Living La Pura Vida

Published: June 2nd 2010
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While searching the internet one day, I found some very cheap airfare to Costa Rica. $240 round trip on Mexicana seemed too good of a bargain to pass up so I snagged up those tickets right away. Since it was also the beginning of the low season, prices for our lodging were almost half the price they would have been just a week earlier. Our flight on Mexicana airlines departed at 11:30pm on May 6th and the airline far exceeded our expecations. We had about a 3 hour flight to Mexico City and we were provided with a meal, drinks, and alcohol. This is relatively unheard of these days on any of our domestic airlines. We also were not charged to check any of our bags. Mexicana quickly rose to near the top of my list of best airlines. The flight to Mexico City was uneventful and we arrived around 5am. Once in Mexico City, getting through immigration was slow and time consuming but we had a 5 hour layover so it wasn't too much of a problem. While in a near zombie state, we killed time in one of the airport bars where we had breakfast. Brent continued the beer
La Fortuna WaterfallLa Fortuna WaterfallLa Fortuna Waterfall

Our first view of the waterfall from the trail
drinking that he had started aboard the plane. I guess only on vacation would one be drinking beers at 7 in the morning! Our flight to San Jose, Costa Rica left around 10am local time and we arrived at 11:30. Arrival at the San Jose airport, I was surprised to see how modern the airport was. I suppose that a country whose main industry is tourism would invest a good deal of money in their transportation infrastructure. Once we left the airport, we caught a cab to a nearby restaurant called Restaurante Calalu which was the local hub for Interbus, the biggest shuttle service company in Costa Rica. Once at the restaurant, we had about 2 hours to kill before our shuttle arrived to transport us to La Fortuna. It was very relaxing just sitting there in the open aired restaurant realizing that we were finally in Costa Rica and drinking Imperials, Costa Rica's national beer.

Our shuttle arrived and along with 2 couples, we finally left the restaurant at around 2:30 for the very scenic and beautiful drive through the Costa Rican countryside. One of the guys in our shuttle had his head in his IPad for practically the entire drive watching a movie. I can't believe that somebody would come all the way to Costa Rica and not soak in the surrounding scenery. After driving about 2 hours, we finally arrived in La Fortuna in the early evening. Our hotel, the Mountain Paradise Resort, was off an unpaved dirt road up in the hills. After driving about a mile, we pulled up in front of the lobby where we were greeted by a staff member who provided us with wet towels after our long drive. After checking in, we hopped onto a four wheeled ATV which drove us up the hill to our room. Our room was absolutely awesome. It had a wood cabin feel to it with a huge king sized bed and a second queen sized bed. There was a flat screen TV above the sliding door, lots of drawer space and even an IPOD docking station. However, most impressive was the bathroom which was huge! Not only was there a normal shower, but also a stone waterfall shower with plants and a basin above which allowed the water to flow down like in a waterfall. Our room also had a back patio with a jacuzzi. This is easily one the nicest rooms I have ever stayed in. After settling in and freshening up, I was surprised to learn that Brent had smuggled in some marijuana and stashed it in his socks! It had been such a long travel day that we decided to just take it easy tonight and hang around the resort. We had dinner at the resort's restaurant where I had the Fettucine Alfredo. Dinner was about the same price as we would find back home in the states. So much for Costa Rica being so cheap! Afterwards, we just spent the evening checking out the pool and hanging out back in the room. An important lesson was learned tonight that would remain with us for the duration of our time here in Costa Rica. After using the toilet and clogging it up, I had to call the front desk for somebody to assist in fixing our toilet. One of staff members came with a plunger and informed us that toilet paper is not to be flushed down the toilet and should be placed in the wastebasket next to the toilet. You would think that they would have a sign instructing the guests of this but I had to learn this the hard and embarrassing way. We were all so tired that I think we all fell asleep around 10pm.

The next morning after breakfast we caught the resort's free shuttle into town and convinced them to take us to La Catarata La Fortuna, the area's famous waterfall. Entrance to the park was the equivalent of $10 and we immediately hit the steep trail through the lush foliage into the canyon. The hike down was a bit hard on the knees but we all knew that the hike back up was going to be a killer. Eventually, we got our first view of the falls from a distance and excitement kicked in knowing that we would soon be there. The waterfall was absolutely spectacular. Approximately 70 feet high, it was easily one of the most gorgeous waterfalls I had ever seen. The force of the falls was so strong that you couldn't swim near it but luckily for us, there were some nearby swimming holes that were more suitable for a quick dip. We took a few photos of the waterfall and sat there admiring all of it's grandeur. As I climbed over some of the very slippery rocks near the waterfall, I totally slipped and slammed my camera against the rocks. Luckily for me, I had a protective cover on the camera which saved it from damage. In need of a cool dip, we made our way over to the calmer waters of the nearby swimming holes. Brent wanted to go further into the forest and hike a little further down the stream. As we scampered over the slippery rocks trying to catch up with Brent, I decided that I didn't want to go any further. I decided that I was going to turn back and just relax at the first swimming hole we saw. Shea decided to continue on and catch up with her brother. Back at the first swimming hole, I joined about 10 other people in just relaxing in the cool waters while admiring the view of the nearby waterfall. I hung out here for about 30 minutes before deciding to go back and find Shea and Brent. I didn't make it very far as one of my flip flops came off and was lost downstream. Not wanting to hike on slippery rocks with one bare foot, I turned around and just relaxed back at my little swimming hole. Brent and Shea eventually came back and informed me that they found a flip flop which they knew was mine. They also had found a much quieter swimming hole further downstream with spots to jump off from. It sounded like I missed a good time but I thoroughly enjoyed my alone time at my swimming hole.

