From Monteverde, we made the 3 hour drive (about 75 miles) to the Arenal Volcano area. There is no direct route because of the mountainous terrain so we drove up, over and around Arenal Lake. The first part of the trip from Monteverde to Tilarán is not paved, but the views along the way are worth the slow, bumpy ride.
We used the ever faithful iGO ap again and started the first part of the trip to Nuevo Arenal.
The plan was to stop at the German Bakery in Nuevo Arenal where Bill remembered having a delicious plate of Goulash back in 2007. Unfortunately, they were working with asphalt in front of the outdoor restaurant, and we weren’t able to eat there – maybe next time!
The last half of the trip was nicely paved roads and a fairly easy drive to our destination – Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort. We were planning to splurge for our last couple of nights in Costa Rica by soaking in the volcanic hot springs. The man made pools full of the naturally heated waters are amazing along with waterfalls to sit under for a relaxing massage. The hotel seemed overpriced and the food was not great, but the mineral springs were perfect after the damp Monteverde cloud forest. If you go, you might want to consider staying somewhere cheaper and getting a day pass to visit the resort.
There are three major volcanic mountain ranges in Costa Rica, and many of the volcanoes are still active. Arenal last erupted in 1968 and was considered sleeping as of 2010, but is still considered “active”. Even though eruptions have subsided, Arenal Volcano remains the source of several natural hot springs. The view of the volcano is often shrouded, but we got a pretty clear view one day from the nearby town of La Fortuna.
The people you meet along the way are perhaps the best part of traveling. The Rainforest Cafe in La Fortuna was our favorite place to eat in the Arenal area and the lovely girl who waited on us made it extra special. Thanks for the great coffees Faby!
Other than soaking in the hot springs, we did enjoy one day hiking the nature trails and 6 hanging bridges at Mistico – Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. The self-guided tour is about 2 miles (2-3 hours) through and over the rainforest. It’s a lot of fun if you’re not afraid of heights.
We took a beautiful scenic drive from LaFortuna back to San Jose on CR142 though La Tigra and then the Interamerican Highway (CRI). It’s only 74 miles, but takes about 3-3 1/2 hours. The roads are nicely paved but very windy. We were grateful to have our friend’s place to crash at for the night as we re-packed ready to head back to the states.
I absolutely loved Costa Rica and hope to go back to see more, especially the South and Osa Peninsula. Here are a few reasons why:
- It’s one of the safest countries in Central America.
- The locals are incredibly friendly and you can usually find someone to speak English.
- The eco-tourism is wonderful – they really care about the environment.
- There is good food most everywhere.
- It’s mostly rural, beautiful countryside.
- The protected parks, forests and wildlife are amazing – a photographers dream!
There are a few things to keep in mind if you plan a visit to Costa Rica. It can get hot and humid along the coast and near the beaches, but drive a short distance and you’re in cool mountain air. The prices are more expensive than in other Central American countries, but still less than the United States. The locals (called Ticos) are extremely friendly, helpful, and laid back. If you can relax, and go with the flow of “Tico Time” you’ll love it.
As they say in Costa Rica – Pura Vida! (Pure Life!). This essence is what beckons us to return to beautiful Costa Rica. What makes you want to return to a place you have visited?