After spending a couple of days in Monteverde, Costa Rica, I travelled to La Fortuna, a town close to Arenal Volcano. To get there, I booked a transport service with my hostel in Monteverde – a jeep-boat-jeep trip (more accurately, a van-boat-van). We winded through the roads out of Santa Elena, through tiny towns with just a church to unite the villagers, farm land and wild horses. We were dropped off with our bags at the side of a very large lake, with no boat to be seen…
Eventually a small boat appeared on the horizon and we made our way across the lake for 20-30 minutes, before the finally part of the journey into La Fortuna.
The whole thing cost $29 and I would recommend it for how easy and convenient the process was – picked up at your first hostel, and dropped off wherever you planned on staying in La Fortuna.
I checked in at Arenal Backpackers Resort and would definitely recommend it. There’s a lot of hostels in the town with very similar names so make sure you double check you have the right one – this one is part of the Costa Rica Hostels network. It was the priciest hostel I stayed at in Costa Rica, at $15 a night for a dorm bed, but the rooms were large, clean, with big (and hot!) showers. The hostel had a bar area next to the reception desk, and hosted events in the evenings (I enjoyed the beer pong tournament night, and reggae night which ended with a free shuttle bus to the club in town). But most importantly, the hostel had a pool! A beautiful pool!
I took advantage of the laundry service here – nothing like freshly cleaned and dried clothes, especially in this climate where things never dried out properly. The hostel also has a tented area you can stay in too – cannot vouch for what this experience is like but it certainly looks cool!
As soon as a walked into my dorm room, I was greeted by three Dutch girls who were about to leave for some hot springs. They invited me along, and we spent the afternoon and evening at Baldi Hot Springs. The hostel had a special offer where, if we booked through them, we could pay just $35 for entry to the springs and a buffet dinner (normal price – $51).
The hot springs are amazing. There are plenty of places offering the experience, and Baldi is in the recommended ‘Top 3’ on most lists. It’s not hard to see why.
Inside, Baldi is huge. Paths wind round the various pools, eating areas, water slides and swim-up bars! There are 25 pools of different temperatures, ranging from 35 to 65º C, plus saunas, power showers, and cooling pools to jump between. We arrived at 5.30pm, enjoyed our buffet dinner at 7pm and stayed in the park until we were literally kicked out at closing, at 10pm. I felt guilty about splashing out the money at first, on my backpacker budget, but it was 100% worth it! I even got a cocktail at one of the swim-up bars, appropriately called the ‘Pura Vida’…I think I was definitely living Pura Vida at Baldi!
After a day of relaxing, the next day it was time for some adventure! Some French-Canadian guys I had met were trying to rent quad bikes but quickly discovered that renting one to take out yourself was not possible in La Fortuna (you had to go on an organised drive group, costing upwards of $100). Time to rethink…Looking at a map of the area, I remembered a hike I had seen and was interested in doing. It didn’t take long for me to convince them that was how we should spend our afternoon, and before we knew it, we’d driven out to the start of the Cerro Chato hike.
Cerro Chato is a dormant volcano located next to Arenal Volcano and features a large crater lake at the top. You must pay a $10 entrance fee at the start of the trail, and sign away your life after reading through their advisory warnings – slightly scary, especially the warnings of snakes!
The hike is tough. It is a steep, uphill climb. There are natural steps forming the trail which were great for the men, but still a massive effort for my slightly shorter legs to reach each time. Add to this the rain and cloud cover and you have a very muddy, slippery, uphill trek.
Despite this, I absolutely loved it! It took us just under 2 hours to reach the top, but due to the cloudy weather, we couldn’t see much of the crater. The boys decided to go for a dip in the water anyway, while I headed back down with a Dutch couple we had been following up the volcano.
(Just for reference, here is the crater we reached, next to the larger Arenal Volcano…)
After washing off our muddy trainers and doing some yoga stretches to ease the aching muscles we knew were coming, I headed back to the hostel with the Dutch couple and got ready for a well deserved dinner! We ate at Lava Lounge in La Fortuna, chatted about our travels in Central America so far, and enjoyed some very big, very tasty burgers, before passing out at the hostel.
I left La Fortuna the next day to move onto the Caribbean coast and Puerto Viejo. I really enjoyed my brief time in La Fortuna but only wish the sky had cleared so I could have actually caught a glimpse of Arenal Volcano!