68. COSTA RICA – Lago Arenal and Vulcán Poás

We were heading east from Caňa Castilla to birding spot, but rattling on dirt road for over an hour (only 15-20km), after a point I couldn’t face another 80km and we agreed to change plans and turn off to Lake Arenal.

Which turned out to be a good decision actually. We knew of a good spot to camp right by the lake. After a beautiful drive (the last 20 km was dirt) We arrived to Nuevo Arenal a small friendly (fair amount of expats) town with some good shops, bars, cafes and the famous German Bakery. First we parked up at the finest spot in the town’s public, lush green park on the lake….

Lago Arenal

Lago Arenal

….then walked back to the bakery for a couple of sarnies we were longing for months (no good bread in Central America) However I got to say, Agi’s homemade bread, she gave me this morning was the winner. Our pleasant surprise the French Family turned up here too. Felt like a little private members’ party again.

Lago Arenal

Lago Arenal

It was raining all night (strangely, in the dry season) which meant by the morning we weren’t so sure that it was a good idea parking on the grassy down-hill slope that became slimy and now an up-hill. Old memories of digging in slippery mud were coming up to the surface. But, thank goodness it was fine and Burt made it up with reasonably cold engine just fine. Had a morning chat with the French Family, filled up with some water and headed south to Volcán Poás.

We were still driving by the lake, which was stunning (getting a bit more and more touristy as we were approaching Arenal Volcano but we found the hot spring Andreas (French Family’s Austrian dad) mentioned this morning. There was an inauthentic, fancy and expensive spa hotel that takes a fair bit of the hot-water river, though as Andreas said just about 50 meters below the hotel, under the bridge is the real deal for bathing in the same river with the locals for free. It was Sunday so there were just enough people, families to have a nice atmosphere, and just like us a few gringos found the spot too so it was very nice, surrounded by lush jungle, exotic birds and butterflies flying around the warm moist air.


After the lovely soaking we were a bit behind but with a no-stop drive we made it up to the 2500 m Poás. It was actually a gorgeous drive and as we were elevating the scenery changed from tropical to highland with pines forests in thick fog, strawberry fields hugging the small villages and sheep herds replaced the grazing cows.

We missed the opening hours of the volcano (it is a national park) but we knew that it is OK to park up overnight either by the entrance or just by a dirt, forest road that leads to nowhere from the entrance. We decided to drive up on this dirt road and in about 4-5 km’s we were at a beautiful open area, a perfect spot with a gorgeous view of the cloud-filled crater and the valley where San José (capital of Costa Rica) and other towns lie. We just caught the magical sunset and soon the lights came on in the city and the towns providing with a stunning night view of the valley.

Volcán Poás

Volcán Poás

The temperature was very refreshing and it dropped to 6C over night, then warmed up to 22-25C during the day. We did a 7 km hike the next morning (before 9 as the clouds are coming in to the crater at 9AM every day) in the hope to see the crater but no clear view really, although the hike was very nice (one of our favourites) We decided to stay one more night and enjoy the chilled air and silence of this peaceful place. And this way, we could see the sunset again.

Volcán Poás

Volcán Poás

On the third day morning we were ready to move on and hunt down the Mercedes service in the capital for checking up on Burt’s steering.

Next, San José and Guapiles…

67. COSTA RICA – Caňa Castilla a Swiss paradise

Costa Rica as Christopher Columbus named it The Rich Coast. In Central America Costa Rica has the most to offer as far as landscape, environment and wildlife are concerned . Volcanoes, cloud forests, rainforests, white and black sandy beaches, Caribbean tropics, Pacific surf and offshore islands. Costa Rica has over 615 species per 10.000 sq km which is extraordinary compare to the USA’s 104 species. We were looking forward to see some of these.

Approximately 20 km’s crossing the border from Nicaragua we knew of a nice sounding place. Caňa Castilla, a Swiss owned piece of paradise. It is conveniently located a few km’s off the highway on a dirt road, through a tiny village crossing two rivers till you arrive to a wonderful, lush forest-like place with lovely cabanas with hammocks on the riverbank, a little restaurant/ cafe and all facilities a camper need.

Here we bumped into the lovely French Family (as we, travellers like to call them, although Andreas, the husband, is actually Austrian and the children (3) are super multi lingual little cosmopolitans and could fit in any countries in the world) It was very nice seeing them again after 2 months meeting them briefly in Antigua, Guatemala.

We parked up on a grassy patch surrounded by enormous gorgeous trees inhabited by spider and howler monkeys who gave concerts of roaring every sunset and sunrise. There were also endless species of birds and butterflies and crocodiles in the river.

Cana Castilla, Costa Rica February 2014

Cana Castilla,
Costa Rica
February 2014

Guido and Agi the owners are also happy surrogate parents to a 10 months old orphaned two-toes sloth, Linda. Linda was found on the ground in the bush, exposed to all sorts of danger, her mummy rejected her (i.e. it is common that sloth mums, when they have twins rejects one of them) Guido and Agi took her in and now Linda is part of the family. She loves hanging (haha) out on the mango trees that happened to be right next to Burt so we had our personal little sloth amazes us every day.






We liked it here so much that we actually stayed 6 days. Partly because we really needed to recharge our batteries (our own ones, not Burt’s!) Didn’t realised how exhausted we were till we got here, let our guards down and slept for two days and Caňa Castilla was just the place for this. Partly because we met a holidayer couple from Germany, Kerstin and Rainer. We met one evening, when we decided to have dinner at the restaurant (we heard that Agi’s cook really worth a try) We were seated next to Rainer and Kerstin. The rest is history. They were here for 3 weeks and just flew in. we stuck together for the rest of our time here and we were visiting the beaches and went for little walks together with their rental. They were wonderful companions and liked to spend and after-dinner drinks with them (note: try Guido’s passion fruit wine!)

At one point The Dutchies ran in but sadly they left the following day. Then Mire and Alex arrived and stayed two nights which added to the party-like buzz at Caňa Castilla.

Here there were several holidayers like Rainer and Kerstin who were staying at the cabanas, also there was one German/Canadian gentleman, Achim a wildlife enthusiast and amateur photographer who stays here every year for 6 months. He knew every hidden little gem places in this area. On his recommendation the four of us one day drove to a river to watch crazy wildlife of birds and crocodiles munching on unlucky fish pushed in by the tide. It was a fantastic place to just hang out and watch.

Every morning John and I, then found out Rainer and Kerstin too kept deciding to stay one more day. Until it was really time to move on and discover other beautiful places in Costa Rica, although easily could’ve stayed a few more days here. With our new friends we decided to meet up again, perhaps. We both wanted to check out the southern Caribbean side at some point so that seemed like a good place to meet up again if all goes well.

On our leaving morning we said our goodbyes to Guido, Agi (who gave me a loaf of her gorgeous home baked bread as a leaving present) and Linda and moved further in to Costa Rica.

Next, Lago Arenal and Vulcán Poás…