Costa Rica - Days 3, 4, 5 & 6

Ok, I admit I have been a little lax in posting updates, not to mention somewhat removed from most things electronic...  Day three involved a road-trip to La Fortuna and the Árenal Volcano.  Almost immediately upon arrival that afternoon we took a hoseback ride to view the Pino Blanco and La Fortuna waterfalls. Although recent rains and high water levels prevented us from swimming in the pool beneath the La Fortuna waterfall, the views were amazing, both from the observation deck at the top of the trail and along the trek down to the La Fortuna waterfall.  (Photo essay to follow....) We overnighted at Arenal Paraiso, where we enjoyed a soak in the therapeutic thermal mineral springs, of which the resort sports 13, one with a bar. I awoke on day four with a sore back no doubt due at least in part to my less-than-stellar equestrian form on our ride the previous day.  Nonetheless we pressed on. The agenda for the day included a combination of canyoneering (including a combination of rappelling and river hiking) in the morning followed by whitewater rafting in the afternoon organized through one of the  larger adventure tour companies in Costa Rica, Desafio.  A light breakfast and lunch were included in the 'Mambo Combo'. All in all, it was a great time -- even Elizabeth (who has a little trouble with heights) enjoyed the rappelling, thanks in large part to our friendly and reassuring guides, Elio and Ronny.  The rafting portion took us over Class II and III rapids which were strong enough to provide a great time, yet easy enough for whitewater newbies.  There were even several families with kids on the trip. And one more shout-out to our rafting guide Carlos, who gave us a thorough safety demo and then made sure we had a lot of fun on the trip down the river. On day five, the clouds finally lifted and we were offered our first opportunity to view the peak of the Árenal Volcano.We took a quick jaunt up to the Árenal  Observatory Lodge (formerly a Smithsonian observation station). There is a ¢4,000 per person entry fee to drive up to the Lodge, but the views are worth it. The lodge has a restaurant and a large deck the offer fantastic views of the peak as well as some nice viewing opportunities for birders. From Árenal, we headed back around the lake toward the Monteverde region.  Our guide book had warned that the conditions of the roads leading into Monteverde are notoriously rough and this turned out to be no understatement. If you're planning to get around by car and you're heading to Monteverde, you'd do well to reserve something with 4-wheel drive, because you can expect to encounter several kilometers of unimproved dirt road.  It's worth a stop at La Cabana bar if you're headed in on Rte 606 (about 15 kilometers outside Saint Elena), it turns out to be a welcome rest stop as well as a place to enjoy a refreshing and cheap cerveza. A late afternoon arrival didn't leave much to do outdoors, but fortunately, there is a Serpentario with a fantastic collection of snakes and other reptiles as well as the Frog Pond Ranario with an extensive collection of (as you may have guessed) frogs... all of which tend to be more active in the evening, which makes for a much more interesting viewing experience. Day six combined a canopy zipline tour over the Cloud Forest Preserve followed by a suspension bridge walk through the rain forest.  Normally, I am a big fan of clear skies but in this case it was almost a shame it was so clear... "isn't this supposed to be a cloud forest?!?".  Nonetheless, we had excellent views while zipping over the canopy, and the suspension bridge trek offered a few interesting plant and wildlife sightings including miniature orchids, coati, and the brilliantly-colored impressive quetzel, which much to our delight flew directly overhead. After lunch, we visited the Monteverde Orchid Garden (El has a thing for photographing plant life....) and the Butterfly Garden in Cerro Plano, both of which are well worth a visit. Then we grabbed a refreshing helado before packing it in for the bumpy drive back to Playa del Coco. For more information on the wide variety of tours offered through Desfio, check them out online at