anyone had heard of this place yet and there was no one. It was kind of eerie. So back to our own hotel for dinner.

The next day was our last day in Arenal. We were scheduled to go ziplining through Sky Tram/Sky Trek. We drove there ourselves since getting picked up was an additional cost and we already had a car. Leave yourself plenty of time to drive there. The road is terrible and unpaved. The ziplining was great though. You take a tram up to the top. Also in the trams are people who are only taking the tram and not ziplining with you so if some in your party want to take the weenie option this is it. The ziplines were the highest and farthest I'd ever seen. One is half a mile in length and you can barely see over to the other side. It made the ziplines we did in Belize look like a kiddie playground. Absolutely wear old clothes though. Our clothes and faces were covered with oil from the wires and needless to say the clothes are ruined.

After another afternoon lounging by the pool we headed into town for dinner. We chose a steakhouse Don Rufino's. We shared an appetizer of cheeses and Italian meats which was fantastic. Then we shared a bacon-wrapped filet which was decent but of course didn't match up to the filets we've had at the top steakhouses in Chicago. But I would recommend Don Rufino's anyway. The next day we would be off to Quepos so to bed early again. I've never gotten so much sleep in my life yet been so tired from all the activity as this trip.

View of the cloud forest while driving up to Arenal

Our bungalow

More of our room

View from our patio to the volcano

The jacuzzi tub

Bathroom and closet area

Outdoor shower

View from our hotel

The hotel. The landscaping was so lush and green.

Pool and swim-up pool bar where I had many umbrella drinks

The Husband rappelling down the waterfall

There's me

Sitting amidst the rocks while our guides dammed up the water

And when the guides released the dam

The Husband rappelling

I'm going straight through a waterfall here

The Husband at dinner

The Springs lodge

Hot springs in the forest

Getting ready to zipline. I spent so much time this trip wearing those ugly and nasty helmets for all our excursions.

View from one of the zipline platforms

More views

View of Lake Arenal from the zipline

We saw a whole bunch of cotamundis on the way back from the ziplines

The cheesy display our maid left us. The elephants were cute though.

View of the pool at night

My artistic flower picture

One of the many rabbits that wander around our hotel grounds


Liz said...

Another amazing bungalow-- and what a view!!!

How fun!

If you enjoyed these activities, you should think about the south island of NZ. It's so gorgeous.

WeezerMonkey said...