‘Bachelor’ episode showcases Costa Rica’s Arenal: Hot springs, volcanoes & 6 hopeful bachelorettes

Even if you’re not partial to a pack of tearful women fighting over one alarmingly well-groomed man, you might want to tune in to tonight’s “The Bachelor” at 8 pm on ABC, if only to catch a glimpse of the lushly beautiful Arenal area of Costa Rica.

The wildly popular reality show filmed the episode last October, in the thick of the Costa Rican rainy season. This seasonal faux pas may ruin plans for al fresco dining but will most likely amp up the waterfall Brad and all six bachelorettes rappel down (it’s called canyoneering and I can attest that it’s a thrill ride).

This is the sixth week of the show’s 15th season, which stars Brad Womack, the self-proclaimed “most hated bachelor in America” (back in Season 11 he did the unthinkable and proposed to neither of the finalists).

With his piercing eyes and highlighted gelled hair, Womack puts me in mind of a bright-eyed yellow-crested bird; he’ll fit right in with the local toucans, parrots, and iridescent hummingbirds. Vying for who’s most colorful are the bright red and blue poison dart frogs, and winning the who’s cutest contest hand-down are the white-nosed coatimundis (see below), who frequent the road around Lake Arenal and often come up onto the verandas of hotels.

The landscape is as dramatic as the wildlife. Lake Arenal is a 33-square-mile expanse of blue ringed with forest and farmland. Nearby Arenal Volcano has steep bare slopes forming an almost perfect cone. Often shrouded in clouds, the mountain grumbles deep in its fiery throat to make sure you never forget that although it slept through the colonial era, it woke in 1968 and wiped out two towns.

Volcanic activity means killer hot springs, which you’ll especially appreciate after a day of horseback riding or ziplining in the rain

Cast and crew stayed in The Springs Resort & Spa, which is a wonderful splurge if the network’s paying. There’s an abundance of more down-to-earth places to stay in the area, including Rancho Margot, an eco-farm meets resort, Arenal Observatory Lodge, a converted vulcanology research center, the well-located (a few miles from bustling La Fortuna) and family-friendly Arenal Springs Hotel, and Villa de Cary, a lakeside birdwatchers mecca (next door is Gingerbread Restaurant, which Lonely Planet called one of the best places to eat in the entire county).