Exploring La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano | Costa Rica

After two days in Puerto Viaje, I left for La Fortuna the following morning. The journey took six hours and genuinely cost a fortune (excuse the hilarious pun). Basically to get to La Fortuna using public transport from Puerto Viaje was to catch two public buses, one to San Jose (the capital) and then a second bus out for $10 each. However the buses only run each morning so I would have to spend the night in San Jose which I didn’t particularly want to do, because I don’t have loads of time and will already be spending the night there the night I leave Costa Rica.

Which leaves one other option- to get a minibus shuttle which gets you there in six hours door to door, however it costs a steep $64! So I sucked it up and bought the expensive shuttle ticket, so at least I could do the journey in one go. I figured by the time I got to San Jose, paid for a taxi/ hostel/ dinner etc, it would probably have cost the same as the shuttle straight there and I don’t waste as much time. This is one big problem about travelling around Costa Rica on a time/ money budget!

ANYWAY the bus journey was fine, a little cramped for such an expensive journey but okay. As we got closer and closer to La Fortuna, the weather got worse- it started raining non stop. However this was to be expected as our driver pointed out- we were in the rainforest where it always rains, and we were also in rainy season! After about seven hours total, we arrived in La Fortuna. I loved the town from the start- it was quite touristy but in a cute way, and it felt very safe which was nice coming from Puerto Viaje.

Arenal Volcano

My hostel in La Fortuna was called La Choza Inn. It cost $6 a night including breakfast which is an amazing price for Costa Rica! It’s pretty central and clean etc, everything you need, I would definitely recommend it. The only drawback is that it’s not too social so make friends elsewhere! One of the main draws here is the Arenal Volcano tour, which I booked myself onto for the following day. My hostel actually did the cheapest price for the tour out of everywhere I found, it was $50 for ‘Two Volcano Hike and Hot Springs’ and also included a visit to a waterfall and some hanging bridges thrown in. That night I explored the main road to find this small town had everything, lots of touristy souvenir shops, shops selling tours, many bars and restaurants (no clubs though) and a little post office where I could send my postcards! So cute!

The next day, after a delicious free breakfast of gallo pinto (really yummy rice and beans), scrambled egg, toast and jam, watermelon and a banana- I said this hostel was good- the bus picked us up at 9:30 ish for the tour. I was unlucky in that pretty much everyone in my tour group was a big group from Portugal that all knew each other already. It was pouring with rain and we started trekking through the rainforest. It was a really pretty trek, our guide kept pointing out trees and leaves that had natural powers, like repel mosquitos or cure hangovers! After an hour or so, we reached the lava field, the highest point of our hike. When Arenal Volcano erupted in 1968, people didn’t even think it was a volcano, they thought it was a hill because it had been dormant forever. It killed 87 people and buried 3 small villages and was active from 1968 until 2010. At the Lava Fields, we were right next to it but we couldn’t see it because of such low clouds, it was crazy!

We walked back down and after lunch we got taken by bus to Cerro Chato, which is another smaller inactive volcano, next to Arenal. We took another hike through the rainforest there, although this was more cut back for tourists, and a large section was through a resort. We stopped at a waterfall, a frog pond where we saw the most beautiful frog in Costa Rica and walked along some hanging bridges. Finally for the last part of the day, as it was getting dark we arrived at the natural hot springs. It was a bit of a weird experience, we all had to strip down into our swimming things in the small minibus, and go outside in the cold and dark in just our bikinis. We were then taken down a dark, sketchy track and under a bridge, to where we FINALLY reached a pool where the water was lovely and warm, underneath the cold rain. The guides gave us some vodka lemonade to sip which was a nice touch! I got chatting to a couple of British guys called Sam and Julian who I was then to spend the next few days with. I met them later for drinks and we planned to meet the following day to visit the waterfall. It was such a nice day!

All we saw of Arenal!

La Fortuna Waterfall

The next day we met mid morning to begin the walk to La Fortuna waterfall which is about an hour out of town. Once again it rained on and off the whole journey. On arrival we paid $15 entry, and then had to walk down 500 wooden steps to get to the waterfall. It was genuinely one of the most powerful waterfalls I’ve ever seen, perhaps made stronger because of the amount of daily rain at the moment. It is prohibited to swim underneath because it’s too dangerous, so we walked further down to swim in one of the lower pools. The water was freezing but we were already soaked through and cold from walking in the rain so we got used to it quickly! Because of the strong waterfall, the current was absolutely huge- I could barely swim across it and I like to think I’m a pretty good swimmer. We ‘dried off’ aka dried ourselves with a wet towel and put wet clothes back on. On the way back we stopped for some refill coffees to warm ourselves up and some nachos with a hillside view!

Hot Springs

That evening, we wanted to visit the hot springs again but couldn’t decide which ones/ how to get there and it gets dark so quickly. So we sped back to town to use some WiFi to make a plan and were recommend a hotel with a hot springs spa, with lockers which would be safer than leaving our stuff on the side of the road in the dark like the night before. Turns out the spa was AMAZING. It was called Hotel Los Lagos, cost $16 (which included a lift there) and was definitely worth every cent. It was like a resort, there were 11 or 12 pools and they all ranged from 25- 36 degrees which was sooo nice. Most of them had slides, where you would literally slide up to the bar. We had a few drinks and tried every pool, it was the best way to warm up after a cold, wet day! Back in La Fortuna, we had one more drink and Sam and Julian booked the same bus/ boat combo that I had booked to Monteverde for the following day, so we could continue the adventure!

These were some of my favourite days of my whole trip.

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