The Sleaziest Sloth In Town @ La Fortuna, Arenal
After finding out that Poás volcano National Park was closed due to an eruption late last year, we decided to bust it all the way through to La Fortuna from Tortuguero. It all seemed pretty simple according to the “Rome To Rio” app, a simple bus change at San José and we would be on our way.
We arrived at San José after the hour boat trip, the hour of the bumpiest bus ride ever and two hours on another bus. Our old, shoeless, toothless, lottery ticket selling mate was there, abusing tourists that didn’t speak Spanish yet again, well, not so much abusing but if they didn’t speak Spanish he would raise his voice and yell Spanglish at them, as if this would help their understanding. I’ve seen more tourists doing this in English than I have this way round. Harmless, old mate no shoes just wanted to find out where everyone was going, where they had been and generally just wanted to chat, or tell them where they should be going. He also loved saying the word kangaroo over and over when I thought it would be a nice gesture to engage and respond with my nationality when asked. Alice always gets “London? Manchester? Football?”, whereas I just get “Kangaroo!” all the time.
Anyway, we get to the window only to find out we were at the wrong bus station and needed to find bus station 7.10. The rather unhelpful ticket woman wrote down just “7.10” on a piece of paper, couldn’t give us directions or anything and sent us on our way. With no internet and after asking several people, Alice managed to get directions from some guy, it was only a short ish distance so we decided to. We got more directions along the way including to go a slightly different way to avoid a rough area. It was fine but we were sad to see a lot of homeless people sleeping on the pavement. We arrived shortly after and found a group of tourists that had come from tortuguero (and had been in the line behind us at the first bus station) sitting waiting for the bus, tickets in hand. Turns out they had gone with the taxi option, hot and sweaty we got some tickets and waited.
We had already been travelling for about seven hours at this point, luckily we arrived just in time for the next bus to Quesada, where we would, yet again, change buses to get through to La Fortuna.
This bus seemed to take forever as it climbed over about 10 mountains. The views were spectacular though. Another bus change, another couple hours on the road and we finally arrived at La Fortuna quite late. By this point we had been travelling for about 12 hours so we quickly grabbed a few bits to cook dinner and headed to our hostel. The reception was less than warm and whilst we were checking in, two girls who were obviously staying at the same hostel, came to reception and asked why the kitchen was closed. They were abruptly told that the kitchen no longer existed. This was one of the main reasons we had chosen this hostel as cooking in Costa Rica is much more economical for us. The owner threw a bit of a hissy fit, gave our keys back to the receptionist and stormed off. At this point we decided it was probably better to stay somewhere else anyway.
Owl Butterfly @ La Fortuna, Arenal
We luckily got in contact with another hostel around the corner on Facebook, and managed to book a double room. By the time we got there, which was all of ten minutes later, they had sold our double room! To may I add- the bloody tourist who beat us to the bus station as they took a taxi! The guy at the desk who we later found out to be the manager here was an absolute nimrod. After trying to work out a solution, we then spent over an hour going in circles about our options which every 3 minutes we were told the classic “hold on, let me just check, I may have something else”, to which he never did. It was fine, these things happen and we didn’t mind staying in the dorm but he was trying to charge us the same as we would have paid for a private room, then he was trying to move us to a double room for the second night but then back for the third night, he just went round and round. The all female dorm he was trying to sell us as a better dorm was in fact was just a dorm that consequentially just currently had females in, it all came to a totally unnecessary head where he was so rude to me and decided he would only speak to Alice. The whole thing was so unnecessary and just classic terrible management and unable to cope with a simply problem, neither of us were mad until he just kept lying and making the situation more difficult. I gave up and left Alice to negotiate and argue our way into a bed for the night, we just wanted to go to bed. Ten minutes later Alice had somehow negotiated her way into a free nights stay followed by two discounted nights in the dorm.
We finally we got into the dorm room, after managing to calm him down and tell him how disappointed (and frankly confused) we were in his service. He then proceeded to beg us not to write any bad reviews, then wouldn’t stop saying how we would anyway and how people always do, (we haven’t by the way). He was an absolute nightmare.
The dorm room was fine, it was clean, had its own bathroom (some would say it’s not so much of a benefit due to the small space) and had aircon. The beds were big and the bunks sturdy, the power points were on the roof above only one of the bunks, but who needs electricity anyway.
We called it a night, no dinner for us after the run in with the manager, it exhausted us completely. The next day we got up and explore the hostel. It was actually a really nice place to be, the breakfast of rice beans and eggs was simple but great, there was even pineapple, juice and a banana. We headed into town to check it all out. We managed to book a night tour for that night and had a nice coffee.
