Today we had a full day to spend in Arenal, so we took an optional Caño Negro boat tour with our group. The Caño Negro is a wildlife refuge where one can take group tours along the Río Frio, or cold river that slowly progresses into the Caño Negro Lake. Since the tour leaves from Los Chiles, which is less than two and a half miles from the Nicaraguan border, every passenger must bring a copy of their passport because you the tour starts beside a checkpoint along the Nicaraguan border. We were given the opportunity to take pictures by the Nicaraguan border, but that was as far up as the boat would go before returning to shore. We encountered a boat that was headed to Costa Rica from Nicaragua, and we were told that often times people from Nicaragua will travel to Costa Rica by boat for work and return home later in the evening since.
After the Caño Negro boat tour, we were provided lunch in a local restaurant and returned back to Arenal from there. We made a quick stop for fruit flavored ice cream because everything involving fruit in Costa Rica is absolutely delicious. As we walked off the bus and headed towards the ice cream shop, we noticed large green iguanas sitting around outside. The iguanas pictured below are so large that we sat next to them just to compare! If you find one on a tree branch, don’t be surprised if you see it jump to a different branch. They’re a lot more mobile than they look!
We made it back to Arenal where we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around at leisure and came across more beautiful views of the Arenal Volcano just before the sun started to set. We had another traditional Costa Rican dinner before turning in for the night, and if you couldn’t tell by the pictures, the food hasn’t disappointed!
Upon waking up and eating breakfast, it was time for us to board the bus and officially begin our tour of Costa Rica. We drove around San Juan are got to see the city by bus, before continuing with our drive to Arenal. On the way, we stopped in Sarchi, which is known to be an artisan town, also known as a tourist trap for travelers eager to start spending their allotted souvenir money. Sarchi is home to traditional oxcarts of all different colors, which happens to be Costa Rica’s most famous type of craft since oxcarts have been used to transport coffee beans for centuries. And if you didn’t already know, Costa Rica is home to incredible coffee (which will be discussed in a later post).
We were given snacks, drinks, and fresh fruit before leaving, because the key to any tourist’s heart is to give them free food to get them in the mood to start spending. Once we left Sarchi, we continued on our way, but stopped again thirty minutes later in the city of Zarcero. The bus parked right outside Iglesia de San Rafael, a blue and pink church with various paintings of the stations of the cross. When you exit the church, you’ll find yourself in Parque Francisco Alvarado, which is a fun and beautiful park known for its shrubs that have been trimmed in the shapes of different animals and fun pathways to walk through. We had a little bit of free time to quickly have lunch, so we did so before boarding the bus again.
We made one more stop along to way to the hotel, and that was to a local Costa Rican school. While at the school, we got a chance to meet the students and watch them perform a cultural dance for us that they put together themselves. It was truly a unique opportunity that we all really enjoyed. We boarded the bus once more and finally continued on our trip straight through to our hotel in the district of La Fortuna in San Carlos alongside the Arenal Volcano. As you can see in the pictures below, we had an incredible view of the volcano from our hotel, and once we were finished taking pictures we went out into the city for a traditional Costa Rican dinner, thus concluding our first full day in Costa Rica.