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Costa Rica Update #3: Volcán Arenal

Posted by kevinwolz on June 7, 2011

Travel weekend number two brought our group to the fiery depths of Volcán (volcano) Arenal…okay, maybe not quite the fiery depths, but it was still pretty awesome. Volcán Arenal is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and it, along with the small town of La Fortuna at its base, is a tourist hot spot in Costa Rica. We stayed in a really nice but cheap hostel in Fortuna and filled our weekend with all sorts of hiking and exploration.

We started our first day with a several-hour guided hike in Volcano Arenal National Park. Our guide was awesome (I hung out with him a lot for the rest of the weekend), and we got to see all sorts of wildlife. However, I don’t have many pictures of this wildlife because it is typically only seen well through binoculars and pictures just don’t do it justice anyway…so I haven’t really even tried. Our guide also new a ton about the plants of the area (especially medicinal ones) since he pretty much group up in the rain forest around the volcano. He explained so much to me about this interest of mine, but it was so overwhelming that most of the details have already slipped my mind. All the more reason to come back another day…

After the hike, we watched the sunset from the national park’s lodge. It was by far the best sunset I have ever seen in my life. The volcano was to our right, Lake Arenal to our left, the next three volcanoes in the range spanning the horizon, and a giant wind farm spinning away in the distance. With incredible cloud formations and hummingbirds all around us, it was certainly an evening I will never forget. To cap it all off, we had a complete (cloudless) view of the volcano, which only 20% of visitors get to enjoy.

Once the sun was down, we headed to one of the local hot spring lodges for an amazing buffet and several hours in the naturally heated pools. At first, I wasn’t really excited about a few pools of hot water, but in the end it was a great way to end the night.

I arose early the following morning to tackle a more intense hike. None of my friends wanted to join me, so I had to head out alone. The goal was to climb Cerro Chato, the extinct little brother of Volcán Arenal with a height of about 2,000 feet. The hike was half on wide paths in partially forested land and half on single-track, root-laden, slippery paths in deep forest. It was certainly harder than I was expecting (much steeper and longer than my Irish experience), but the view of Arenal and surreal lake at the top were well worth the trip. You can get a good visual of the hike and the area here. I started at the red tab, climbed to the lake at the middle flag, and then back down the same way. This puts my “mountain” climbing tally at two.

The rest of the weekend consisted of some relaxing (i.e. recovering from the climb) and some more light hiking. Overall, it was yet another great weekend in the bag. Costa Rica has yet to cease amazing me at every turn. But now, I have to go do the homework that I’ve been putting off for quite a while…sometimes I forget I’m here for school too!

Pictures

Fortuna/Volcán Arenal

Cerro Chato Hike

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2 Responses to “Costa Rica Update #3: Volcán Arenal”

  1. Karen said

    Wow! Costa Rica is certainly a paradise! Beautiful images- interesting plants, insects and volcanoes! Sunset is awesome.

  2. Joan said

    Kevin,
    So enjoyed your blog! Hike to Cerro Chato looks
    awesome but very, very difficult. How long did it take you? Such intense colors in the sunset, flowers & bugs.
    Seems like you’re leaning towards Botany-Biology
    instead of Engineering. FYI: the late Dr. Robert Betz
    who pioneered prairie restoration (and family friend of my family) actually had his education in chemistry!
    Still hope you can do that ride through the trees.
    You didn’t say but how is your Spanish language
    coming along? And your Spanish conversation with your Tico family?
    Have you Skyped your parents yet?
    Continue the blogs…..look forward to the next one.
    Love, GB

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