costa rica   |  august 6-13, 2005  |  eileen home









I had a party in my room Friday night, so Kate and I got exactly one hour of sleep between cleaning up and leaving at 4 am for the airport.  Still, it worked out well because we slept through both entire flights.  We arrived at the airport in Guanacaste and took a rocky cab ride to the hotel, located between Playa Panama and Playa Hermosa.  At the resort, we slept some more…


…and slept much of the next day, too!  (It had been a tough week leading up to the trip).  The resort was great – recently renovated, tasty food, beautiful rooms, and even monkeys living in the forest by the beach.  The weather was rather cloudy for the trip, but we lucked out overall because it was supposed to be the rainy season but it didn’t rain very much.  On TV they were calling it “mini-summer,” the CR equivalent of Indian summer, I suppose.  Click for arrival and resort pictures.





We booked a tour with Ricardo Vargas for a full day trip to Arenal Volcano.  Ricardo picked us up in a van at 8am and the four of us had a private tour, which was nice.  Though not far, it takes three hours one way from the hotel to Arenal, with many parts of the road unpaved.  Along the way, we stopped to visit the home of some rescued wildcats – keeping wild animals as pets is prohibited in CR and some of the weaker seized animals are kept at a shelter.  We also stopped to take pictures of Lake Arenal and eat lunch. 


The lake was formed by damming of Rio Arenal. Ricardo said the villagers that were displaced by the creation of the lake were happy to relocate because their town had been constantly threatened by eruptions of Arenal.  Today Lake Arenal is a popular site for European and American retirement communities, and contributes to Costa Rica’s 90% hydroelectric power supply (5% wind, 5% geothermal).  The volcano itself is active, and feeds nearby hot springs.  We hiked through the rainforest surrounding the volcano, and then relaxed in the hot springs (which are nicely landscaped in conjunction with the spa resort located there).  On clear nights you can see red lava and rocks spewing out of the volcano, but it was completely overcast for us.  After dinner, Ricardo drove us three bumpy hours home, arriving around 11:30pm.  We very nearly ran over a skunk that sprayed the front of the van.  Fortunately this happened within a mile of the hotel because it was stinky!  Click for Arenal tour pictures.







We spent this day at the hotel and the beach.  I enjoyed photographing resort flora and fauna, though I didn’t have a lot of patience in the sticky heat.






We took another Vargas tour this day, this time with Manuel and a larger group from the hotel.  He drove us to Palo Verde National Park where we enjoyed a nice wildlife-watching river boat ride and tasty “typical” lunch.  Click for Palo Verde pictures.














I was really psyched to try scuba diving with Kate today, but unfortunately I couldn’t get comfortable with breathing underwater in the crash course we got.  Kate did it, though!  During the dives, the boat captain kept me entertained by teaching me snorkeling and dancing.   I was impressed with the people we met on the dives – adventurous, friendly, respectful....those are the “cool” tourists!  There was a family with two boys (scuba-certified at ten), and they gave us a ride home afterwards.   


The snorkeling I learned came in handy on this day – Kate and I were lying on the beach (Boo and Angel were off on the canopy tour) and people came and offered to take us out on a boat to visit some of the same places we had been on the dive boat.  I regretted not having my camera with me on Thursday so I was happy to go back.  We visited a pretty beach that had velvety sand (partly black volcanic), nice views, and a little sea cave.  They also took us to two coral reefs, and the snorkeling was great!  Kate assures me it was just like scuba (except for the white-tipped sharks).  We saw lots of colorful tropical fish, and a couple blowfish.  The boat driver chased a blowfish and picked it up out of the water when it inflated, which was both sad and hilarious.   At night Kate and I spent a couple token hours out on nearby Coco Beach, our last night in Costa Rica.  We didn’t get a chance to meet up with any new CR friends, so we walked around…music-listening and people-watching.   Click for Friday pictures.






Boo and Angel called up the taxi driver who had driven us from the airport a week ago to take us back.  On the way there a rock tore through one of the tires and we got an impressive flat.  Now I’m not so sure the unpaved “shortcut” is worth it.  We got to the airport with plenty of time left for standing in a series of long lines before departure.  Click for traveling pictures.



Leftover pictures