La Fortuna/Arenal to Monteverde


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Central America Caribbean » Costa Rica » Alajuela » Arenal
February 16th 2019
Published: February 18th 2019
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We have had a few adventure packed days in the La Fortuna/Arenal area. We arrived late in La Fortuna (just after dark). We did survive the 2 nights in our un-air conditioned lodging although I’m not gonna lie - it wasn’t comfortable. It is very hot in La Fortuna. Sadly, we did not see any sloths in the gardens. We did however see a few frogs, lizards and plenty of leaf cutter ants. We started our first day in La Fortuna with a hike out to the La Fortuna waterfall (Catarata Rio Fortuna). We trekked down the many flights of stairs to water below. It was quite cool in the morning and with the wind and spray of the falls. We swam in the pool below which was more like a Canadian lake in summer than a warm Costa Rican river. It was still very nice and once you got in was very comfortable. And you can’t hike down the steps (and back up) without taking a dip in the waterfall pool. Dave and I laughed at the other tourists taking ‘profile’ pictures for their social media feeds; aka very posed photos making it seem they just happened to get their photos taken while sitting perfectly looking serenely at the falls. (Insert eye rolling emoji!) Dave pretty much refuses to take a nice photo - which drives me crazy.

After our slow sweaty trek back up the too many flights of stairs we wandered the orchid and butterfly gardens before heading out to our next adventure. We drove back through town and then out towards Volcán Arenal. At this point Dave realized it was after 1300 and he’d better feed me before I get hangry. He’s a smart man. We did get some lovey views of the volcano without cloud cover before heading in for lunch at Soda Viquez (a lonely planet recommendation). Soda refers to a ‘typical’ Costa Rica style restaurant. Very good and affordable. And Dave complains if he can’t get Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) with every meal.

We opted not to drive all the way around the volcano to the national park for a hike. We were already getting later in the day and short on hiking hours. We also opted out of paying to visit a hot springs resort (there are plenty!!). Instead we followed the very simple directions to the free hot springs
Rio ChollinRio ChollinRio Chollin

Chillin in Chollin - the hot springs river.
river (Rio Chollin) - by far the right choice!!! The hot springs river is located across the street from one of the most expensive hot spring resorts. It was such a great adventure! We brought only the essentials and slipped on our water shoes to walk in. The river access is right off the main road, we walked under the bridge and up the river until we found a nice little spot to lay down. The water wasn’t too hot but like nice warm bath water. There were monkeys and birds in the trees and little fishies in the water. Plenty of other travellers but not too busy to be annoying. We lounged in the river for about an hour and got out just as the sun was going down. We made it back to town just in time for it to get dark.

It was Valentine’s Day so we had a very lovely dinner at the La Fortuna pub. We went there because they advertised craft beer selection and in the end we had the dinner special with wine. As we were finishing up a young woman started playing music and singing to guitar. She was very good.
Wish you were beerWish you were beerWish you were beer

My favourite graffiti art
Songs were in English and Spanish. We stayed for a couple craft brews which we enjoyed. I couldn’t get over how much I loved the sign graffitied in the parking lot that said ‘wish you were beer’. Haha. I told Dave we have to frame that in our home.

We got an early start the next morning. We found a good soda that opened early where we could get good coffee and breakfast to go. It is notoriously difficult to get good coffee in a country that grows some of the best coffee in the world! I drove the car to our next adventure to Rio Celeste. Rio Celeste is a beautiful teal coloured river and waterfall that results from a chemical reaction as two rivers meet (silicon, oxygens and aluminum), creating a vibrant blue as the sun reflects off the particles. It truly is stunning to see. We first hiked down to the waterfall - and you guessed it, plenty of flights of stairs. It was well worth the effort of climbing back out to see that Caribbean coloured water cascading down. Once we were back up we hiked higher to see where the rivers meet and the colour is created. The hike was beautiful - through rainforest, with beautiful vistas, interesting single person bridges, bubbling sulphuric water and our first introduction to Costa Rican wildlife (we saw a caoti and a group of white faced capuchin monkeys).

