Costa Rica 2000
Well our repeat visit to Costa Rica was again quite enjoyable. Our itinerary was similar to the first 1996 Costa Rica trip,
but there are a few additions of note. Although the Costa Rican currency (colones) has been devaluated since 1996, the overall price in dollars for similar commodities has increased approximately 30% since our last trip in 1996. With increasing number of tourists, I guess Costa Rica has figured they can get a little more for their goods. However, everything is still quite reasonable. This time we rented a car (RAV 4) so we could have our own transportation. Getting around was not too bad, but intercity travel still takes a long time due to the poor road conditions as before.
The fishing is still great, the weather is still hot and humid, the beer (Imperial) is still cold and cheap, the food is still very good, and Volcano Arenal is still erupting although less frequently. However, there are some changes of note: There are are more tourists going to Costa Rica and our favorite hotels and restaurants were noticeable busier. Unfortunately, the Penas Blancas River, which we went white water rafting on both trips, is going to be dammed (maybe Damned would be more accurate) and diverted for hydroelectric power. This is a terrible loss and the Penas Blancas run will no longer be available from Fortuna and Volcano Arenal. The people of the rafting company were extremely disappointed and it is hard to believe a country that is so committed to preserving nature would forfeit such a beautiful river in the name of progress! Lastly, I would like to note a couple new destinations / hotels that are worthwhile visiting and were not included on our previous Costa Rican adventure: El Ocotal on the Pacific and Los Lagos Lodge on the side of Volcano Arenal.
Costa Rica 2000
El Ocotal is a beautiful hotel on the Pacific with a great restaurant perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. This hotel is near Playa del Coco, just a short drive from Liberia Airport and that made it a perfect place to lodge after arriving in this small Costa Rican airport via a small prop plane flight which was an experience in itself. The hotel El Ocotal is quite isolated and the roads leading to it definitely need more signage. The rooms are quaint and are located on a hillside leading down to a beach. The beach is less than great with a muddy shore and brownish muddy water. This resort is dedicated to fishing and scuba trips to the Catalina Islands. Not much else was available and thus our stay was short
Volcano Arenal is still an amazing natural wonder. The volcano now seems to be constantly oozing lava and lava boulders with only an infrequent smoke spewing eruption which occurred only once during our three day visit. Previously in 1996, the volcano had more frequent ground-shaking microeruptions every couple of hours, but now seems to be a more constant lava oozing phenomenon. It is still amazing to watch the glowing hot lava and lava boulders tremble down it's cone. We found a new lodge very close to the city of La Fortuna situated on the side of the Volcano. The Los Lagos lodge is right on the volcano and features a good restaurant, alligator farm, ponds and mountain stream. There is a dirt road that continues directly from Los Lagos up the side of the Volcano, leading to an observatory outlook and a mountain lake with surrounding camping site. From the lake, there is another rugged hiking trail up the Volcano, through jungle and eventually leading to the lava flows. The lava flows are somewhat treacherous, but one can continue up the volcano as far as one dares. You are separated from a scorching death by falling hot lava boulders only by a sign on a rope stating: "IN DANGER OF DEAD DON'T PASS". I think the Costa Ricans meant "At the Risk of Death", but the message is quite clear as you hear the ground trembling roar of lava boulders rolling down the Volcano in your direction.
Costa Rica Wildlife