It’s easy to find things to do and see in La Fortuna, you are surrounded by hot springs, volcanoes, and nature! It was these places that we set our sights on, wanting to make our first proper stop in Costa Rica (after a quick sojourn in San Jose) an adventurous one.
We stopped off at what could be the cheapest hostel in all of Costa Rica at $7US a night (Gringo Pete’s Too), and made plans for the upcoming days.
The first stop was a somewhat strenuous hike up what is known as Cerro Chato. This smaller volcano (or hill) sits next to the much larger Arenal Volcano, which is not allowed to be hiked anymore. With Rach feeling a little bit ill, I decided to make an early start with a 5km walk to the base of the hike, and hope to be back in time for lunch.
It is actually not that easy to get to the start of the hike, located next to the entrance of the Fortuna Waterfall, up at Green Lagoon Villas. It does however provide a beautiful scenery that you will mostly have to yourself if you leave early. Another advantage of an early departure was my attempt at avoiding the $12US fee to access the land. This fee is meant to be paid at Green Lagoon, and is not policed at all. And whilst I felt bad at circumventing something meant to help maintain the trails, $12 definitely felt a steep price to pay for how poor the trails are actually kept.
I made my way up, firstly through farm land, and then up through the muddy jungle, which seems to stay that way in the humid cloud forest no matter the weather. After a very steady and steep uphill for around 1 and a half hours, I found myself reaching the top where the fog had promptly engulfed the entire area! Despite this, I made my way down another steep track to find the crater lake, with small lapses in fog allowing me to find some clarity for photos and to see its beauty. After dipping my feet in (it is safe to swim also), I made my way back up and then down passing many people making the ascent at the more reasonable hour of 9:30am.
Dreading a walk back, I was happy to get a lift from a local on his way to work who wished me well and gave me a great restaurant recommendation for lunch! After returning and with Rach feeling better, we spent the afternoon walking around the town and stopping at the local park to stare up at the blue sky.
Waterfall Fortuna and FREE Hot Springs
Feeling rejuvenated on day 2, we both made our way up to the entrance of Waterfall Fortuna (this time by taxi), ready to spend the $15US entry fee to see what we had been told was a fantastic site to view the waterfall, and go for a swim.
We were not disappointed at all in the site, even as some rain and fog threatened to dampen the day. We made our way down hundreds of steps to reach the waterfall, which we could not see from the top with the current weather. Fortunately for us it eventually cleared, showing us the might and power of the falls as we descended the final steps.
We took some photos and watched the water come down for a while, and then went down further to the river flowing past that gave a great opportunity for swimming. We recommend everyone have a swim here, despite how cold (yet refreshing) the water is!
Making our way back into town, we thought we’d spend the afternoon at some local hot springs that we had heard about. There are many of these just outside of La Fortuna, with resorts offering tickets to the public to access the springs and maybe have a meal also. Being backpackers we would not be able to afford the prices these 5-star resorts offered, but had heard of some FREE hot springs that we could not pass up on!
These springs, once operated by the large Tabacon Resort have been ruled as public land again, meaning that anyone can visit them free of charge. Once again hopping into a taxi, we asked to be taken to the free hot springs (which everyone seems to know about), and 15 minutes later we arrived to a full car park across from Tabacon.
We highly recommend bringing some beers with you to the springs, as it makes for a very relaxing time as you sit in the (actually hot) water and relax. It felt good to be here with mostly locals who were playing music and enjoying themselves as well. Whilst here we befriended some European travelers who gave us a ride back into town as we exchanged travel stories.
This made up the bulk of our adventures whilst in La Fortuna, but there are of course many more things to do here. Some of these include visiting the observatory near Arenal Volcano (and doing other hikes here), visiting the hanging bridges which are similar to the ones in Monteverde, or doing a chocolate or butterfly house tour.
Many people come here just for a nice getaway in the green hills and resulting volcanic hot springs, but make sure you get out there and see what else the town has to offer- you won’t be disappointed!