We spent the night in a hostel in downtown Santa Helena, then took the jeep-boat-jeep to El Castillo. This ride was an adventure in itself. The first leg was in a packed minibus with seven other travelers and the driver, almost two hours on a narrow dirt road through the hilly countryside. We had to stop several times to let livestock pass. We also drove through a few coffee fields and by a beautiful river that flowed into Lake Arenal.
There was a stop at a cafe just before getting to the launch on the lake where we were able to visit bathrooms and get a drink. They had a very cute parrot there that did flips on his stand (video coming). The boat was a flat pontoon boat that was less than half loaded. Our luggage went up front behind the windows, while we all sat in the back to enjoy the view of the rain forest and get misted by the spray.
We landed at a dam that was between La Fortuna, a big tourist destination for viewing the volcano Arenal, and our destination, El Castillo. This little town is on the other side of the volcano and had a B&B called The Hummingbird´s Nest. The place was gorgeous, with an amazing view of the volcano and a beautiful garden in the front maintained by the owner Ellen, herself a retired flight attendant who worked for Pan Am.
While in El Castillo, we hiked up the hill and saw a very nice butterfly conservatory where they study several species; our guide was very helpful, giving us a tour of the species of insects, reptiles, and amphibians that live in Costa Rica. We got to see some of those very colorful poisonous frogs that you see on TV specials.
This morning, we had a lovely breakfast, then took a taxi into La Fortuna, the tourist town. In a couple of hours, we´ll catch a bus to San Jose for the last part of our trip before returning to the states.