Friday, March 25, 2011

Arenal Festival Costa Rica 2011


sign horse practice

The Arenal Festival in Nuevo Arenal is a big celebration that is held yearly. This year the event was held March 17 – 21. As the event approached, I began to notice more action around town.  Posters began going up, the road was paved down to the arena, and community areas were cleaned.


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Vendors were set up outside the Arena serving food, drinks, and merchandise to purchase.

horses in truck

horse by carhorse cart

On Sunday, March 20 the city hosted a horse parade. For the parade, horses arrived many different ways. To bring the hundreds of horses into town it took multiple trucks, individual horse trailers, and those who chose to arrive by horseback.

horse 3 horse one

horse 2 

My favorite was the horse that looked like a spotted Dalmatian!

horses in field

The parade started organizing around 1 p.m. and for the next three hours riders enjoyed the day showing off their horsemanship.

selling hats This man took advantage of the opportunity by selling cowboy hats.


Just as I thought the festivities were starting to lessen, a large group of dancing horses began to congregate in front of our house!  It was exciting to view the conclusion of the parade right from our porch. We were able to watch them for an hour as they sat on their horses and socialized.

band in car

They even had their own private band on wheels!

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips:

In Costa Rica, currency is called colones.

$10,000 = $20.00

$5,000= $10.00

$2,000= $4.00


Hint: Colones x 2 = American dollars.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Vuelta al Lago Bike Event Lake Arenal, Costa Rica



While living in Nuevo Arenal, my family and I experienced one of the most important events that passes through Arenal annually. It was the Vuelta al Lago mountain bike event which translates to “Around the Lake”. This year was the 20th year and annually it continues to attract riders from around the world. A friend of ours in Arenal, said that about 2,500 registered for the event this year.

The length of the event was 2 days with March 5 as the starting day. The bike circuit is 175 kilometers to ride around Lake Arenal. Many of the roads are gravel and steep which is difficult even for motorized vehicles to ride. Bikers who know the terrain come prepared with their hybrid and mountain bikes. Once the riders were geared up, they left Tilaran at 9 a.m. on March 5 and rode to Central Park La Fortuna. The following day bikers returned to Tilaran by taking the highway on the east side of Lake Arenal. The highway took the bikers right through Nuevo Arenal. I was ready with my camera as they came around the lake.


For the town of Nuevo Arenal, the event caused a lot of commotion with all the bikers passing, buses, locals watching, and even the transit patrol came for safety.


When lunch came around, these riders converted the local bus stop into their soda (Spanish for diner) hut!

Transportation Options in Costa Rica

Besides traveling by bicycle, people of Costa Rica have different ways to get to their destination. The majority of our neighbors as well as ourselves, use walking as their form of transportation. I thought it would be fun to share some other modes of transportation we have around town.

horse horse

In Costa Rica, it is not unusual to see Ticos (natives of Costa Rica) ride through town on horseback. The white horse is one of my favorites to watch as it showcases its fancy walking steps.

leading horse

Travel by motorcycle is another popular way to travel. I should know since they zoom past our home throughout the day! Motorcycles are now a familiar occurrence, but what I didn’t expect to see was a driver leading a horse as it sped by!

IMG_2563 red vehicle

When it comes to vehicles, some citizens have a more festive approach. These gas powered carts blend in with the tropical atmosphere of Costa Rica with their elaborate paintings. I wouldn’t mind taking one of them for a ride, though I prefer to walk.

four wheeler

For children, a four wheeler is the more exciting option when it comes to getting around! Children start riding four wheelers at a very early age.

IMG_2347land rover

When the travel distance is farther, a private or public bus is one of the more sensible options, but many choose to own their own private automobile. This antique Land Rover has seen many years in Costa Rica!

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: When a local water line broke, we had to be creative in finding a way to purify our water. We paired together a Tico coffee maker with an electric one to create a water purification system. First, we heated the water in our electric coffee maker and then strained in through the cloth coffee liner to remove the debris. This is a useful skill to apply when necessary.

coffee filter transformed

Friday, March 11, 2011

Catarata De La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica


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The picture to the right is the main entrance building for La Fortuna Waterfall. There is a gift shop, information center, and restrooms as well. Admission into the Ecological Reserve is around $10 per person. The money goes to a local non-profit who reinvests it for maintaining the reserve surrounding the La Fortuna Waterfall.

After becoming accustomed to living in Nuevo Arenal, my mom, siblings, and I decided to venture out of town on a trip to La Fortuna. We had high hopes for this trip since we were anticipating getting to see the La Fortuna Waterfall and find peanut butter for my brother Joshua. To reach La Fortuna it required of us taking multiple forms of transportation. First, we rode on the public bus for an hour passing over several narrow bridges, bumps, and even a washed out road. The travel from Nuevo Arenal to La Fortuna cost 2,000 colones ($4) per person, so a round trip for my family was $32. After reaching town, we went to the Arenal Evergreen Information Center who called us a taxi service for driving up to the La Fortuna Waterfall. The taxi charge was $7 and the driver dropped us right at the park’s entrance (A taxi back to town is another $7). I recommend taking a taxi to the falls because the walk is uphill and an 1 1/2 hour walk from town. You will need to preserve your energy for climbing down to the falls!

