Kris' Costa Rica Adventure! travel blog

Hola Everyone!

This morning we completed our trek down from Rara Avis to Horquetas, changed into drier clothes, and piled in the van for our trip to the La Forunta/Arenal Volcano area. The bus ride was uneventful, and we were all looking forward to checking into our hotel in La Fortuna for a hot shower and dry clothes.

La Fortuna is the gateway town for exploring Volcán Arenal and the associated national park. In addition, the area is crawling with tour companies offering any number of adventure activities you would care to try. Read more about the Arenal Volcano from a tourism perspective, and from a local perspective. From the tourism site, we find that Volcán Arenal had its largest eruption in modern times in 1968, blasting lava and molten boulders from three separate craters to form a new one, knocking nearly 165 feet (50 meters) off the elevation, and destroying the villages of Tabacón and Pueblo Nuevo killing, all of the inhabitants. Since then it has had continuous activity, and large eruptions in 1973, 1975, 1993, 2000, 2003, and 2005. Fatalities have been limited to tourists and guides that wandered too close.

Arriving in town, we expected to see a volcano towering over everything, but it was shrouded in clouds so we had no idea what to expect. We checked into the hotel Sierra Arenal on the end of town heading out toward the volcano. There were all kinds of lodging options in town, as well as further up the road to the volcano. The hotels outside of town tended to be upper-end options where you might even get more than one small towel per person per day, a hand towel for the bathroom and who knows, maybe even a wash cloth. :-)

We had some free time before dinner, so after a lukewarm shower - I think everyone was showering at the same time - I headed into town to get a hat and rain poncho. The town is centered around a park that is one small city block, and the Catholic church on the adjacent city block. Surrounding the square are all sorts of restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops. LaFortuna is yet another Costa Rican town that has made its monetary fortune through tourism as the result of the erupting volcano.

It has been becoming obvious that while Costa Rica is making a big part of its living off of eco-tourism, as in tourism connected with natural resources and conservation, this industry isn't necessarily eco-friendly. All the development overstresses what is typically a poorer infrastructure for roads, sanitation, sanitary sewers, etc. Not to mention the local environment, with every third vehicle on the road seemingly a tourist bus spewing diesel exhaust. Once a settlement or village begins to attract tourists, it can become too expensive or too unpleasant for the original inhabitants to stay. So, it is a balance I haven't quite worked out for myself. I know my dollars are contributing to the local economy and thus increasing the standard of living of a third world country, and contributing to conservation efforts, but at the same time there does seem to be a tragedy of the commons taking place.

We had dinner at the Lava Lounge, one of Blaine's favorite places in town, where Sid, Mark, Tanya and I sat at one four-top and enjoyed a couple pitchers of excellent Sangria. Then, wonder of wonders, it was off to the hot springs. Prior to the eruption of 1968, there were no hot springs. Then, several days before the eruption, locals noticed the temperature of the local river beginning to rise. Since then, the river steams. Many establishments along to road toward the volcano have taken advantage of the geothermal heating to create hot springs complexes catering to tourists. The nicest and most pricey one actually sits on Tabacon, one of the local villages destroyed by the eruption. It, as well as other resorts, actually sits inside the area of volcanic activity, and it can be evacuated if the mountain gets a bit grumbly.

We went to Baldi hot springs, 10-15 minutes of the road by van. Get an idea of what Baldi has to offer. We had about an hour and a half to enjoy the complex before it closed. The pools are of varying temperatures, ranging from cool, to 104 degrees all the way to 152! We dipped our feet in the hottest pool, and it was truly scalding. No one dared venture in.

After having spent three days of being cold and wet, it was like heaven to soak in increasingly hot pools with massaging waterfalls of varying temperatures and swim-up bars. Rara-Avis to Baldi was an amazing juxtaposition, and we were all pretty much speechless except for moans and groans of pleasure, ordering fru-fru drinks at one of the swim-up bars, and marveling at our good fortune. I enjoyed a mono loco, or crazy monkey. The nighttime added a soothing intimacy to everything and made the steam rising from each of the pools stand out in relief to the dark. While we had fun testing out the various pools, we lamented we'd gotten there too late to explore the entire property. Plans were made to return over the next two days!

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