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10 Days in Costa Rica (part 1) Arenal Volcano

Costa Rica is a tropical country in Latin America with gorgeous coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides.  Dense with rain forests, it is also home to hundreds of volcanoes, five of them active.  Its a peaceful and democratic nation, and no Visa is required for U.S. Citizens at this time.  “While it may be one of the smallest countries in Central America, Costa Rica is also one of the most naturally diverse, and protection of this remarkable habitat is a priority for the nation’s government.” (http://www.govisitcostarica.com/travelInfo/generalInfo.asp, see paragraph 1).

Last November our family had the immense pleasure of touring Costa Rica.  In this 3 part blog review I’ll be detailing where we went, what we did, and why you will love La Pura Vida!

We began our adventure landing at the airport in Liberia, in the north central part of Costa Rica.  We were on our way to the Arenal Paraiso Resort.  Its about a 4 hour journey, and most of the ride is smooth.  Once you start climbing the mountain, however, it gets narrow and bumpy!  Bella got car sick for the first time.  But our guide Jose with Costa Rica Shuttle was a great host!  He pointed out landmarks and shared stories throughout the ride.  For smoothies and snacks we stopped at Macadamia.  Quaint and quiet, although well known, it sits on the lake overlooking the Arenal Volcano. They serve hot plates of ‘typical food’ (how the locals describe cafes that service local food) and everything looked amazing and fresh.  After our little break, we were back on the road.

We arrived at Arenal Paraiso Resort after dark in the midst of a rainstorm.  Check in was smooth, but with the downpour we couldn’t walk to our Casita.  The resort called up what we later named the ‘van of death’ because it was the most beat up vehicle we’d ever ridden in!  But despite its appearance the van got us safely up the hill to our home for the next few nights.  We chose Arenal Paraiso for the following reasons, and it exceeded our expectations:

  • 10 Hot Mineral Springs throughout the resort
  • Casitas — not hotel rooms — are warm and cozy little cabins that blend perfectly with the natural foliage
  • Locals!  locals vacation here, and we wanted to get closer to an authentic Costa Rican experience than a typical All Inclusive would provide
  • Complimentary, locally inspired breakfast
  • Natural beauty
  • View of the Volcano (more on that later ;o)

click on a photo to view the gallery

The resort includes 10 heated mineral springs cascading down the hill, with the hottest at the top and the coolest at the bottom.  They are artificially heated, but the minerals in the springs and the lush surroundings are all real.  The Casitas were rustic but cozy, with adequate bathrooms and a mini fridge. We slept like babies our first night with the rain drumming on our roof top.  The quiet, peaceful grounds are beautifully maintained, with an abundance of trees, plants and all kinds of greenery.  We had room service from the restaurant, and the complimentary breakfast, and they were both  good, especially the coffee! The large pool had a swim up bar and was a social spot.  During most of our trip the view of the Volcano was obscured by clouds and fog, because, well, rainforest.

On Scott’s first morning he took the Waterfall Hike behind the resort while we ladies snoozed.  He reports it was a tough hike, some scoot and grab, but one of the highlights of his trip.  While on his trek he saw some medium sized wild pigs!  (Good thing he didn’t’ meet an aggressive mama pig too!)

After taking a nature walk, soaking in the mineral springs, and enjoying Happy Hour at the main pool, we took a $12 taxi into La Fortuna for our second night at Arenal.  La Fortuna is a little town at the foot of the volcano, considered a gateway to the area.  After dinner at our cab driver’s recommended spot (Snapper’s House) we walked around town until rain moved in, taking photographs of La Iglesia and visiting some small shops.  La Fortuna is a picturesque friendly town, with locals strolling the park and shops.  We also saw several back packing tourists cruise through.  At Snapper’s Isabella’s favorite dish we had was the seafood salad.  Sophia really enjoyed her fish – her whole, head still attached, Tilapia :o)  And Scott and I liked everything, including a good Chilean chardonnay.

Returning to the resort after dark, the springs and pool were still active.  Soccer was on the poolside TV, but we were ready for another night of restful sleep.  We were only slightly disappointed we hadn’t seen the actual Arenal Volcano yet due to the fog and rain, but we didn’t mind the weather.  It was exotic for us and the rain forest was as peaceful as it was beautiful.

Day 4 would be another journey by shuttle to our next stop, Dreams Las Mareas on the beach.  To continue with us on to the next part of our adventure, click here!

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