Thurs 6-Fri 7 December - Day 41 to 42 - La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Published: December 10th 2018
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Thurs 6-Fri 7 December - Day 41 to 42 - La Fortuna and return to San Jose for 1 night

Our next journey took us through the mountains of the cloud forest using a combination of minivans and boats. The first leg to Lake Arenal took about one hour 30 minutes and the landscape was truly spectacular. Rolling hills eventually give way to the distant views of Arenal Volcano but we didn’t stop for photos as the clouds were very thick and low at the lookouts. Stopping by the side of the road, we walk down a dirt path to our boat on the shores of Lake Arenal. The scenery was truly stunning of the lake and we travel for approximately an hour slowly approaching Arenal Volcano. Once we reach the other side, we boarded another minibus and travelled for thirty minutes to La Fortuna.

The main attraction in La Fortuna was the nearby Arenal Volcano, which was constantly erupting between 1968 and 2010. Although not erupting anymore, the occasional puff of steam can be seen. After settling into our Hotel Fortuna, we had time for a leisurely lunch and to explore the town.

It didn’t take long to explore this little town noticing the church in the centre which was bright and plenty of windows. It always makes a nice change to see a colourful, light church with no statues on death and dying! There were tour operators everywhere. This town thrived on tourism and charged a lot more than Santa Elena. Restaurants, bars and entertainment were the ‘go’ as was icecream/gelati outlets. The weather was a little steamy as it rained 2 of the 3 nights while we were there, which didn’t worry us at all.

The next day was our full day in the area. We (Jim from Melbourne, Tom & I) got up at 5.00am to go on a Bird Watching Tour. We were picked up by a guide and taken about 30 minutes out of La Fortuna on the edge of the Arenal National Park. We saw many birds but truly, I am not good at photographing birds. I will just have to keep practicing. We were bird watching for 2 hours. The guide was excellent although Jim was fantastic too. The guide had a bird book as well as an App. on his phone that showed the image of the bird as well as its shrill. He also had a scope as they all do. I was able to take a few photos with my mobile through the scope.

At the end of the tour we had coffee, juice and fruit but then went back to the hotel to have breakfast. After chatting to a few of our travel mates, some who were going to do canyoning (which we had done before in Banos, Ecuador) we went for a walk through the town.

We first gave a taxi driver a deposit to take us 17kms around the other side of the Arenal Volcano to the Arenal Observatory Resort & Spa in a couple of hours after we had visited the Bogarin Trail which Alfredo had recommended. We walked a little further up the street and spotted an excellent deal for the hire of a motorbike for the day. It was $25USD instead of $60USD for the taxi. Tom went back to get the deposit for the taxi back (no problems) while I arranged the hire of the bike.

We couldn’t find Bogarin Trail which was 950m form our hotel, but we went the next day with the further explanation on where it was from Alfredo and others. I drove the motorbike out to the Observatory Resort & Spa and Tom drove it back. The roads were excellent except for a 3 km dirt section which was being worked on by the local council.

This Resort was beautiful. It had a massive observation deck, viewing the Arenal Volcano from the western side where the lava had deposited during the last eruption in 2010. There were many Germans and Americans staying at the hotel. From the deck we also observed many beautiful, colourful birds feeding on the fruit which the hotel had placed on a dead tree. It was much easier photographing birds when it is set up like this – particularly for impatient people!!!!!

We then had the most fantastic traditional Cost Rica lunch which was hugh. Fried beef and chicken, guacamole, black bean past, corn chips, corn pancakes, tortillas, salad and wonderful, tasty salsa on the meat, topped with spicy sauces. We were almost bursting after we had finished.

