My friend Richard Joseph recently sent me this story from Costa Rica …
With beautiful fall weather at home Costa Rica seemed like an odd choice for a vacation, but the price was right, maybe too right, we feared because it’s “the rainy season”.
Nevertheless we packed our raincoats and umbrellas arriving in the capital San Jose to a suspiciously dry airport tarmac. The moment we got outside, however, it started to pour.
Maybe this was an indication of why the airfare was so low? Well if we thought the airline prices were cheap, the rental car rates were unbelievable. $1-$10 a day on the web. We splurged for the medium SUV at $10 per day and even bought the insurance that Orbitz offered. Too good to be true? I’m afraid so.
When we arrived at Nu car rental we were informed the rate was correct, but we had to buy their insurance at $360 minimum for four days. The alternative was leaving a deposit of several thousand dollars. Same deal at the other company we checked.
Well we bought their insurance and headed to the famous Arenal volcano. No fumes but plenty of clouds there. It last erupted in 1968, fortunately all is quiet now.
What this now dormant volcano does have is a generous supply of thermal springs.
We chose Baldi Hot Springs based on a friend’s recommendation. Unlike the rental car rates this was truly unbelievable. Baldi has 25 hot springs pools featuring different temperatures, caves, wade up bars, waterfalls and yes an artificial volcano situated at the foot of the real one.
It was raining, but I guess we were going to get wet anyway soaking in the springs. Fortunately there were places to take refuge on lounge chairs covered from the rain.
Staff members told us the place is packed other times of year, but because this is the “rainy season” we had it practically to ourselves.
A day pass costs about $40, but since we stayed in the resort’s beautiful hotel the pools were included (this whole trip was at our own expense by the way).
As long as there was rain we figured it would be appropriate to go for a walk in a rain forest. Mistico Park near Arenal features 16 bridges that take you through and above the jungle canopy. Six of those are suspension hanging bridges. They vary in length and feel as sturdy as the volcano nearby.
The animals seemed to have been given the day off, but there were plenty of flowers to see. Great hike for the $25 two hour jaunt.
The next morning it was like being on a different planet. The rains and low clouds were replaced by blue skies and there was Arenal in all its perfectly shaped volcanic glory.
The good weather made what could have been a sketchy drive along Lake Arenal a pleasure. We headed to the Pacific coast despite the travel guide warnings it is the rainiest time of year there.
The scenery was beautiful driving the hilly narrow roads. At one point we stopped to say hello to a family of Howler monkeys on a fence.
A seemingly fast four hours after we left Arenal we arrived at the JW Marriott near Tamarindo. That trip took us through heavy rains that forced us to drive in the middle of roads, at times, to avoid washouts. The final stretch to the hotel property was like an obstacle course designed with deep potholes.
That test of driving agility finally led to a slice of paradise on earth. Beautifully manicured grounds, a massive swimming pool and a long sandy beach were the ingredients.
Since this was “rainy season” the rates were at a price we could afford. Just for fun we checked and found the prices there a lot lot higher in the dry months. (Beware, posted rates are before hefty taxes and any daily resort fees).
Much to our surprise it was sunny during our entire two day stay. Ok, yes there was a torrential thunderstorm after dark that probably had the monkeys grabbing for umbrellas, but no doubt about it, the “rainy season” in Costa Rica this trip was well worth the bargain.