Guide to Costa Rica : Arenal Volcano

Part one of my trip around Costa Rica can be found here!

5 days in and we had already experienced the life in the capital city of San Jose and saw wild animals roam free in the rainforest of Tortoguero so what was next? A volcano.

Now we were back on dry land our new mode of transport was a mini bus that became more like a second home. The drive to Arenal took around 5 hours but as soon as we pulled through the gates of Arenal Springs Resort we knew it was worth it.  Situated at the base of the volcano this resort felt more like its own little village than a hotel. With multiple restaurants, a tropical pool, a spa and even a golf cart system in which you could order one to give you a lift, almost like an Uber, it was the little bit of luxury we’d been craving. The long drive left me with a killer migraine but it seemed to disappear instantly as soon as I found a spot by the in-pool-bar. Funny that!

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Just as soon as we had settled in however it was time to get back in the van and head out on our next adventure. Fabio, from Wave Expeditions, greeted us at the door with a signature Costa-Rican smile as he talked us through all the safety points of the day. We were driving up stream in order to turn right around and white water raft all the way back down. I have to admit I had been rafting before but this one set the bar so high even a giraffe on top of the shard couldn’t reach it. Paddles in hand we flew over rapids and expertly manoeuvred around waterfalls. It did get a bit scary when I fell out the boat but it wasn’t too much of a concern as I was only left with a mildly bruised hip and a realisation that I should’ve paid more attention to those safety points! I think the reason this white water rafting stood out above the rest however was the water was deliciously warm. We didn’t mind getting splashed by the waves and could even get in the water and float alongside the boat when there weren’t any rocks around. It is definitely a more enjoyable experience when you don’t feel like you’ve just had an ice bath. Once safely back down the river, beers in hand, we were taken to a sugar cane plantation and taught how to make moonshine from the juice of the plant. It is safe to say that we all returned to the resort that evening in a very, very jolly mood!

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If you hadn’t gathered already from these posts, my family are not very good at doing nothing so with a new day came a new set of experiences and on this day they took place amongst the trees. It kicked off with a Sky Adventures Nature Walk. We emerged at the base of some suspense bridges high above the canopy, birds escaped from the trees below us as the structure swayed in the wind. Normally I am quite good with heights but this left my knees trembling as I shuffled along trying my best not to look down.  Luckily the stunning views over the forest and man made Arenal Reservoir was enough to take my mind off the 230ft drop below me. This was only the start of the heights though; we were about to go even higher and faster on the Sky Trek Zip Wire! Made up of 7 zip lines, the longest being The Daddy at 850m long, and with views that will sweep you off your feet, literally, this was any adrenaline junkies dream. We flew through the sky, sometimes upside down, and looked across at the Arenal Volcano that had broken through the clouds. Definitely a ‘high’light of the trip for me!

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However amazing these experiences are, the thing I love most about traveling with my family is the fun we get to have together.  That evening we chose a table in the resort that looked out over the 1,670m Volcano and played endless games of Rummy and Uno. A rule was set that whoever picked the green 5 card had to run out into the rain and shout Uno. An innocent forfeit but that green card shook all our nerves to the core and resulted in us laughing more than anyone would think a card could! Now I never go traveling without a pack of Uno cards in my bag.

For our last day in Arenal we began by getting in a lot of exercise, 400 steps of exercise to be precise. We cascaded the side of a mountain to reach the beautiful Catarata Waterfall and took a dip in the icy pool at its base. The current turned out to be a lot stronger than we anticipated so, like something from an episode of Bear Grylls Born Survivor, we all linked arms and waded through the icy stream to the safety of the bank. The waterfall stood tall at 230ft and was a hidden gem nestled amongst the forest trees. After the mammoth task of climbing back up the 400 steps we were rewarded with one of my favourite things on the planet – chocolate. Unlike your classic bar of Cadburys however this required a bit more effort. We went to a cocoa bean plantation and carried out each step of the dark chocolate making process in the style of a blue peter ‘here is what I prepared earlier’ segment. For those wondering it is…

  1. Plant the cocoa seeds
  2. Wait for them to grow
  3. Pick them when they turn yellow
  4. Dry them out
  5. Sift the husks
  6. Grind the beans either by hand or with a machine
  7. Add sugar and bean butter from the pod to make a paste
  8. Add toppings and flavourings

For my younger brother the chocolate indulgence didn’t end there either. All a bit worn out from the week we decided to head back to the resort and make full use of their spa, after all it would be criminal not to! Most of us were lathered in rich oils and massaged till we were on the brink of sleep but Lewis opted for the children’s package and the oil was swapped out for melted chocolate. I will never forget the sight of my younger brother sprinting out the spa smothered in dairy milk like the swamp monster from Scooby Doo.

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Like every good thing in life this part of the holiday had to come to an end. I think our adrenalin levels peaked, pardon the pun, in the shadow of the volcano that stands proud at the centre of this town. We flew like birds through the trees and waded through the water like sloths (I didn’t realise they swam either!) but most memorably grew closer as a family. We waved goodbye to the resort but unfortunately not the rain. That wasn’t done with us quite yet!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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LIKED THIS POST? read my other post on Guide to Costa Rica : San Jose & Tortoguero  

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