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Stacy's Post: The Drive Around Lake Arenal

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Costa Rica
Day 5
Stacy's Post: 

After a long night and a baby hangover - Michael and I awoke to another rainy day. Although the rain forest had been amazing - I longed for blue skies and crashing waves on the beach. 

We heard the trip from La Fortuna around the lake was beautiful but a little crazy as the roads were hilly, windy and narrow. 

We packed up - hopped in little gringo and hit the dirt road for the very last time. 

As we passed La Fortuna, we made plans to make a few pit stops along the way to make the 4 1/2 drive to the coast memorable. 

First - the views around Lake Arenal (even though it was rainy and terribly overcast) were absolutely breathtaking. Our Costa Rica guide book talked about the scenic drive as a drive as it was similar to the Swiss Alps. It was right around in its description.

Our first stop was this amazing German bakery in Neuvo Arenal. The restaurant was small but eclectic, and your first view are the amazing pastries. Michael and I choose a cafe, apple strudel,  blueberry cheesecake, and a German chocolate brownie. The Apple Strudel was decadent and the most amazing thing that I ever popped into my mouth. 

One funny thing about this stop was the painted map of Costa Rica on the wall - it listed our hotel.... We knew there had to be a story there as our hotel in Playa Grande - Hotel Cantarana - would not even come up on our GPS.

We stopped for a quick moment in the Indigenous shop right next door and struck gold with some amazing homemade wooden items as well as a few other things! SCORE!

Back in Little Gringo - Michael and I put the pedal to the metal but had to stop for some quick pictures and a little window shopping at some road side vendors.... After 50 miles of advertising for a place called Cafe & Macademia - how could we not take 5 minutes to check out this roadside cafe. The views were amazing, and we scored another cup of coffee. Michael also got some sugar coated Macademia Nuts which would keep our munchies at bay as we continued our trip. 

The West side of Lake Arenal was beautiful and known for Wind Surfing for a reason - the hills were strewn with wind mills  and the wind would almost blow your over it was so strong. 

Our next stop was to see the Viento Fresco Waterfalls located "right outside" Tiliarn - the next town on our trip and about 1/3 of the way to the coast. As the GPS directed us - we headed miles out of town - back into the hillside - up more dirt roads and truly convinced that there was NO WAY there would be any waterfalls were we were going. 

We ventured in and talked with the gentleman at the front desk (who spoke NO English).... and we learned it would take over 1 1/2 hours to get down and see all the waterfalls. We were about to get back into Little Gringo and head to the coast as we didn't anticipate spending that kind of time at this stop.... we would be spending the last 2/3 of the trip driving in the dark. 

After a cerveza - Michael popped on his board shorts and we headed another short drive to the entrance into the rain forest in hopes that this $24 extravaganza would not be a waste of time.


As we started down the steep declining stairwell into the rain forest - we could already hear the first of 4 waterfalls. As we turned the corner - I can not even begin to tell you how beautiful it was. Over 90ft - the first waterfall was tucked into the side of the mountain with a clear pool of blue water at the bottom. This for sure would not be a regretable stop and this was only the first waterfall.

The third waterfall is the supreme icon of the adventure - named Arco Iris - Rainbow Falls - and I believe I lost my breathe when I first saw it. Over 160ft of pure energy falling over a cliff into a clear blue swimming hole below. It was breathe taking. Michael bounded in the water like a little kid as he could not wait to feel the power of the water. 

We took tons of pictures at all the amazing scenic falls but the dark of night was quickly approaching and we had steep climb ahead of us (out of breathe but we humped it)...and we headed out - so very thankful that we didn't talk ourselves out of this amazing icon of Costa Rica.

Back in little Gringo and just in time - we spent the next 2 hours on our way to Playa Grande. We didn't have much of an idea of the little beach town as everything was pretty quiet. Back on a dirt road - we ventured to find our hotel as it was approaching 9pm  and Michael nicely stated - "I hope someone is there to check us in".

We were met by an amazing German Woman named Maryanne (hence here is the connection to the German Bakery 3 hours away.) First - let me say as we pulled up - out of the dark of night - we saw subdued lighting and candles everywhere and immediately we knew - we had made another great choice on accommodations. 

Hotel Cantarana is so quaint and absolutely beautiful. I only hope our pictures do it justice. We were starving as Costa Rica is not known for "to go food" so we hopped over to a lively little hotel called Hotel Bula Bula which had a great  bar and enjoyable staff. Unfortunately -they had already stopped serving dinner but they were able to serve us some amazing Ceviche and cocktails.... just what we needed after a long trip.

Back at the hotel around 10:30 - we quickly hit the super comfortable bed (and enjoyed the AC for the first time in days).... as we had an early morning - our first surf lesson was at 10am.\

I LOVE COSTA RICA and my amazing travel partner - Michael Walter.



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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 5 - Travel to Playa Grande, Costa Rica