Blue Jeans/Strawberry Poison-Dart Frog @ La Fortuna, Arenal
La fortuna or “The Fortune” was named for its copious amounts of tourist attractions and fertile grounds. It is home to Arenal volcano which is citied by scientists as one of the top 10 active volcanoes in the world. It’s last big eruption was in 1968 which changed the whole regions geography.
That afternoon we prepared dinner early and headed to our night walk at a near by sloth sanctuary and privately owned protected park. As soon as we walked in we were shown a resident baby sloth near reception, who was too lazy to bother waking up for us, so he just looked like a coconut.
We then went a bit further into the park and met up with an adult sloth who really put on a show. He turned all the way around and stared at us the whole time we were there, casually scratching at his parts, looking us dead in the eye with an oddly sleazy look. I thought I liked sloths… now I’m not so sure, some boundaries were crossed in this meeting.
Just around the corner from scratchy creepy pants was a black and white owl, who I swear was almost as big as the sloth! He was rather impressive in his sleepy grumpy state.
Twoo You Looking At?! @ La Fortuna, Arenal
The tour was then cut short, only about 20minutes in as it had started to rain heavily and the wind was settling in. The guides have to cancel the walks around here due to the danger of falling branches and trees. Slightly disappointed but not very as we had already had some great albeit strange sloth encounters, we rebooked for the following morning in the hopes to get some bird watching in.
The next morning we were picket up at 5.50am and walked through the park for a couple hours in the drizzling rain. Somehow I was yet again roped into another 5am birding activity. It was a slow hike with not a lot to see until right at the very last minute, the sun came out and so did the wildlife! We ended up seeing a Fer De Lance, two Green and Black Poisonous Dart frogs mating, Blue Jeans/Strawberry Poisonous Dart frogs, Leaf-Nosed bats, Fiery Throated humming birds, Volcano hummingbirds, a Two Toed sloth (so far we had just seen Three Toed) and caught a glimpse at the baby sloth/coconut again.
Green and Black Poisonous Dart Frogs @ La Fortuna, Arenal
Young Fer de Lance @ La Fortuna, Arenal
Hanging Out @ La Fortuna, Arenal
We headed into town after a quick change out of our soggy cloths and breakfast after our morning walk. We went to a tour agent who had quoted us the best price for our jeep and ferry to Monteverde the next day to book it in. He completely screwed us on the exchange rate but we knew it was happening and you just can’t do much about it. We still paid less than the going rate but this is a massive frustration in heavily touristy areas as prices are always quoted in US dollars but we have the local currency, also you can mostly only withdraw local currency. So, what gets quoted in US then gets converted into Costa Rican Colones at pretty much any rate they want. We constantly get different exchange rates which is super frustrating. Anyway, he turned out to be a nice enough guy, despite making enough from us to buy his lunch. We were headed to the Catarata Waterslls, so he offered us a lift for a slightly cheaper price than the taxis (after his conversion rate I think it turned out about the same). He also got a dollar back off our entry tickets if we let him buy them for us, we didn’t mind, he was nice enough and it didn’t affect our ticket cost.
Chasing Waterfalls @ Catarata Fortuna, Arenal
La Catarata de la Fortuna falls drop 70m into some nice pools you can swim in (depending on the strength of the current) and is at the base of a dormant volcano called “Chato”. As soon as we arrived at the waterfalls, the heavens opened and it poured with rain. We waited it out with a hot coffee then when it cleared, walked down 500 steps to the amazing waterfalls. There was a big school group from America obviously here on a trip which only slightly took away from the scenery and peacefulness of being under a gigantic waterfall in the middle of a jungle. We went for a freezing cold swim before hiking back up those 500 odd stairs.
Into The Wild @ Catarata Fortuna, Arenal
We had planned to hike the volcano but the rain was still going and apparently it’s actually a bit of a disappointing hike view and wildlife wise so we weren’t overly gutted. That afternoon we chilled out at the hostel as the rain continued.
La Fortuna was really nice, there is heaps to do and it’s a bit of the adventure capital of Costa Rica, despite us just doing sloths and frogs and a waterfall you can do white water rafting, loads of hiking, hot springs and much more, everything slightly better without the rain.
The next morning we packed up and headed out on the shuttle to the Laguna De Arenal, where we jumped on a passenger boat and headed 40 minutes across the lake where we met our shuttles and travelled for two hours to Monteverde. We decided to spring for the $20 Jeep boat jeep option instead of the local bus ($4) as it took seven hours instead of three through winding, undulating roads. The drive was pretty spectacular and looked a lot like North Island New Zealand which made us miss our beautiful second home (only a bit, we’re not coming back anytime soon!). Lake Arenal is the largest lake in Costa Rica. It is artificial and supplies 17% of the countries electricity, compared to 70% when it was first built.
Off to Monteverde to get our heads into the clouds, literally.
Ribbit-ed For Your Pleasure @ La Fortuna, Arenal