Choosing Monteverde as my first destination in Costa Rica meant that I wouldn’t be submerged into the hot temperatures and beach weather that I was craving. Instead the days were warm while nights were rather cool, creating genuine appreciation for those hot showers my hostel emphasized. The weather was definitely better than Wisconsin, but having climbed more than one ficus tree, flying through the canopy and walking about town, I was ready to move on. The next destination I had in mind was La Fortuna, another touristy, but apparently ‘worth it’ place. The city actually gained its name after it avoided destruction from multiple eruptions of Arenal volcano. It’s a small town just SE of the volcano and lake which means tour packages to one or both of these attractions are a big sell throughout the city. To get there you have two options from Monteverde, the first is via public bus and lasts something like 8 hours of winding roads through the mountains, while the second option consists of two buses and a boat. I’d read various reviews that this was the better choice, and although it may be more expensive the boat ride and views of Arenal alone were worth it.
Buses run twice during the day, and seeing as I’d been waking up early and had to check out by 10 am anyway I chose the 8 am bus. There were four of us departing from Pension Santa Elena and we must have been some of the last to be picked up because the bus was full. With a wall of luggage behind us and seats full our mini bus started the journey through the mountains. Having recently read a travel blog about a bus crash in India I decided to fasten my seat belt, neither the roads or bus conditions gave me much confidence. Despite the bumpy, winding gravel roads the ride was beautiful. No matter how many times I submit myself to these somewhat terrible bus rides, the views will always make up for the discomfort.
We made one stop along the way for a bathroom and rest break which despite being only an hour into our ride was much welcomed, I’ll never learn with those morning coffees. Back on the bus the views only got better, we began driving through what I’ll call mountainside farms with cows impressively grazing on steep pastures. At one point our ride wound through a large wind farm, much more impressive and aesthetically appealing than those dotting Indiana's flat landscape. Eventually, about an hour and a half after our journey began we arrived at the boat dock, in what appeared to be a mass of confusion. There were multiple buses lining the road along with various boats parked at the pier, and of course flocks of seemingly confused tourists. Surprisingly though everything moved quickly and smoothly, with one group jumping in our van as soon as we were out, and us soon after being led to our boat.
One of the friendly workers at Pension Santa Elena advised us to sit on the right side of the boat for the best views, but there was no concern doing so as our boat was barely even half full. Another pleasant surprise was the availability of WiFi on board, not that it was necessary, but fun to be able to share my journey with a few friends and family. The ride was gorgeous, view of the Arenal volcano in the distance and perfect sunny weather. I could have lounged on the boat all day, well snacks would eventually be required, but unfortunately our ride was just longer than 30 minutes so I had to quickly soak in what I could.
Again there were multiple buses and boats waiting, but like the first time the process was quick and efficient. The boat driver had already come around asking where we would be staying in La Fortuna (nice that they drop you at your accommodation) so we were led to bus number three and quickly on our way again. This ride was much shorter, less windy and a whole lot smoother than the first and after a quick 30 minutes we were in town. I was the first of our group to be dropped off since my guesthouse was on the outskirts of the city, nearest the volcano, which means I was checked in settled all before 12 o’clock. I believe they quoted three and a half hours for the entire duration of the trip and that’s about exactly what it took. I can’t directly compare it to the public bus option, but given the winding roads of the first half our journey I’d pay the extra to avoid another few hours of that. The boat ride is the highlight of the trip and definitely worth the month. Now onto the next challenge of figuring out which of these various tours, hikes and excursions offered in La Fortuna is actually worth it. Although I’d be perfectly content with sitting in the park all day and just watching the world go by.
Packed with Adventure and Adrenaline, a diverse landscape from mountains to cloudforests, oceans, beaches and waterfalls. It's known for being touristy, safe and expensive, but was for me, a great introduction to Central America.