In 1968, the quiet town of La Fortuna experienced an event that changed their existence forever: a massive eruption that buried over 15 km of land and killed 87 people. Little known to the outside world prior to the eruption, tourists have since been flocking to Arenal to see its mini-eruptions. When we arrived, we learned that the volcano has not been spewing lava for more than eight months. We were disappointed since we wanted to see lava against the dark of the night. Be forewarned, since I think most recent visitors were unaware of this fact.
There are different route offerings from Monteverde to Arenal, the fastest being the jeep-boat-jeep combination. It costs $22 but we were informed by a hostelmate that there is also a bus-boat-bus combination offered by Eagle Tours that is half the price. Most hostels, we found, did not advertise this, although they were aware that it existed. Instead of picking us up at the hostel, we had to walk to the Eagle Tours office. It was no big deal since the town is really small. We allotted 30 minutes, but we got there in 5.
The “bus” was in fact a small shuttle, probably because my friend and I were the only ones who booked it for that time. It took about 1.5 hours to get to Lake Arenal and we were greeted by an empty boat. It took another 20 minutes to get across Lake Arenal. It was a clear day so we got to see the entire volcano for which we felt lucky since it got cloudier as the day passed. We never saw the top of the volcano again. We also felt pretty lucky to have this private ride, especially since when we docked, we saw all the other boats were filled with people.
We arrived in the middle of the morning, so there really wasn’t much we could do. The hike up to the viewpoint at Arenal is done in the afternoon and it was too late to do a kayaking or hiking tour since they start early in the morning. We decided that our first day in Arenal would be spent pampering ourselves: massage, hike, hot springs.
Initially, we wanted to do the hike and the hot springs on our own. But it was cheaper to do it with a tour. We were lucky again, as my friend and I were the only ones who booked it that day. Another private ride! Our guide Max was really good, familiar with the area and had an almost zen-like approach to nature. He and our driver, Stefan, were diligent about finding us animals. We spotted a toucan, the animal I most wanted to see. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the keel-billed one, but still cool nonetheless. We also saw sloths, howler monkeys and white-throated magpie jays.
The hike up to the base of Arenal was nice as we saw a wicked sunset over the lake.
We also got a fantastic view of the surrounding area and a good look at Arenal which was covered in clouds.
Afterwards, we headed to Tabacon Hot Springs. It’s quite expensive for what it is but it was well-worth the money. The pools were beautiful, natural looking with waterfalls and rocks. An hour was sufficient in the therapeutic springs. Pruney, we headed to the buffet and stuffed ourselves silly with food and desserts.
Arenal was fun times but I think a day is enough. There wasn’t much to do outside of the pampering. Be prepared to spends lots of money!