La Fortuna de Costa Rica

Sunday, January 10, 2010

One thing the marketing people of Costa Rica taught me: Jeep-Boat-Jeep sounds a lot more exciting than van-ferry-van. I was in Monteverde, however, and JBJ was the fastest and most convenient way to get across the continental divide to La Fortuna, my next stop on the way to the Caribbean. And it was worth it, if not for the adventure I'd hoped for then because the views and the rural passage down to the lake where the boat carried us across to the other side was stunning. Simply stunning. Beautiful views everywhere of Costa Rica, of cloud forest, rivers, green mountains, small villages, and more. We had the fortune (la fortuna, in Spanish, incidentally) of witnessing the sun break through the clouds in our wake as we sailed across the lake and I had pretty good company for the trip, too. I was planning to stay at the Arenal Backpackers Resort, which promised swimming, lockers, a/c, and everything you could want in a hostel for $8/night (or so I'd heard). Unfortunately, it was full, so Anna (a Finnish girl I'd met en route) suggested Gringo Pete's and sure enough we found a place to hang our towels.

I say towels because our first stop that evening was to take Mr. Lava Lava's trip to the Baldi hot springs. La Fortuna is a hub of activities from horseback riding to white water rafting (Rio Del Toro apparently is Class IV) to ziplining to hiking volcano viewpoints to waterfalls to ATV tours to ... well, you get the idea. Unfortunately, all of these things cost a lot more money than your average backpacker is likely to have in his budget (unless of course there is something exceptional about one of these things here). I had heard the hike to view the volcano was nice but the cloud cover precluded that. Most of the other activities fell into the category of things I had already done in places world-renowned for them and while I'd love to do them again, these are hard fought travel dollars. However, La Fortuna's hotsprings are more deluxe and excessive than anywhere I'd ever heard of, so for $28, I was in. And I was not disappointed. Having been ziplining in Monteverde that very morning and then JBJing it here without so much as a snack in between, I was starving and included in all of this was a buffet. It was nothing to write home about but man did it hit the spot. The fresh fruit was great and I could have drank the whole of the chocolate fountain if someone had just given me a glass. The sweet and sour pork was quite nice too, and the smoked tuna was decent if dry. It didn't matter, really. Everything was tasting good at that point.

Dinner done, Anna and I got changed and started exploring the place. While I had heard of some of the excessiveness of the various hot springs in La Fortuna, I wasn't prepared for it. Not only did this hot spring have a large number of pools in about four different temperatures, but it had a Hollywood-style fake waterfall, faux-naturale jacuzzi, and three waterslides not to mention a couple swim-up bars and more. And this was the budget hotspring, although I have heard that there are free and ACTUALLY natural ones for those with more time or interest to find them. We stayed and moved from pool to pool right until 10:00 and were in fact some of the last people out on account of the fact that every once in a while, the analog dial of my watch decides to put itself out about 45 minutes. By the end we were feeling like new people, and we went back to the hostel then out for a drink before calling it a night. Anna was flying home after the weekend so she had an early start in the morning to get to see the waterfall and I thought I might as well join her while I had company.

The next morning I got packed up and moved over to the Backpackers Resort after picking up a few snacks at the store for breakfast. We cheated and took a cab up to the park entrance rather than hiking due to Anna's short time before catching her bus at 1:30, and the cabbie (who had left the meter running while I ran in to check-in to Backpackers) decided he should be compensated extra for waiting (in addition to running the meter) and so left the meter running as we were getting our money together to pay and then insisted on charging us extra. I had had a yogurt drink in the car and figured if he was going to do that, HE could find a garbage for it. Nope. He ran after me angrily and shoved it in my backpack. I'm not sure why I paid him the extra as easily as I did, and I'm not sure why I didn't throw the yogurt at his greedy little head but somehow I just muttered angrily to myself for 10 minutes and carried on with my day. If anything, the Parks official got most of my wrath because it was $10 to take the path down to see the waterfall. $10 to see a waterfall? I was more upset at the cabbie but for some reason I had held back.

In any event, I didn't harass the parks guy too much, though he was in danger of pushing me too far after the cabbie, and we went in. It really is one single path. There is no series of hikes or trails or viewpoints. You walk down a trail (at least the trail was quite well-maintained) to a viewpoint of the waterfall and then back up. If you like, you can scramble over the boulders and have a swim or get a closer look at the waterfall, which we of course did, but that's it. It was a pretty impressive and powerful waterfall and it was nice to get a BIT of exercise in. We scrambled back up then walked down the road and back into La Fortuna which is quite a nice walk in the downhill direction. I said bye to Anna and went back to check out my hostel. Now I should mention that the price is not the quoted $8/night but $14, which is pretty steep for dorms. Still, it was one night, pretty nice, and I met some friendly if cliquey Quebecois at the hostel. It wasn't a pretty quiet night though, because I had to be on my bus for Guapiles, en route once more to the Caribbean coast, by 7:30 AM. This was another "pay a bit more and take the shorter and faster way" expenditure that, could I see the future, I may not have done. Ah, traveling.

La Fortuna Photos

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