Wednesday, December 12, 2007

La Fortuna in December


Today we checked out and took the interbus to La Fortuna. We left at 8:30, and picked up another person in Sámara. We got across the bridge and stopped to eat a quick lunch and change buses by noon. We were the only passengers on the new bus; we went through Tílaran, and around the north side of Lake Arenal – through the town of New Arenal and across the dam. Lake Arenal is the second largest lake in Central America (Lake Nicaragua is the largest – it is huge!); two towns were “drowned” when the dam was built – Arenal and Tabacón. We got a fabulous shot of the volcano (almost a perfect cone) from the dam. We drove through La Fortuna, and got to our hotel about 3:00. It turns out that the hotel is *not* one kilometer from town, but rather the turnoff for the side road is one kilometer. The hotel is another *FOUR* kilometers UP the mountain – I don't think we will be walking into town...

We are the only guests here for a while (there are 10 rooms).

When we got here, the manager showed us a menu, and asked when we wanted to eat dinner – we didn't know, so we just put it off. Well – later we found out that there is no restaurant on site, and they get our dinner delivered; they were waiting for us to decide – oops.


The day before Christmas, and what it the correct thing to do? Go on a safari float, of course! We're up at 5:00 (argh), and the tour bus picks us up at 7:00. Seven of us go to the river (Peñas Blancas – white cliffs) and float down in a raft for a couple of hours. The river was about 20 feet below its maximum level. We saw a number of birds, butterflies, iguanas (green females and gold males), a “Jesus Christ” lizard (it likes to hang in a cross shape on the river banks), and a few howler monkeys. Our guide apparently thought we were there for his entertainment – he tried to maneuver the boat directly under the monkeys – they urinate and defecate on people if they are bothered (like when the guide loudly slapped the paddle on the water). what fun.


We had a white Christmas! For most of the morning, we were surrounded by white clouds (or fog, depending on your definition).

That is the only “traditional” thing that happened all day – no Christmas tree, no carols, no decorations, no presents. Not even a Christmas movie!


We went for a short hike (less than an hour) partway up the mountain. When we got back, we sat and watched the sun and clouds cross over La Fortuna in the valley below. There was a solid line of white making its way across the valley, bringing a *lot* of rain! We watched it push a bar of sunshine in front of it; the houses disappeared one by one as it moved closer to us. Then – boom! It hit us! What a down pour! It took about 15 minutes to make its way from the far side of the town up the mountain to us. We turned around and watched the bar of sun and rain move further up the slope.


We went into the town of La Fortuna today – about $4 to town via taxi. We went to a pharmacy and bank, and walked around a bit, then caught another taxi to the hot springs at Baldi (~ $3.75). The hot springs are great! The entry fee is $25 at the gate (we found out later that we could have bought advance tickets for $17 in the town). The you put down a $10 deposit for a towel, and $5 for a locker with a lock (if you have your own lock, the locker is free). There are changing rooms, and shower/bathrooms. Pretty much everyone walks around the grounds in swimsuits – all sorts of bodies, and no one cares.

We started at a pool that was 102° F, and perhaps 3 feet deep. Then we progressed to 109. It has tiled “lounge chairs” partially submerged – you can pick the depth of water you lie in - nice! This pool was right next to one that was 114 (too hot!). Then – we found the giant jacuzzi! It was 109, and about 20 feet long and 12 feet wide, with jets and benches and waterfalls. We made the circuit and found the perfect spot to sit for massages. Right next to this pool was a “cool pool” (don't remember the temperature). I went back and forth several times – ahhh.

We walked around some more – dipped our toes in a pool that was 153°F!! HOT!! and had a drink at the bar. Took another turn at the giant jacuzzi.

We got changed, turned in our towels and lock, and got a taxi back to town.

We enjoyed the park for a while, walked around town some more, and had dinner in a restaurant where they were showing USA rodeo on the big screen TV. Can you say “I'm in the mood for steak?” I had filet mignon – this time is was pretty tough (on our first trip, I had filet mignon in Heredia, and it was really tender).

Got a taxi back to the hotel after dinner. All told, taxis totaled about $15.


Catherine said...

For your next adventure or celebration, you may want to check out James D. Brausch's Costa Rica HQ, a guide for those wishing to visit or live in Costa Rica.

In one of his entries, James highly recommends Finca Mequengue Falls near Limon on the Carribean coast. To view some photographs, go to

Among the places James also mentions are Tabacon, Xandari and Costa Rican National Parks like the Arenal Volcano and the Chirripo National Parks. To get first hand information on these wonderful places and other bits and pieces about Costa Rica, visit James'

JulieAndRickInCostaRica said...

Hi Catherine -
I have a link to Costa Rica HQ, along with a few other CR blogs. They are fun to read, and provide a wealth of information about daily life in the country.
Maquengue looks great! Another commenter mentioned it as well - I'll definitely have to put it on my "visit" list.