We’ve had a fantastic few days in the wonderland surrounding Lake Arenal and its counterpart, Volcano Arenal. There’s a lot to see and do in this area of Costa Rica, so we’ve been taking it easy on our bikes. Though we’ve covered less than 100 km since I last wrote, we’ve been busy!

After biking uphill from Tilaran on Wednesday, we got our first view of Lake Arenal. During the high season, this is a haven for windsurfing and kiteboarding since the winds are high. The electricity-generating windmills on the hills around the lake also attest to the gustiness of the area. Since the lake is man-made and dammed, as well, this is where most of the power for all of western Costa Rica is generated.

Those windmills on the top of the hills surrounding Lake Arenal.

We were expecting the heaviest amount of tourist traffic yet as we started our ride around the lake, so we were surprised when very few cars passed us. After about 15 km we discovered why: a HUGE chunk of road was gone. We rolled up to a giant mud pit in the road, impassable by anything with more than 2 wheels. We had little trouble pushing our bikes into the ditch and back up, but other vehicles had a bit more difficulty. We saw crates of produce being unloaded one-by-one on one side of the ditch and hand-carried to a waiting truck on the other side. Any tour bus passengers headed that way have to disembark their bus, pick their way through the muck, and reboard another bus waiting on the opposite side. Any uninformed drivers of personal vehicles are shit-out-of-luck because there simply aren’t any detours that won’t take you at least 200 kilometers and 5 hours out of your way. Needless to say, we were suddenly enlightened as to why there weren’t too many tourists or vehicles of any sort around. Not that we minded.

Here’s that huge hole in the road. Apparently the road was simply washed out by some heavy rains (not surprising). Construction is ongoing to install some better drainage and a proper bridge.

The area around the lake is a bit geared toward your European tourist — or at least that’s how it seems. Every other resort is run by a Swede or boasts German eats. I felt like I was in Epcot Center. Luckily all this kitsch doesn’t detract too much from the beauty of the area!

Plenty of the time we found ourselves winding through stretches that would have seemed completely remote if it weren’t for the nicely paved road. The trees and plant life are amazingly diverse and colorful here. We also found loads of monkeys, bright and chirpy birds, and even a few pizotes (I think they’re related to raccoons, but they look like really fuzzy little bears with long tails. They’re sooo cute, and friendly enough to chase after cars). All of this beautiful plant and animal life was periodically punctuated by a gorgeous view of the lake or the volcano looming overhead. Arenal may just be my favorite place from this trip.

A moth on a pretty blue background. We also saw several blue morpho butterflies the color of the background, but they wouldn’t stay still long enough for Mike to photograph them.

A monkey performing some acrobatics for us.

And another one stretching or scratching his back. (The pic’s a bit out of focus, but that’s because I took this one.)

Mike actually found this emerald basilisk lizard at the Tabacon hot springs, but I thought I’d put him with the rest of the animal photos.

On the first day of our Tour de Arenal we stopped at a great little gallery just beyond the hole in the road. It’s called the Casa Delagua and features the work of an artist named Juan Carlos Ruiz Soto. We had a nice chat with him and I bought a small painting of the volcano. If you’re interested, I linked his web site on the left. Neat stuff.

We finished our first day at an Eco-lodge called La Ceiba. It wasn’t our first pick (a little pricier than we would have liked), but we missed the other places we were looking for somehow and it was getting late. The driveway was ridiculously long and steep, but once we actually made it up to the hotel we had a very nice view of the lake. The German couple running the place was very nice and made us an elaborate breakfast in the morning (included in the price of the room). The best part about this lodge was the enormous ceiba tree on the property. Supposedly it’s over 500 years old, about 60 meters tall, and famous all over Costa Rica.

Here I am standing at the base of the Ceiba tree.

And here’s a view of the whole tree. I’m still standing at the base, as Mike has helpfully pointed out. In fact, he copied my image and stacked it 25 times in the picture. Not that that is even an acurate representation of the tree’s height since the perspective is from a hill above it…

The next day on our Tour de Arenal we splurged BIG TIME. We stayed at a top-notch hot springs resort at the base of the Arenal volcano. It’s called Tabacon, and I posted a link to its web site on the left too, if you’re interested. The hotel room was plush and we were even supplied fluffy robes, but the best part by far was the hot springs resort. Built right in the midst of the jungle, the resort had multiple pools of varying temperatures tucked away between trees and flowers. Some of the pools looked like typical resort pools with slides or fake waterfalls or wet bars, but there were others that were more carefully integrated into the surroundings. Many pools were very natural-looking, and Mike an I weren’t really sure how much of the place had been constructed and how much was pre-existing. There were waterfalls and rocky streams everywhere. The black volcanic rock lined many of the pools and slightly smaller rocks made up the bottoms. It was heavenly to sit in those hot springs after all the biking we’ve done, and especially nice once the rain started coming down. Since we were staying at the hotel, we had access to the hot springs for both our check-in and our check-out days. We took advantage of both and didn’t leave on the second day until after 3:00. We purposely planned a very short day of biking to a town called La Fortuna.

