Arenal Volcano National Park and La Fortuna, Three Days There, Which Activities Should I Do?
Don’t let the eyelash viper scare you! We encountered him along the hiking trail, almost brushing him as we passed. Camouflaged in the jungle bushes, he was lazily taking the morning sun. The Arenal Volcano National Park is my favorite tourist destination in Costa Rica, if I can say I have a favorite. I never tire of going there, over and over again. always finding something new. But if I had just three days, I can certainly tell you what to me is the most exciting! First the zip line or canopy tour. Very unique and unusual like “Tarzan and Jane.”
I choose Arenal Mundo Adventura for the zip line tour. www.arenalmundoadventura.com It was a clear sunny morning with the mighty Arenal Volcano was in full view. What a sight! We were transported high up into the canopy of the rain forest in a flat bed truck, kind of exciting since it bumped and squeaked all the way up the side of the mountain, almost drowning the sounds of the howler monkeys. A large platform appeared before us, at the base of a rain forest tree, the biggest I’ve ever seen, where we put on the “gear”. Ken, my husband had a video camera and was set to capture it all. I got a little scared when I looked down. It seemed forever to the bottom, where I imagined myself. Visions of my husband collecting my life insurance .. (Bad thoughts!) My turn came and I was zipped, moving easily along the cable, high above the pristine rain forest canopy, passing lush green flora and two waterfalls which seemed as tall as skyscrapers. Easier than I thought! Eleven platforms later- the end of the journey, and I must say I could have taken eleven more platforms. WOWwww!
Next came the tour of the Maleku Indian village. Sitting on wooden benches inside the Spiritual House, we listened to Twelve of the Maleku tribesmen and two women perform a religious ritual praying for rain and good fortune, in their own language of Maleku. Beautiful hand painted mask were neatly displayed inside the House of the Spirits. I bought a small jaguar’s face beautifully painted in multi colors of reds, green, yellows, and black.
Later that afternoon we visited the Tabacon Hot Springs and Spa, a tropical fairyland. Cascading hot waters coming down the side of the volcano set in the mist of a lush rain forest surrounded by tropical flowers and plants-zillions of them. Sitting under the cascading hot water I was sure I had died and gone to heaven. Dinner time came too soon. Sitting in the “land of make believe” we feasted on fresh baked chicken and five different picadillas (a la Costa Rican) while watching the old Arenal spit and sputter fire and hot lava rocks from its summit.
Day two: Very early we set out to explore the Arenal Volcano National Park by hiking around it’s northern base. Right where the infamous 1968 massive eruption destroyed a village killing 87 people. Not a very good thought at this moment! “You are not to get off the trails”, said our naturalist guide. “It’s dangerous for snakes and other jungle creatures”. Then, we heard the hissing and puffing of the volcano which seemed much closer to us that it actually was. Out of nowhere came a band of howler monkeys starring us square in the eyes and even throwing tree twigs in our direction. Didn’t want strangers invading their territory! I got a very discomforting feeling knowing I was at the mercy of this mighty keg of dynamite… finally we arrived to the old lava rocks and were allowed to climb up to the top. My camera couldn’t snap enough of these huge black jagged lava rocks, some two meters in diameter, and just plain weird looking! We had been hiking now about 1 hours and the rain started to come down, unusual for March since this is usually a dry month around here. So we started back to the park entrance and suddenly down a steep winding path thorough the rain forest our naturalist guide yelled freeze! On a tree limb along side the trail was a small pinkish- yellow snake called an eyelash viper. (photo above). The naturalist guide told us to stay far away from it and it wouldn’t bite us. The eyelash viper is a very poisonous snake and its venom affects your central nervous system and cardiovascular system. It’s named eyelash viper because the bristly weird looking scales above the eyelids which resemble eyelashes. Gruesome! Bet you never seen one of these!
By the afternoon we were ready to take a rest and get ready for the early evening outing leading up a dirt gravel road to a place called El Silencio. Here the crater of the mighty Arenal seemed to reach out and touch us. Big balls of fire were coming out of it’s cone shaped top, just like fireworks on the fourth of July.
Our third and last day, I was not ready to think about going home. I wanted to stay. We had to choose carefully what we wanted to do, among the many options: Horseback ride to La Fortuna water fall ( I don’t care much for horses) Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve ( already been there) Hiking to the Blue River (guide said it was a tough hike and I’m chicken for tough hikes). River float (seemed a little too sedate for me) So, the winner was: the Arenal Hanging bridges which are man made bridges high above the rain forest canopy. We were looking for more monkeys and colorful tropical bird, and luck we did have. A group of howler monkeys were swinging thorough the rain forest, making lots of noise with their shrill howls. Early morning was the best time to find birds and the jungle was a symphony of birds sounds. And of course I had forgotten my bird binoculars!
For the full range of tours, descriptions, and prices of all the awsome things to do around Arenal go to the wonderful tour operator. (Office is on the town square in La Fortuna). www.sunsettourcr.com