Trip Report for Lake Arenal, Costa Rica 12/29/95 to 1/9/96
Went to Lake Arenal (Rob Novak, Peter Shafton, Peter Birch, Nico Van Praag,
Jon Berman, and Bob Prevett: all Bay area sailors). Spent 10 days on site
at Lake Arenal. Rented equipment from Tico Winds and stayed at Mystica
Lodge. Out of the 10 days, 4 days had strong winds (3.7m2 to 5.5m2), 2
days had light winds (5.5m2 and up) and 4 days were unsailable due to lack
Lake Arenal is up in the mountains at about 1500 ft. Wind is generated by
having high pressure on the Caribbean side and low pressure on the Pacific
side of Costa Rica. For the first few days, there was a high pressure
system on the Pacific side, shutting down the wind; this is unusual for the
December to April dry season. Once the Pacific side high pressure
dissipated, the wind returned to normal. When the wind is on, the sailing
site can be either sunny, or cloudy with fast moving showers coming
through. The sailing is at the downwind end of the long lake, and chop
builds up there.
The chop was pretty *** after the 4 no wind days; the size was one to
four feet and tightly spaced. One of the guys that worked there said after
the lake has been flat it takes a while for the chop to build nice shapes.
A few days later after some windy days the chop grew to nicer shaped swells
with the big ones being four feet but they were still pretty close
together. The swells at 3rd in the channel (a San Francisco Bay sailing
spot) on a good day are bigger, broader and spaced further apart.
The rule of thumb is: "If it is blowing at midnight, it will blow the next
day" We found this to be true for the most part. It was difficult to sleep
on windy nights with this information.
We rented from Tico Winds. This outfit is run by Peter and Diane and
assisted by Ryan. The Tico Winds equipment was really nice, most of it
brand new. For sails, they had Ezzy Race and Transformers. For the
boards, they had BIC stuff (Vivace 270, 282, Hip Hop, Saxo) for the lighter
winds and Gorge Animal Bonzers and Pintails for the heavy wind days. The
Bonzers were ideally suited for the choppy/extreme conditions once the
winds started to crank, where they remain highly stable and controllable.
They were like four wheel drive vehicles for the water: not too fast but
great bite, control, and maneuverability. Favorites among our group were
the 7'6", 7'9", and 8'0" Bonzers.
Peter and Diane run a great outfit. When I go again I will rent from them.
It was very nice to hit the beach and slap on a different sail in 2
minutes. The Ezzy sails were great. They have great range. The sails
were all new. They will sell the sails back to Ezzy at the end of the
season and get fresh ones next year too.
The conditions (when it is blowing) are extreme bump and jump. Perfect for
the glass Gorge animal boards. I spent most of my time on the 7'6" Bonzer.
This board has four little fins that are glassed into the tail and one
larger fin in a finbox. You always want to rig big with these boards. You
need all the power you can get. When you are powered up with the Bonzer it
really sticks. I only spun out a couple of times on big jumps and found it
very easy to recover. When surfing the swells really powered up you can
hear the board make a slurping noise. With all the fins it cavitates at
Stayed at Mystica Lodge, situated on a hillside above the Lake with nice
views of both the Lake and the Volcano. Mystica is co-owned by Francesco
and Barbara. This place received very high marks from our group. There
are two buildings, both no more that two years old. One building has the
six or so guest rooms; accommodations are simple but nice. Wooden deck and
chairs out front to take in the view. The other building contains the
lodge, with bar and Italian restaurant. Pizza and pasta were available
during lunch and dinner hours. The complimentary breakfast was very good:
fresh fruit every morning, papaya and pineapple and great home made bread,
Costa Rican coffee, fresh juice and occasional surprise additions.
What really made this place work was the staff. Francesco, Greta, Barbara
and Havier went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of.
I recommend that anyone going to Lake Arenal stay at Mystica. There is
another lodge popular with sailors called Rock River Lodge. This place is
run by an American name Norm. He is a sailor and can be seen on the water
all the time. (passing you usually) Norm rips, he holds down at least a
meter more sail than the rest of us visitor types.
There is another place called Tilawa. This place has their own rental
gear. We never visited this place but heard that it is quite plush. I
don't know much about the windsurfing gear. I saw Northwave sails. That's
all I know.
We ate at various other places in the area, most notable being the Equus
bar and grill. Great grilled chicken with big portions. The outdoor disco
made for a great New Years party.
Definitely get at 4 wheel drive. We lucked into one and it came in very
handy on "no wind" days. Also get the insurance. We thrashed the two
rentals we had. The paved road are pretty good, although the occasional
pothole can swallow a Toyota Tercel - really.
The "roads" can quickly turn into an off road experience as you find parts
that are washed out or "under construction"; rocks, ruts, water and mud
provide some real challenges and with a Tercel lots of luck. The final
stretch to the launch site is an easy way to stop a Tercel in it's tracks.
Left SFO at 7pm for LAX. Left LAX at 11:45pm for El
Salvador/Costa Rica via United Airlines
Arrived El Salvador at 7am for short layover; arrived San Jose, CR, at 9am.
Picked up rental car and truck. The three guys in the truck made it to
Lake Arenal in 3.5 hours via Highway 1 and turning north at Canas. The
other three guys in the Toyota Tercel took 9 hours to make it to the Lake
via the mountain route. At one point on the road at the north side of the
Lake, the two passengers in the Tercel had to get out of the car and walk
to help unload the suspension and provide additional clearance. Without
this incremental height advantage, the chassis was occasionally grounding
out on the higher rocks.
Lesson: don't take this way; stay on Highway 1(the
Pan American Highway) to Canas.
Light wind in morning. Some people planing on 5.7m2 to 6.6m2 and BIC
boards: Hip Hop, Vivace 270 and 282. Turned into slogfest by lunchtime.
Met up with a crew of four other Bay Area Sailors: Pat, Pete, Doug, and
No Wind. Drove to Fortuna for hike down to the Falls. Very cool. New
Year's Eve party at Equus. The outdoor disco was awesome. Remember to
order the Ron Rico Rum.
No Wind. Played soccer in morning; hiked into the jungle in the afternoon;
saw howler monkeys and toucans.
No Wind. Drove to Pacific Ocean beach at Tamarindo. Pretty nice. A lot
of California surfer dudes*** out.
No Wind. Tico Winds set up waterski boat for us and the four other Bay
Good Wind. Wind had been howling all night long. Was strong and gusty in
the morning. People sailed 3.7m2 to 5.5m2 during the day. Wind seemed to
weaken in the afternoon.
Good Wind. Not at strong as yesterday. People were sailing 4.5m2 to
6.0m2. Again stronger wind in morning session; wind weakened in the
Good Wind. People sailed 3.7m2 to 5.5m2. Whitecaps were pretty big this
Light Wind. Marginal planing conditions on 6.0m2 and 6.6m2 with Vivace 282
and Astro Rock. Got very light in afternoon.
Good Wind. Morning started out at 5.0m2 conditions; built up to
3.7m2/4.0m2 conditions by lunchtime. Wind was less gusty/more even than
previous strong wind days. Probably best sailing day of trip.
Left Lake for San Jose in late afternoon. Stayed in the Hampton Inn
Airport Hotel that night for early morning flight.
Flew out of San Jose, CR at 7am. Had quick stopover in Mexico City. Flew
on to Los Angeles. Continued on to SFO; arrive at 4pm.