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Arenal-ine Rush through Costa Rica!

Coast of Riches: A Journey Through Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama Day 4: Climbing Cerro Chato next to Arenal and swimming in the lake of the crater, spending a day on hellish roads to Monte Verde and finally ending in Quepos.

Day’s Itinerary

The sun rose around 5:45 a.m. and so did I. Enjoying the spectacular view from our terrace at Arenal Observatory Lodge, we snapped some pictures before getting ready for breakfast at 7.

 What a great way to wake up!
What a great way to wake up!

From the breakfast room we saw a whole group of professional bird watchers outside taking pictures with their huge lenses.

As you can imagine, I didn’t feel too confident standing shoulder-to-shoulder taking pictures with my iPhone.
As you can imagine, I didn’t feel too confident standing shoulder-to-shoulder taking pictures with my iPhone.

Arenal Volcanic Park

The view was spectacular with the towering volcano on the horizon, Lake Arenal adding some blue hues to the picture of the tropical plants and birds in the garden. Hummingbirds ate nectar while we at maple syrup with our pancakes. The standard breakfast buffet was small but provided us with a hardy meal.

View of Lake Arenal from Arenal Observatory Lodge.
View of Lake Arenal from Arenal Observatory Lodge.
Good start to the day!
Good start to the day!
Saw lots of birds...
Saw lots of birds…
Hummingbird...
Hummingbird…
Have you ever seen a bird eating freakin WATERMELON?
Have you ever seen a bird eating WATERMELON?

Cerro Chato

After breakfast, we decided on a hike to the Cerro Chato volcano. We got the trail map and information from the hotel reception.

After twenty minutes of straight walking, we went uphill. The hike to the top was pretty tiring but we were rewarded with a view of the lake in the dormant volcano crater.

Scouting our path from a bridge in Arenal at the start of the hike.
Scouting our path from a bridge in Arenal at the start of the hike.
Our objective Cerro Chato Peak in the distance.
Our objective Cerro Chato Peak in the distance.
Arenal Volcano from the base of Cerro Chato.
Arenal Volcano from the base of Cerro Chato.
Slippery slope!
Slippery slope!
From the ridge of the crater looking into Cerro Chato Lake!
From the ridge of the crater looking into Cerro Chato Lake!

The way down to the lake was more of a downward climb and at some parts it was completely vertical. Once we made it to the base of the lake, we shed our sweat soaked shirts and jumped in for a swim. The water was cold but very refreshing. We swam out to the center and just marveled at the fact that we were swimming in a volcano crater…

Swimming IN A VOLCANO. NBD.
Just swimming in a volcano. NBD.

Going back was ten times easier since it was mostly downhill. We finished the whole thing in 4 hours including the swim in the lake.

We had a quick swim in the hotel pool before checking out and heading to the next destination.

A quick dip in Arenal Observatory Lodge's pool after the hike!
An infinity pool looking into a rainforest at Arenal Observatory Lodge!
Huge rhinoceros beetle right outside of the hotel reception.
Huge rhinoceros beetle right outside of the hotel reception.

We drove directly to Monte Verde on an awful rocky dirt road that tested the limits of our tiny car. We made it and the drive with a stop for lunch took close to 5 hours!

Costa Rican style fajitas and their microbrew beer at <strong>Volcano Brewery</strong>.
Costa Rican style fajitas and their microbrew beer at Volcano Brewery.
Costa Rican road block.
Costa Rican road block.
The red sands of Lake Arenal from another angle.
The red sands of Lake Arenal from another angle.
Impromptu car commercial photo op?
Impromptu car commercial photo op? If we only had a better car…

We found a gas station in Santa Elena and refilled our empty tank before going to the park.

Monte Verde

At the park, we spoke with a Park Ranger and signed up for the Spanish speaking night tour (~US$17.00 pp) as it only had two other people on it. The English speaking tour had over 10.

The tour was quite interesting though a bit repetitive. We walked some trails during the night each armed with a flashlight though we didn’t need to use it much since the tour guide kept pointing out interesting sightings.

We saw a number of animals and insects like glowing beetles, sleeping birds, a tarantula, glass frogs, lizards, insects and bats. When he spotted an animal he would shine the light on it and we could have a chance to take pictures.

After we sat at a hummingbird viewing area. He would shine the lights on the feeders revealing bats eating from the feeders!

At the entrance, about to set off on the tour!
At the entrance, about to set off on the tour!
Gold beetle... smelt it now that the price of gold is up?
Gold beetle… smelt it now that the price of gold is up?
Yes this tarantula was just sitting in this tree...
Yes this tarantula was just sitting in this tree…
Glass frog stuck to a leaf!
Lime green glass frog stuck to a leaf!
Another large beetle in our path.
Another large beetle in our path.

Then we thanked our guide and started a harrowing journey to Manuel San Antonio. Driving as fast as we could on the awful rocky roads, I was sure we would have a flat or our suspension would break at anytime. Luckily I was wrong and we eventually made it to the highway. Then it was smooth sailing all the way to the town of Quepos.

We found the Best Western in the small town and parked right in front of it. It was already 12:30 a.m. They had a hotel guard who unlocked the door to let us into the hotel and also watched our car. The hotel didn’t have our reservation due to “computer issues”. But eventually checked us in and gave us a room.

After dropping our stuff off, we left the hotel in search of food. The hotel “casino” seemed to be more of a Karaoke bar for drunken patrons. They had a few electronic games and not much else of interest.

The area was pretty shady but we found a grill with a friendly lady who made us each a hamburgese, which we gobbled down with a local soda.

On the walk back to the hotel, we witnessed a Fast-and-the-Furious style street race right in front of us. As ghetto as it was, we were so tired that it didn’t even faze us.

Back in our room on the second floor we slept to the lullaby of loud butchered English with heavy dance beats.

David De Clercq

About David De Clercq

Founder and writer at World-Adventurer.com, David is on a mission to travel to every country in the world and has less than 10 countries left! He loves new adventures, unique cultures, historic landmarks, and luxurious hotels. Follow along as David shares a journey of a lifetime!