Saturday, July 8, 2017

Costa Rica Part 1: Arrival and La Fortuna

   Arrival:

     Once stepping foot in Costa Rica we were picked up at the airport by our car rental company, Adobe Car Rentals, which I strongly recommend as we ended up with zero hidden fees and no complications whatsoever.  While making our way to the rental company in the shuttle bus I couldn't help but to start feeling nervous about driving in the chaotic city traffic - don't expect the locals to follow any of the posted traffic signs or traffic rules!  Luckily, once we made it out of the main city area things calmed down quite a bit.
Travel Tips: 

1. Download Offline Maps and download the map of Costa Rica before your trip if you want to save money by not renting a GPS.  Offline Maps was a life saver and worked just about every time!
2. Maps will give you a drive time when traveling from one destination to the next - most highways are windy two-lane roads so don't expect the drive time shown to be accurate.
3. Costa Rica has a ton of one lane bridges - don't assume the person with the yield sign is going to yield!
4. Do not expect to see very many street signs.  Most directions I received were navigated by landmarks (which is another reason why offline maps saved my butt - I could type in the destination and it would get me there).
5. The locals are very nice and helpful.  If you are lost, they will try and help get you directions. Opt to stop and ask inside a store versus asking someone alongside the road (Advice from our Adobe rental guy).


Traveling to La Fortuna: 
     Upon arriving in Costa Rica and being handed the keys to a rental car, we made our way towards our first destination, La Fortuna by way of Poas Volcano (which was closed due to volcanic activity) to explore the town and do some hiking around Arenal Volcano National Park.

The drive was windy, yet beautiful, lush and green with rivers and waterfalls, scenic overlooks of rolling hills and valleys.

 Roadside Waterfall near Poas
Valley View at our first stay: Tiquicia Lodge


      Getting to La Fortuna from Poas took us around 5 hours of drive time (GPS said 3) due to winding two lane roads, rain and getting stuck behind trucks.  We stayed at an Airbnb on an Organic Farm around 15 minutes drive from the town of La Fortuna.  It was an easy drive in and out of the town from our place.  


What to do in La Fortuna: 

  • Shop and sight-see around the town.  There are many souvenir shops around the town as well as a very pretty city center park area to explore. 
  •  Hike in Arenal National Park.  We hiked the "Old Lava Trail" which gave us a close view of Arenal Volcano as well as getting to hike through the lava flow areas from the 1992 eruption (see picture below).  Most hikes cost a fee per person- ours was $10 a person for the "Old Lava Trail". 
  • Soak in the natural hot springs.  There are many free hot springs you can soak, however there are also more luxurious places to soak.  We had the chance to experience The Springs Resort and Spa which was a jaw-dropping location with amazing views to take in while soaking up the minerals.  
  • Wildlife Tours.  We also took a wildlife sanctuary tour at Club Rio which is part of The Springs Resort.  Club Rio has many different activities you can schedule - horseback riding, tubing, kayaking, rock climbing. -See photos and more info below-
  • Extreme & Adrenaline Tours. Anything from zip-lining and rafting to repelling down a waterfall. 



Old Lava Hike in Arenal National Park: 
 View of Arenal Volcano

We started mid-day and trekked through the rainforest.  This hike starts and ends with a swinging bridge over a very pretty river (pictured below) that made for a fun photo opportunity.   We walked into the rainforest and immediately got a taste of nature when some very loud-flying, parrot-type birds few over our heads making some odd chirping noises.  From there we hiked up a few inclines crossing a path of leaf-cutter ants and taking a few pictures of different types of lizards until we came to a clearing with the Arenal Volcano view pictured above.  This is about as close as you can get to Arenal Volcano and the views were astounding.   We continued back into the rainforest where we came across some spider monkeys playing in the trees and making their way from one tree to the next.  We continued to cross lava flow areas from the 1992 eruption (pictured below) until we got to the end of our loop.  Overall, it was a fun and memorable experience. 

 Lava Flow from 1992 Eruption
 Hike complete with Swinging Bridge!
 The hike cost $10 per person and took around 2 hours to complete (we stopped and took lots of photos- could be done faster).  It was VERY humid so dress light and take plenty of water.  We saw many different types of birds, lizards as well as some spider monkeys during our hike so be on the lookout for wildlife! I would say this hike is moderate as it does have some steep inclines as well as some scrambling around in the lava rocks but is a fairly short distance. 

The Springs Resort and Spa & Club Rio Wildlife Sanctuary


In the wildlife sanctuary we encountered monkeys, a two-toed sloth, toucans, alligators, as well as the big cats- cougars, ocelot, ect. 




My favorite moments at The Springs took place in the pool pictured above.  Not only was the pool the perfect temperature but it also had the most amazing view of Arenal Volcano.  We were able to grab some pretty amazing margaritas and enjoy the view while sipping away.  This place is true magic! 


The Springs Resort & Spa was featured on the television show The Bachelor in 2011 and it is easy to see why!  The first hour or so we were all speechless as we took it all in. The Springs has a swim-up bar, five different restaurants, a large selection of different hot springs pools all over the hillside at different temperatures and they even had a mineral spring water slide (which I totally utilized).  

La Fortuna Eats:
  • My Coffee - pretty much our favorite coffee of the trip and being that I was traveling with 2 baristas, that's saying a lot!
  • We opted for typical 'tico' restaurants while in Costa Rica.  These are restaurants that are labeled "Soda", often have a variety of options, and are much cheaper than the more touristy restaurants.  We went to Restaurante Rana Roja and La Parada (recommended by a local), both of which had great food at lower prices. 

Any questions are welcome - 

Cheers!

-Kristine



*Thank you to The Springs Resort and Spa for partnering with me during this trip.  All opinions are my own. 

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