After sending the youngsters off on their own, Chris and I set off for Arenal. This was a last minute sort of decision so we did not have a place to stay. We had found a place on VRBO but had not got a reply before we left Liberia and our internet connection. We had noticed that the Tabacon Spa were offering 4 nights for the price of 2. We had driven past the place last time we were in Costa Rica in 2006 and thought it looked rather nice. But our internet connection in Liberia was not good enough to get a booking.
So anyway we drove into the Tabacon and managed to get the last room available on the 4 for 2 deal! It was still expensive but at least it was not extortionate. And we did get quite a lot for our money. Staying at the hotel meant free entrance to the spa and that costs US$60 per day each for the hoi polloi. And we got a rather nice room (and the use of enormous bathrobes).
But it is the spa which is the main attraction. The spa is on the lower slopes of the Arenal volcano, 2 or 3 kilometres from the source of the river which supplies the spa. It comes out of the ground at about 60°C and by the time it gets to the top of the spa it is at hot bath temperature. At its exit from the spa it is comfortable bath temperature. And this not some puny trickle – it is a large stream.
Once the stream enters the spa it becomes part of a water garden. It is split and smaller streams wend their way through swimming pools, paddling pools, wallowing pools, over waterfalls and eventually into a conventional looking swimming pool except it has hot water and a swim-up bar. Also all the hotels hot water is supplied by the stream.
There are various places to sit in the lush garden and enjoy the vegetation and cool off after sitting in the stream.
Alternatively you can sit under a waterfall and understand what high temperature and high humidity are all about!
But if all this gets too much you can retire to the swimming pool and have a drink.
The distinguishing feature of Tabacon is that it is sympathetically designed with lots of plants and rock. Other spas tend to be very much symphonies in concrete.
We did venture out of the resort to visit the Catarata Rio Fortuna. This is a very spectacular waterfall on the eastern slopes of the Arenal volcano.
The rock at the top of the waterfall is possibly a sill – there is some columnar jointing – that at the base of the falls is a lahar – a mudflow made up of volcanic ash and volcanic bombs. (Volcano erupts, deposits ash and debris near top of mountain; it rains, ash turns to mud, slides down mountain: lahars kill lots of people; they occur after the spectacular activity, once people have returned home.)
Now if that was a hot river it would be very spectacular, but unfortunately it is cold water.
After our 4 nights at Tabacon we decided we were not finished with the Arenal area, so we went to the VRBO property which we had looked at earlier. We had managed to get into contact with the owner and we decided to stay for 5 nights.
It was certainly different from Tabacon. It is a farm owned by an American and his family. If you stay at Charlie’s you become part of the family. It is at the end of a steep, rough road and although you could go out to eat in the evening there is a great incentive to eat with Charley and Janeth. And Janeth is a very good cook.
There were magnificent views of Arenal volcano.
The volcano changed greatly because of its last major eruption in 1968. In early 1968 the volcano was the smaller peak on the right; the larger, taller summit on the left did not exist. The eruption was concentrated on this, the western side of the volcano and more than 80 people died. The town on the other side of the volcano, Burio, was not affected and changed its name to La Fortuna – The Fortunate. Since then there has been no very large eruption but there is constant activity.
While at Charlie’s we decided to do some activities. The first was canyoning. The rivers and streams in the Arenal area are immature – steep, narrow valleys with rapids and waterfalls. So there are lots of canyons, and you can go down them using ropes and rappelling. And you will get wet.
Here are some photos of Chris and me canyoning. The phoos were taken by the company who organised it and they are pretty good.
Then there is the long descent.
Having survived the canyoning we decided to go white water rafting the very next day. This was with another company and again they took the photographs.
These rapids are grade 2 or 3, which is considered rather tame. Then it started raining.
All in all it was pretty good fun, but I don’t think we will be doing grades 4 and 5 just yet.
Then we set off to San Jose and flew back to Guatemala, which will be the subject of the next posting.