This winter our home town of Vancouver is experiencing more snowfall and more days of below zero weather than it has in many years, perhaps even the worst winter in two decades. So how fortuitous that a pair of lovers of warmth and sunshine should find themselves off to Costa Rica just as winter takes hold at home!
Regular readers will know this is our fourth visit to Costa Rica. The first was in early 2012 when we explored the northern part of the west coast and the highlands around Monteverde on our way south for the year, the second was our introduction to Puerto Viejo as we headed north from South America, and our third was a return to Puerto Viejo with a few days in the mountains around San Isidro del General. So it is clearly a pleasure for us to return!
This time around, we thought we would swing by Arenal volcano, about 4 hours by bus from San Jose. Arenal is no longer active, although it was producing lava as recently as a dozen years ago, so there are plenty of tourist services in the area. Unfortunately, for the three days we were there, the volcano was completely enveloped in thick fog and low cloud, so no point hiking in for a closer look.
Instead, we walked to La Fortuna Falls (Catarata La Fortuna), about 5 km, much of it uphill. When we got to the park entrance, we were surprised that the admission was a rather steep $14 US. But because we had worked hard to get there, we decided to go in.
We were happy to see they are putting the funds to good use. There is extensive work underway to replace the old path and stairs with new metal and concrete steps, more than 400 altogether and probably about 80% done. In fact it was fascinating to watch workers craft handrails out of rebar, mesh, and concrete and achieve the look of log-like rails.
These falls are unique because rather than cascading over a rock face or down the side of a hill, they shoot out and pour into the centre of the pool of water 235 feet below. The pool feeds a small river and just downstream there are a series of wading pools. It is a long way back up those 400+ steps, but there are platforms, some with seating, every 20 or 30 steps. The walk to and from the falls was also rewarding; we spotted numerous toucans, a bright green honey creeper, various tanagers, thrushes and more along the way.
There is not much to do in La Fortuna, mostly hotels, restaurants, and tour operators. Ironically, most of the tours take visitors well out of La Fortuna, reinforcing the impression that La Fortuna has little to offer, especially when the volcano is inactive and frequently hidden from sight.
But we did find a brand new pub with fresh craft beer on tap, a refreshing change from the tasteless national beers which are everywhere and usually all you can order. The selection included an excellent IPA and the individual pizzas were loaded with fresh ingredients. They opened two months ago, and as part of the vibe they are establishing, we were invited to sign the outside wall by the front door. When we returned the next day, another dozen people had signed below our signatures, so hopefully La Fortuna Pub is starting to attract customers.
Stay tuned for our next post, direct from the Caribbean coast!