A couple of weeks ago I shared the first part of my road tripping adventure through Costa Rica. To recap: 6 friends, 2 SUVs, 1 set of walkie-talkies, and a high level of enthusiasm for using the terms “Roger that, Crocodile Dundee” and “Over and Out.” After our plans to explore the Nicoya Peninsula were thwarted by seasonal flooding, we decided to embrace the rains and head up north instead, towards Lake Arenal.
The Itinerary: From Tamarindo drive towards Bagaces and then further upland to Volcan Tenorio. There are tons of smaller national parks to explore in this region, each boasting its unique flora and fauna. We found a great camping spot in a foggy farmer’s field, high in the hills. After enjoying a breakfast of eggs and beans, the proprietress insisted we see the Celeste Catarata, the aqua-blue waterfall at the beginning of Tenorio Volcano National Park, before heading back down the hill.
The drive from Tenorio to La Fortuna on Lake Arenal was the longest and dullest of our trip, but the Arenal area has no shortage of things to do. A vacation in Costa Rica is not complete without the requisite zipline canopy tour, and I was super impressed with SkyTrek. $75 gets you a ride on a series of 7 ziplines, each precariously high above the canopy and long enough to make you question what the hell you were thinking.
Skip the tourist trap of La Fortuna and do as we did: camp near the natural hot springs. There are plenty of hotels and spas if you prefer (each more kitschy than the last), but there really is nothing more exciting than sleeping in the rainforest at night. Follow the locals for the best hangouts in the steaming pools.
The Highlights: Swimming in natural hot springs with local Quakers by candlelight. Spending the considerable drive on the lookout for wildlife, only to find it once we gave up in the yard of a restaurant. Coatis (like a Costa Rican raccoon)! Facing my fears (while closing my eyes) on the longest zipline in Costa Rica.
Worth Checking Out… The Llano de Cortez waterfall near Bagaces. Follow the signs near a roadside fruit stand and start the hike down into the valley. During the dry season, join the locals for a picnic on the beach of this picturesque cascade of water. During the wet season, well, let’s just say it was like a hurricane down there. But an adventure nonetheless.