Today was our last full day in the Arenal area before we head to Flamingo beach for a few days to wrap up our trip. After breakfast we hopped in the car and headed to Rio Celeste. We started our road trip to Rio Celeste on the nicest and well marked highway of the trip. We were giddy and smiling, thinking this was going to be a breeze compared to yesterdays off-roading adventure. Well, I can shove that thought right back into my head and never, never, EVER let them escape again. Just when we started getting used to the nice roads we turned left. We drove on possibly the worst roads in North America. There was a hill we went down that once we were at the bottom of, BHW muttered the words 'I sure hope we can get back up that thing'. NOT OKAY. I think everyone in that car was gritting their teeth the entire way. I'm so thankful we got the rental car fully insured because I think we may have caused some damage to the under body of that poor sedan. *Disclaimer: When booking the trip, the travel agent suggested we get FWD. I decided against it to save some money. ROOKIE MISTAKE. After a grueling 2 hour drive (which only one hour of it was actually grueling) we arrived at the entrance to Tenorio Volcano National Park, the access point to Rio Celeste. Of course, out of the 20 or so vehicles there.. we were one of the only cars. The locals had to have thought we were idiots. At this point in the trip, we would have agreed.
The hike was a total of 6km to get to the falls, the blue lagoon, and the starting point of the river. Wait, why is the river so dang blue anyways? The short answer: The awe-inspiring Rio Celeste (Light Blue River) is turned a bright milky blue due to the emanation of sulfur from the volcano and precipitation of calcium carbonate. Two crystal clear rivers meet up, combine elements, and merge to create Rio Celeste. We reached the stairs to the waterfall and my jaw literally dropped. I've seen plenty of photos of this place.. but seeing it in person was unreal. I've had quite a few jaw dropping moments this trip; the night hike with the frogs, the hummingbirds, and this. Once we admired the falls for long enough, we hiked back up the bazillion stairs to go on to the starting point of the river. The hike was fairly muddy and hard at times. Before the trip I was worried about when and how I was going to work out.. but these hikes are kicking my booty! We were almost to the starting point of the river when we passed this couple with their huge camera out taking a photo of a tree. I walked by casually, BHW pulled me back and pointed up into the tree. Up on a branch was a SUPER DEADLY SNAKE all curled up taking a snooze. The lady taking pictures said it was so deadly that if it did bite you, you had an hour to get to the hospital or you'd be dead! Yikes, I guess I was right the first time when I hiked right on past them. Reaching the starting point of the river involved crossing two shady bridges. And by shady I don't mean shaded from the sun.. I mean, 1.5 feet wide, built out of splintering wood, here's a little string to hold onto, maximum capacity 2 people at time bridge. There's an old tale about how the Rio Celeste got so blue; When God finished painting the sky, he dipped his brushes in the river to clean them, giving the water the milky blue hue. I'm not one for old tales.. but I really like this one.
Once we hiked back to the car, we all prepared ourselves for the drive ahead. I was especially worried about that dang hill we had to climb up. We DID make it up that hill, but not after almost flying off the road and into the trees. Reaching the paved road may have been the highlight of my day, just kidding, but it was a close second.
After 4 days of amazing (but intense!) hiking and driving on beyond terrible roads, it was official, we deserved a little relaxation time. Momma bear plunked down the $$$ and we went one of the most luxurious places in Costa Rica, Tabacón Grand Spa... which just so happened to be right down the road from our hotel. The spa has a natural river running through it, which is heated by the nearby Arenal Volcano. Aside from the river, there are 18 different springs (some natural, some were created) that are fed by the river where you can sit and relax. There are windy paths to and from the springs, making you feel as if you're lost in the jungle! We started the evening by exploring the grounds and gardens, trying to find the coolest spots to relax. We ended up at the 'Adult only/Hotel guest only' access area. The man at the bar waved us in, he said when it's slow he let's the day pass visitors in. There was soft music playing in the background and private lounges to relax. My mom decided she wanted to stay in there, BHW and I explored some more. We hopped into the main waterfall area where there were a couple other people. We asked this older gentleman to take our picture. The sun was shining, the falls were beautiful, it was going to be an awesome shot. He said he took 4 photos of us. Great! Thank you kind sir! After grabbing some drinks at the swim-up bar (best invention ever), we hopped around from hot spring to hot spring, and eventually ended up hanging out in the river itself. Our dinner reservations were at 8PM.. by around 7:30PM, we were getting hungry and decided to go to the private lounges to relax. I was scrolling through our pictures from the day and whaddaya know.. there wasn't a single picture of us and the falls.. the only one I saw was one I took of BHW when playing around with the self timer. Sigh. I was really excited to have that picture.. but ya know.. life happens. We went back to the main falls to take another photo, it was dark.. but it'll do. I mean, it's just a picture after all. Dinner was included in our day pass and they had a full buffet. BHW was like a kid in a candy shop. I was too when it came to the dessert table, there were tons to choose from! After an evening in the warm waters and being stuffed full of delicious food, it was time for bed! Tomorrow we are off to the beach!