La Fortuna, Costa Rica
I find myself loading into another shuttle van in San Jose for the 90 km trip to the north western region of Costa Rica to the small town of La Fortuna. I’ve heard through the grapevine that it is a great place to spend a few days hiking around Arenal Volcano National Park. Little did I know that I would have to endure my first major travel illness and spend 11 days in bed feeling like I was dying! I even received advice from my Dr Cousin back in Canada on how to beat this bug but alias I did finally recover. I suspect the culprit to be a fruity welcome cocktail at the hostel I was staying. You have to watch that fresh stuff. Therefore my few days in La Fortuna turned into 14 and you just have to go with the flow when living out of a backpack. The van trip took about 5 hrs through the winding hills of the back country and it was a quite the trip. Sometimes in total darkness with only our headlights leading the way. La Fortuna is a small town of about 8000 people perched in the shadow of Arenal. A 1670 m high active volcano that last erupted in 2010. After my speedy recovery I looked around for some things to do and decided on hiking the 8 km to La Fortuna Water Falls at the base of Arenal and just pay the park entrance fee. Most people take the uphill trip by bus or tour company as it is a very demanding 8 km uphill trek. Next morning full of energy I set out on the hike to the falls and the first few km were quite flat but then my thighs are starting to feel the elevation change. The scenery is thick green jungle scattered with the occasional farm and some interesting road signs. I’m hoping I don’t cross the jaguar thing! A few tour buses passed me by and I finally made it to the top in about 4 hrs. Yes 4 hrs! No hurry. Entering the park I hear it’s about 500 steps down through the valley to the bottom of the waterfall which cascades down 70 m to the pool. The sound of the water is deafening , the water is cool and you don’t go near the bottom or the guard blows his whistle before you’re sucked under by the forces of nature.
We stayed at the bottom about a hour and when it was time to leave everyone’s thoughts were those 500 steps up. This is not a hike for the faint of heart I say and my walk back to the hostel was a bit quicker down hill. The whole day took me about 8 hrs total and no tour guide needed. Bed early as I have to get up and do it all again tomorrow as I’m leaving for northern Costa Rica to make my way into Nicaragua soon. Next morning I’m loaded into a van with a crew of others for a guided tour around the base of Arenal and Lake Arenal, then the evening at the Baldi Hot Springs Spa. After 2 days of hiking I’ll be needing to soak in those hot pools. Our guide took us on a trip around the lake, through the jungle and to the base of Arenal. We saw lots of birds, wildlife, plants, fruit, bugs and the views were awesome. Not sure it’s was worth the price of $125 US but an enjoyable experience for sure. Loaded up and heading to the Spa it’s pretty quiet in the van. I think we are all a bit beat. The Spa was nice, quite expensive for food and drinks which weren’t included. More of an American type water park then the Hot Springs it was advertised as. My body thanked me for the steaming hot soak. Finally back at the hostel I’m catching a shuttle to Liberia tomorrow where I’ll be able to catch a bus to the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border. La Fortuna is definitely a 2 or 3 day destination with some great country to see and the locals are very helping, friendly and you can find some English speaking if needed. I wouldn’t recommend getting sick and spending 14 days here. Just a note!