La Fortuna Arenal

La Fortuna Costa Rica hot springs and Aranel volcano

After taking an Über to the bus station we were on our way to the town of La Fortuna. Up through the Central Valley to the site of the Arenal volcano and the first nature park we planned to visit.

We settled on the crowded bus. A representative of the bus company then announced in English and Spanish that we should be aware that when leaving San Jose there is a chance that undesirables may board the bus with the intention of  separating us from our valuables!


Great news – I felt back at home in South Africa!

As the bus left on schedule we made cursory arrangements to secure our wallet, phone and passports.

Every time the bus stopped and the door opened the passengers anxiously looked up to see why. There were no problems and we were then off on our journey.

We believed that we were on the direct bus that would only make two stops and take about 3 hours. We were wrong. The bus stopped every few kilometres to pick someone up or drop off someone. Or for a vendor to come on board to sell his stuff. The journey took nearly 5 hours.

Overbooking is obviously no problem as at one time every spare place on the floor was filled with ruck sacks and young people sitting.

The bus

The leg room was quite cramped. The bus was quite clean (far better than Viazul!) not air conditioned fortunately not too hot. Window seat recommended to get some cooling.

The route was very hilly and the roads very narrow and windy. We passed through many small communities and saw many big trucks with containers and sugar cane. The country was as stunning as the weather was unpredictable.

The farms were small and neat with symmetrical and lush pastures. Fence poles growing and neat (seen in Cuba but here neater and managed)

Plantations of bananas and coffee, fields of sugar cane,

Small farm after small farm 130 000 small coffee farmers

La Fortuna activities

The weather forecast was for regular scattered showers and very windy … they were right!

During one of the clearer periods we hiked the 3.5k’s up to the La Fortuna waterfall. It is quite a climb but the road is good and it was a good walk.

The waterfall is quite unimpressive – one fall creating a heavy impact into the pool below. The swimming is very limited and not too exciting.

As we started to walk through the orchid garden we realised it was the wrong time of the year as very few were in flower … then the next scattered shower arrived. We took refuge at the restaurant. Declining their exorbitantly priced fresh fruit smoothies and coffee we started on our way back.

It is downhill most of the way but about halfway the next scattered shower arrived. We pressed ourselves against a bank. Carol and Roger under a small umbrella and me huddled under my rain jacket.

The showers persisted throughout the rest of the day so we settled in at home.

We took a walk into the town of La Fortuna and saw a sloth and her baby high up in a tree.

The following day was clear and then the next shower blew in. This repeated all day.

If the weather was better we would have walked Mystico, enjoyed a hot spring and visited the Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal. But as we had had other options in Costa Rica we were content to just watch the weather blow by

Lessons Learned

  • Weather makes a big difference to how you experience a place. But there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • Sunny doesn’t mean pleasant if there is a strong wind. 
  • Dry season means more dry than wet.
  • Bus schedules in Third World countries are a guideline. Give yourself a lot of leeway.
  • Be prepared to be flexible.
  • Plan your trip with as much flexibility as possible.There is always an element of luck getting the weather you want or expect.

About the Author Patrick Millerd

So much to see and do so little time! Following a dream. Who knows where it’ll end? Passionate about learning, about embracing the changing world, adventurous, skeptical but optimistic. My glass is half full and I’m grateful for my life.

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