A visit to Costa Rica, actually any place that is different from your own, gives you a great opportunity to see and experience a different culture, different ideas, as well as explore the natural and man-made wonders of the country When the opportunity to visit one of the Volcanoes that are part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” we chose Miravalles which is part of the North Volcanic Mountain Ridge in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, This region is also home to the Miravalles Geothermal Field, which consists of five plants, produces nearly 14% of the National Electrical System’s (SEN) capacity; it opened in 1994.
Costa Rica is attempting to become less reliant on fossil fuels and already harnesses hydro-electric, wind and to a smaller extent solar power and increasing the country’s ability to access the geothermal energy from the volcanoes would create a cleaner and more environmental solution to the counties energy needs. The balancing act will be to harness the power through the development of more Geothermal Plants and continue to protect the National Parks and Eco-Tourism which is important both environmentally and economically.
To visit Miravalles Volcano we went with Xplore Costa Rica and were fortunate enough to travel with 5 people from New York City. It is highly recommended when exploring Miravalles Volcano and Las Hornillas Volcanic Hot Springs you utilize the services of a guide. This is the second time we had local Naturalist Eugene as our guide who was accompanied by Felix who was making like us his first trip to Miravalles Volcano. Eugene knows the flora, fauna and wildlife of Costa Rica and understands the importance of the environment.
The tour includes horseback riding, a 90 minute hike through the rainforest, over suspension bridges to see 5 waterfalls with each one getting better as you moved further up the volcano. After a traditional Costa Rican lunch (pescado, pollo or cerdo, beans and rice as well as plantains and cheese) you had the opportunity to explore the crater and enjoy the steam and bubbling clay before taking a natural steam bath, a relaxing soak in the hot volcanic mud, then finishing by dipping yourself in the three different pools as you cleansed your pores and skins.
Fernando or as he is playfully known as ‘Mono’ led us on the hike and is quite the photographer. He borrowed my camera to take some amazing shots of our experience as you walked across the suspension bridge or in front of the one of the magnificent waterfalls. You have a choice to go by tractor or horseback and as a group we took the horses. All of us were novices to say the least, with three of our group never have been on a horse. The horses being trail horses were well-tempered and any initial concerns anyone had were eased by our three tour guides.
The hiking although not strenuous does require a moderate level of fitness and balance. It is rocky in places and a natural rainforest. A couple of the well-built suspension bridges were long but offered spectacular views of the majesty of Miravalles Volcano. The hike is certainly worth the effort. Cooler because it is out of the sun and you start to enter parts of the rainforest with an opportunity to see some unique flora and fauna.
The crater itself is a geologists dream with deposits of sulfur, iron and the bubbling volcanic mud creating steam vents as you meander through this wonder of nature. Although a bit reluctant at first the natural steam bath is hot and wonderful as you prepare yourself for a dip in the volcanic mud. Initially we sat in the closest mud bath as the water streamed into the pool but it was very hot. The second mud bath was cooler and we were able to cover ourselves in nature’s skin cream. The showers to clean off the mud is a must as you finally take your time as you relax in the three natural pools. It was a great time to relax with a cerveza or some agua before the journey back into Guanacaste.
The trip to Miravalles Volcano was fantastic but a few tips:
1) Don’t take your best swim suit
2) Towels are a must
3) They say mosquito repellant, but so far I have found Costa Rica almost bug free
4) A Camera
5) ALWAYS end your day with a spectacular walk on the beach at sunset
All photos taken with my Sony A57