Sorry for the blurriness of the map, it's the best I could do:
Ben somehow got driving duty the entire time and got us around in the Fortuner like a champ. He had to avoid road obstacles pretty frequently- like crazy drivers, cows congregating in the middle of the road, dogs- some that were sleeping and others that were just hanging out, and some sort of vultures having a street fight
I think it took us about an hour and a half to maybe two hours to get to the Lake Arenal area from the lodge (I should be fact checking with my travel buddies while I write this, I'm horrible at time estimations)
Mountains, pastures, farmland, horses and cows - the ride was so pretty, I wouldn't have cared if it had taken four hours to get there. (I would've slept, anyway, if I got tired of looking out the window... you know me)
We had no idea what we were actually go to do once we got down to the lake area, or where we were going to stay (and that place is HUGE - roughly 33 square miles) so after driving around for a while, we stopped at a place called Toad Hall, which we had seen about a million signs for, to use their (very well advertised) wifi, drink a beer, and figure out our next step.
It turned out to be the perfect place to stop because the views were amazing, and we go to meet and talk to the very helpful and lovely owner, Lydia.
We thought about staying there for a night - we looked at a really nice, affordable room for the four of us with a nice views of the lake, pool and the jungle...
We changed our minds, though, when Lydia was honest enough to tell us that we were welcome to stay, but she thought we might get a little bored there because there wasn't anything going on, anywhere in that area, and even her bar closed pretty early.
She gave us a small, but perfect, little parting gift to take with us (if you know me.... you know what I'm talking about when I'm vague like that) and suggested we check out the Cloud Forest in Monteverde.
I think we started out a bit more north on the lake than where this particular "A" is, but close enough.
The drive around the lake was beautiful, and I finally got a glimpse of an actual volcano!
Arenal Volcano - "At 5,437 feet, the Arenal Volcano looms large and ominous over the pastured green hillsides that surround its base. Although currently in a resting phase, Arenal remained the country's most active volcano for the past 43 years. Its storied history is charged with eruptions - both major and minor - that have intimately affected the region and the people who live here."
So... we're driving and driving and driving, and we keep seeing signs for a brewery, and I keep saying I want to go. I was actually pretty determined to have a beer and take a pee break, so I kind of insisted - but that also ended up being an awesome spot to check out, for a few reasons...
One reason being, we saw this sign:
Yeeeeeah, how could you just roll past that sign and not check it out?
After wandering around there for a while, taking pictures and being totally stoked about what we had just stumbled upon, we continued on to the brewery.
I wish I could find a link to throw in here but I can only find things about the Volcano Brewing Company that used to be in this spot, I think.
I believe (and I checked with Eric on this one) that it's now called the Lake Arenal Brewing Company.
Whatever it's name is- it's an awesome, family run, laid back place that has a microbrewery, restaurant, hotel, sick views of the lake, and monkeys in the trees.
The two guys running the place were super cool - it's their family business, their dad moved down there years ago and was a professional windsurfer and it sounds like there's a fun backstory to it all.
They also shared something tasty with us before we left and headed to Monteverde for the night. Good people.
We stopped at the Choco Cafe when we go to Monteverde so we could refuel a bit and find out where we should look for a room for the night.
Apparently, Monteverde is, like, coffee central in Costa Rica - there are a lot of coffee shops and tours to coffee bean farms to see the whole process "from beginning to end,"... and it's pretty tasty. I wish I had some right now.
We ended up spending the night at the Monteverde Hostel Lodge, which was cool because there's an actual lodge that has an area with a bunch of couches and chairs and a tv, a restaurant area, and a bar where you check in, and the hostel feels like a giant treehouse that you have to walk across a bridge to get to.
It was clean and comfortable, but the walls were super thin, I guess, because I wanted to punch the people in the room next to me around 4am.
We did some tequila drinkin at this table. I don't think we talked to those girls on the other couch, but we very well could have.
We only hung out in Monteverde for one night - we checked out a local bar near the hostel and had (very bad) quesadillas at some restaurant that I don't even remember the name of, then drank more at the bar in the lodge until it was time to crash, and left the next morning - after trying to stop somewhere for coffee.
Seriously, it wasn't even that early and we had to try three different coffee shops before we found one that was open.
Even though we didn't do a tour of the cloud forest while we were there, I think we still got a pretty good feel for it...
Our next plan was to get to a place called Puntarenas so we could catch a ferry that brings you across the Gulf of Nicoya to either Paquera (where we went) or Naranjo, and from there we were on our way to another beach town, Montezuma
Somewhere in the gulf there is an island called San Lucas Island, and on that island there's an abandoned prison. Just remember I told you that, because I'll get back to it later.
Puntarenas, at least the part we drive through to get to the ferry, was a total shithole. It felt like we were driving through one gigantic prison- every single house and business had barbed wire and security bars on every window... but, right around where you wait for the ferry, there was a swim club with a bunch of gringos doing water aerobics. It seemed very out of place and I want to know where all of those people are staying while they were in that creepy town.
The ferry took about an hour and a half to get across to Paquera (much nicer) and had a handy snack and beverage bar inside. I'm pretty sure we brought our own 6pack of Imperial or Pilsen, too.
We were bringing a lot of roadies with us throughout the trip.
We got to Montezuma in time to walk around for a hot minute, buy another 6 pack of beer, and watch a lovely, pink sunset on the beach.
