Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rio Celeste and Volcano Arenal

Last Friday, we left for the volcano Arenal.  The drive up was about 4 hours through some very beautiful country side.  The bridges here can be a little scary because they are only wide enough for one car to pass.  We arrived at the hotel Los Lagos around 6pm, so it was too dark to see the volcano clearly. The hotel was really nice and very large.  Instead of having one building, there were many small buildings with a few rooms in each throughout the vast property.  The trip from my room to the pool and restaurant was a 10 minute walk down a hill and across a hanging bridge. 

I spent the evening swimming in the pools.  Both large pools had slides that were deceptively fast.   After a few hours of sliding, I spent some time soaking in the hot spring pools.  There were at least 6 hot spring pools fed by a natural hot spring but heated geothermally.  The higher up the hill, the warmer the pools became.

One of the many hot springs
On Saturday, I went to the Rio Celeste (blue river) with five of my friends.  The Rio Celeste was about 1 ½ hours from Arenal.  We hired a guide and driver through the hotel.  Our guide’s name was Jorge.  Jorge was very knowledgeable and funny.   
Jorge pointing out a gas vent of sulfur monoxide under the river
The ride to the Rio Celeste was interesting because it took us off the beaten path – onto a very bumpy, gravel road past farmland and ranch land.  We arrived at the national park around 9:30am.  First we hiked to a natural hot spring alongside the river.  The hot spring was so hot I nearly burnt my foot!  The river mixed in with the hot spring a little farther down making the water cool enough to sit in.  Then we hiked to the mouth of the river.  Along the way, we say orange mud pools from iron deposits, steam vents from the dormant volcano, craters from meteor impacts, beautiful flowers, and ants (fire ants and leaf cutter ants).  The fire ants dug channels in the path for them to walk through.  When we stopped to look at the ants, they quickly began to climb up our shoes and legs.  It was a little disturbing to think about a massive swarm of these ants attacking a person or animal. The Rio Celeste begins were two rivers come together.  In order to have bright blue water, the river must have a very low pH (1-2), calcium, and copper sulfate. 
The white line in the middle of the photo is a deposit of calcium that reacts with the low pH and copper sulfate to turn the river bright blue.
Finally, we hiked to a waterfall along the Rio Celeste.  The hike was very intense!  There was a lot of climbing and bridges.  Some bridges were logs with a wire to help you keep your balance as you crossed.  We saw a lot of birds, lizards, and could hear the monkeys in the trees.  
A brown lizard found along the trail
We emerged from the forest around 2:30pm and ate lunch at the restaurant at the park.  I had a huge plate of arroz con pollo and freshly squeezed pineapple juice.  The food was fantastic and greatly appreciated after 5 hours of hiking!  Once again i spent the evening relaxing in the pools which felt amazing after such a physical hike.

On Sunday, I got up early to see the sunrise and the volcano.  The volcano Arenal is the most active volcano in Costa Rica, though it is currently in a resting phase.  The walk up to the viewing area for the volcano is about 20 minutes.  On the way back down, I saw many different birds including two tucans and a flock of pheasants.  I could hear the monkeys, but I couldn’t see them.
Volcano Arenal with smoke rising from the crater

 After breakfast, we went to La Fortuna Waterfall.  There are over 400 steps to get down to the waterfall but after the hike Saturday, the steps were a breeze.  The waterfall is over 290ft tall.  We were able to swim in the pool below the waterfall.  The water was really cold but it was a lot of fun swimming near a waterfall.  The current from waterfall was really strong and was very hard to swim against.  We left that afternoon around 1pm.  The bus ride was silent as everyone was exhausted from the trip.  Pura Vida!
La Fortuna Waterfall


  1. What a great time you are having... loved the "blue" water.. Wow!.. I want to go to Costa Rica now! Lynda B.

  2. Wow! Every scene is breathtaking! It must be a wonderful experience to have a swim in that wonderful waterfall. Too bad the current was too strong when you went there. Also, the bright blue color of the water is so fascinating. This just shows how rich the land is. I hope they would continue to protect this wonderful piece of land.