Despite a breathtaking view of the volcano the previous day and even more interesting, lava eruptions at night, the fierily mountain was in clouds when we started our tour to the Vernado caves. It took us about an hour in a small bus on a bumpy road to reach the caves and start exploring. The owner of the hostel joined us, after we convinced him that he should try the stuff he was promoting.
It was a very small group of just four people and the tour guide, which was good as we could explore more remote parts of the cave. The tour was basically three hours of crawling and sometimes swimming in pitch black muddy water. I got scratches all over feet, but it was well worth it. The caves, dating back over 7 million years, are the direct result of water currents penetrating and passing through the surrounding limestone rocks.
The structure of the tunnels varies tremendously with some displaying ceilings of nearly 20 feet in height, while others requiring that you slide through like a serpent. Within the caves we could find five thousand year old rock formations, such as the “papaya” which is a vertical formation formed by the union of two different rock types; the name is derived from it’s shape, which you guessed it, looks just like a papaya.
Another interesting formation was the “coral”, a huge white masterpiece of time and mother earth. Throughout the caves water in continually flows along the floor of the caves, at times a few feet high. The caves contain four different species of bats and numerous types of spiders, many of which are endemic to the area.
In the afternoon we joined a hiking group to explore the area around Mount Arenal. Unfortunately I don’t have a huge knowledge of plants and animals, so I let the pictures speak for themselves. But we saw all kinds of plants, birds and monkeys that call the rainforest home. We ended the day with dinner and a soak at the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort, and we got the unique opportunity to see the red glow of the volcano’s molten lava from the relaxing thermal waters.