Last Full Day :(

We said goodbye to our gracious hosts, Karl and Guiselle, and headed back around the lake to La Fortuna. We wanted to hike the old lava flows that remain from the Arenal Volcano. Somehow, we passed by our original target (the Costa Ricans haven’t quite gotten the hang of giant signs and billboards with arrows and neon lights for miles, so sometimes you have to actually be paying attention), but that was OK, because we ended up driving a little farther and finding another hike with lava flows. This one, the lava vieja (yes, old lava) trail, began at Arenal Observatory Lodge. The idea was a view of Arenal Volcano and a nice, 2-hour-or-so hike before lunch. The trail technically leads up Cerro Chato, another volcano, but the Costa Rican government has banned hiking up it because of the danger. We asked, but were told that the police patrol frequently. We weren’t sure if was true or not, but weren’t willing to take the chance. Maybe next time.

If you are imagining a U.S. style switchback trail, think again. Think rainforest even in dry season can be a bit muddy. Overall, the trail was well-maintained and marked so it was fine, but it was no easy stroll. We were going up, sometimes a bit steeply. I enjoyed this hike because it seemed secret, although I’m sure it’s not. It wasn’t in the national park or the commercial site next to the park, and got to see some more of Costa Rica’s fabulous flora and fauna. Plus another couple from Illinois. No one wants to be here at the end of March.



Oh, and there was another hanging bridge.

When we got to the top of the trail, we were rewarded with … fog and clouds. As Karl put it, “Arenal is a shy volcano.” A bit disappointing, but in no way am I complaining. The view of the valley, lake, and forest were spectacular. All-in-all, a great beginning to our last day.

Our best view of Arenal Volcano, from the road to La Fortuna.

After the hike, we drove to La Fortuna for lunch and a wander. After examining the options, which mostly consisted of variations on “tipical food” and pizza, we settled on a place that Steven’s eagle eye for food noticed: The Corner, right a cross from the main park and, of course, on a corner. We had a delicious salad with lettuce, onion, pineapple, papaya, cashews, tortilla strips and ginger soy sauce dressing along with frozen ginger lemonades with the accent on ginger. Steven had a chicken crepe and I broke my vegetarianism for shrimp tacos. If you happen to be in La Fortuna, we highly recommend it. Next we wandered some souvenir shops, but didn’t find anything of particular interest, and then hit my target: the chocolate shop. Chocolate Fusion, with artisan chocolate designed for the American dollar. I would never spend $5 (HEY, HOW MUCH WERE THESE? $5 A BAR) for less than 2 ounces of chocolate at home no matter how good it was, but vacation dollars are different. Plus, this is really good chocolate. We bought a few bars and then went to the market to buy some snacks for the trip home. Did you know you can buy Smucker’s Goober Grape in Costa Rica? Finally, we hit the road, returned the car, and had a painless Uber (they say You-ber) ride to the Studio Hotel near San Jose airport.

Water World Part 4—with bridges


driving mapOn Thursday we drove from Quepos to Arenal. Sue has a friend, Karl, who lives outside of a town called Tejona. It is around the other side Lake Arenal from Arenal National Park.  The four-hour drive was uneventful. As I mentioned before, the roads in Costa Rica are quite good, just small and winding. We met Karl and his partner, Guiselle, in Cañas for a drink and then headed to their house for a relaxing evening. Plug for Karl: He’s a great writer, editor, and translator, so if you need any the above, especially related to Costa Rica, check out his Facebook page.

Sue “drinking” from the waterfall

Friday we woke up and headed to the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park outside La Fortuna. It was only about 50km, but took us about an hour and 15 minutes. The road was very winding, steep, and in parts was only 1.5 cars wide—except for the bridges which are one-car wide.   However, when we reached the park it was great. The walk is 3.2km of cobblestone paved trails and costs $26 for non-Costa Ricans.  There are 15 bridges—six of them hanging—of various heights and lengths.  The longest was 97m and the highest 25m above ground. It was gorgeous. We saw and heard lots of wildlife and strolled across the bridges and the tops of the forest canopy plus  hiked down to a waterfall (and then back up to the trail). We had a grand time.

After the hanging bridges we continued to La Fortuna, the town near the Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna is the tourist town we had not missed. If you’re looking for tacky souvenirs (which I love) or overpriced chocolate, this is your town. We grabbed a quickish lunch, walked around the town a bit. About 5 km outside of town in front of Tabacon Hot Springs, there is public access to the river that feeds all the resort hot springs. We changed into our bathing suits and headed over.  The rushing water was relaxing and it didn’t feel completely touristy. The spring is about 2-3 feet deep and about 15 feet wide. We waded in and found a nice spot to sit and soak.

When we were all shriveled up and had our fill of soaking, we hopped back in the car and returned to Karl and Guiselle’s for another relaxing evening. They are great hosts!