ATV Rides at the Base of Arenal Volcano
Riding ATVs through a thousand acres of farmland on the outskirts of the Arenal Volcano gets a little muddy. More than 10 miles of trails weave through the La Uva farm taking guests through the dirt, mud, puddles and streams in what used to be one of the most dangerous places in Costa Rica.
Pummeled by the occasional volcanic debris for almost four decades, the farm is pockmarked with craters. But in an ironic twist of nature, the volcano's demolition has made the fertile farmland where La Uva farmers raise their own animals and grow all their own fruits and vegetables. Today the volcano's quiet, making it safe for riders to explore the hills and valleys that make up La Uva's pastures, farmland and rainforest.
Before getting on the main trails, the guide gives a quick rundown on how to drive the ATVs and leads riders for a test drive around the farm's small practice course. After getting comfortable, riders drive through the main pastures to a series of interconnected trails that weave all over the farm.
Riders drive through rich grasslands where horses graze and old Guanacaste trees grow, covered in moss and bromeliads. Atop the hills, riders have great panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano and its Lake. The trails also wind through dense rainforest to a small hydroelectric power generator running beside a small reservoir -- the farm's only source of power.
The mud can get pretty deep; that kind of mud that makes a loud sucking sound then swallows your shoes in the muck. In short, mud that’s perfect for off-roading.
The first time I got stuck, I was charging up a hill trying to follow the tracks ahead of me, but lost traction and sank into a thick, mud pit. With the help of the guide I threw the ATV in reverse and wriggled my way out and raced up the hill.
Then it was the guide's turn to get stuck. After attempting to get up a hill usually meant for horseback riding, our guide's ATV sank in about two feet of mud. The ATV didn't have reverse so we all got ours, and trekked through the mud to help. Laughing the whole time, we pushed the ATV. Sinking our feet in, the guide hit the throttle flinging mud in every direction. Finally free, we turned around and headed toward the forest.
In a long stretch on a dirt trail, we whizzed through the forest and came to a small fork. Riding through a small muddy pool with water flying up all around us, we made a sharp turn. In front of us, the trail sank beneath huge puddles. Driving through them, water splashed in giant waves all around our ATVs soaking our legs and splattering against our faces.
At the end of the road we stopped to regain composure. Steam rose off our ATVs. The guide told us his secret, go slow entering the puddle and speed up as you drive through it to spread the waves away from the ATV. With that knowledge, we rode back through the same section two more times; laughing and shouting.
Before and After
In the end, it's worth the trip just for the pictures alone. The before shot with sparkling ATVs and clean clothes followed by the after shot when mud freckles your face and arms, mud cakes your shoes up past your ankles and splashes your clothes as proof of the journey.