It was February 2016….
Birds chirping, the lull of the overhead fan whirling. Waking up without the sounds of urban life. No horns, no sirens. I open the door to our little cabin, at Hotel Brisas Arenal, nestled in the lush greenery of La Fortuna, Costa Rica. It was the perfect location, in that it was somewhat secluded from the noise of the town’s busy streets but close access to stores. Straight ahead a spectacular view of Arenal Volcano. Deep breaths and yoga stretches are the first activity of the day.
After the trip to Sedona, I was still riding on my travel high, therefore spawning my next scheme to find the next escape but I had no idea where. Ironically the source came from my boss at the time- who had come back from a family trip to Costa Rica. Heard about the beautiful weather, lush landscape and the amazing fresh fruits. Ok, I’m intrigued and I needed to be immersed in nature ASAP.
From our cabin, we take a stroll across the gravel parking lot to the outside dining area. The constant chirping in the background, sound of the breeze through the trees, the family dog laying in the walkway catching some sun.
Fresh fruit for breakfast – pineapple, mangos, papaya, strawberries, bananas. Yum! Intoxicating smell of freshly brewed coffee. Colorful local birds nearby scoping out the would-be scraps from our tables. It was a family owned hotel and they were very gracious hosts.
To La Fortuna Waterfall!
Packed with our bathing suits, towels, snacks and water – we set out for a hike to a natural pool with a waterfall. On the map, it didn’t look that far. A kilometer or two? No sweat! Dirt roads, concrete houses painted in light blue to aquamarine. Again with the floppy sun hat (what was I thinking). Powerlines in the way of our pictures. Stray dogs watching us carefully for a signal that we have food. The sun was unrelenting. It was hot and humid. That kilometer or two started to feel more like 50km away – as our road became more steep.
A van with some pleasant locals pulled up next to us – offered to give us a ride – horray ! The universe was looking out for us.
The view from the top with the volcano in the distance, and the white sliver in the greenery.
Took what felt like a million steps down to the natural pool and waterfall — feet hurting and sweating through our clothes – wasted no time getting ourselves into the water. The water was cool, clean – refreshing change from the humidity. After a while, I sat one of the huge flat rocks contemplating and taking in the beauty around me with warm sun on my face, thus a perfect moment in time.
We then made our way back up those hundreds of steps and called for a cab.
While we were waiting, this stray cat decided to keep us company. Friendliness must be in the air in these parts.
On the way back to the hotel, our cab driver pointed out the Sleeping Indian mountain. Pretty cool, huh?
While chatting with our hotel hosts, we asked where we can find activities to do. They recommended we try The Centro d’Informazione e Canopy Los Cañones, which is part of the Los Lagos Hotel Resort and Spa. They offered various activities that non-hotel guests are welcome to, including horseback tours, zip-lining, access to spa/pools. First, we opted for the horseback riding. A beautiful tour of the landscape, to an awesome viewpoint of the volcano. We were told that we are lucky that the weather conditions were just right to see the top of the volcano. Most of the time, there would be cloud cover. (woohoo! winning!)
Another popular activity to do in Costa Rica is zip lining. It’s a great way to view the canopy and get a thrill as you fly a hundred feet above the ground.
After we got our thrills done, we were free to roam around the animal sanctuary on site.
Mistico Hanging Bridges
If you’re afraid of heights, the Mistico Hanging Bridges is not for you. From what I could remember, these metal bridges hang about 100 feet from the forest floor. With that in mind, I ended up having the occasional flash of impending doom as I cross these old metal bridges. I usually am not too afraid of heights, but I feared the questionable structural integrity of the bridges. Obviously it turned out fine. After crossing the first bridge or two, it wasn’t so scary. Our guide seemed very knowledgeable about the variety of plants, birds and snakes we came across. Then, she became super excited when we came across an anteater (a.k.a. the Northern Tamandua) since it was supposedly a rare sighting during the day. That was the highlight of our little tour.
White Water Rafting !
This was so much fun and I’m so glad we did it. It took a bit of convincing my boyfriend since he doesn’t know how to swim. The staff of Arenal Rafting reassured everyone of the rigorous training and practice they do. The instructors explained all safety measures taken (helmets and life jackets, of course) and what to do when we fall in the water. They pretty much promised most of us will fall in at some point. How exciting ! One important tip, when you fall in, make sure to turn your body so that you’re facing the direction of the current. This way you can see if there are any dips. And there were plenty of dips and splashes on this adventure.
It was so thrilling, to ride the ups and downs, not knowing whether you’ll fall in this moment or the next. At the end, we were rewarded with delicious freshly cut pineapples and watermelon. Ahhhh, a perfect day!
Tabacón Hot Springs
Hot springs is also a hot activity in this part of Costa Rica. I have heard that Tabacón is one of the best. It has its own hotel/resort but is open to non-guests. Not going to lie, it is pretty bougie with a bougie price to match. At the time, it costs almost $90 a person for entry and a meal. Still, we thoroughly enjoyed our luxurious surroundings. Apologies for lack of pictures here, I didn’t want to take a chance with all this water and my then, new Iphone.
After our trip to the hot springs, it was still daylight, so we decided to look around town. We strolled around the park in the center of town, with its colorful plants, surrounded by various shops and restaurants. The rain was coming and going, then clouds came to close out the day.
I found this area of Costa Rica is great getaway for nature lovers and not too touristy since we didn’t notice any large crowds. Hopefully next time we’re in the country, we can check out the western coasts of Manuel Antonio, and its fabulous beaches.
Until next time, friends!
Updated October 26, 2020