Costa Rica, Day 5: Arenal Volcano, the Cloud Forest and Tabacon Hot Springs

Today we went on a combined trip that includes a rain forest walk, a possible view of Arenal Volcano and ends with dinner and bathing at a hot spring fed by the volcano.

Arenal Lake Scenic Vista, Costa Rica

The first stop was at Eco-Lodge for the rain forest walk. Having spent the week in Guanacaste, which is a dry savanna ecosystem, we couldn’t wait to see some lush jungle forest. We actually stopped at a vista overlooking Arenal Lake, but the wind and the rain made the stop uncomfortable. The low hanging cloud cover obscured any real view, anyway. When we got to Eco-Lodge, the bus split up into groups. Our group stayed together because there we so many of us. Our guide, Max, gave us a little speech about the environment and the history of the Eco-Lodge and took down a path for our hour long walk.

Eco-Lodge rain forest walk, Costa Rica

Max was very knowledgeable and was willing to share lots of information about the plants and animals. But, one thing that most people would probably fail to realize, you can’t see animals in the jungle. The foliage is just too lush. There could be an iguana 10 feet from you, but you can only see clearly for about 3-5 feet, maybe, off the trail. Max was able to find a little frog and a dead centipede, though. And, we were able to spot some very loud birds, about the size of a large hawk. I can’t remember the name, and we didn’t write it down.

Chameleon, Eco-Lodge, Cost Rica

One odd part of the nature hike was the stop at the Maleku hut. Max had a focus on the types of plants that the Maleku people used to build their huts and crafts. About twenty minutes into the hike, there was a big old meeting hut, presumably built by the Maleku Indians.

Max acted like this was where the Maleku people could be found, although he did mention that it was a “representation” of their lifestyle. The Maleku actually live on a reservation and while these guys spoke the language, they also spoke Costa Rican Spanish and Max played along as part of the act. Some people in our group bought brightly colored rain sticks and spirit masks. If I wasn’t so skeptical, I might have thought it was cute.

When the Maleku people greet people, apparently they knock on each others shoulders and say “copi-copi”. We all obligingly knocked on the chiefs shoulder and spoke the greeting. When our group was leaving, the other two groups were arriving at the hut at the same time from different directions. All groups make a stop at the Maleku hut, apparently. Some people from our trip were on the same tour but hadn’t signed up with us, so they were in a different group. As we passed them on the way out, I knocked on their shoulders and greeted them with a hearty “copi-copi”. I walked away chuckling, pleased with myself, at the bewildered looks on their faces knowing they would get the joke in about 10 minutes.

After that, we ate lunch at a local restaurant. I’m digging the Costa Rican food. I love rice and beans, but the spices they use are good too. Everyone got rice and beans with a little salad, but the main choices were Tilapia, Chicken or Steak. And for Tilapia and Chicken, you had some choices about how it was prepared. Then we got to browse around for some touristy swag. The folks at the restaurant and gift shop were great. The guy in the gift shop asked me questions and told me people from the United States were very nice. I told him I thought Costa Rica was great and found everyone to be very friendly. He told me that they were friendly because we are friendly first. I didn’t want to get into an argument or anything so I smiled and thanked him.

Tabacon Hot Springs and Spa, Waterfall, Costa Rica

We drove further up the volcano and passed the spot where you would see the pyroclastics if there wasn’t so much cloud cover. We went directly to Tabacon Hot Springs and Spa Resort. We had about 2 hours at the hot springs to soak and hang out before dinner and the ride back to the resort.

Tabacon Hot Springs and Spa, Costa Rica

The hot springs are a river of water heated by the Arenal Volcano. There are pools for soaking and little water falls for getting a nice hot water pounding. All around the pools is a lush garden of native plants and natural looking landscaping. There were plenty of little pools for privacy, as well as a swim-up bar and slide. The water was fantastic and the atmosphere of cool, low clouds was very relaxing.

The buffet dinner was amazing. There was a 5 foot pan filled with a seafood paella that was to die for. And they had some sort of green salsa that one of the servers jokingly called “salsa, ay-ay-ay!”. It was pretty spicy.

The ride back on the bus was long and most people slept. I think we got back to our resort around 11pm. But, what a day!

Continue reading the next entry, Costa Rica, Day 6: We don’t need no water….

Did you miss the previous entry? Go back and read Costa Rica, Day 4: Sportfishing trip out of Tamarindo.

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About Eric Holsinger

Eric Holsinger is a mobile app developer and hobbyist photographer. He lives near the coast in Southern Maine with with his wife and son.