Feeling like I should do something productive with my afternoon rather than lounge about the hostel, I booked onto this tour, primarily because it was one of the few that fitted in with a morning activity (and there was promise of a cocktail at the end!). The idea of hiking up a volcano wasn't a key incentive, which, it turns out, was a good thing!
The tour started at the Arenal Volcano observatory. Situated about 45minutes from La Fortuna, this facility was set up after the devastating 1968 eruption to monitor the seismic activity (although the Hotel and Spa may be a little while after the initial observatory).
Wilmer, our guide, an eccentric Costa Rican who apparently grew up in the jungle, 3 miles from his nearest neighbour, rallies us all together and leads us on our way. Just before heading into the rainforest, we take a quick detour, he's spotted toucans! 2 to be precise, different species, and to an untrained eye in the distance, seemingly similar, nevertheless I happily snap away and we move on.
Not much animal excitement, but Wilmer, unperturbed, provides us with numerous jungle facts, a lot of which seem to revolve around snakes! The hike, to my relief is flat...until we veer to the right and down... the waterfall! I was warned about this, now it's decision time, do I strip down and jump in, or wait for the river? (To put things in perspective, I am currently hiking with my normal shorts over my swim shorts as I was advised there would be nowhere to change, and I felt my European swim shorts were a little risqué for a jungle hike!). I decide to wait, little means of drying or changing could mean chaffage, not ideal on day 2 with numerous days of hiking ahead.
Post waterfall, dusk had already set in, perfect timing Wilmer whispers triumphantly. We're told to keep quiet and follow him into the ever darkening rainforest, obligingly we did. When he eventually stopped, it was pitch black, he lit his torch and pointed at a leaf...a red-eyed tree frog!
Back on the bus, drenched due to the quick turn in the weather, we drove back, all of us falling slowly to sleep. 30 minutes later, we pull over and Wilmer tells us all to take our clothes off, surprisingly we all willingly oblige again! He marches us out of the bus and down a cordoned off slipway. Two torches between the entire group made this an interesting walk, but we eventually reached the 'river', yours truly leading the way. Wilmer's, younger, less multilingual assistant pointed at the river, gesturing me in, which was less than appealing. Other than the fact that he was pointing the torch in the other direction (to highlight a hole to avoid), the slippery stone steps led to what can best be described as something akin to a LA storm drain (think Gone in 60 Seconds). Wilmer bounds past, cool box in hand, headlight on and leads the way. They weren't lying about the river, it was pleasantly warm, bath temperature (a welcome respite to a few in the group who had been traveling longer than I had!). I followed Wilmer to the other side of the river, where he showed me the 'pool', just beneath the next ledge, and, to my relief, not in anyway resembling a storm drain.
Once all in, Wilmer passes around the 'cocktails' a concuction of local 'rum' and
Fresca (essentially Lilt). It tasted incredible, and combined with the surroundings of the natural hot river with mist forming in the torchlight as the rain fell down, it made for an increadible finisher.
I arranged the tour through the Arenal Backpackers resort, therefore do not know the name of the company, but the resort should be able to provide this.