El Volcán Arenal

This past week we visited the Arenal Volcano and the rain forest around it with our good friends, the Andersons. Their girls were on spring break and so we decided Aidan and Vie should also get one!

It was a refreshingly cool trip to a gorgeous part of the country. We had some fun adventures, saw some amazing wildlife and tropical plants. and we returned with an understanding of how special, and increasingly rare, these places are. Now that tourist season is pretty much over, we hope to take a lot more of these trips as part of our new adventure.

I took a ton of photos on this trip, so this blog will be more of a photo blog. It is pretty amazing what you see here. Oftentimes, it is “up close and personal.”

We’ll start with the volcano itself. It stunning beauty situated on a large, beautiful lake. This Volcano was pretty stealthy until 1968 when it brought itself to the attention of the Ticos with a huge eruption. It is now one of the most active volcanos in the world. It is on several of the “Top 10” active volcano lists I found on the internet.

El Volcán Arenal

El Volcán Arenal

lake arenal

Lake Arenal from a zip line

The area is populated by hot springs and a huge area of dense rain forest. There are also a number of spas and adventuring areas. We stayed in a wonderful little house designed by an artist in the town of La Fortuna. His dog, a Doberman named “Choco”, became a good buddy of mine. His paw was severely injured by a car but he hopped around with a huge love of life. He was a big puppy still and needed a lot more love than he seemed to be getting.

choco

Choco

La Fortuna is close to the volcano and “main street” goes one way through the length of the town because it lines up with a stunning, close-up view of the volcano. There’s really no reason to want to go the other way.

As part of our trip, we took a rain forest hike, explored some caves, and went zip-lining at the largest facility in Costa Rica. The rain forest trek was my favorite. It was located in a picturesque valley which was dense with vegetation.

rain forest valley

The rain forest valley

While the tour advertised hanging bridges, and indeed there were many, the main attraction was really the flora and fauna of the rain forest itself. We went in the late afternoon/dusk, which I recommend; it is far less crowded and noisy. The animals like that and were coming out. Take a look at some of the incredible things we saw:

A spider monkey travelling with is group

A spider monkey travelling with is group

A coati looking for dinner

A coati looking for dinner

A very tall, odd tree

A very tall, odd tree – zoom in to see some detail

A “well-camouflaged” pit viper

A “well-camouflaged” pit viper

A “well-camouflaged” pit viper

A “dart” from a particular palm tree used for poison darts by the indigenous people

And the poison dart tree frog

And the poison dart tree frog from which those folks made their poison darts (Note: these fellas are only about the size of the end of your pinky)

There were several gorgeous types of flowers, none of which I got the names for:

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Rain forest flowers

Can you see the bat hiding?

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It bites the under part of the leaf so it creases and makes an overhang. Here’s one with a flash where you can see the bat:

 

 

 

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One of the hanging bridges

One of the hanging bridges

A “rain barrel” tree

A “rain barrel” tree – the roots are hollow and hold water

Leaf-cutter ants

Leaf-cutter ants

A "monkey ladder" tree

A “monkey ladder” tree

A tunnel through our trek

A tunnel through our trek

A tree sloth

A tree sloth

The second day of our trip, many of us went to visit the Venada Caves (while some who will not be mentioned spa’d it. It is a “living cave” – one that is still forming. There was a small stream running through it and the cave system supported a number of bats, spiders, centipedes, frogs and other critters that can often terrorize spa-goers!

The Venada Caves entrance

The Venada Caves entrance

A “meat-grinder” type passage

A “meat-grinder” type passage

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A few areas of the cave

A “meat-grinder” type passage

A waterfall which we got to by crawling through a water-filled tunnel

Aidan tried to eat, at the guide’s urging’ a rather large and nasty cave spider with a pretty ferocious bite. It was large but thing and the photo does not do it justice. Use your imagination J

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An elusive cave spider

For the record, we spotted the tree sloth on the road to the caves, and I found the tree frog outside the cave entrance as we were coming out.

Our final day in Arenal we all went zip-lining. Deb and I had been zip-lining in Costa Rica before on our vacation trip two years ago, but the Sky Trek zip lines are the largest in Costa Rica. The rides were long and provided some stunning views.

zip liners

Our intrepid zip-liners

The rain forest valley of the zip line area as seen from the zip line

The rain forest valley of the zip line area as seen from the zip line

The longest stretch of zip line

The longest stretch of zip line – 1500 meters (or almost a mile)

Deb, the master zip liner

Deb, the master zip liner

We all had a wonderful time and it ended all too soon. We could have spent several more days in the Arenal area. There is a lot to do and see. Fortunately, we didn’t have to contend with a ton of tourists; most of the outings involved just us and no other folks. We expect other visitors (!) and so we’ll have a chance to try out some of the other things the Arenal region offers. We will definitely have to do the river/white water tour next time. Maybe I’ll get to see my bud Choco again.

Pura vida