Last Full Day :(

We said goodbye to our gracious hosts, Karl and Guiselle, and headed back around the lake to La Fortuna. We wanted to hike the old lava flows that remain from the Arenal Volcano. Somehow, we passed by our original target (the Costa Ricans haven’t quite gotten the hang of giant signs and billboards with arrows and neon lights for miles, so sometimes you have to actually be paying attention), but that was OK, because we ended up driving a little farther and finding another hike with lava flows. This one, the lava vieja (yes, old lava) trail, began at Arenal Observatory Lodge. The idea was a view of Arenal Volcano and a nice, 2-hour-or-so hike before lunch. The trail technically leads up Cerro Chato, another volcano, but the Costa Rican government has banned hiking up it because of the danger. We asked, but were told that the police patrol frequently. We weren’t sure if was true or not, but weren’t willing to take the chance. Maybe next time.

If you are imagining a U.S. style switchback trail, think again. Think rainforest even in dry season can be a bit muddy. Overall, the trail was well-maintained and marked so it was fine, but it was no easy stroll. We were going up, sometimes a bit steeply. I enjoyed this hike because it seemed secret, although I’m sure it’s not. It wasn’t in the national park or the commercial site next to the park, and got to see some more of Costa Rica’s fabulous flora and fauna. Plus another couple from Illinois. No one wants to be here at the end of March.



Oh, and there was another hanging bridge.

When we got to the top of the trail, we were rewarded with … fog and clouds. As Karl put it, “Arenal is a shy volcano.” A bit disappointing, but in no way am I complaining. The view of the valley, lake, and forest were spectacular. All-in-all, a great beginning to our last day.

Our best view of Arenal Volcano, from the road to La Fortuna.

After the hike, we drove to La Fortuna for lunch and a wander. After examining the options, which mostly consisted of variations on “tipical food” and pizza, we settled on a place that Steven’s eagle eye for food noticed: The Corner, right a cross from the main park and, of course, on a corner. We had a delicious salad with lettuce, onion, pineapple, papaya, cashews, tortilla strips and ginger soy sauce dressing along with frozen ginger lemonades with the accent on ginger. Steven had a chicken crepe and I broke my vegetarianism for shrimp tacos. If you happen to be in La Fortuna, we highly recommend it. Next we wandered some souvenir shops, but didn’t find anything of particular interest, and then hit my target: the chocolate shop. Chocolate Fusion, with artisan chocolate designed for the American dollar. I would never spend $5 (HEY, HOW MUCH WERE THESE? $5 A BAR) for less than 2 ounces of chocolate at home no matter how good it was, but vacation dollars are different. Plus, this is really good chocolate. We bought a few bars and then went to the market to buy some snacks for the trip home. Did you know you can buy Smucker’s Goober Grape in Costa Rica? Finally, we hit the road, returned the car, and had a painless Uber (they say You-ber) ride to the Studio Hotel near San Jose airport.

This is not ‘Nam…There are rules.(*)

I was meditating on what we should do around the Arenal Volcano and my conclusion is that we should honor the gods and toss a virgin into the volcano. However, Sue informs me that this is against the rules.  I am very disappointed. (I hope no one is thinking of taking Steven seriously–ever.)

Instead we are going to have to look at Sue’s list of things that we are “allowed” to do.  (Did I mention how disappointed I am with the whole you can’t throw a virgin in the volcano thing?)

cavesSpelunking in the Venado Caves Apparently there are a series of caves somewhere near the volcano that are about 2 miles long.  The photos look cool and how could it not be fun when they require you to bring an extra set of clothes and knee pads! As you all remember from our summer trip out West, I do not like heights. We will see if caves bother me! (Steven has forgotten that we have been to Mammouth Caves.) Oh yeah, the website offers a “​​Experimented photographer” to follow you around and take photos/videos. My question is what sort of experiments were done on the photographer.  😉

Ziplining. As I mentioned above, I am still afraid of heights, so of course we are planning to go ziplining. There seem to be a few places that do it both in around Manuel Antonio and Arenal. Given the things that we are planning when we are near Manuel Antonio, I am thinking that this insanity will have to wait until we are near the volcano.

Hanging bridges. High (literally) on our list is going over some/all of the many hanging bridges that weave their way through the rain forest around the volcano. I saw a note on one called “The Waterfall Bridge” which is 60 meters high.  I am so glad that I have gotten over my fear of heights…

waterfallLa Fortuna Waterfall. There is a waterfall called La Fortuna. It is 200 feet tall and the hike is only about 15 minutes from the front gate. However, it is down 550 steps, so while the hike down is only 15 minutes, the hike up is by my calculations (factoring in our ages, physical condition, and level of internal grit) 22 minutes for Sue and between 6 to 8 days for me.

Hot Springs. I am not sure how this fits into the whole “I am scared of heights” motif that I have been weaving, but the idea of hiking a bunch and then lowering my old, fat sore muscles into a hot springs sounds like a keeper. One of the places offers various spa treatments including both Chocolate and  Volcanic mud wraps.  Seems like too good of an idea to turn down.

Fuck it Dude, let’s go bowling.

The very quotable Walter Sobchak

For those of you who don’t know the line above and title quote it is from the movie “The Big Lebowski”…many thanks to Walter Sobchak.




Where to Next? Costa Rica!

So remember last week when I was whining because we didn’t know where we wanted to go, but there was snow in November and just–yuck!

After looFile:Costa Rica regions map.pngking into various options, you already know that we are going to Florida for winter break. With such short notice, everything else was out of reach, but the exploration led us to decide on our spring break trip: Costa Rica here we come! Now I am really excited! I am lucky enough to have worked with someone who now lives there, and although we aren’t best buddies, he graciously gave us advice and offered his guest room to boot.

We will spend our first night on El Toledo Coffee Farm outside San Jose and wake up to breakfast (with, I’m assuming, excellent coffee!) and a tour. Then we head to the Manuel Antonio National Park area, where we will stay in the friend-recommended Hotel Costa Verde. How can you resist a hotel whose slogan is “still more monkeys than people” and has transformed an airplane fuselage into rooms? We splurged on one night in the cockpit cabin. We haven’t decided exactly what we will be doing yet, that’s for future blog posts, but we have already started making a long list, which I am sure Steven will turn into a spreadsheet (I have already started…perhaps I will allow you to see it for the next post!).

Next we will head to see my friend, who lives in the Arenal area, for a couple of nights. It is so gracious of him and his partner to offer,  we didn’t want to take advantage by staying more than that. Then, it’s back to San Jose for a night at an airport motel before we fly Southwest via Atlanta to get back home to reality.