Costa Rica Diary Day 3 – Volcán Arenal National Park

Volcan Arenal National Park Map
Volcan Arenal National Park Map

It rained in the night. A lot. We went to bed in a cabin surrounded by gardens and woke up surrounded by a moat. As I get older I find it harder to deal with the change in time zones so I am awake (and hungry) by 5 am. Luckily, there is some leftover pizza bread in the fridge and I sit and watch the visitors on the tree outside our room as the sun rises – so far today there have been squirrels and dozens of different birds, including woodpeckers, hummingbirds and 4 toucans.

Toucans
Toucans

We decide to stick with our original plan to go to Volcán Arenal National Park, despite the fact that the volcano is barely visible behind the clouds.

Warning Sign of the day

The 10 mile drive to the National Park is uneventful, apart from an emergency stop for a couple of coati in the middle of the road (actually it’s more of an emergency stop for a couple of cyclists who brake suddenly to take photos of the coatis). Then we have to go off road. Very off road. We decide to start with the Sector Península where a mile long trail takes you to a lookout over Lake Arenal. First, we have to reach the entrance, which involves a 1.5 mile drive along a very bumpy track. As we bounce our way over the rocks, we’re suddenly very grateful to Mex Rent a Car for giving us such a decrepit vehicle.

Road to Sector Peninsula
Road to Sector Peninsula

We reach the entrance, fork out the £25 foreigners’ entrance fees and consult the map; Costa Rican national parks are very eco friendly, there are no paper maps or guides available, so it is necessary to consult the map, and preferably take a screen shot before setting off.

Sector Peninsula
Sector Peninsula

We set off along the Sendero los Miradores, which is surprisingly well paved bearing in mind the road we had to drive down to reach it. The trail leads through the rainforest to a platform over the lake, where you can take photos (as long as you watch out for crocodiles). Half way down is an observation tower you can climb for views of the lake and the volcano (in theory, although it’s still shrouded by cloud).

Observation Tower
Observation Tower
View from Observation Tower
View from Observation Tower

We return to our car via Sendero Tororoi, which returns, via a lot of steps and a bridge, to the car park. We can hear, but not see, howler monkeys in the trees around us.

Sendero Tororoi
Sendero Tororoi

We return along the bouncy track to the Sector Volcán. Here we follow two more hiking trails; Sendero las Coladas, which takes us to a bridge where we can climb onto a lava flow created when the volcano erupted in 1992.

Sendero Las Coladas
Sendero Las Coladas
Lava Flow
Lava Flow

Then we return via Sendero el Ceibo. I’m not sure what Ceibo means, so look up the translation; Ceiba Tree (helpful) it turns out this one is 400 years old and 30 metres tall. It’s so big you can climb in between its massive roots.

El Ceibo
El Ceibo

It has rained on and off all day, but as we are almost back at the car, it starts to bucket down. We make a run for it, but still get soaked. We drive to the final lookout, the Mirador Principal, which is supposed to provide the best view of the volcano. By now, we can’t even work out where the volcano is, so we give up and head back into town.

View from Mirador

We stop at the bakery for some lunch; today’s choice is bread stuffed with cheese and fried beans. After lunch, a nap and some more bird watching, we head out to a Costa Rican restaurant. The bakery in La Fortuna is amazing but it’s time we ate something other than bread! We go to a nearby restaurant and order the Comida Tipica; a choice of meat with rice, beans, plantain, mashed potato and salad. I choose the vegetarian option which is basically the same but without the meat. All the carbs represented – they’ve even stuck some tortilla chips in the mashed potato for good measure. I should have stuck with the bakery – at least the bread had some cheese in it.

Comida Tipica
Comida Tipica

We return for another early night – it’s been a long day with a lot of walking and we are rather weary.

Author: Jane's Midlife Journey

Stopped work, started travelling. Sometimes I run - combining the two with some parkrun tourism.

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