Vulcan Arenal


The 7 September weekend trip was to Vulcan Arenal, with some scenic stops and a short class 3 whitewater raft trip on Rio Sarapiqui on the way. The first stop was at a coffee plantation. Costa Rica is a big coffee growing country, but the prices have been really bad since Vietnam started flooding the market with low quality beans in the '90's. An abundance of cheap low quality coffee had the effect of driving down the price of all coffee, even the premium stuff, so coffee growers all over the world are struggling. Some coffee growers in Costa Rica are trying to compensate for low prices by attracting tourists. Costa Rica grows excellent coffee, which I have been ordering over the internet since getting back to the U.S. All that aside, this is what one coffee plantation looks like:



The raft trip was fun, the water was low and there were a fair number of rocks to avoid, but no killer rapids. Sorry, no pictures, I didn't take my camera. From there we headed to the a waterfall, I think it was the Catarata de La Fortuna. It was photogenic:




Still on the way to Vulcan Arenal the guide made a detour to a bridge where he knew we could find iguanas. The bridge was over a ravine with a river and trees, and the top of one of the trees was next to the bridge. Not only did this tree have iguanas, on this occasion it had a three toed sloth with a baby. This was a National Geographic moment, I doubt I will ever get a better sloth shot:









Finally, the volcano. Vulcan Arenal has been erupting more or less continuously since 1968. Prior to 1968 it had been quiet for centuries, so the eruption caught quite a few people by surprise, killing 80. It has killed some tourists since then who tried to climb it, so now the park employees are trying to discourage this. Unfortunately Arenal was shy, it hid behind clouds most of the time we were there. We got a clear view of the classic cone shaped volcano as we road up:



Then the weather closed in. Here are some pictures of Lake Arenal and some of the lava flow fields caused by the eruption:







And a Costa Rica wild turkey (it's not that common to spot them):



After an unsuccessful night and day of trying to see the volcano, we visited a local hot springs spa. I couldn't resist some ham shots of myself:






Finally, as we were about to leave, the clouds briefly parted giving us a view of the volcano and a small eruption:




A bit anti-climatic I admit. Over the coming months I talked to a lot of people who visited Arenal at different times of the year; the volcano is almost always erupting and almost always hiding behind clouds. For a true postcard picture, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time there waiting for the weather to clear. Or you could buy a postcard.


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