Five days later and through no fault of our own, we were finally able to leave the undesirable capital city of San José in desperate search for the real Costa Rica. Did we find it? Let’s find out…
Do you remember in my last post I questioned whether the Easter holiday drawback might have worked out for the best? Granted, I said it with uncertainty and no real conviction but it really has worked so very much in our favour!
Accommodation rates are back down to normal, the vast amount of people have dispersed back to wherever it is they came from and then there was the weather. Plenty of locals informed us that it chucked it down during Easter week, rain for days we were told.
Yet here we are reaping the contrasting rewards of the above but still in disbelief of our good fortune. If only we as human beings could show greater acceptance when things don’t go our way and faith to believe that it might all just work itself out in the future.
The moment we stepped off the bus and began the short walk to our hotel, I immediately commented to Viv: ‘My goodness, the difference. Can you feel it? Can you see it?’.
We felt instantly at ease. No big crowds, no annoying shop touts, very few cars, very few people and no ambient noise. San José must have really taken its toll. In fact we were so comfortable we stopped for some lunch and wandered the main square.
We checked into our hotel and for once, didn’t have to wait until 2 or 3pm to actually get into the room. And the staff speak decent English here too. A great start so far.
After a shower and change of clothes we rested for a short while fully conscious of the view that we will wake up to for the next few mornings.
Yes folks, an actual Volcano! Here are some cool stats I’ve unearthed:
Arenal has been dormant since 2010. It was Costa Rica’s most active volcano until 2010, and one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world. It is considered a young volcano and it is estimated to be less than 7,500 years old.
I found a picture online courtesy of Wikipedia which is, well, really quite scary considering our proximity. Vivian is also about to see this for the first time and to think, this occurred just 15 years ago in 2006!
It’s frighteningly beautiful too, don’t you think?
I’d been thinking recently how I would describe Costa Rica in one word. Ideally a neutral word to encapsulate everything we’ve both observed and experienced and I’ve currently settled with: ‘confusing ’.
There’s been so many examples of things that are odd, don’t compute, conflict or they’re just downright strange. Unlike most countries, even the capital city is one you can completely miss out on if you were coming here. This means you’ll head for the mountains to enjoy lots of physical and adventurous activities. Except, these activities cost so you can’t really do those things if you’re backpacking (and many are). In fact, you’re quite limited if you’re anything other than a holidaymaker and instead you’re a hippie or a free-spirited backpacker largely living off the fat of the land. Then you probably don’t care too much and are just appreciative of the ‘fresh air’. Fair enough.
Even private rooms in traveller hostels are expensive which is odd. Hotels too. Hotels I would classify as average start with three digits and yet many of them are averaging mid to high three digits for old looking rooms! Not far from us I am honestly seeing places that want, 3, 4 or 5 hundred per night. Oh, that’s British Pounds by the way. Seen a few for around the 6/7 hundred mark too. Utterly ridiculous and nonsensical.
In the future if I speak to people that have been to Costa Rica, I’ll be particularly interested as to why they came here and on what budget. If you’re an active person (or indeed a family) who is on holiday with a decent budget well, lucky you, you should have a great time here!
As for us and our somewhere in the middle budget bracket range, where there’s a will there’s a way.
Attraction 1: La Fortuna Waterfall
A ten minute Uber from our affordable and half decent hotel (yes, Uber honestly works up here in the mountains but still in this semi-legal, semi-illegal existence) we reach a very popular all-round attraction. It cost us £13 each for entry and proved to be well worth it as this was mine (and her) favourite single waterfall experience to-date.
This time we’re going to position ‘Viv’s videos’ first for a change. If you’re not able to view the view, skip it and come back to it but if you can view it, do so to see this glorious waterfall in its best form.
And now the still images.
Looks heavenly, huh? Don’t be fooled though, those rocks to get to the water were seriously slippery. Forget swimming or getting close to it, the waves/current were simply far too powerful. Felt cool to say that we were one of the first 3 couples to make entry into the actual waterfall park itself (that still requires 500 steps to reach it) and we were 100% the first that morning to brave the slippery rocks and freezing cold water.
Below Vivian skilfully captures my favourite photo of the day. Thanks V, I love it.
Attraction 2: Thermal hot springs
Yes, hot springs! By definition did you know that a ‘hot spring’ features water warmed by naturally occurring sources underground? Around these parts the water is heated by the volcano/s! It often felt surreal today to think that whilst resting at the springs, that this heat we we’re feeling is generated from something so deadly, so-thankfully dormant and so very nearby!
We had three options: The first was to visit a reported ‘free’ hot spring. The drawbacks were reported to be that it could likely get busy for that very ‘free’ reason. Also with it not being commercialised, there would be no lockers, towels, food and drink or other amenities neither would there be any general safety supervision. The second option was to purchase a day pass for a dedicated hot springs provider and the third option would be to stay one night at a hotel with hot-springs “on-site” as part of the guest experience. The third option was just not possible for us and the first, well, how very common and uncivilised. I’m British, remember!?
There were a handful of places around offering day rates between £30 and £50 with lunch included. I settled on Ecotermales Fortuna and opted for entry 1 that granted us access from 9am until 4pm (as opposed to entry 2 from 4pm until 10pm). We didn’t envisage staying too long but in actual fact, we did. And you’ll soon see why.
Keen to arrive early and hope for the best on the visitor front, I got talking to the receptionist and ascertained that during Easter and despite the rain, both morning and afternoon visitations were maxed out at the allotted 80 persons. 160 for the entire day.
Today, not only were we the first persons to reach the hot springs but we were 2 out of 14 for the entire 9 till 4 session! We were unimaginably over-joyed. Imagine having a place like this pretty much to yourselves….!
Here are three final images for you. The first is a typical Costa Rican dish known as Casado that we ate at the resort, the second was an amusing sign also within the resort. How funny. We’re hardly in the UAE!
So we got a little creative and put on a display of affection invisible to most! 🙂
Costa Rica, you have finally well and truly won us over 💗