A nice stock photo of resort lounge chairs.

A pretty plant by the pool.

Even the food was pretty.

Here I am sitting in one of the waterfalls at the hot springs. Not the most attractive expression on my face, but I’m sure you’ve come to expect that by now — besides, that water was HOT! Can you tell how much darker my arms are than my legs? They see a lot more sunlight. You can also kind of make out my sandal tan. That’ll be cute with my shoes for Kristen’s wedding.

Even the streams at Tabacon were hot.

There were beautiful plants and flowers surrounding all of the pools.

Mike is lounging in one of the hot springs and I’m the photographer for a change.

Mike getting pounded by a hot waterfall.

On the way from Tabacon the volcano sent up a few puffs of smoke in a small eruption. We still haven’t seen any lava, but at least there was some activity. It’s quite a sight, towering overhead.

Here’s a pic of that ashy eruption.

Today we’re just chilling in Fortuna before our last stretch of biking. I’m dreading the last couple of days because we have to bike several thousand feet up to get to the airport. We only have about 120 km to go, but they might be our hardest yet. At any rate, I’ll be ready for a bit of a break back in the States.

Here are a few more pictures related to past posts:

The Taiwanese Friendship Bridge.

The mosaiced front of the Catholic church in Cañas, decorated by artist Otto Apuy.

The church’s unusually-themed jungle stained glass window.

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this before… Every so often we come across this symbol painted on the pavement in the road. I did a bit of research and found out that they mark the spot where a pedestrian has been killed by a motor vehicle. The symbol serves as a sort of memorial and a warning. There are far too many of them on the roads, if you ask me.

Mike was convinced that the Cat in the Hat was hiding from us behind this hill.

Okay, that’s it for now in terms of pictures, but I’ll fill you in on the latest poll. We had to patch or replace my tire tube 6 times between September 10th and 12th! It was pretty damn frustrating. Had to do it again just the other day, too. Hopefully, it will hold out for our last three days of biking!

6 Responses to “Arenal”
  1. jenn says:

    i know i havent written in a while but ive still been trying to find a job…and one day i walk into the mu and the “starbucks” is busy so i ask for an applicaton…i fill it out right then and hand it to the store mgr, who, happens to be greg, from the climbing gym…how odd…i guess he works there and prg…but long story short…i went in for an interview and was hired on the spot…(this was tues)…i work in mornings at the bussiness bldg…and i love every minute of it…and the free meals 4 days a week, and sat, sun, and mon off doesnt hurt either…ok new topic…because of this job ive been on campus more (and so has my car)…i definately dont want to get anymore pkg tix so i park at this church (on college betw broadway and apache) and RIDE MY BIKE to the mu to start my shift…yes i said ride my bike! i havent ridden it in, i dont know how many years, but i had josh and tempe bikes look at it…josh fixed it a little and tempe bikes told me i should pretty much give it to goodwill or something like throwing it in the trash…(the repairs would cost the amt to get a new bike anyway)…so for the time being (until i get paid)…i will by happy riding my “about to fall apart at any moment but i hope it wont till i get a new one” bikeon the third note…i just started to get a little sick (scratchy throat, sniffy nose, watey eyes, etc…so just be aware when you come back to the states, there is a “bug” going around…be careful what you eat…(different cultures and what not = different food digestion stuff)…ok, this is all for now…i cant wait to see you guys

  2. Anonymous says:

    Jackie and Mike,I think your post on Arenal is your best one yet. The pictures are great and just the way you write about it makes us want to go to Costa Rica. That tree is amazing and the spa you described with all of the pools sounds fantastic. I am very glad you are doing this blog – it really has kept us in touch with what you have been experiencing. See you in a couple of days. Dad

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh and one other thing. Jackie try to bring along as many pictures as you can. It would be great if we could then drop them into a slide show and project them while you tell us about the experiences you have had. Dad

  4. Anonymous says:

    Amazing stories, pics & adventure. Can’t wait to see you. xo, Aunt kathy

  5. Kristen says:

    What’s up model? You look hot it those spa pictures! I think it’s neat that you splurged and stayed in a touristy resort – you don’t find places that beautiful very often! Josh and I just got back from picking up our new car (a 2003 red Ford Explorer) in MN. It’s pretty nice! But I will miss the Jeep. 😦 So, 13 days until the wedding and only 5 until I see you!! I am so very excited you can’t imagine! Have a fun next couple days before you get to the midwest. See you soon Sis! Love ya!

  6. Dr_Omega says:

    What awesome pics! I love waterfall pounding Mike,Jax in the springs & even the huge hole in the road. I feel like I have been with you on this trip- minus the sore muscles,mud,rat & the other fun stuff you have endured.Can’t wait to see you Mike. Jackie, I hope you & your family have a fantastic time together.Give the bride & groom our best wishes. Have safe flights home you guys! Love Mom Z

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