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  • Sue Stipek

Montverde to La Fortuna and home again ...

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

The drive from Montverde was back over some of the same roads that we had used to get there, but it veered off around Lake Arenal toward the volcano and La Fortuna. Though a better and somewhat paved road it was a bumpy journey to the primary route.

It is amazing to me how to big double high tour buses are able to make it along these roads. But they do - potholes and all.

Weaving our way around the lake and many a resort and adventure tour company, our hotel was located just before we got to La Fortuna - a large facility that caters to tour groups. I knew when I booked it that it wasn't a quaint resort - but Larry likes to be able to walk to town and this fit that request. It was billed as a 4 star - but it is more of a 3 star with a nice pool area, hot tubs, a view of the volcano and the added attraction of a cow pasture (with accompanying smells) just over the property wall. But service was excellent and they had parking.

There were several restaurants in walking distance, but one Italian one served excellent wood-fired pizza a few steps away. Good thing, since we were not part of a tour group, so we had to wait until they were served first.

We had three full days in the Arenal area. First day we went to the Butterfly Conservatory where we met a guy from Philadelphia who was volunteering. The place was nice and was a showplace of what could be done to bring back a clear-cut area to rain forest. Many more butterfly here than in San Jose and we saw a beautiful, translucent winged one. Also we got to see several frogs as they usually can only be seen at night in the wild. We drove back to the town of La Fortuna for an early dinner. La Fortuna is a very dumpy town. Other than a lovely central park area, the town has very little going for it from a tourist aspect. Just a workday place.

The next day we went for a walk on the Volcano. There is a National Park at the volcano as well as several of h many commercial adventure sports activities. You can take a sky cage or zipline across the preserve, hire a ATV bike or one of many guides. Instead of going to the National Park itself (entry fee of $15 per person) we went to the Arenal 1968 park for a senior discount of $13 per person. They actually have better facilities than the National Park. I asked about the trails and was told they were both about the same - up and down, and not flat. What they didn't say was how strenuous the trails were. Up and down is fine - so we decided to do the longer, 6km trail as we were told that if we needed it there was a short cut we could take - just take a walking stick in case.

So we started down (or up) the forest trail. As we were entering the fork a women in English warned not to do the forest trail as it was boring - but said if you do take water. We did have a bottle of water with us so we continued on. Up and down was an understatement. Partically through the trail and I was ready to call for assistance. It was more like rock climbing than hiking. Thankfully I had picked up walking sticks at the start. Our water supply was not enough and when we reached the "short cut" we greatfully took it. Unfortunately we didn't get to the 1968 flow portion of the hike - but a bottle of water back at the cafe was all we wanted. It was one of the most strenuous hikes that I have ever done.

Are final day at the Magic Mountain hotel was spent mostly relaxing, but we did go to the Sloth Park in hopes of seeing one of those creatures. We were able to to spot several in the park but at mid day, without binoculars, they are look like a lump of fur in the tops of trees.

We woke up early to get back to the airport. The winding road, through some little towns and many farms, saw nothing remarkable and took about 3 1/2 hours. Finding the car return was a fiasco, but we made it to airport and some time in the Priority Pass lounge before our flight.

All in all, Costa Rica was not the best trip we've ever taken. Too commercialized with zipline and adventure tour companies. The hiking would be good if that is what you want or there are many resorts dotting the coasts for a beach experience - but that is not what we are into. We really just like to experience the real side of a country. We got some of that in San Jose and I think just driving through the mountains. But we have enjoyed other Caribbean country more.

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