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Published: December 8th 2015
PURA VIDA in COSTA RICA (back in July 2013)
Let me start with the brief "bad"
We chose to go to LA FORTUNA, a town at the base of VOLCAN ARENAL. We took a bus from Granada, in Nicaragua, and after crossing the boarder, we got off the bus at Cañas since the driver assured us there was another bus to La Fortuna. He called his taxi-driver "cousin", who took us to Tiraran, but again, there was no bus for La Fortuna, so another taxi and $75 to finally arrive at La Fortuna... 10 long hours later.
It didn't take long to see that La Fortuna is a tourist trap, offering overpriced activities and food to foreigners, particularly Americans.
Moving on to The GOOD
There are a number of resorts, many with pools filled with natural hot spring water of volcanic origin. Grounds are lush and private bungalows are common.
Our hotel, Mountain Paradise, offered superb views of the impressive VOLCAN ARENAL from our room, pool, paths and restaurant.
It's forbidden to climb the volcano, because hikers have been killed since it last erupted in 1968.
So, we hiked at the cloud forest, enjoyed the hot springs and engaged on other activities. HIKING AT THE CLOUD FOREST ON NATIONAL PARK VOLCAN ARENAL
Nice and easy hike through the gorgeous tropical forest. It was very humid but cool, making the time fly us we merged with nature, fascinated by the impressive trees, particularly the 400 year old, 40 meter high Ceibo tree ( see picture).
It was mid-day, so we didn't expect to see many animals. So, it was such a treat to see a couple of beautiful Toucans, an ant eater, hoeler monkey and butterflies. At the end of the trail we had an awesome view of the perfect cone of the volcano, since the clouds had lifted. CANOPYING and WATERFALL RAPELLING
Scary if I just thought of it, but I was determined to continue my quest of letting go of fear. This was a good exercise for me, who is threading the "waters" of a diagnosis of cancer. My rational is: Just as with zip lining for the first time, if one is willing to let go of the fear in the beginning,
the rewards are sure to be entertaining. Any so it was... super great time, worth the $70.
Next day, a van picked Amanda and I up from the hotel, and we headed to the Pure Trek facility where we ate the included lunch.
After the 13 people in our group hopped back in the van, we headed mid-way up the mountain, where we got transfered to small trucks which could handle the bumpy ride further up. The gorgeous countryside could be admired all the way up to the cloud florest, where we got our gear for the rappelling. All with harness, helmet and gloves on, we hiked on a beautiful trail to the first platform. We did 4 rappelling, 3 with waterfalls, and 1 canyon wall. The first and last were the highest, 195 feet drop. It was a little scary to step off the platform, backwards, but in no time it was just pure fun, surrounded by breathtaking views.
Activities go from $65-100/person for about 3 hours: horseback riding, ITV, Ziplining, repelling.
Hotel offered tasty breakfast
in town, $10 taxi ride each way, there are many restaurants, most as
expensive or more expensive than at the US.
We finally discovered the RAINFOREST CAFE, which serves very tasty local food at fair price, in a cozy little place. I recommend the "casado", which is a full plate of Tica
food with a fresh fruit smoothie, for $5. (see picture) I vote this as the best in town,
Second best place to eat was LAVA LOUNGE I recommend the vegetarian burrito. The prices are so-so, but be ready for noise all around, as it's on the busy street and the music is loud.
COSECHAS is a tiny corner place for tasty smoothies.
Steak houses are a ripoff. Not worth the high prices. HOT SPRINGS
There are several, but since our hotel offered a small but great one, for free, we didn't see the need to spend $35-50/person to go to the big tourist-crowded ones. Besides, right by the pool we had hammocks to chill on, and a ticky bar at the pool.
Costa Rica was okay, but we all enjoyed Nicaragua better.
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