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09 September 2011
Photo Friday: rain, rain, go away!

This week's rain has been a bummer, reminiscent of some of the heavy rains in tropical places we've visited. (Although it's much more fun to experience rain in an actual rain forest as opposed to rain flooding into your basement.) Here's a snap from the archives:

rain at Arenal Volcano
attempting to view lava flows in the rain at Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, is one of the country's top sites to visit. When I was there in 2007, it was recommended time and time again as a must-see. Unfortunately on the day I took the tour to see the lava flows, a torrential downpour blocked most of the view. I did get to see the volcano from afar under better weather conditions, but it wasn't quite the same. There's a much better pic in Marina Villatoro's guest post on Arenal.

view of Arenal from dowtown La Fortuna
view of Arenal from downtown La Fortuna

See more fabulous travel photos at Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.

* browse
all photos from La Fortuna
* browse all photos from Costa Rica
* read blog entries about La Fortuna
* read Marina Villatoro's guest post: Arenal Volcano

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13 November 2009
Guest Post: Arenal Volcano

This is our first guest post, by our friend Marina Villatoro of Travel Experta (her bio is below). If you're interested in contributing a guest post to Pulpology, drop us a line!

The Arenal volcano is a 1,633 meter high mountain with a perfect conic shape and a crater of 140 meters. It is geologically considered a young volcano and its age is estimated to be less than 3,000 years. The locals also know it as "Arenal Peak,"  "Pan de Azúcar," "The Canaste Volcano," "The Costa Rica," "Río Frío Volcano" or "The Guatusos Peak". It is located in the northern region.

arenal volcano

It was asleep for hundreds of years and had a single crater with minor fumaroles covered by dense vegetation. In 1968 it had an eruption that created three more craters on the western flanks but only one of them exists today. Arenal is considered to be Costa Rica's most active volcano and almost every night the crater offers a spectacular show of lights with its explosive eruptions, creating the most amazing views. Although the main attraction is the Arenal Volcano, the area offers much more:

Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano is actually part of this national park. There is also a second volcano called Cerro Chato, which has been inactive for around 3500 years. The park is part of the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area that protects 16 protected reserves in the region between the Guanacaste and Tilarán mountain ranges including Lake Arenal.

Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal
Lake Arenal was originally a small lagoon, but in 1973 the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity built a dam and within three years, this became the biggest lake in Costa Rica with a surface of 88 square kilometers. It is a wonderful place to windsurf or do some sport fishing.

La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna Waterfall
This is the most popular excursion in the area, after Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. The waterfall is reached by a 5.5 kilometer gravel road. On foot it takes about an hour to get there, but you can also visit it by horse or by car. Bird watching is also very popular in this area. Once you have reached the waterfall, you can take a trail that will lead you to a natural pool where you can go for a swim.

Arenal Hanging Bridges

The Arenal Hanging Bridges
Here you will find eight bridges measuring between 8 and 22 meters and six hanging bridges that vary between 48 and 98 meters. From there you will have a great view of both the Arenal Volcano and the lake. Some of the most popular activities here are the natural history walk, early morning tour, bird watching and night walks.

Venado Caves

The Venado Caves
The Venado Caves are located in the village with the same name, about an hour by car from La Fortuna, to the north of Arenal Volcano. Water is what formed the caves many million years ago. Presently, the caves consist of limestone rocks, stalactites, stalagmites and corals. It has a total length of approximately 2.5 kilometer with 10 large quarters. During the rainy season the tunnels can get filled with water. This is the reason access by visitors is forbidden in this season.

Cano Negro

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
The 10,000-hectare reserve of Caño Negro has the most biological diversity in Costa Rica. There are trails and paths, but the easiest way to access it is by boat. The Rio Frio flows through it and during the wet season it becomes an 800 hectare lake. The reserve is especially popular among birdwatchers and sport fishers.

Penas Blancas

Peñas Blancas Wildlife Refuge
This 2400-hectare refuge was created to protect plant species and the watershed of the rivers Ciruelas and Barranca. The river canyons were formed million years ago when Central America was covered by the sea, by unicellular algae that built up deposits and transformed into chalk like stone.

Marina VillatoroAbout the author: Marina has been living in Central America for over 7 years and her site Travel Experta is all about traveling in Central America. Marina loves to help people plan the perfect vacation to this amazing part of the world! You can sign up for her RSS feed and join the fun on her Facebook fan page and follow her on Twitter at @MarinaVillatoro.



Related posts:
Spelunk! tales from the Venado Caves
* Waterfalls and volcanoes and hot springs, oh my!
* Adios PSE, and on to La Fortuna!


If you enjoyed this post, please help us spread the word!

