What better way to finish our month of living in Costa Rica than with a reputable tour company taking us to some of the top places in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Through our condo we were able to pick and book organized day trips that enabled guests to explore various points of interest around the northern region of Costa Rica. Of the many tours to choose from we opted to take the Miravalles Volcano Tour which would allow us to hike across jungle suspension bridges, swim at waterfalls and indulge in some hot springs.
Our day of adventures started with a 7:30AM pickup in a big white shuttle bus that seated 12. Lucky us we were the only ones on the tour so we had the entire shuttle to ourselves.
Our first stop was after merely 30 minutes of driving at Llanos de Cortez Waterfall. We hiked a short distance from the parking lot down to the wispy waterfall and river where we changed into our swimsuits (we did a quick behind the beach towel change because there were no washroom facilities). It was still early in the morning so there was hardly anyone at the water. Because the sun hadn’t heated the water, it was a little chilly, nonetheless we braved the cold for a short swim in the river waters. The bottom was made up of nice white sand and the waterfall tumbled down onto us from 30 feet (9 meters) above. While we were splashing around at the base of the falls, a couple of howler monkeys creeped into the trees above us taking a look at the action below. They were pretty far away and never made any howling noises but that didn’t stop us from watching them as we dried off and assembled our gear to head back to the shuttle.
Two hours and one rest stop later we arrived at the our next stop; Miravalles Volcano! Standing 6,653 feet tall (2,027 meters) this volcano is the highest point in the Guanacaste mountain range and has the largest developed geothermal field in all of Costa Rica.
A tractor and trailer was waiting for us when we disembarked from the shuttle to take us up the volcano to the private reserve where we would be hiking some of the jungle trails. About halfway up the volcano a downpour of rain hit us hard. As unpleasant as it was for us on the tractor, that was nothing compared to the tourists climbing the volcano on horseback scrambling for shelter.
We pressed on in the rain, putting our camera’s and valuables in a waterproof bag for the hike (sadly the bag leaked a little and my poor cell phone suffered the wrath of the rainy jungle). Muddy and overgrown trails unfolded into the forest. Wobbly suspension bridges expanded over the vast canopy of the jungle giving us a great aerial view of the expanse of forest that made up the Miravalles Nature Reserve. Mom had a hard time on the bridges that hung over 100 feet (30 meters) in the air. They were high and they swayed back and forth as you walked across them. It was a bit unnerving even for me, an adrenaline junky. The hikes also had a few waterfalls. One waterfall in particular was safe enough that we could fearlessly leap (10 meters) from a platform above into the whitewater of the churning river below.
We explore 3 different trails on our rainy hikes through the jungles of Miravalles before returning to the tractor for the trip back down to the restaurant. Having left our raincoats at the condo we layered on our long sleeve shirts to keep us warm in the wind and rain. Who would have thought we would need to worry about the cold in Costa Rica.
We arrived at the restaurant feeling like drowned rats. The warmth and shelter of the restaurant was welcoming for our wet bodies as our ravenous appetites enjoyed a traditional Costa Rican meal. Even as we ate the rain did not let up, thundering down so loudly on the restaurant’s tin roof that we could barely hear each other speak. It felt like the rainy season all over again. Beans and rice, chicken, fried plantain and a natural fruit juice drink were scarfed down by the four of us in no time. Once we finished our well deserved meals we each took our turns hanging out under the hand dryer in the bathroom trying to dry our clothes and warm our bodies before getting into the shuttle for the last leg of the tour.
We were pretty happy to check out the last stop of the tour after spending a day soaked to the bone. Almost like clockwork the rain cloud that had been following us for the greater part of the day cleared up the moment we arrived at the hot springs.
We did a short but sweet loop of the sulfur fields and boiling mud pots, we had seen very similar stuff on our hiking adventures in Mývatn, Iceland, and then it was hot spring time! I thought we would be left to run wild in the many pools and baths at the hot springs, little did I know there was a process to follow. We began in the steam sauna to heat and open our pores for 15 minutes. Once our time had elapsed we went to the mud pits where we rolled and covered ourselves from head to toe in gray sludge. I felt like a creature from the black lagoon. The mud took about 10 minutes to harden before we proceeded to the rinse bath to clean ourselves off. Mudding complete, it was now time to soak our bodies in the much anticipated hot springs.
On our way to the pools the tour guide pointed out a friendly toucan in the trees, who likes to hang out in the area. It was so cool to see this colourful bird close up and was even cooler when he curiously hopped over and began interacting with us. The brave little guy was absolutely fearless and let you touch and rub his large beak sometimes giving you playful nibbles and pecks. Mr. Toucan hung around for a solid chunk of time before flying off into the jungle letting us get back to our hot springing.
The hot springs felt so wonderful on our goosebump covered bodies. Mom, Joey and I alternated between the hot pool, luke warm pool and cold pool while Dad spend most of his time in the hot pool. We could barely convince him to come out when it was time to leave.
After 2 weeks of organizing our Costa Rican activities, it was a real treat to have someone else take care of the planning and logistics. In spite of the rainy and miserable weather, Mom, Dad, Joey and I had a fantastic time on the Miravalles Volcano Tour. Anyone visiting the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica should without a doubt try this tour, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. No amount of rain could dampen our spirits and get in the way of the jungles and hot springs we enjoyed.
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