Lake Arenal is not an ordinary lake. It is deep blue, filled with the memories the natives. Step into the kayak bobbing at the dock. Now let your dreams slide into this lake as you slide towards the center.

As you paddle remember what was once here. Though the lake is now an integral piece of Costa Rica’s ecosystem and economy, it wasn’t always here. It began as a river, flowing past native settlements and the town of Arenal. The dam was built in 1979 for use as a hydroelectric plant. It now provides 17% of Costa Rica’s power, though at the time of construction it was closer to 70%.

What used to be beneath the lake? Those of us who spend much of our time around the lake often find pottery or carvings alluding to the people that once lived there. Paddle your kayak along the shore and listen to the wind shifting through the bamboo. Look along the shore. Perhaps you, too, will be lucky enough to find a remnant of people who have now almost disappeared.

Not far after the dock, kayaking begins to feel like an adventure. Shore grasses dance in the wind, and white egrets come to rest on the branches of nearby trees. The jungle feels foreign and mystical, but inviting.

Now turn towards the center of the lake. Glide through the shimmering water. If you’re adventurous, jump from your kayak for a quick swim. The water is clear, cooling without being cold. Dive again and again into the bosom of this place. Come up sputtering with joy. Then sit in your kayak, letting the paddle rest on your legs, and lean back. The sun’s rays nourish you. Each muscle relaxes, totally.

You paddle back, reluctantly stepping back onto land. Your arms are sore, your face sun-kissed. But you are at home and vividly alive.