For Part 2 of our Costa Rican honeymoon, Scott and I travelled inland to visit the cities of Arenal and La Fortuna. We drove quite a distance from Tamarindo to get to our hotel in Arenal. We stopped at a Costa Rican Walmart and tried a ton of local snacks: chocolate covered pineapples and bananas, yuca chips, and palomitas (popcorn). We also enjoyed a scenic drive around the entire perimeter of Lake Arenal which is a manmade lake at the base of an epic volcano.
For this portion of our trip, we stayed at the Arenal Manoa Hotel. This is one of the many hotels in the area with a STUNNING view of the Arenal Volcano and in-house hot springs. We were greeted with a blackberry drink and taken to a villa with a view.
After we got settled in, we went down to the pool and swim up bar where we had a few too many mango daiquiris and margaritas. The pool was busy and had a party atmosphere so we enjoyed people watching. Then we got changed for dinner and went to the hotel restaurant, La Saca. We had SUPER rich mushroom risotto and pesto gnocchi and went back to the villa to go into a sugary drink and rich food coma.
The next day we woke early, had a 10 minute breakfast stop at La Saca, and went to catch a shuttle for an all day tour. We were going to tour two major destinations: The hanging bridges at Mystico National Park and La Fortuna Waterfall. These two hikes were very different, but equally incredible.
At the hanging bridges, we saw unique plants, vipers, tarantula, countless birds, loud and fascinating cicadas, howler monkeys, and the most rare sighting of day: peccaries! Upon entering the park, we saw a deadly, baby viper right away. Then we looked back towards where we walked in and saw a small herd of peccaries! The deeper into the forest we went, the louder the buzzing sounds throughout the air became. We learned that these were cicadas and they became the soundtrack for this entire trip. They provide a constant humming melody that differs depending on region. These massive insects live only one day, but certainly make their presence known during their short lives. We had wonderful tour guides who spotted camouflaged animals that we would have never seen. My recommendation after this trip is always to do wildlife tours with a guide!
Our shuttle picked us up from the hanging bridges and took us to our next stop: La Fortuna Waterfall. This was one of my favorite parts of this trip! We had to hike down about 500 steps (which meant we eventually had to hike back up them) and arrived at a gorgeous waterfall and crystal clear pools. We were able to swim in the pools amongst tons of not-so-small fish and mossy cliffside.
After a long day of touring, we all enjoyed lunch together. This was our first experience with a Costa Rican cuisine staple: Casado. Casado consists of meat, tortillas, beans, rice, a fried plantain, salad, cheese and sometimes eggs and sautéed onions.
It was a long day of hiking, so we spent the rest of the afternoon watching American football in Spanish and napping. For dinner we drove slightly outside of the hotel to a delicious pizza place called !Que Rico! which means “How Delicious!”.
The next day we had another tour planned. This time we drove two hours in a shuttle to do the Rio Celeste (translates to Light Blue River) hike. This was one of the most fascinating sights and the photos truly don’t do it justice. The Rio Celeste is full of minerals that create the optical illusion of a light blue color. The water is in fact clear, but the reflection of the light off of the white mineral particles makes the water looks like an opaque, bright blue. We saw many more animals on this hike including frogs, different kinds of insects, spiders, monkeys, snakes, and coati (a raccoon-like mammal). We also saw hallucinogenic leaves the size of a car tire and one of the largest and oldest trees in the country.
We finished this day with a delicious meal of arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) and a dip in the Termales (Hot Springs). These hot springs were at our hotel and were actually rerouted from a naturally hot river that’s heated by the volcanoes. Of course, the hot springs also had a swim up bar and we had to take advantage on our last night in Arenal.
The following day was the day we were supposed to travel to the capital, San José, but we couldn’t resist squeezing in one more activity while we were here: A Coffee Tour. If you’re ever in Costa Rica, do a coffee plantation tour! I have alway been an avid coffee drinker and this tour completely changed the way I buy and drink coffee. Scott has even been drinking more java after this experience. During the tour we planted, harvested, roasted, and ground beans to see every step of the process. We also made our own chocolate and sugar cane juice which was amazing! We may have gotten bitten by some ants in the process, but it was totally worth it.
The coffee tour marked the end of our time in Arenal and the beginning of our journey to San José and the Pacuare River. Another treacherous drive that ended in some horrific traffic began and a whole new scene awaited. Part 3 will outline our time in these Eastward destinations!