The Lava Search Continues – La Fortuna, Costa Rica

After Monteverde, we decided to catch a “jeep-boat-jeep” shuttle to another part of the cloudforest, La Fortuna. It’s really difficult and time-consuming to get there on land alone, so this seemed to be the best option. The bumpy ride provided stunning landscapes and finally we arrived at the boat portion of the trip. No dock, no terminal. Just a few cinderblocks and a three rickety wooden steps lead to the boat we were about to board. About 10 of us climbed on with all of our gear and hoped for the best.

As we got about halfway across, the sky turned a dark gray and we could see lightning in the distance. Not exactly what you want to see when you are in the middle of a lake on a small boat. But, our captain powered on and somehow we got there in one piece. We hopped into our second shuttle just seconds before the sky opened up. We arrived at Vagabondo Hotel, located a couple of miles outside of town. At first we thought this wasn’t a big deal, but when we later walked into town for dinner, we realized it was more like a 45 minute walk and not so convenient.

Ominious skies threatening lightning as we cross Laguna de ArenalOminious skies threatening lightning as we cross Laguna de Arenal

Ominious skies threatening lightning as we cross Laguna de Arenal08-Aug-2010 15:48


Before leaving Monteverde, we had booked a tour to the famous Volcan Arenal in La Fortuna with a tour operator in the supermarket, of all places. We had checked him out online and people raved about him for great tours at low prices. When our ride didn’t show up as scheduled, we started to get really worried. So, we called our contact, and within minutes, our ride showed up.

The tour started with a hike through the forest. Of course, it started to rain, so that really put a damper on the day. We had to wait under an awning for nearly an hour until the rain stopped. The original plan to swim in a waterfall along the way was made impossible because of the strong currents. But, we did manage to snap a few photos without getting our camera soaked.

Waterfall near Volcan Arenal - it was too rainy to swimWaterfall near Volcan Arenal – it was too rainy to swim

Waterfall near Volcan Arenal – it was too rainy to swim09-Aug-2010 17:05


We hiked through the forest some more, over some suspension bridges and arrived at the foot of Volcan Arenal. This volcano is highly active with several eruptions or steam expulsions a day. So, we were actually guaranteed to see lava on this tour, and if we didn’t, they would take us on the tour the next day. The volcano was impressive, but needless to say, after an hour or so of watching it, we left without seeing any lava. I am still determined to see lava at some point on this trip!

Arenal letting off some smoke, but unfortunately no lavaArenal letting off some smoke, but unfortunately no lava

Arenal letting off some smoke, but unfortunately no lava09-Aug-2010 18:00


Our last stop on the tour was to some natural hotsprings. Volcanoes often produce natural hotsprings in the surrounding areas and make for a relaxing time. Our guide and driver pulled over on the side of the road and jumped into the forsest. A few minutes later, he comes out with a gorgeous frog on his hand. We were a bit disturbed because we had heard at the frog sanctuary that the oils and dirt on human hands can often prove fatal to some species of frogs. It was beautiful to see, though we hoped it would be ok after returning to the trees.

Red eyed tree frog on our guide's neckRed eyed tree frog on our guide’s neck

Red eyed tree frog on our guide's neck09-Aug-2010 18:57


When we finally got to the hotsprings, it was dark. We’ve heard along the way on this trip that hotsprings often open at 4am or even earlier and stay open late. Our guide led us to the springs with flashlights. The water was so warm and felt fantastic. Our crazy guide tried to convince us to head under the falls with him into this secret cavern, but we opted out. You had to hold your breath and dive with him under his arm not knowing where you would end up. After a scary experience with a waterfall in Lanquin, I wasn’t about to take any chances. But, relaxing in the water felt amazing. We even got to slide down a shallow part of the springs. 

That night, I went out to lay in the hammock area and was greeted by four tiny kittens. They must have been wild, but they were so cute. I played with them with a string and while they were shy at first, they warmed up to me. I called Erik outside to come have a look. He doesn’t really like cats, but even he thought they were adorable. The next day, right or wrong, I bought a can of food and split it four ways and fed them. They were very shy, but in the end all but one of them ate all of their food. They were so adorable! I wanted to take them with us!

Heather feeding the kittens at our hotelHeather feeding the kittens at our hotel

Heather feeding the kittens at our hotel11-Aug-2010 17:22


The next day, Erik worked while I enjoyed the pool, even though it was freezing cold. The location of our hotel proved to be convenient when we wanted to check out the nearby La Fortuna waterfall. We jumped in a taxi and within 15 minutes, we were at the entrance to the forest. We paid our $8 entry fee, and started the hike down. The forest was beautiful and very well manicured. Thankfully, they have installed some wooden stairs and railings to help with the steep climb both down and up. After about 20 minutes, we arrived at the waterfall. After taking some photos, we walked to the crystal blue pool that was full of fish, freezing, but too perfect for us not to take a dip. Next, we walked along the slippery rocks and I took a spill and banged up my leg on the rocks. The waterfall was very strong, and we wanted to watch our stuff, so we took turns carefully inching our way down to the pool directly under the falls. It was quite thrilling to be so close to such a natural wonder and we got some fantastic photos.

Erik taking a morning dip in a waterfall, Fortuna, Costa RicaErik taking a morning dip in a waterfall, Fortuna, Costa Rica

Erik taking a morning dip in a waterfall, Fortuna, Costa Rica10-Aug-2010 09:50


Only after we arrived back at the hotel later did we read that you should not swim in the pool under the falls as the strong undertow is extremely dangerous. We had stayed far from the actual falls, still realizing it was quite risky. Note to self – read the guidebook before swimming under a waterfall next time!

About Heather

Heather and Erik set off on a round-the-world trip in April, 2010, travelling overland through Central and South America before getting engaged in Antarctica. In 2011-2012 they tackled Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

3 thoughts on “The Lava Search Continues – La Fortuna, Costa Rica

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