Climbing back up the steep canyon was rather difficult as my knee started to act up again but eventually both Shea and I made it. Brent had no difficulty as he practically ran back up. Once back on top, there was a nice viewing platform for those who chose not to hike down to the waterfall. It was a great view but nothing compared to what we saw hiking down to it. It took almost an hour before our ride from the resort came to pick us up. I was just about to call a cab when they eventually showed. It wasn't part of their services to pick people up from various sites but they were kind enough to do this for us. Before heading back to the resort, we stopped
La Fortuna WaterfallLa Fortuna WaterfallLa Fortuna Waterfall

Seen from the swimming hole
in town to pick up some people from Florida who were exploring the town as well as to make a stop at a supermarket for snacks and beer. The remainder of this sunny afternoon was spent lounging around the pool and just relaxing. Brent had staked out a spot at the swim up bar hoping to catch the Laker game on the TV. Eventually he left and went back to the room as he apparently was not getting along with the bartender. The resort's pool was great and had an awesome view of the Arenal volcano. All day we had been hoping for the clouds to lift so that we can see the summit. However, the weather was teasing us today as the clouds lifted for us to see most of the volcano but never lifted enough to see the summit. This evening was spent hanging out in the room drinking beer and vodka while enjoying the Lakers squeak out a 1 point victory over the Utah Jazz. Afterwards, we had dinner at the resort restaurant where I had an awesome chicken lasagna.

The next morning, we had another great breakfast at the restaurant where we decided that we would try some kayaking for today. We booked a 1pm kayaking tour down a nearby river from the activities desk of the resort. Until then, I spent the latter part of the morning relaxing and swimming at the pool. At 1pm, we were picked up by Victor from a kayaking company called Flow. We then picked up Roberto who came along to photograph us for their website or Facebook page. Before arriving at the river, we stopped at a small market to pick up some water, chips and beer for Brent. Back in the van, we heard a loud sound that to me sounded like the van was being pelted by rocks. We look back, and all 4 kayaks had flew off the top of the van and were in the middle of the road. Victor and Robert spent the next 20 minutes trying to fix the apparatus that attached the kayaks to the van. However, since we were not very far from our starting point, we decided to just drive really slow while Roberto hung out the van trying to hold the kayaks in place. Eventually we got there, and were given life vests to wear as well as a quick introduction on paddling and the guides instructional signals. Once on the water, it took a little while to get used to. It had been years since I was last in a kayak but in no time I was able to paddle forwards and backwards with ease. It took a little longer for Brent and Shea to pick it up but they were quick learners. Soon we were off to explore the Penas Blancas River. We were on the river a good two hours and it was a quick two hours. That's when you know you're having a great time when it does not seem as long as it actually was. The route that we took was very easy. There were no difficult or fast rapids to handle but at times it was just so peaceful being out there on the river with nothing but the sound of the buzzing cicadas. We didn't see as much wildlife as I had hoped, but we did see iguanas, herons, and cappuchin monkeys high up in the trees. Brent got along real well with our guides Victor and Roberto. During the entire journey, it was non-stop chatter between the three of them.
La Fortuna WaterfallLa Fortuna WaterfallLa Fortuna Waterfall

Admiring the waterfall one last time before leaving
If Brent can be counted on anything, it would be to make instant friends with anybody. Victor was so kind as to invite Brent to his house tonight for his birthday party. Once the kayaking was over, we stopped at a local's home where we were served some snacks of cheese and plantains. Before getting dropped off at our resort, the guys were so kind as to take us to a market and to a Burger King in La Fortuna. We spent our last evening just relaxing in the room and swimming in the pool while Brent kept going back and forth with going to that party he was invited to. It was a great time here in the Arenal area. Our resort was also awesome but we were so isolated that it prevented us from really exploring the La Fortuna area.

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 30


La Fortuna WaterfallLa Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

Admiring the waterfall one last time before leaving
La Fortuna WaterfallLa Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

The view of the waterfall from the viewing platform
La Fortuna WaterfallLa Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

This is what those who don't hike to the bottom get to see
Costa Rican FloraCosta Rican Flora
Costa Rican Flora

Cool flowers on the grounds of Mountain Paradise Hotel
More Costa Rican FloraMore Costa Rican Flora
More Costa Rican Flora

These red flowers look like cat tails!

Banana with a banana flower
Mountain Paradise Resort PoolMountain Paradise Resort Pool
Mountain Paradise Resort Pool

Shea posing next to the pool
Arenal VolcanoArenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano

Seen from our resort pool

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