Arenal national park
Costa Rica is a country with many varying climates and landscapes. From the central valley, to monte verde the could forest, to the caribbean or pacific side beaches there is adventure to be found. The area around La Fortuna is amazing. There is the Arenal volcano and national park, a sustainable ranch and hotel called Rancho Margot and hydroelectric plant, all of which are important to Costa Rica. The Arenal Volcano is unique and when the volcano erupts rather than spewing lava it releases molten hot rocks, which leaves the surrounding area covered in volcanic rock. While hiking up the volcano is illegal due to the gas that if people get to close too will die. There is still many opportunities to hike around the volcano with a great view. On the first hike that I went on we saw three different snakes, two bright yellow ones who were curled up and hanging out on tree’s, and one brown one that was next to the trail in the leaves, that one was a jumping viper luckily we spotted it because they attack when treated.
What to bring hiking
- Bug spray- Because it is a rainforest it is wet and many bugs live in the rainforest.
- Close toed shoes and long pants- There are many snakes that live in the forest here, some are well camouflaged on or around the trails
- A well stoked first aid kit- you want to make sure that you are prepared for anything to happen even if it is unlikely.
- Water- It is very hot in Costa Rica and especially easy to get dehydrated with the added elevation
- A rain jacket- It rains almost every afternoon in Costa Rica in the fall which is considered the rainy season here.
- A camera- There are many beautiful things that you can take photos of, if you do choose to take pictures of the snakes make sure to not get to close.
Hiking in Arenal National Park
The hike took around 2 hours, we had a guide for the first hike that we went on, who informed us on history of the Arenal volcano and the plants and animals that we saw. Many of the plants can be used medicinally. The biodiversity that Costa Rica has is incredible. As you walk you can look around and there is so much variety within the trees and the plants that you are looking at. One of the most spectacular things was looking around and seeing all of the varying types of flowers that would be on or around the trees. All of the plants that surround the volcano have grown back in under 20 years, after an eruption wiped out everything close to the Volcano. The heat, amount of sunlight and water that the region gets makes it very easy for plants to grown quickly. There was a bit of a scramble in order to get to a vantage point where we could see the base of the volcano, however, it was well worth the view. Not only was the Arenal volcano in view but also Lake Arenal; an artificial lake caused by the hydroelectric plant that was built in the 70s as part of Costa Rica’s movement towards renewable energy.
After the hike drove to Rancho Margot an environmentally sustainable ranch and hotel. They are able to generate all of there power by using hydroelectric power, as well as by taking the methane gas from cow manure, they also use the manure as a fertalizer in the garden after it has been properly dried. They have cows they do not eat the cows they use their milk for dairy products, free range chickens, pigs and gardens where they grow all of there own food. All of the animals are fed from plants and are being treated in the way that they are meant to. There are a few things that are purchased by the farm such as rice and olive oil, however, that is mainly to keep up with the food demands of their guests. They do compost the waste which is later used in the gardens. After they use the olive oil in the kitchen they actually use it to make soap, which is not only for the guests but they also use to wash the bedding, towels and cloths of the volunteers. They have a program were volunteers who are at leased 23 can come and volunteer for a month or more, working in the gardens, teaching yoga in there yoga center, or working with the animals. On the ranch they have two hot spring pools that are filled with natural water and one is heated with any extra energy that they are not using. When you look at the roofs of the buildings you will see many plants growing, this is the natural way of isolating the buildings. The ranch is very involved in the surrounding community, the owners goal is to help better the communities education. He used to pay for a bus to take the kids to a nearby school, however, now they have there own schools. While the community is still poor and doesn’t have money for physical education or art, the children are bused to Rancho Margot to have these classes and sometimes are even taught english. Many employees of the ranch are locals who have worked at the ranch for a while. Its a must visit place to see how an entire community can be self sustaining and teaching the surrounding area about sustainable practices.
Costa Rica is one of the leading countries in producing renewable energy, most of there power is generated through hydroelectric plants. The Arenal dam is one of the places that hydroelectric power is produced. You can get a boat tour of the hydroelectric plant or you can park and look without being in the water.
La Fortuna is a beautiful town that is near the volcano and a place that you can get a great view. There are many shops where you can buy souvenirs of your trip, they have many restaurants and places to stay. I recommend trying the amazing homemade chocolate.