Relaxing at Essence Arenal

Friday, 22-08-2014. Day 3. 

Ziplines and Hot Springs. 

The days here begin with the pre-dawn howl of the howler monkey. They make a heck of a racket, and it's hard to not wake up when they start sounding off. But despite this, we enjoyed one of the best nights of sleep we'd gotten in well over a month.

The hostel serves breakfast starting at 7:00, and it's a very social time of the day. Over hot coffee,  the guests talk about what they did the day before, share their plans for the days ahead, and discuss the various experiences and observations they've each had during their travels.

Frankie really wanted to go ziplining, so Adrian, one of the gents who keeps things running at the hostel, recommended Los Lagos, a nearby resort. The advantage of Los Lagos over some of the other zipline outfits is that after the zipline experience, you get to spend the rest of the day in the resort, using the hot springs and the pool.

It rains a lot in Costa Rica, especially where we were staying, and it started raining right before we left for the day. This didn't keep the girls form hanging out with Banano, though.

Comfortable being uncomfortable.

Comfortable being uncomfortable.

It stopped raining on the half-hour drive down to Los Lagos. We arrived there about 9:00 a.m. Our zipline reservations were for 1:00 p.m., but the woman who checked us in told us that the 10:30 a.m. time slot was a better choice to avoid potential afternoon rains, so we switched our reservation.

We drove next door to the Los Lagos resort, parked Dorothy, and decided to spend a little time exploring the grounds. The first order of business was to visit the souvenir shop so I could pick up a new pair of gafas del sol to replace the ones I'd lost in Fort Lauderdale.

Designed in Italy. Made in China. Sold in Costa Rica. Lost in TBD. Not bad for 6,000 colónes.

Designed in Italy. Made in China. Sold in Costa Rica. Lost in TBD. Not bad for 6,000 colónes.

We had just enough time to tour the butterfly gardens, frog ponds, ant farm, and crocodile pens at Los Lagos before we had to get geared up for zip lining.


We (Frankie, Jackie, and I) were the only three on the excursion, and we had three guides (Antonio, Miguel, and Brian), who would leapfrog ahead of us so one would always be at the next platform to catch us coming in. We zipped along through the canopy on eight different cables, covering a total of three kilometers each. The longest run was 500 meters. Jackie got to ride with Antonio on two of the longer cables, but other than that, she was on her own and handled it like champ. It only took about an hour, and, as soon as we were done, both girls wanted to do it again.


After the zipline, we hung out in the pool and hot springs at Los Lagos for awhile. The place was all but deserted. The girls wanted to order at the swim-up bar where they got to try piña coladas sin licor. After listening to "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" from the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack) nearly endlessly since the trip began three days ago, being able to drink a piña colada, even a nonalcoholic one, was was a very gratifying experience.

So, yes, today we had piña coladas and got caught in the rain.

We drove into La Fortuna to get some gasolina for Dorothy (she was down to half a tank). The gas stations here are full service. It's been a long time since I've been at a full service station, so it was odd to sit in the car while the tank was filled, the windows were washed, and the car was hosed down—all for only 17,999 colónes.

On our way back to the hostel, we drove by the Chocolate Fusion Cafe just on the outer edge of La Fortuna. It looked pretty nice, so we turned around and checked it out. Samantha and I split a nice chorreador and the gals split a Fresca and, of course, some chocolate.

Coffee brewed via chorreador.

Coffee brewed via chorreador.

We got back to Essence Arenal just in time to take the nature walk with Jairo, a young man who lived at the farm and had deep knowledge of the regional flora and fauna as well as permaculture and medicinal herbs.

After a brief introduction to some of the animals and birds we might see (and a warning about possible encounters with jaguars and the fer-de-lance, one of Costa Rica's most venomous snakes), we toured the 27 hectares of the property. After hiking through the rainforest where we saw some howler monkeys and toucans, we got to see all the plants they grow at the farm—everything from cucumbers to limes to almonds to cinnamon to sugar cane (which we got to try) and much more.

Jackie con caña azucár.

Jackie con caña azucár.

As the sun started to set, Jairo made us tea from freshly picked herbs of our choosing (lemongrass and mint). While it was steeping, Frankie and Jackie played with Cairo, a Rhodesian ridgeback puppy with a ton of energy.

A rare moment of downtime for Cairo.

A rare moment of downtime for Cairo.

After tea, we resumed the tour, and now that it was dark, the bugs were fierce. I forgot to put more insect repellent on before we left, and my legs were a tasty smorgasbord for all manner of blood sucking bugs. The girls, fortunately, got away with only a few bites. We went through the hostel's small coffee plantation (too dark for photos, alas), then walked past the murky tilapia pool and the natural pool where about five frogs were hanging out (during the day it's for people, but at night, it's for frog parties). We saw a huge cane toad hopping away from us before we turned and headed back up the hill to the hostel.

The whole tour took about two hours, and we got back to the kitchen just in time for dinner where we helped to make vegetarian sushi rolls.

Notable statistics

  • New birds seen: 1 (Great Kiskadee)
  • Crocodiles seen: 3
  • Other resort-goers seen: 5
  • Kilometers zipped: 9
  • Frog parties attended: 1

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Relaxing at Essence Arenal
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