When starting the search to find the must-see sights of Costa Rica, one destination shows up on every list: Arenal Volcano. This massive volcano erupted suddenly and unexpectedly in 1968, destroying a small town and killing nearly 100 people. From 1968-2011 Arenal continued to be active, with visible lava and bright sparks showing nightly, making it a popular tourist destination. Since then, the volcano has been quiet, but is still classified as active. And so when choosing how to spend our limited time in Costa Rica, we had to include a day trip to Arenal Volcano National Park!
Just like all of our tours, this one also started way too early. But it is roughly a 3-hour drive to Arenal from San Jose, a lot of which is on curvy mountain roads, so we had to get an early start! About an hour and a half into the drive, we made our first stop: the small village of Sarchi, famous for its handicrafts, most notably wood oxcarts.
Free coffee samples while we shop!
And of course we had to take a picture with this giant oxcart!
Loaded up with lots of free coffee and a massive pile of souvenirs, we were off to Arenal! Now I don’t know how it is everywhere else, but in California I am used to buses driving slower than the regular cars, especially when taking sharp turns. This is not the case in Costa Rica. The bus whipped around the curves of the mountain roads at high speeds, tossing us around in the back of the bus like rag dolls. These pictures might look posed, but I assure you, we waited for the perfect turns to capture what it would look like if we didn’t actively try to hold ourselves in place. Our faces might be exaggerated though…
Laughing and taking stupid pictures made the rest of the drive pass quickly, and before we knew it we were at the volcano! To get to the viewpoint we had to do a brief hike up some stairs. It was very easy, and took less than 5 minutes to reach our destination.
The views were breathtaking!! The volcano itself was incredible, looking like every stereotypical volcano kids make in elementary school. It was amazing to know it was real though, and thinking about the power inside that thing was a little scary.
Our guide kept wanting to take our picture everywhere, and liked instructing us on how to pose. This was one particularly awkward gem he came up with:
It would’ve been super cool to have seen the volcano a few years ago when the lava was still visible, but even without it, it was still an amazing sight to see. Our tour was only halfway through though, and the second part is coming up in my next post! Stay tuned…