Before our oldest son was born, we took one last kid-free trip somewhere on our bucket list: Costa Rica! The direct flight was only 5 hours from our home in Colorado. It might as well have been a world away.
The warm, humid air was a relief from the cold winter we'd just survived. The drive from the airport to the hotel in Arenal was exciting: crazy traffic, lots of honking, just chaos. I'm used to the mostly-civil traffic in the US. Traveling by car in other countries always terrifies me. This was no exception. I imagined myself in a crash-free bubble and prayed the driver knew what he was doing. He looked about 16.
We chose to spend a week only in Arenal, because we wanted to really experience the area and not waste any days traveling and settling into a different part of the country. I'd rather travel at a slow pace, if possible.
The resort was small and new, with a view of Arenal Volcano. We had a studio bungalow with one bed and a spacious bathroom. No kitchen. The resort had a pool and restaurant. The resort next door had a restaurant, and was a short walk up the road. We didn't explore much on foot around the resort. The one day we tried to take a hike, we came across about 20 very large vultures sitting on a fence by a barn. They sat and watched us, waiting for one of us to trip and fall. Seriously.
The highlights of the trip include:
1. Kayaking on Lake Arenal. It was simply beautiful. You have a front row view of the volcano, on a peaceful lake.
2. A pontoon boat ride at the Caño Negro Wild Life Refuge Costa Rica. The variety of animal were amazing: monkeys, iguanas, monkeys and caimans.
3. Arenal Hanging Bridges. The hanging bridges on the nature walk put you in the tree tops.
4. Zip-lining! This was our first time on a zipline. Honestly, I was scared. However, the experience was amazing. I never felt unsafe. Flying through the jungle was one of the best parts of the trip.
5. La Pradera ATV tour. We took a 2-hour ATV tour though the jungle of Costa Rica. We were given some safety tips, then let loose on the trail. I wasn't comfortable driving it (I almost flipped us!), so my husband drove most of the way. The tour allowed us to see parts of the area we wouldn't have otherwise -- trails, neighborhoods and jungle.
6. La Fortuna Waterfall. The freezing water emerges from the jungle like a mirage. We didn't hike to the bottom, but you can! The water is cold, but would feel great on a hot day.
7. Hot springs. There are several hot spring resorts in Arenal. Most are public, and feature changing rooms, towels, snack bars and indoor and outdoor pools. A dip in the pool is perfect after a long day of hiking. The photo below is of Baldi Hot Springs from Arenal.net. I don't have any personal photos of the hot springs. I didn't bring my camera, since it might get wet.
8. We took a guided tour to Arenal volcano. At night, you can see the lava flowing down the mountain. Scary, and beautiful!
Well, those are the highlights of our Costa Rican adventure! I can't say enough good things about our trip. It was as beautiful as Hawaii, but much cheaper. We had no problems getting around with our limited Spanish. Most people, especially in the tourism industry, speak English. So, book your trip and come back to tell me all about it.