La Fortuna

On to La Fortuna – Driving!

We said goodbye to our lovely host, Belle, who was kind enough to take us to meet the rental car company – Payless. She stayed with us and made sure that all of the paperwork was accurate; I knew that we were in good hands.

Within a half hour, we had talked with the Payless representative, read through the agreement, and signed the contract. He gave us a brief explanation of the rules of the road and what to do, who to call if we had any trouble with the car. After a quick look at the car, we were ready to drive in Costa Rica!

Little did we know that getting out of Atenas would be one of our biggest driving challenges! After a one-hour detour of sorts (okay, we were lost in Atenas), we were on our way to La Fortuna, our second stop on the two-week journey. We opted for the scenic route, which took us on a winding and hilly road that meandered along and around the beautiful Lake Arenal. Although we had rain interspersed throughout the 4-hour trip, we arrived in La Fortuna in mid afternoon.

La Fortuna is located in the rainforest area of Costa Rica, which is home to Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna Waterfall, among other destinations. La Fortuna was a wonderful three-day adventure. We stayed at a local airbnb apartment within walking distance to the center of town. During our stay we went to the Arenal Observatory, Dave and Dave’s Nature Center, and La Fortuna Waterfall. We also found delicious food and drink at four special places during our stay:

  • Snapper’s – where we devoured sopa de mariscos con leche (seafood soup with milk) and whole red snapper!
  • My Coffee – well, coffee, of course, but breakfast too! Croissants with cheese and egg and a “typical” breakfast of beans, rice, scrambled eggs, corn tortilla, sour cream, and cheese
  • Casa de la Hormiga – the casado – a traditional or typical meal which includes an entree (fish, chicken, etc.), beans, rice, plantains, salad, and starchy vegetable.
  • Panadería El Mundo de los Queques – a wonderful bakery!

A medley of food is captured in the collage below – from dinner the first night to lunch to breakfast and snacks!

La Fortuna Food collage

Good eats in La Fortuna!

Arenal

You can’t go to La Fortuna without seeing Arenal, an active volcano. But like most of our days in La Fortuna, we had rain, and always just enough cloud cover to keep a shroud around the top most part of the cone-shaped volcano.

IMG_0122

Arenal Volcano

You’ll have to use your imagination to see the top crater! We spent the day at the Arenal Observatory and saw and heard toucans and Collared Aracari (pictured below). The toucans were active around a slew of nests (also pictured below) hanging from various trees on the Observatory grounds. Also in abundance were butterflies and hummingbirds, which were attracted to all of the colorful flora. The multi-colored tree below is called a Rainbow Eucalyptus with brilliant stripes of color; several of the giants greeted us at the entrance to the observatory. One could easily spend an entire day here and not see half of the beautiful grounds!

Arenal Observatory collage

Arenal Observatory

Next stop, La Fortuna Waterfall

If you’ve ever been to Costa Rica or talked to anyone who has visited the Arenal National Park area, then you know that the La Fortuna Waterfall is a “must-see” destination. And, well, it didn’t disappoint! We were greeted by toucans in the trees at the edge of the parking lot; I knew then that we were in for a treat.

The trek down to the waterfall is a mere 550 steps, which means that there are an equal number of steps on the return trip to the top! The well maintained steps and handrails, as well as resting spots along the way, make it a worthwhile and manageable hike.

Toucans collage

Toucans!

La Fortuna Waterfall collage

La Fortuna Waterfall

Dave & Dave’s Nature Park

Dave Sr. greeted us when we arrived for a mid afternoon tour, and before long it was pouring! I had to keep reminding myself that we were in a rainforest, after all. We donned our rain ponchos and headed out to see the nature park. It was obvious that the hummingbirds were not distracted or deterred by the rain; they were everywhere!

Hummingbirds collage

Hummingbirds at Dave & Dave’s Nature Park

An avid conservationists, Dave shared with us his passion for the environment and their  efforts to restore and save the Costa Rican rain forest. It was more than a tour, it was an education to learn about the history of Costa Rica and the impact of growth, including tourism, on the environment. Thanks, Dave, for a wonderful experience!

Poison Dart Frog collage

Poison Dart Frog

We prepare to say good-bye to La Fortuna and make our way to the beach – Santa Rosa/Tamarindo!

 

 

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¡Pura Vida! Costa Rica: First Stop – Atenas

In early spring a friend and I were talking in general about places to retire and that led to a decision to visit Costa Rica, which is often listed as one of the top 10 places to retire! Who knew? We started our journey in late June and finished in early July – the 7th to be exact. The two weeks went by quickly, as is usual with vacations. There is much to see and experience in this small, beautiful country.

I write this post in retrospect, and rarely are the explanations and descriptions of the events – people, places, sights, and sounds – as enjoyable as the actual moments. I’ll give it my best shot. First and foremost, we met some wonderful, kind, and generous people in Costa Rica – from the airbnb hosts to taxi drivers to people walking along the road. I am honored to call friends – Belle, Babs, Dennis, Jorge, Danny, and Patricia – people that I met on this trip.

During the two weeks we traveled to 4 destinations in Costa Rica: Atenas, La Fortuna, Tamarindo, and Alajuela. Most of what I’ll “tell” you about these places is captured in my photos. First stop, Atenas and Belle’s Cute French Cottage! We spent our first full day relaxing and enjoying the beautiful surroundings at Belle’s place, including visits from Maya, a black and white miniature Schnauzer.

While in Atenas and the surrounding area we found and ate some amazing food! From left to right, top to bottom: a mixed plate with green banana, yucca, picante, black bean sauce, fish, chicken, pork, BBQ; empanada margarita; quesadilla con queso; and The. Best. Ceviche. Ever!
Food Atenas collage

On Monday, June 25th we took a bus from Atenas to San Jose and opted for a free walking tour to explore the city. From architecture to street art to the central market, San Jose is a large city with lots to see, hear, and do!
San Jose collage

On Tuesday, we toured a small family-owned and operated organic farm, El Toledo, which primarily grows coffee, but several years ago, the family began experimenting with crop diversity. And now, they grow other crops, too: ginger, stevia, corn, bananas, and more. Our host Gabriele explained the process of growing and roasting coffee. El Toledo Farm collage

Wednesday was our last full day in Atenas and we enjoyed the day to the fullest. We hired a young man we met through Gabriele to drive us (approximately 2 hours one-way) to Manuel Antonio National Park. Jorge was the perfect guide! He made the trip special by stopping along the way so that we could see different sites and views – a crocodile natural habitat and the beach towns of Jaco and Quepos – before arriving at the park. We walked through the park and along the beach before having a late lunch (where we tasted the best ceviche)! What a spectacular day it was!
Manuel Antonio collage

We remain grateful to Belle, our airbnb host who welcomed us to Costa Rica and made us feel right at home in Atenas. I look forward to our continued friendship.

On to La Fortuna…driving!