Looking back at our trip to Costa Rica I wonder how often certain stereotypes build up your expectations just to be replaced with unexpected treats.
We spent 7 days in Costa Rica driving from San Jose, to Arenal volcano, to Guanacaste beaches, to the city of Liberia. I was eager to see one of the most active volcanoes in the world and walk through colonial history on Liberia’s streets. Reality, however, took it’s own turn.
Adventure had begun even before we left home: apparently, Costa Ricans do not believe in street addresses. Instead, an address is more of a direction than a precise location: “50 Metros este y 50 Metros sur del Colegio de Médicos, Sabana Sur”. It may sound impressive, but it was a source of slight inconvenience. In San Jose, we spent about an hour going in circles around an alleged place of our hotel while it was mysteriously escaping us. Locals were exceptionally friendly and talkative. Unfortunately, their efforts were quite fruitless since nobody could point in the correct direction.
San Jose proved to be typical industrial city with noisy traffic. If noise by itself was not enough, clouds of exhaust fumes spewed by cars made my head spin. It seemed as this city got stuck in the 80s.
It is by no means a vacation spot, but some places there do posses a certain charm.
Next destination – Arenal volcano. According to some sources it is the most active volcano in the world, according to others it is the most active volcano in Costa Rica. In any case, Arenal is alive and well. It’s most recent major explosive eruption happened in 1968. Since then it has been almost continuously active, and there are numerous hot springs ringing the base of the volcano.
The area around the volcano has been made into a national park and tourism became a prime source of income for the region. As a result, all kinds of touristy attractions sprouted around: resorts for all types of incomes, warm springs baths, eco- (and not so much) tours, and, of course, restaurants, bars and shops. Sadly, majestic forces of nature became utterly overpowered by human mercantilism. Hence, Arenal was a tremendous disappointment. I guess expectations were set too high, and the reality could not match. Plus, the weather was not in the mood too. During our visit Arenal was covered with heavy clouds, so all we could see was the bottom part of the volcano. On top of that, visitors are not allowed to go anywhere near the crater (admittedly, it is probably a good decision).
More Costa Rica photos on Flickr
Discovering Costa Rica. Part 2: from Arenal to Pacific Coast
1 thought on “Discovering Costa Rica. Part 1: San Jose and Arenal”
Glad to hear someone else with the opinion that the Arenal area was a disappointment! We though it was really, really commercial: http://bbqboy.net/la-fortuna-costa-rica/
Your posts have also reminded me why we didn’t like Costa Rica overall: crap roads, rainy weather, icky beaches…
Good job documenting it all!