I liked this town immediately - it had a very "jungle-meets-the-sea," bohemian feel to it.
My camera didn't do it justice
We had dinner after that, and then went to go find a room and ended up at a place called Luz de Mono (they play that fantastic version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole on there website, I just found out)
It seemed like a nice enough place - again, my only complaint was the noisy neighbors... or should I say the noisy group of about 30 that were running around, screaming and singing at the top of their lungs and listening to obnoxiously loud music by 6am, after an interesting and long night...
Unfortunately, I don't have any more pictures of Montezuma, but I do have a quick story... and I hope I can tell it in a way that is edited enough to not make anyone cranky that I told it..
After we got settled at Luz de Mono, we wanted to go back out and check out the town at night.
As we started walking back to town, the power went out. Like, all of it. The entire place was blacked out. We went into a bar, anyway, and sat around drinking by candlelight for about an hour or so - it was totally mellow and chilled out and I was having a totally fine time.... until the power came back on.
All of a sudden there were bright lights, strobe lights, loud music, maybe even a smoke machine- I dunno. It just suddenly went from nice, quiet, dark bar to instant night club and it just was not my scene any longer.
The whole vibe totally changed, for me, anyway. Ben and Shane were talking to some Mexican girls and they seemed nice enough, but I made it pretty clear to Eric that I was definitely leaving and happy with just taking a few more beers back to the hotel, so off we went.
Not too long after we got back to the room, though, we remembered that our bags were still in the car, and that Ben had the keys.
We went back to the bar to find them maybe an hour later.... Ben was walking out as we walked in and mumbled something to us about being right back, and then we spotted Shane sitting by himself at the table we had left them at earlier. The Mexican chics were dancing with each other in the crowd somewhere.
Ben came back a bit later, and said he needed to buy two guys beers before they killed him... but he said it kind of jokingly so I just made sure to keep my eye on him when he went to go bring it to them in the alley next to the bar/club.
Shane went over to scope things out, and everything seemed cool, so Eric and I told them we were going to the car, dropping off the bags, and then we'd find them again to bring the keys back.
I had kind of a sketchy feeling about the guys they were hanging out with and told Eric that I wanted to go grab Ben and Shane by their ears and tell them to come home, but he talked me out of it.
As soon as we headed back from the car, though, we saw both of them walking, pretty quickly, up the street, and they told us that we had to leave - NOW.
Apparently, the shit had hit the fan in the span of the five minutes that we were away from them, and Shane had gotten punched in the eye. (I didn't ask him if I could take a picture of it the next day, but I wanted to - looked pretty gnarly)
Let that be a lesson, ladies - if you're hanging out with a bunch of boys who are 12 years younger than you and your maternal instinct kicks in... you grab those kids and get them home!
We went back to the hotel, listened to their story, told them to chill out and stay inside, and then Eric and I went to go get the car and bring it to the hotel, just in case.
It took us forever to find the hotel parking lot, though, and by the time we got back, Ben was walking out of his room and possibly planning on going back into town to check on us, while carrying the top of the toilet to use as a weapon.
Not the plastic toilet seat - the big, ceramic lid of the actual toilet.
We all went back inside, relaxed a bit, and decided to leave right after breakfast in the morning. (Which is why I never ended up getting my tarot cards read)
Right after breakfast, we ditched Montezuma and headed back up to Paquera to try to find a boat to take us over to that island with the abandoned prison that I mentioned earlier.
(That trip gets its own post, so we're skipping ahead for right now. Be patient.)
After the prison trip, we had to decide where to stay for our last night together (I was leaving a day before them, out of a different airport, so I had to make my way back to San Jose the following day)
We decided to go back to where we started, Tamarindo...
I can't tell you how long it took to get there from Paquera because I slept through most of the ride - but I want to stay it took at least 5 hours or so. (92 miles)
It was dark by the time we got there, so we just got our rooms, went for dinner at Eat at Joe's, then turned in not too long after that.
We spent our last few hours together the next day on the beaches of Tamarindo and Playa Langosta again before Eric and I had to catch a bus to San Jose...
I said goodbye to Ben and Shane - both of whom I'm so happy to have met. They kept me laughing, for sure, and Shane (being the only one of us that could speak more than 5 words in Spanish) definitely made the experience a little smoother by being able to understand what the hell people were trying to tell us when we had to stop for directions.
I wonder how many miles we traveled... thanks again to Ben for not getting us killed on the road.
Eric and I started the bus ride back to San Jose the right way - with a 6pack...
That might not have been the best idea we ever had, since the bus doesn't pull over on the side of the road for pee breaks.. but we made it, anyway, hours later.
We both totally napped as much as possible.
When we finally got to San Jose, we stopped at a Denny's to scarf down some food before heading over to the hotel (Hotel Cacique, again) and then just crashed for the night.
We said our (sad) goodbyes in the morning - Eric got in a taxi to get to the bus terminal so he could meet back up with Ben and Shane, and I walked back to Denny's for a quick breakfast before getting over to the airport.
With only a 50 minute layover in El Salvador this time, I was back in Belize City by 4pm, and back to San Pedro by 6.
I'm still mad that I didn't get an El Salvador passport stamp.... I guess I'll have to go back and wander around their country for a while to get one.
Wellllll..... that was basically the whole, ten day trip to Costa Rica (minus the San Lucas Prison portion) and I definitely need to go back one day to spend more time there.
Maybe a surf and yoga retreat is in my future...