San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arenal Report

Witch’s Rock Surf Camp of Tamarindo has come to Lake Arenal and has its grand opening today, Nov. 11, at the Hotel Tilawa. Joe Walsh, owner of Witch’s Rock, has leased the hotel, a longtime windsurfing destination, for three years while owner Jean Paul Cazedessus continues to operate his Volcano Brewing Company on the hotel premises. 

Walsh, a longtime surfer with a degree from the University of California, San Diego, established his surf camp in a beachside house at Tamarindo in 2001. Today, his surf-bum haven is a popular hotel of 18 rooms with two restaurants and a surf shop. At Tilawa, Walsh has built a major bar upstairs where guests can enjoy the fantastic views while enjoying four types of Volcano beer on tap, and the restaurant downstairs has been outfitted with high-backed booths. With Witch’s Rock now at Lake Arenal, perhaps this season will find the lake again alive with sails and kites as in former years. Walsh’s Tamarindo website is

The whole lake and mountain region is now down to five gas stations – two in Fortuna, one at Nuevo Arenal and two in Tilarán – while the popular Lago Arenal station at Cinco Esquinas has been closed for over a month and is undergoing testing. 

Owner Vinicio Acuña, who bought the station in December 2010, says recent media reports have been misleading, partly through omission. Acuña had already undertaken major upgrades to the property when four neighbors, all served by one well, complained of the smell of gas in their water in May. In later replacing the well’s broken pump, gas was detected in the well. A broken gasoline pipe was found at the station, and Acuña replaced all piping. 

Then, contamination from diesel was detected in two places in Tilarán, and the Lago Arenal station was prematurely suspected. Later testing found no contamination from either diesel or gas in Tilarán, but that news had yet to be broadcast as of Nov. 3, the day on which a major San José testing company put in 15 sensors at the station. These, after 15 days, will be retracted and sent to the United States for testing. Test results will determine what remediation, if any, will be necessary. Meanwhile, Acuña is paying for water delivery weekly to the tanks of the four neighbors. And his employees continue on the payroll. 

–Alex Murray

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