Sunday, June 14, 2009

Arenal Observatory Lodge near La Fortuna, Costa Rica

View from the lodge's balcony

We spent two days near the Arenal Volcano and Laguna Arenal at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, near La Fortuna. We had originally planned on taking a long-distance bus from San Jose for 3.5 hours to La Fortuna, then taking a taxi from the city to the Lodge. Fortunately, we met the French family while ziplining and they were also heading to La Fortuna the same day as us and offered us a ride! We couldn't believe our luck! It turns out that it is about $20 to take a cab one-way from the Lodge to the city, so when we arrived and checked in, we found a car rental place that offered to drive the car out to us at no extra cost. It was absolutely worth it, especially since our second day in the area was spent driving around the lake and we obviously couldn't have done that without a vehicle!

The Lodge is a hotel that was formerly the Smithsonian research site to study the volcano. It's on the other side of a river from the volcano, so if there were a sudden eruption, it would take a while for flowing lava to get there (flying debris and poison gasses, on the other hand, would be immediately dangerous). We took the recommendation of a friend who had stayed there a few days for her honeymoon, and we were SO glad we did! We got the cheapest room in the whole place, in a small building removed from the main lodge with 5 rooms and a shared bathroom w/2 baths and 3 sinks. We couldn't believe our luck - we were the only ones there the first night and our room was in the most beautiful location! When sitting on our bed, we could look out one windown and see the volcano and turn our heads and see almost the entire lake. We could hear the rocks falling down the volcano, and we could view them better at night, when they were orange balls rolling down in the dark. There was also a ton of great birds around our room, and we spent our first afternoon birdwatching from the porch since it was raining.

Dinner was a buffet and was $18, so we decided to eat in La Fortuna both nights. We found a great restaurant and we loved it! Breakfast was included though, and it was also buffet style. Fresh tropical fruit, queso fresco (mmm... the kind that makes your teeth squeak), fresh juices, fried plantains... mmm! Another great thing about the lodge is all the walking paths on site that are free. The restaurant overlooked the volcano and lake as well, and the balcony/deck outside was a nice place to just watch the lava rocks fall down the mountain.

Breakfast at the lodge - yum!

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