The Arenal area is absolutely stunning and should be part of any trip to Costa Rica for a number of reasons – here are just 3 of those!
The town is a really nice small, quaint mountain town with the volcano as a stunning background. There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat or something to drink (although I must admit that we used the opportunity to try out the Burger King in Costa Rica). After this however we headed back in to the town and explored the shops. Most of these are souvenir shops selling the same stuff you can buy in any town or city in Costa Rica, however there are a few small local artists selling their own wares.
We found a stunning gallery with 2 generations of artists working to make paintings as well as pottery – we purchased some of each and these take pride of place amongst some of our favourite souvenirs purchased anywhere in the world! It was great to actually meet the artists making these items.
The Hanging Bridges of Arenal
I was looking forward to the trip to the hanging bridges of the Arenal National Park for a long time before ever going to Costa Rica… It was however a massive shame that the day started very rainy, as this really isn’t a great activity for rainy days. It poured down very hard right up until we got to about 15 minutes left on the trail – if we had gone on our own rather than as part of a group we might have gone around again and had a better time of it. When it rains hard there are very few animals here, and it becomes nothing more than a very beautiful but fairly taxing hike. One of the main reasons why people come here is the Quetzal, which is a beautiful bird which can often be seen here… However they tend to stay hidden in the trees when it is raining heavily – we managed to get a very fleeting glimpse of this bird.
The way in which the paths are made means it is not slippery under foot, even in the rain, and much of it has got railings to help you up and down the slopes – But be careful if you do hold on to these because one of the only 3 animals we saw was an eyelash viper sitting on one of the rope railings towards the end of the trail. This is an absolutely stunning animal, but if you accidentally grabbed it while going along the path it would certainly ruin your trip!
If the rain is fairly light or it is a good day I wouldn’t hesitate to go here again and would recommend it to anyone – but it is just a shame that the conditions on the day we were there meant that we saw very few animals and left feeling a little disappointed. The rain and wind was even so hard that we couldn’t even enjoy the beautiful views from the bridges! These bridges are really high though and I am scared of heights, so was absolutely terrified each time we got to one of these so sadly couldn’t enjoy them much myself… Everything between them was perfect though!
Tabacon Hot Springs
This place is absolutely beautiful in every way you look at it! It is landscaped in an incredible manner, it really is a beautiful place to visit, relax and have a walk around. They have used a great choice of plants and paving materials to make it feel like it is meant to be there!
There are numerous pools which vary in temperature, depth, size, flow rate and even smell! The pools closer to the bottom are cooler but seem to smell more of sulphur (eggs). As you use the pools at the top of the complex, these are all natural pools with a predominantly sand bottom, however if visiting in the evening do be careful as it is dark here and these pools are made up of some times quite sharp rocks.
The bottom pool (as you head closer to the bottom the pools start to look more like normal swimming pools) and even has a swim up bar… We had a daiquiri from outside the pool which was delicious, before heading to the restaurant. The buffet style dinner was super tasty and had a really nice (and large) range of items – including a really good desert buffet, something which seems to be lacking in the majority of hotels we stayed in during our stay in Costa Rica.
If you want to have a nice relaxing time and you are anywhere near the Arenal area… This is the place to go and do it! There is a hotel here with guests having extra access to the pools – if we were to return to Arenal I think I would choose this as our base. These springs are so much nicer than in Iceland, purely because the scenery is much more lush and it is nice to walk between pools without your nipples wanting to jump of your chest – however I must admit that for the short period where it rained, the cool drops on your top half as you bathed in warm volcanic water was the best!