We had to go for a long walk to work our lunch off. This was easy as the hotel has establish many different trails to hike. We chose one that would take about 1 ½ hours through primary and secondary forests as well as farm land. There were horses and cattle grazing on the farm as well as a tiny lake which created a beautiful foreground with the Arenal Volcano in the back ground. This is one of my favourite photos of the volcano. We also saw a frog pond, a beautiful infinity swimming pool, museum, an ‘insect hotel’ (made of different sorts of wood for insects to make their home), groves of beautiful trees as well as rolling hills of manicured gardens which were closer to the hotel. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

We hopped back on the motorbike hoping that the dark cloud wouldn’t dump on us on our way back to La Fortuna. Fortunately, it blew over, so we were fine. On the way back, at about 4.00pm, we passed Los Lagos Resort & Thermal Springs and Spa. We decided it was time for a coffee so next to th thermal pool, this is exactly what we did. We would rather have had a Champaign, wine or beer but the motorbike contract didn’t allow any consumption of alcohol!!!!

Arriving back into La Fortuna when it was dark, we filled the tank with petrol and Tom dropped the bike off while I bought us a beer or 2 to take back to our hotel. Neither of us were hungry because of our large lunch. When we got back to the hotel, we caught up with 6 of our travel companions and swapped all our stories for the day. We had pizza which Jim & Jenelle couldn’t at so that was our dinner for the night.

The next morning was were going to leave at 10.00am so we had time to visit the Bogarin Trail. Getting up at 6.00am, we walked for about 10 minutes to the Trail, paid our $10USD entrance fee and soaked up all the wildlife on the trail. Just as a note for the area, there are tons of optional excursions in La Fortuna; a visit to some local waterfalls, caving, rappelling, white water rafting, canoeing, kayaking, horse-riding, trekking, biking, and wild-life spotting.

Also a bit about Arenal Volcano National Park which is a Costa Rican National Park in the central part of the country, forming the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area. The park encompasses the Arenal Volcano, which "was" the most active in the country, which had previously been believed to be dormant until a major eruption in 1968. It neighbours Lake Arenal, which is the site of the country's largest hydroelectricity project, the Lake Arenal Dam.

The park also contains a second volcano, Chato, whose crater contains a lagoon. It is also called Cerro Chato (literally Mount Chato) as it has been inactive for around 3500 years–coinciding with the creation and growth of Arenal itself. In and around the park are various lodges and hotels, some with their own hot springs, and others focused on the wildlife of the area. Within the national park are the Museum of Volcanicity and a ranger station.

The park lies within the 2,040 square kilometres Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area, protecting eight of Costa Rica's 12 life zones and 16 protected reserves in the region between the Guanacaste and Tilarán mountain ranges, and including Lake Arenal. The park is most directly accessed from La Fortuna but is also easily accessed via Tilaran and the north shore of Lake Arenal.

The Arenal Volcano National Park is popular with birders, as most of the 850 species identified in Costa Rica can be found within the park's borders. This includes one of the country's most elusive and beautiful birds, the endangered resplendent quetzal which we saw in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Other animal species living within the park include white-faced capuchin monkeys, jaguar, deer, coati, and snakes like the fer-de-lance and parrot snake (we saw none of these!!!!). The park also has a strong showing of plant life, including orchids, heliconias, ferns, laurel, cirri, guayabo de monte, palms, bromeliads, and strangler figs.

We saw wind farms which catch strong gales that whip across the Tilarán mountain range, while the Miravalles Volcano Geothermic Plant taps into the area’s volcanic activity for electrical power.

The morning we left to go back to San Jose, we got up at 5.45am to visit the Bogarin Trail Wildlife Centre which was 10 minutes out of La Fortuna. It was a private park with primary and secondary forest, rehabilitated by its owner. The number of bid species were astounding both at the fruit-feeding zone they had set up as well as throughout the tropical forest. We saw one 3-toed sloth but could not spot the mother and baby sloth which was in amongst the trees somewhere!!

It was a beautiful morning and walking along the street at 6.00am with no one around was lovely. The view of the Arenal Volcano was always present.

We had a late breakfast, packed our bags and left for San Jose in the minibus at 10.00am.

Additional photos below
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