After our lovely stay at Finca Rosa Blanca in the suburb of San Jose, we headed North into the Mountains of Costa Rica. The area we were headed to was Arenal Volcano National Park
in the Alajuela Province, home of the active Arenal Volcano and a beautiful Arenal Lake, where we were going to spend the next 3 days and explore the area.
– Getting to Arenal Volcano –
When driving to the Arenal area, make sure to take Route 126, and not highway 702. It might be 20-30 minutes slower but as they say in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida!” The road which takes you up and through the mountains has some of the most amazing and scenic views in all of Costa Rica. We ended up stopping 3 or 4 times on our drive just to slow down and take in the views of the beautiful hills, valleys, pastures and jungle all around us.
Tip: In some places, an already narrow 2 lane road becomes a single-lane crossing bridge. If you see an upside-down triangle that says “Ceda el Paso”, slow down and let the oncoming traffic go first. If you don’t see the sign – the oncoming traffic will let you pass first.
La Paz Waterfall
About halfway through our drive, we came across the beautiful La Paz waterfall right on the side of the road. It was such an unexpected and pleasant surprise, that at first Maxim drove right past it. But then we just had to turn around, park, and take some photos. And we weren’t the only ones – there were quite a few locals taking photos at the waterfall as well. And the best part was that we did not have to buy any tickets or hire a guide for it – the road literally led us there. There is so much raw natural beauty in Costa Rica seemingly everywhere you look.
Another popular stop on the way to Arenal is Poás Volcano, one of the biggest volcanos in Costa Rica and one of the biggest volcano craters in the world. It was only a 20 minute detour on our way BUT the secret is that you have to get to Poás early – preferably before 9 a.m. as it gets covered in clouds later on in the day and you have almost no visibility of the crater and the lake located in it. The cloud-covered top is exactly what we saw driving by so we decided not to stop. However if you do go, you can Get Tickets Here.
Instead, we pulled over at an unmarked canyon – one of many picturesque places on our drive, and had a lovely lunch before arriving at our next destination.
– Stay at Casa Luna –
There are many hotel options in the Arenal area. Arenal Volcano, active from 1968 all the way up to 2010, is still a big draw for tourists from all over the world. The area boasts all sorts of excursions like hiking, zip-lining, horseback riding, atv tours, spelunking, bird watching, boat tours and mountain climbing – almost any type of outdoor activity you can think of. The hotel we ended up staying at was Casa Luna Hotel & Spa with a magnificent view of the Arenal Volcano right in our backyard!
Casa Luna boasts an onsite spa, restaurant with complimentary breakfast and a wonderful front desk who will provide you with a list of recommended activities, their description and cost upon your arrival. You can book it right through them which is very helpful and makes the hassle of finding something to do that much easier. The highlight of the property for me was the centrally located pool and 4 separate private hot tubs surrounded by lush vegetation. A perfect way to relax after a long day of activities!
And of course, I had to do a little photoshoot and serve some bathing suit looks for you, Gems. Absolutely love the scallop neck and thigh details on this off-the-shoulder one-piece. Simple but still a head-turning piece for sure.
– Get the Look –
– Exploring the Area –
Ok, so we were quite exhausted after our drive and ended up spending the rest of the day going to a nearby restaurant and lounging by the pool. However, the next day, we had to decide between zip-lining, exploring the caves, hanging bridges and so many other activities that we could do. I really wanted to do an ATV tour as I’ve never ridden one before and this is what we did! We booked a tour from Arenal Travel Guide, and headed out on an adventure
We started our ride on a cattle ranch with some rough terrain, mud and water pits. None of which was a challenge for a powerful ATV that me and Maxim would take turns riding…
Next, we left the farm and drove on paved roads before heading into the hills and rougher terrain once again…
And finally, we arrived at a beautiful river in the middle of the forest. After a long day of riding, soaking our feet felt simply amazing. The water was cool and refreshing on a hot summer day and the powerful current melted away all of my tension. It was a moment of simple “Pura Vida”.
Tip: Costa Ricans (Ticos) love to say “Pura Vida”. It literally translates to “Pure Life” but means so many different things and it’s more of an outlook on life – life is good; take it easy; don’t worry, be happy! Feel free to say “Pura Vida” in place of an informal hello or goodbye as well.
– Hot Springs –
The Hot Springs (Termales) was next on our list of things to check out in Arenal. That same volcano that heats up hot lava also heats up underground water that then gets pushed to the surface of the earth, creating a natural hot spring. The mineral water is said to have therapeutic and healing properties as a result. So we just had to find out for ourselves.
There are many Termales in the area, usually with a hotel or a resort attached to them, that harness the power of natural hot springs. However, you don’t have to stay at the property to enjoy the benefits of their pools and hot tubs. Most places offer a single day pass for anyone who wants to visit the natural spa for a day. Some of the most popular locations are Baldi, Tabacón, and Paradise Hot Springs. We ended up choosing Paradise and had an absolutely amazing experience there.
I loved the variety of pools that Paradise offered – from really hot tubs where I could only spend 10-15 minutes, to cooler main pools, mini waterfalls that you could go under, and a swim-up bar. We ended up spending the whole day there and it was such a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. I definitely recommend it when visiting Arenal Volcano Park.
Tip: On a budget or feeling adventurous? There are free local hot springs in the town of La Fortuna. You won’t get any of the amenities – it’s literally a running hot river under a bridge – but it also won’t break your bank. Get directions here.
– Where to Eat –
Finally, after a long day of ATV rides and relaxing in termales, we got hungry. El Chante Verde is a lovely restaurant, which we seriously lucked out with because it was within walking distance from our hotel, Casa Luna. It’s vegetarian and vegan friendly which can be a struggle for me to find when traveling.
I got a portabello burger with fries on a homemade bun which was fluffy and oh so tasty. Maxim ordered a traditional Costa Rican Casado dish which was a little bit of everything – rice, beans, salad, fish, fried plantains, corn on the cob and a fried egg. For starters, we shared veggie skewers marinated in soy sauce which were to die for. We loved the food and the atmosphere so much that we ended up going there again for breakfast and dinner the next day!
Tip: Some alcohol tips. Imperial is the most popular beer in Costa Rica, but I found Pilsen to be a better beer with more bitterness and similarity to Heineken rather than a Bud Light or Imperial. Also try Cacique Guaro which is a sugarcane-based national liquor and a chili guaro shot made with it. Finally, try Café Rica, a coffee liquor made with famous Costa Rican coffee.