Our first Costa Rica destination was in the northern mountains about a three-hour drive from San Jose airport. Driving in remote areas of Costa Rica is risky and challenging. There are no road signs and every village and rural road has several turn offs with no names or markers. Much better to take a shuttle which we’d arranged when we were planning our trip. On the drive from San Jose, our driver must have made three or four hundred turns in the hills and along narrow country roads. At night, it’s dark with no moonlight. The only lights are those burning in rural homes or a few neon signs in front of markets, restaurants, or gas stations.
We’d arranged to spend three nights at Arenal Paraiso, in the hills 7 kilometers above the village of La Fortuna. The short drive from La Fortuna passes many similar jungle lodges and resorts, all in beautiful settings with dense foliage, blooming flowers, and native birds. Several lodges had spas or hot springs; this is geothermal country in Arenal Volcano National Park.
The view from our patio was of cloud covered Arenal Volcano which violently erupted in 1968 after four centuries of being dormant. The eruption wiped out three village, killed 87 people, and created four new craters. Arenal is an active volcano, with eruptions and explosions occurring as recently as 1998.
Arenal is a relatively new volcano, estimated to be 7500 years old, a brief time in geological history. Costa Rica has four active volcanoes and several dormant ones, mostly in the north.
One afternoon during lunch at the lodge restaurant, we saw folks outside pointing up in the trees. We went out to see what they were looking at and saw a sloth about ten meters above us in the trees. He was moving slowly, branch to branch, until he settled into the crook of the tree. Delightful site, our first view of a sloth in the wild.
Our second day we faced a heavy downpour that lasted several hours. We canceled a zip line and jungle canopy tour, not wanting to get soaked and slip slid on muddy trails.
After the rain let up, we took a taxi into La Fortuna to have lunch, walk in the park, and get a taste of a rural Costa Rica village. We had another shower when were in the village and ran for the sanctuary of a small church where others were huddled on a veranda. The catholic church was open and well light with open windows and side doors.
On to Monteverde
After three nights at Arenal Paraiso, we took a bus to Lake Arenal where we boarded a small boat for an hour trip to the southern shore in the national park. On the boat ride, we had another view of Arenal.
When we arrived on the southern shore of Lake Arenal, we got in a van with another half-dozen travelers for an hour and a half bumpy ride over Costa Rica rural roads. Out destination was the cloud forest at Monteverde where we’d spend the next two nights and take a tour in a nature preserve at 5,000 feet elevation. We had no idea we’d be buffeted by strong winds, dense clouds, and rain.
Next: Monteverde cloud forest
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