After we made our way out of Rio Celeste we were back in the car and heading to Lagu Arenal (lake Arenal). Driving on smaller back roads, through wind farms and animal pasture, we came out facing the back side of Arenal volcano which was still a magnificent sight. How amazing it would have been to see the volcano in action, lava spewing out visible across the lake at night. It still takes your breath away today even without the glowing lava. Our destination was the Lake Arenal hotel and brewery. We arrived fairly early, checked in and had a nice relaxing afternoon. It was an odd feeling though, it seemed so deserted for such a beautiful spot. We enjoyed a number of their brews but our favourite was the chilli beer - infused with the perfect amount of spice. We were greeted by a group of howler monkeys in the trees above our car. They spent the night
Rio CelesteRio CelesteRio Celeste

Where the rivers meet
there and woke us up at 0500. I was more forgiving to them (at least they stopped after 10 minutes or so) than the children being allowed to run free up and down the hallway outside our rooms at 0700. A good sleep has been difficult to find.

From lake Arenal we were heading to Monteverde - the cloud forest. We had a lazy morning and enjoyed a Tico (typical) breakfast at the brewery hotel before setting out on the slow, difficult road to monteverde. The road, however, was not that bad! In fact, it was in quite good condition. Most of the road was gravel but there weren’t many pot holes etc as the guide books lead you to believe. Maybe driving in Canada has prepared us for much worse. We really didn’t need the 4x4 vehicle to get us there.

The drive took less time than anticipated and we got to Monteverde around lunch. We were able to check in to our hotel - the Forest Dreams lodge (or Manakin lodge - it seems to have 2 names). Our initial reservation at a different hotel was cancelled over a week after booking and less than a
CoatiCoatiCoati

Basically a cute racoon.
week from check in as they were overbooked apparently. That however, was a greatly appreciated event. We ended up booking here for much cheaper and it has been an excellent experience. Our host (it’s an Airbnb rental) Jonathan is so helpful and gave us plenty of tips and assisted with booking some tours). The room is large and comfortable(albeit simple) with a big bed and private balcony that looks out into the forest (we can basically touch the trees). It is a little out of the way from town centre so it is quiet. However, all of Monteverde and the closest town Santa Elena are on a hill. We are located basically in the middle of town and the nature reserve. It is a busy area - you can tell that tourism is at its height here. I would compare it to Banff or Jasper in Canada. It is of course much smaller, and less people in general, but it has that touristy feel to it.

We decided to go with Jonathan’s recommendations for a coffee tour and booked one with Don Juan cafe which was the first coffee tour in Monteverde. It was an excellent experience and also included a tour on Cocoa (chocolate) and sugar cane. Our guide was funny and informative and Don Juan himself (83 years old) came and gave everyone in our group a hug and thanked us for coming. How cute is that!?

Dave was hilarious and slightly embarrassing throughout the tour. He put everything in his mouth. He wanted to eat and taste everything... so he did. The other group members were laughing at him as well. We got lost once for just a moment when we lingered to take a couple pictures and almost joined the wrong group by accident.

We again took Jonathan’s advice and went to the nearest soda for dinner - soda Tortilla. Again, we were so thankful we did!! The food was amazing, the service great and it was a quick 5 minute walk from our lodging.

We have an early start tomorrow as we will be packing plenty into our day in Monteverde. Can’t wait to see the rest of what the cloud forest has to offer.


Additional photos below
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Howler monkeysHowler monkeys
Howler monkeys

A couple of howler monkeys in the trees above our car at Lake Arenal hotel and brewery.
Monteverde - forest dreams lodgeMonteverde - forest dreams lodge
Monteverde - forest dreams lodge

Face relsxing on our private balcony.
Cocoa fruitCocoa fruit
Cocoa fruit

The beginning of chocolate
Coffee beans dryingCoffee beans drying
Coffee beans drying

Don Juan coffee tour


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