IMG_2237_thumb1horse parking

Another option for reaching La Fortuna waterfall is to travel horseback! Above is the “horse parking” station.

Learn more here: 


A covered bridge leads to the stairway that goes down to La Fortuna Waterfall. It was the first bridge we crossed after paying admission. From the bridge is a beautiful view of the surrounding rainforest.

IMG_2223 joshua with binoculars

My brother, Joshua stayed on the lookout for wildlife with his binoculars as we made our way down (right photo).

The stairs down to the La Fortuna Waterfall is a strenuous workout, but worth it! They are also steep so we had to stay alert. The climb down took us 20 minutes descending about 400 steep steps . The amount for us was longer since we stopped to enjoy the surrounding rainforest and allow other people to pass us by who were coming back up.  Imagining seeing the waterfall and hearing from those who had continued to motivate us to reach the last steps.

stick bug

Wildlife in rainforests hide very well, but we did find a strange stick bug (photo above) and saw a Two-Toed Sloth huddled up in a tree. The sloth looked like a teddy bear!



With the last steps conquered, we reached the falls! There before us was La Fortuna as it dropped an astonishing 230 feet before plunging into the natural springs below. The waterfall’s flow is fed by the Tenois river, then travels through the Arenal mountain range before it cascades over a forested canyon side.

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Further downstream is a relaxing swimming hole that is surrounded by tropical rainforest. The water from the falls rushes and curves over a multitude of rocks to arrive at another natural pool.


The spring water is chilly compared to the water of nearby hot springs. Wading in the spring is relaxing after the rigorous decent of stairs so be sure to bring bathing suits! The water is crystal clear and fish are visible as they pass  by.

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We passed a stand selling coconut water!

After viewing the waterfall, we began our climb back up the stairway. Getting back up took more effort then down since gravity was against us. To get back to the town of La Fortuna, we decided to travel by foot instead of using the taxi service. Our journey took about an hour and thirty minutes across the gravel path.  We were thankful for our hiking boots, snacks, and water bottles! To entertain ourselves, we looked for butterflies, flowers, and birds along the road. Mom even found a giant leaf to shade by brother from the sun.

banded peacock IMG_2307

Along the roadside were many butterflies! I captured a picture of the Banded Peacock which you can enjoy above. We were also blessed with a beautiful view of Arenal Volcano as we walked back to town!

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: When visiting La Fortuna Waterfall remember to wear good hiking shoes, pack water bottles, snacks, camera, and swimming suits. When you exit there are shower and changing rooms.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Living in Nuevo Arenal, Part 2


The town of Nuevo Arenal where my family and I are staying offers a spectacular view of the Arenal Volcono right from our sidewalk! With the closing of rainy season, we have been able to enjoy a clearer view of Arenal Volcano’s peak along with its striking conical shape. One of our recent adventures was traveling to La Fortuna where we were able to see a close view of the volcano (picture above), shop in town, and visit the Catarata La Fortuna Waterfall. I will share our adventure along with pictures in a future blog entry.

Since the Arenal Volcano is such an important landmark to the local area, I decided to learn more about its history. It was interesting to learn that Arenal is the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica and one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world! The largest recorded eruption in Arenal’s history occurred in 1968. This explosion happened abruptly after being inactive for 400 years and destroyed the small town of Tabacion as well as the original Arenal town. Since the 1968 eruption, Arenal has continued to erupt on a daily basis.

Learn more about the Arenal Volcano:                


Everyday we enjoy walking into town to get our fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, and bread. The small town of Nuevo Arenal offers a selection of souvenir shops, mini markets, a grocery store, gas station, restaurants, cabanas (rooms for rent), and banking services. Now that the rainy season has ended, we can better enjoy the outside. The breeze here is so refreshing and the sunshine gives us our daily dose of vitamin D. In town we have a nice time meeting locals and many Americans living in the area.

fruit signIMG_2129 

My favorite daily stop is the local farmers market.


The local bakery is my mom’s and sister’s favorite place to shop. Everyday they buy fresh bread and pastries.

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My mom discovered that the grocery store does not sell spaghetti sauce in a jar to put on our eggplant. She made it from scratch by using tomatoes from the farmers market, onions, a box of tomato sauce, and oregano. We also added sautéed zucchini on top as well. My mom substituted rice for noodles on my dish because I’m on a gluten and sugar free diet.

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Most people have an alarm system or bars on the windows, but we have neither. Here my mom is stringing up our “cow bell” alarm system. With a little bit of creativity anything is possible.

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: For internet access in Costa Rica we purchased what we call our “blue stick”. This little stick contains a chip that is our key when it comes to communicating with the outside world. If you are not a resident or corporation you have to prepay at the grocery store. The fastest costs 10,000 colones which in American money would be $20.

IMG_2135 Update:
Because we were unaware the blue chip on our pre-paid plan is limited access, we used up our $20 dollars in 7 days!