Weekend excursion to La Fortuna

Published: June 8th 2013
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The best of the blurry "from the bus" photos. :)
My plan was to write this entry before I left for the turtle place. After I was packed and ready to go to the bus, I sorted through my pictures and started writing. As soon as my fingers hit the keys, my ride arrived (over 30 minutes early!). So, now I am writing it from my bunk at Playa Cameronal. I have no idea when I am going to be able to post this, and I’m actually feeling a little overwhelmed (in a good way). But, I definitely don’t want to forget what happens on this trip, and the blog has been a good way to sort out my thoughts. So, here we go.

After my week at the language school, I was definitely ready to go out and see some of Costa Rica. Fortunately, an eclectic group of 4 people (including myself) had banded together and decided to travel over the weekend. Our plan was to wake up super early on Friday and take the bus to La Fortuna. We reservations at a hostel in La Fortuna, but otherwise we didn’t have anything planned. We were going to hang out together in La

View of the volcano from the hostel.
Fortuna (at the Arenal volcano) on Friday/Saturday morning. Sometime on Saturday we were going to part ways. The 3 of them were planning on going on to Monteverde, and I was going to return to San Jose.

Our transport for the bus came at 5am, so it was definitely an early start! The bus itself was pretty typical, but the views were stunning. Of course, I took like 50 blurry pictures of the landscape, trying to capture on film what my eyes were taking in – I knew that they wouldn’t really turn out but I couldn’t help it! Finally, we arrived in La Fortuna. It’s beautiful and a totally manageable. The big draw is the volcano, but they have tons of options for the adventurous tourist (zip-lining, canyoning, etc). We decided that we would take a guided hike in the rainforest at the base of Arenal, followed by hot springs.

The hike was incredible. Our guide, William, grew up on the mountains. He lost people he loved when the volcano erupted several years ago, and he is a total “Survivorman”. At the beginning, he told

Travel mates - ready for a hike!
us that he was ready because he had boots, a poncho, and a machete. He then took us on a tour that engaged all of our senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and even taste! There was almost too much too look at and be able to take it all in. As far as animals go, we saw a couple of toucans, a white hawk, and a colorful frog. But, the landscape, trees, and other plans were amazing. As we hiked, it was like we were listening to a CD of the rainforest. William pointed out the different uses for the plants and told stories of the rainforest. It was very cool.

The hike was pretty hard work, so we were excited to follow it up with hot springs. Initially, we had planned on going to a natural hot spring (in a river heated by the volcano). However, by the time we were done with the hike, it was very dark (and we were cold, tired, and hungry). On the drive, our guides offered us another option – a resort with 35 different pools and spas with the natural hot spring piped in…

They don't call it a rain forest for nothing!
That option included a buffet dinner, some pools with swim up bars, and a sauna. Needless to say, we dipped our feet in the natural hot spring, and then decided to go to the resort. It was amazing! I felt totally pampered. By the end my muscles felt like jelly. I would go back in a heartbeat.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast at a local Costa Rican version of a greasy spoon, I said good-bye to my first friends in Costa Rica. They were traveling on to MonteVerde. My plan was to go horseback riding to a waterfall, hike to the base of the waterfall (and back up), swim at the base of the waterfall and then head back. On the way back (again on horseback), we stopped at a native village, as well as a frog and butterfly sanctuary. I was a little hesitant to do it, because I was worried that the horses would be tired, bored old ponies meandering their way down a well-worn path. But, I really wanted to see the waterfall, and it seemed to be the best option.


This might be a good time to mention that I did all of this in my keen flipflops. #hardcore

I am SO glad that I did it. I could not have been more wrong about the horses – it was definitely not for the faint of heart. At more than one point, I felt certain that I was going to fall off. Our horses, at times, seemed to be in a race. My horse wanted to lead, although I think it was just so that he could set the pace a little slower. As soon as he took the lead, he would slow way down and try not to let the other horses pass us. It was so funny. But, then we were off again. Also, it was NOT a well-worn path. Our houses took us up and down some steep mountain terrain, splashed over rivers, and navigated around fallen branches. It was definitely one of those things where I questioned the wisdom of the choice I made, but once it was (safely) over I was so happy do have made it. The views and sounds were spectacular. In the moments when the horses were calmer, it was like I was in a painting with butterflies drifting all around. Although, boy, am I sore today!

Also not for the faint of heart was the hike to the base of the waterfall. In the picture of the waterfall, you can see a tiny red dot. That is a person ziplining, so that can give you some sense of perspective of where I started with respect to the waterfall. It was intense hiking, but so worth it. At the base, the water was crystal clear, with fish swimming all around, and it was the perfect temperature. The 30 minutes we had to swim was just what I needed to prepare and rejuvenate for the hike back up.

When I got back to San Jose, it was time to say good-bye to my host family. I enjoyed the evening with my host mom (or “Mamacita”) and slept in my room one last time. I am so grateful for them taking me into their home and exposing me to that aspect of the Costa Rican culture. There are a few things that I wasn’t crazy about, but I’ll keep those off the record. J For the most part, it was an excellent experience and I would recommend it in

Our guide
a heartbeat.

My trip to the turtle place is totally blog worthy, but I am going to close this entry off now because I need to go on my first beach patrol!

Additional photos below
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My horse!

Ahhhhh.. This was pretty much me at the hotsprings. Busty and happy.

Nothing like a drink at the end of an adventure.

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