You say your trip to Costa Rica must include fuming volcanoes, outdoor adventure and relaxing hot springs but without the crowds and prices of Arenal? We say head to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park instead which is shaping up to be a cheaper, less crowded and more exciting alternative to Arenal and it's only a 3 hr drive from the house. Katrin can also arrange a tour here for you.
Cheaper than Arenal
Now that Arenal Volcano is no longer erupting (yes, you heard that right), the one big reason to travel to Arenal Volcano National Park and La Fortuna, that crowded eyesore of a tourist town, is to soak in the volcano-heated hot springs that continue to bubble up to the surface even though the lava stopped flowing years ago. In Arenal it will cost you at least US$25 per person (and up to US$95 per person) for the privilege of stewing in communal juices along with hundreds of others.
More exciting than Arenal
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park is about a 1.5 hour drive from the town of Liberia, primarily on a rocky dirt road in reasonably good condition which winds past bucolic farms and picturesque small villages. Clouds often obscure the park’s namesake volcano so we contented ourselves with sightings of flocks of noisy green parrots and the occasional capuchin monkey along the way. The clouds did occasionally part, allowing us glimpses of Rincón de la Vieja Volcano which, following impressive explosions in February of 2012, has been put firmly back on the active volcano list unlike the now dormant Arenal Volcano.
Close to the action in Rincón de la Vieja
If looking up at the business end of an active volcano doesn’t release enough adrenaline for you there are day trips to local attractions like Caño Negro. You can choose from a nine platform zip line, a Tarzan swing, horseback riding, hiking and an activity we think the resort owners need to rename “Extreme Tubing”. After all, when was the last time you needed elbow pads to go tubing?
Welcome to extreme tubing
When the guides for our rafting trip on the Rio Azul (Blue River) handed us not only a helmet but elbow pads as well we thought he was just being overly cautious. Isn’t tubing like napping on the water during which the biggest danger is losing hold of the tube toting the cooler full of beer? Not this time.
For nearly two hours you hurtle down the Rio Azul atop special extra-plump, extra-durable tubes with hand holds. You shoot through narrow channels of swift-moving white water, bounce over rocks, pin-ball-machined around boulders and, sometimes, ended up upside down. By the time you reach the take out point you will be grinning and very, very grateful for every single piece of protective gear.
To get even closer to the healing powers of the volcano guests have free access to a vat of slate gray, sulphury volcanic mud which can be applied to your skin before entering a sauna where the volcanic minerals work their magic. Your skin will feel silky for days afterward. One warning though: do not do this while wearing light colored swimwear since the mud stains like mad.