Arenal

Picture of arenal_from_springs Arenal volcano looks pretty much like it did the last time we visited. The last time, it was active and the lava was visible at night. It's been dormant for a few years now so there are no more booms and chugs from the volcano but it's still an impressive sight. This is the view from Hotel Arenal Spring. There are several places with very similar names involving "Arenal" and or "Springs" so that part is rather confusing.
Picture of vegetation The highlight of the area is of course Arenal National Park. This is much more accessible than it was on our last trip. The road along the north shore of Lake Arenal is completely paved (Huzzah!). Roads in from Santa Elena are also good. It's dirt into the park itself but that is a very small segment. A big difference to us was the hike itself. On our last trip there were huge areas of exposed volcanic rock. In fact, most of it was exposed rock. Since the volcano quieted down, the vegetation has taken over. It's much greener these days on the hike in.
Picture of lava_trail There are still a few areas with small volcanic boulders. The lava flow areas are difficult walking, most of the trails are quite easy.
Picture of lake_arenal Here is a view of the lake from the slopes of the volcano. On a clear day you'd easily be able to see the Monteverde area. Today the clouds were not cooperating.
Picture of arenal_np This view is as close as you can safely get to the volcano from the main park entrance. There are signs warning hikers not to proceed any further. Even though the volcano has entered a dormant phase there are still quite a few dangers up there.
Picture of really_raining On our hike back it started raining. Then it really started raining. A bit later it really got serious about the whole raining business. All of our rain gear was quite simply outclassed and failed on us. This is near the end of the hike. I'm not sure an umbrella would be able to deal with this either but keep in mind the rain is sudden and rather intense.
Picture of leaf_cutters Here is our obligatory close up of leaf-cutter ants. No matter how many times we see them, they are surprisingly fun to watch. Considering how efficient they are, it's surprising they haven't managed to form multiple traffic lanes yet.
Picture of hot_spring Perhaps the main reason to visit the Arenal region after the volcano itself is a side effect of the volcano: hot springs. There are several to choose from along the flanks of the volcano. One reason we decided to stay at Arenal Springs is that they have their own (private) hot springs. Something worth considering when picking a hotel in the region is the cost of admission to hot springs (it can be substantial). Arenal Springs has a dozen or so pools in a variety of temperatures.
Picture of springs_pool The main one also includes a swim-up bar and restaurant. While we don't have any pictures of it here, the nearby town of Santa Elena has continued to grow as well. There are a lot of restaurant options in town now and it seemed to be a pretty lively place every time we visited.

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