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21 July 2007
Skeeters and David Hasselhoff
From La Fortuna to Alajuela

I have to say, I am pretty glad to be leaving this place. It´s not just the sweltering humidity, ants everywhere (I don´t think I´ve ever seen ants in a microwave before), or the strange geisha-like relationship grumpy Gringo Pete has with his Tica helpers. Nor the fact that Julia has headed off in a different direction, and after traveling with her for about a week I will definitely miss her stellar company. No, the worst thing about this place is that the mosquitoes are absolutely VICIOUS!!! And thanks to those hearty Zamborsky genes I seem to attract every bug in the country, no matter where I go. I´ve noticed that the skeeters are different in different parts of Costa Rica... on the Pacific Coast, they left little red bumps that only started itching a few days later... blessedly there weren´t any in Monteverde... and here in La Fortuna they actually create a puncture wound. I nailed one of ´em in the shower yesterday and it left a nasty bloody splat on the wall. No amount of bug spray seems to help, either. Thank goodness for chloroquinine! Maybe I should take up drinking gin & tonics...

Anyway... as glad as I am to be heading out, I´m a bit nervous about hitting San Jose. It´s supposed to be a pretty nasty place, especially after dark. There´s a direct shuttle there from La Fortuna, but it was full today, so I´m taking the public bus and from there will need to find my way to Alajuela, a suburb of San Jose where a recommended guesthouse is located. I was prepared for a series of misadventures.

Kathrin knows the way to San JoseHowever, it went much better than expected! Sometimes that happens, and you just have to be glad for it. For starters, I had a companion on the trip, a German girl named Kathrin who also found us a faster bus into San Jose. The "directo" was scheduled to leave around 12:30 and get into San Jose around 6pm. However, she discovered a not-so-directo bus that went to San Rámon, at which point we´d switch buses and the one I took passed right through Alajuela. So not only did I get into Alajuela about an hour earlier, I didn´t even need to set foot in San Jose. Sweeeet!

La Jefe de la Casa, MargaritaI arrived at Casita Margarita by taxi from the Alajuela bus station, and was ferried into the house by a very sweet 50-something woman, none other than Margarita herself. She was surprised to see me so early, as I´d told her the previous day over the phone that I didn´t expect to be there much before 7pm. She poured me a cup of coffee in her kitchen, and I chatted with her for a few minutes before her 86-year-old mother shuffled in. We continued to have a pleasant conversation, during which Abuelita was duly impressed that I had a 96-year-old grandmother. Hearty peasant stock strikes again!

Oooooh, David Hasselhoff is dreeeeeeamy!I also met Steffi and Fabian, two German students who were studying Spanish and working at the bird sanctuary next door. But the highlight of the tour of the house was the signed photo of David Hasselhoff, who apparently stayed at the guesthouse a short while ago. Not sure what he was doing at a $20/night guesthouse in the suburbs of San Jose... maybe it was Margarita´s excellent cooking that brought him there. Who knows? Anyway, it was a source of amusement for all, and many Baywatch jokes were bandied about. 

This place rocks. The $20 price tag was a bit steeper than I´d been used to, but when you consider that three stellar homecooked meals and laundry were included, not to mention a private bedroom & bathroom with the hottest shower I´ve encountered yet, it´s actually a bargain. And it´s nice to be in a home where you are treated as part of the family.

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19 July 2007
tales from the Venado caves

Woo-hoo! The blog is up and running! It´s going to take me a while to backfill the entries from Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, and La Fortuna. And I´m still figuring out how this all works, so bear with me while I get everything in order. In the meantime, I´ll entertain you with tales of spelunking.

For starters, the word "spelunk" is just about the funnest word ever. Use it three times in a sentence today! It´s fun for the whole family! So when my travelbuddy Julia suggested we take a spelunking trip through some rainforest caves, I was all over it. Our guide Guillermo ("Memo" to his friends) picked us up and drove us out to the cave site, stopping briefly at his house to pick up boots and towels. On the 45-minute journey out there, he showed us a promo video depicting people slogging through cave tunnels and sloshing through water, which was meant to serve several purposes. First, here´s a taste of what you´ll be doing. Anyone with bad knees or fear or bats need not continue. Second, check out these great pics you can get from our photographer! Third, seriously, we really don´t want you to schelp your camera around in the muck, you´re much better off letting us handle the pics. OK, point taken. Julia and I agreed to split the $20 fee and share the CD between the two of us.

Sliding on our boots (mmmmm, like slippery bowling shoes!) and helmets with attached flashlight (I´m sure there´s some ridiculously technical term for this device) and feeling ever-so-sexy, we splashed off through the rain to the cave entrance. After double-checking that none of us had any bat phobias, Memo led us into the cavern. The next two hours were filled with scrambling over slippery rocks, wading waist-high through a rushing underwater river, checking out the bats and spiders and other creepy critters, and having an absolutely marvelously muddy time.

Julia got the photo CD, so you´ll have to wait till she gets back to Miami and sends me the pics for the evidence, but trust me when I say that this was one of the most fun tours we´ve done so far. The "Totally ´80s" videos on the ride home brought out some hilarious commentary from our spelunk-mates... my favorite being "Yeah, they´re the one-hit wonder band without the one hit." Good times, good times.

Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 1 comment
18 July 2007
Waterfalls and Volcanoes and Hot Springs, oh my!
A busy turista day
I am getting more exercise on this trip than I ever thought possible. Definitely better than sitting in a beige cubicle staring at a computer, no doubt.

First stop was a trip out to the Reserva Ecológica Catarata Rio Fortuna. We´d been warned that the walk out there was mostly uphill and not-so-nice, so we grabbed a cab ride from a funny little guy who jabbered at us in Spanish the entire time. He insisted on picking us up at 11:30 after we´d hiked the falls, and wouldn´t take no for an answer so we gave up trying.

oktapodi digs the Catarata Rio Fortuna We did get plenty of exercise from the hike down to (and course back up from) the enormous waterfall. It started out as a leisurely stroll over a bridge or two, but rapidly devolved into a downward spiral of a million crumbly stairs. It was totally worth it, though. The waterfall was AWESOME in every sense of the word. Powerful spray, strong current under the falls, beautiful river flowing over huge rocks and down to a more tranquil watering hole with fish. (And of course the obligatory dog... how the heck did he get down here???) Of course we jumped in for a swim under the falls -- after all, the prohibition against it was merely a "recommendation" -- and the water was FREEZING! There was a pretty good-sized crowd there, and it was funny to watch everyone´s shocked reactions as they jumped in.

another "life doesn´t suck" momentBetween the strong current and nipplicious temperature, it wasn´t possible to stay in the water for very long, so we got out and tried to dry ourselves, which was tough to do in the wicked spray. But it *was* tremendously relaxing, or rather not so much relaxing as tremendously invigorating and cleansing and energizing to be in the presence of such a force of nature.

William knows 10 uses for a heliconia plantBack to Gringo Pete´s (which wasn´t such a bad walk, downhill) and just barely enough time for a quick change of clothes before our 3:15 volcano/hot springs tour. They picked us up right outside our door, and our guide William was incredible. He was a native of the area who´d been around for the 1968 eruption and hikes the "dangerous" side of the active Volcán Arenál  regularly. He had some cool stories and pics from various rescue missions as well as anecdotes about tribal uses for various plants found in the forest on the slopes of the volcano. He decided his life would be a lot easier if he learned English and joined the tourist trade, which was almost nonexistent 20 years ago when the first backpackers strolled down the streets of La Fortuna and the locals opened up their doors and windows to gawk.

The view of the lava flows was mostly impeded by torrential rains and low clouds, but we were still able to see a few red chunks rolling down the side of the mountain. Even standing
in the pouring rain, shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists from every country around the world, it was still pretty dope.

Baldi Hot Springs And so it was a welcome relief to get to the hot springs! A bit smaller and less crowded than the nearby Tabacón, Baldi Hot Springs is a series of mineral pools lined with natural stone, heated by the nearby volcano. Each is a different temperature, and some have waterfalls or swim-up bars. Julia and I decided it looked a lot like something out of "The Flintstones," like someplace Wilma and Betty might go for their spa treatments. Sadly, we couldn´t persuade the cheesy Tom Cruise-wannabe waiter flipping liquor bottles to give us any free drinks. But e
very once in a while when the clouds cleared, you could get a quick glimpse of the glowing red cone of the volcano right next door. Sweeeeeet.

Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
17 July 2007
Adios, PSE, and on to La Fortuna!
A travel day. They´re always a bit stressful, having to do the whole packing dance (oh, how I HATE packing!), and schlepping your stuff into some random vehicle, and not knowing exactly where you´re going to wind up sleeping that night. Even with the pre-arranged "Jeep-Boat-Jeep" ride in this case, it was still a tiring day.

Plus, having to say goodbye to Pensión Santa Elena was a bit sad. You never forget your first, and I suspect this hostel will have spoiled me for all future ones. But we´ll see.

ferry across Lake ArenálThe Jeep-Boat-Jeep trip is a convenient way to get from Monteverde to La Fortuna, and takes about three or four hours where the public bus would take at least triple that. You actually take a tourist minivan on either side of the lake, not a jeep, but let´s not split hairs. The ride across Lake Arenál, with the volcano looming in the distance, is quite beautiful, even moreso when mysterious clouds cover the volcano´s cone.

We had them drop us off at Gringo Pete´s, a festive purple building just off the main drag in La Fortuna. It seemed nice enough -- and you just can´t beat $3 a night! -- but the vibe seemed a little... off... Anyway, we trekked down to the grocery store, determined to make use of the grill in the backyard of the hostel. And what an adventure that was! Some German dude helped us move the grill (away from his laundry, oh ye of little faith) and helped us stack the huge chunks of charcoal in the correct teepee formation. After some coaxing, and the use of some funky little starter bricks called "Chispa!" we got the coals to catch. Fire! Fire! Fire! The burgers (precooked frozen patties, sadly, were all we could find) turned out pretty well, even with processed cheesefood slices. The corn was an utter failure, but hey, nobody´s perfect.
Julia hefts a giant bag of charcoal that is approximately the same size she is Chispa! fire!fire!fire! Julia works the grill grrrrrrrreat success!

Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments