We spent part of this week at Arenal. We rented a little Suzuki Alto… really little. It got us where we needed to go, nurse though, malady so we were happy! Our drive to Volcan Arenal took about two and a half hours. On our way it was a very cloudy day and as we drove higher and higher into the mountains the clouds began to pass by. I’ve been in fog before, levitra but this was different. You could actually see the clouds blowing by right in front of you. It was so strange. On our way there were many twists and turns, quite a few potholes and numerous single lane bridges. One of the bridges was a very high up bridge with a whole lot of gaps in the road. Only one car was supposed to pass at a time, but the people in front of us got a little confused and we managed to pass two cars on the bridge at once. The entrance to the bridge was like the little ramps they use at the mechanic’s shop. You have to exactly drive your car over these tiny ramps. Given how small our car and tires were, Corey was very nervous to pass over this bridge. We did make it, however, and continued our journey.

As we arrived into the town of La Fortuna, where Volcan Arenal is, it was very, very cloudy. It was hard to see much of anything past the sides of the road. We made our way to the cabins where we would be staying, Hotel Don Carlos. Many friends had stayed at these same cabins and because one of the other students goes up so often, we got a very nice discounted rate. She had told us of the amazing view from the cabins, but as we drove in all we saw in every direction was clouds. We weren’t even sure where the volcano was.

The cabins were adorable, basically one large room with two beds and a small tables and chair set. There was a TV and a nice-sized bathroom. One wall of the cabin was almost completely large windows that opened up to the view. At least now we knew what direction we should look in for the volcano! I had a picture in my head of what the volcano should look like. I imagined it far off in the distance, impressive, but far. The kids and I said a little prayer as we were standing there and asked God to please move the clouds so we could see the volcano. There is always a chance that the clouds will block your sight the entire time. I began unpacking when Alex yelled for me to look at the window. As I looked back the clouds had almost completely lifted and there before us stood the volcano – much, much closer than I ever expected – and so majestic. I was in awe. Maggie kept saying, “Mommy, you looked shocked!” I was. I have pictures to post, but they do no justice to how huge Volcan Arenal is and how incredibly close we were to it. I liken it to the ocean. It’s huge and beautiful and you want to be near it, yet I realized this volcano could unleash its full power at any time. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

We spent our first evening exploring La Fortuna and taking lots of pictures of the volcano. Although there was a TV in our cabin, we opted for playing games and reading together. It was so incredibly peaceful. That night we drove out to this dirt road where people go to watch the volcano at night. Volcan Arenal is an active volcano that erupted back in the ‘60s. Since then it has smaller eruptions nearly every day. We were hoping for a large spectacle like we’ve seen in pictures. It was a clear night and although we never saw it really blow out much at the top, every so often large pieces of lava would fall down the side. It was beautiful. Unfortunately it was too inconsistent to take any good pictures of. We sat on this road for two hours watching the volcano until the kids eventually fell asleep in the car. We decided to head back to our cabin and rest up for the next day.

Hotel Don Carlos is actually on a farm. There are three horses, a pig, quite a few cows and quite a few new baby calves, one just three days old. Lorena, the owner, made us a delicious breakfast of gallo pinto, eggs, ham and toast. It was wonderful. After we ate they told us we were welcome to wander the farm. This was Maggie’s dream come true. We visited the cows, coming closer than I have ever been to a cow that wasn’t tied up in a stall. They saddled one of the horses for Maggie and I walked her around the farm. Alex ran around with one of the other boys that lived at the farm and tried to wrangle a horse. It didn’t work. There was a colt that let Alex walk up and pet it. The owner, Juan Carlos, told me the horse never lets the Ticos touch it and that it was so rare that it would let Alex touch it. He was even more amazed when Corey was able to pet it, too. We spent quite a while getting to know the family that took care of the farm and enjoying the animals.
We left to go on the adventure we had chosen for this trip. Before we went we were wondering how we would ever agree on an excursion. Maggie wanted to ride horses and Alex wanted to do a canopy tour, a zip line through the trees. We found out we could do both together – perfect! We rode horses for about 45 minutes to the base of the canopy tour where we suited up and took off through the trees. I wasn’t quite prepared for the 15 minute uphill hike we had to do before we ever hit the zip lines! The canopy tour was amazing and well worth the hike. I wish I knew how high in the air we were, it felt higher than I’d ever been before. We heard howler monkeys and saw toucans and many other interesting creatures. Alex was so brave. He did ever line by himself. Maggie went with a guide throughout the trip, but she had a blast. At one point we were standing on this tiny platform at the top of a tree, swaying as the wind blew, and as we looked out we saw the beautiful trees set against the backdrop of a very clear Volcan Arenal. At the end of the canopy tour we jumped back on our horses and rode back to the stables. It was an incredible day!

That evening we were far too tired to do much of anything. We showered, grabbed some dinner and played a few games before crashing early. The volcano was pretty clouded over, so we decided not to drive back out to the dirt road. I woke up at three o’clock in the morning and looked out at the volcano. The clouds were covering the top in a pretty thin layer. I could see the volcano was erupting. Although it wasn’t crystal clear, I could see reds and oranges bursting out of the top of it. I wish the clouds would have parted for even a minute, but even so it was such a humbling experience.

The next morning we woke up a bit sore from our excursion the day before. We packed up and had a wonderful breakfast again. On our way out of town we went to the Baldi Hot Springs. Apparently this is the second best hot springs in La Fortuna, but since we had never seen the best, we found Baldi pretty amazing. The pools vary in temperature from 88 degrees to 172 degrees. Some were too hot to get into and some we could only stay in a few minutes before we were too hot, but there were a lot that were perfect! We tried out every single pool! It was a wonderful way to relax our muscles for our drive home. Our drive home was much clearer and quicker. Before we could even get out of La Fortuna the kids were asking to go back again. It’s very rare that we have a family trip with just the four of us for the sake of just getting time away. We have made incredible memories that we will cherish forever. It was nice to get away, but now it’s time to turn our focus back to our studies!

You can find more pictures from our trip here… Volcan Arenal Pictures
~Tona