- Costa Rica Logistics
- The Other San Jose
- Arenal & La Fortuna
- Horses & Waterfalls
- Hanging Bridges & Toucans
- The Big Day
Because the wedding was to take place in Arenal, we spent nearly the entire trip in that area. From the San Jose airport, it was a 2.5-hour drive via the most straightforward winding mountain roads. It probably could have been an 1.5-hour drive, but uber-slow moving vehicles often caused long traffic pile up. Nobody honked or tailgated slow cars. Guess we weren’t in New Jersey any more.
Arenal is a big volcano. Not only that, according to Wikipedia, it’s one of the world’s most active volcanoes. When doing research on parks and lodging options in the area, we paid attention to where there was good views of Arenal. It turned out quite unnecessary – you could see that giant mountain from just about anywhere.
La Fortuna is the local town at the foot of Arenal. The name, sounding very much like a cheap Chinese restaurant in Spanish, refers to the good fortune that the volcano brings to the surrounding area. It was originally about the richness of soil that empowered agricultural success, but these days it’s more relevant to think of how the economy thrives on volcano-related tourism.
The map of Arenal + La Fortuna consists primarily of hot spring resorts, restaurants, and activities related to the volcano
Downtown La Fortuna was about half a mile in length and 2-3 blocks in width. Centered around a church were restaurants, sourvenir shops, travel agencies, and a few general stores. Everyone seemed to speak English here.
Downtown La Fortuna, with my favorite store (Super Cristian #2) in the street corner
We stayed at Arenal Paraiso Hotel along with the majority of the wedding guests. It was one of the many hot spring resorts in the area, and it was reasonably priced at ~$120 per night for a standard room.
Driveway in the resort
The standard rooms were like motels with tropical plants dividing the parking spaces
The room was quite basic.
Its walls may have been made of cardboard as we could clearly hear our neighbor’s conversations.
But hey we had the volcano view right out of the window.
The room rate included the breakfast buffet at the resort’s restaurant. Its selection easily blew away what an average U.S. Hilton had to offer for $20 per person.
I didn’t even care about most of the buffet as long as I had access to these fruits.
The resort had a lot of trees and an overwhelming number of birds. We preferred another kind of wildlife.
Once in a while guests loitered outside the restaurant and exercised their necks. What for?
Look! A sloth! OMG sloth! OMG!
Aside from the wedding, a sloth sighting was at the top of our Costa Rica checklist.
Since Arenal Paraiso was a hot spring resort, it had hot spring pools. Lots of them. We were initially turned off by the green color water, which reminded us of the fish store on Canal Street. Took us a while to realize that the color was of natural minerals, not of pee or algae.
Wet bar and one hot spring
We hung out in this pool (40 degrees Celsius) for a while. The view was surreal.
The resort was gated, but the gate wasn’t automatic. Every time we drove in or out of the property, one of the poor security guards had to manually lift it up for us. We felt bad for them, and at the same time feared the gate dropping on our rental car by accident. But hey they were skinnier than the U.S. security guards!
We called him Hodor.