If you weren’t a bird lover before visiting Arenal Observatory Lodge, you will be after! 53% of all Costa Rica’s 913 bird species are found here. It’s no wonder that scientists and professional photographers flock here to study the birds.
Outside the lodge restaurant, many gather to view and take pictures of the colorful birds. Fruits were set up to attract the birds and provided great opportunities to witness their plumage and songs. Several birding groups gathered on the deck to take pictures before their tours. Their cameras and gear were almost as impressive as subject of their search.
After breakfast we joined the free nature hike around the beautiful property and its many trails. We got an excellent photo of the rare laughing falcon and a video of the black striped sparrow that we affectionately called the “ticking time bomb bird” due to its call that sounded like a countdown of a bomb. Other birds species we spotted included tanagers, warblers, orioles, finches, sparrows, kiskadees, kingfishers, chompipes, hawks, guans, woodpeckers, flycatchers, and many more. We also saw more monkeys, frogs, coatis, agoutis and waterfalls. It is hard to explain to someone who has not heard a rainforest what it like. It is full of sound and smells. It is filled with life and renewal and activity. It sparks hope and excitement. Senses rush and ones soul becomes more aware of their surroundings.
There were many trails to hike on the lodge’s private reserve. Several paths around the lodge were rich with birds, frogs, and monkeys. We found a sleeping red-eyed tree frog. The spider monkeys in the trees attracted the attention of the other guest, but the monkeys of the Osa Peninsula was more impressive. We took a longer path through the pasture land lined with rainbow eucalyptus trees to the waterfall.
Later, I set out on a personal trek to Cerro Chato, a water filled dormant volcano. At the edge of the reserve there is a sign with the direction and the path changes from a groomed path fit for vehicle to a narrow path going up at a sharp angle. The path is worn not just from foot travel but from storm water run off. At points going up the trail path lies over five feet below the soil line, and choices must be made about whether to go through or to bushwhack around. I passed several people wheezing and puffing and clearly unprepared for the steepness of the ascent. At the top, the path splits and I went left for a bit, then descended down a narrow path to the shore of lake Cerro Chato. A warm fog rested on the lake making it impossible to see across. Chorus of frogs, birds, and insects were soon dwarfed by thunder and hard rain. It was a moment alone with nature and definitely a hidden gem.
With my shoes off, I waded into the lake and let small fish nibble at my feet. A small group hiking up from La Fortuna descended down the path in the rain and proceeded on a path around the lake. As the rain fell, the path I came down became a torrential creek. I let the storm pass, and started back, climbing through the fresh mud up, and then back down towards the Lodge’s reserve. On the way back, I meandered through a variety of the trails on the Lodges property. Overall it was 6.5 miles (10.4 km) and 4 hours of time. There was a 1600 foot elevation gain from the lodge to rim of the Cerro Chato crater.
Typically, the Arenal volcano is obscured by high clouds. After the thunderstorm, the Arenal volcano came out of hiding. We took some good photos of it and noticed that it resembled a face. We called the face Abuelo Arenal or Grandfather Arenal. Can you see El Abuelo?
The Lodge is a resort, and we did enjoy time in the pool and hot tub. Several Coati sniffed around looking for scraps.