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Travel Recap – La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Happy Monday! I am back to reality after an amazing extended weekend in Costa Rica! My best friend from college and I take a trip every year together and this year we decided to be adventurous and head to Central America. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere more green. May is part of Costa Rica’s rainy season so it rained all day for 2 of the 3 days we were there, but luckily being in the rain forest and surrounded by waterfalls, we barely noticed. We stayed in La Fortuna, about 2.5-3 hours from the San Jose airport. Below is a recap of our adventure!

Getting to La Fortuna

We had private transportation arranged for us and once we passed through customs, we found someone holding a sign with our name on it to point us in the right direction. I would do private transfer again. It was totally worth it and with there being SO MANY people waiting for you outside the airport to take you places, it was great to know we had that secured and just looked for the sign.

The drive to La Fortuna is not for the faint of heart, or those with weak stomachs. The roads are windy and speed bumps come out of nowhere so it’s a lot of stop and go. If I had known that I may have brought some Dramamine! I kept my eyes closed for most of the ride. I did open them around San Ramon to see the town, but other than that I tried to sleep.

Staying in La Fortuna

We stayed at Hotel Lavas del Arenal. It was part of our adventure package and although nothing glamorous it had everything we needed. There was an outdoor restaurant open for breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was great, dinner not a huge amount of options if you don’t eat me. The pool was a bit chilly, but it was clean and we swam anyway and played Foosball. It was very quiet which we loved and it even had a mascot that greeted us as we arrived! Her name was Mia and she was the sweetest dog!

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Eating in La Fortuna

I’m so glad that we were able to eat out while we were there because the food in Costa Rica was SO good! We met an amazing group of people while on our trip and had a group dinner at a new restaurant called The Boathouse. I ordered fish in a mango sauce with coconut rice and it was mouthwatering.

Jessica and I went to downtown La Fortuna go dinner one night at Nene’s. I got the traditional shrimp and rice for dinner and we split Ceviche for an appetizer. I highly recommend the Ceviche. It was super tasty!

My favorite meal was at Organico Fortuna. We had lunch there on our last day. I loved the outdoor seating and everything on the menu was organic from my avocado sandwich to my energy boost coffee with a bamboo straw and Jessica’s banana bread for dessert. I wish I could pick this cute place up and bring it back to the U.S. with me!

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Adventure in La Fortuna

We did so much in 3 days thanks to Groupon!! Yup, we planned our vacation through Groupon. We found an awesome deal with a company called Adrenaline. Our tour guide Chris was amazing and made our trip 10 times better than we ever thought possible! He was so passionate about Costa Rica and genuinely wanted us to get everything out of our trip that we could.

Rio Celeste 

This was about an hour or so drive from La Fortuna. The hike is a workout, but totally worth it. We played roulette with this tour because with it being Costa Rica’s rainy season, the rain can turn the turquoise water brown, but we went early enough in the day that it was thankfully still blue! You definitely need hiking shoes and I wore long yoga pants and lots of bug spray. Jessica brought a waterproof phone case which was a life safer!  We wouldn’t have gotten such cool photos without it since it did rain pretty consistently the whole time.

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Chocolate and Coffee Tour

We did this tour on our last day in Costa Rica. With 2 full adventure packed days behind us, I am so glad we chose something less strenuous.The plantation was covered so we didn’t have to worry about rain, but there was still mosquitoes, so bug spray is a must.

It was really neat to hear the history of Costa Rican chocolate and learn how their coffee is made. We even had the opportunity to make our own chocolate bar. It tasted awful, but we tried. We ended up bringing home authentic chocolate bars made from professionals.

Hot Springs

I loved this!! It was so relaxing after 3 days of adventure. It was only a 20 or 30 minute drive with such great scenery along the way, including a volcano. When we got to the hot springs, we slid in and enjoyed an hour of relaxation.

Arenal Munda Adventure

Arenal Munda Aventura was day 2 of our trip, but was the day that was more action packed than them all. We did SO much here. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. We started with a hike to the La Fortuna waterfall. There are a lot of stairs and a couple hanging bridges along the way. Thank goodness I wore my bathing suit and water shoes because to see the waterfall you do have to wade across a river.

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After the waterfall we did our first of 7 zip lines. Some of them are the longest, the highest and the fastest. I learned that no matter what always keep your head to the side, your legs up and your strong hand far from the pully! This way if you can’t break, which I sucked at, the guides can help.

In between the zip lines, we learned how to rappel. The experience ended up not being as scary as I thought, but the first step off the platform was petrifying. Thank goodness for the amazing guides at the park. They explained everything to us and took their time. They didn’t force anyone to hurry up.

Once you were officially hanging, you realize that you control it all. You move only as fast as you pull the rope. The first 100 ft. or so you are lowering and finally get to the wall that you push off of. Always keep your feet wide so they stay in front of you and you won’t twist. Poor Jessica took a hit with her back.

Rapelling

The absolute hardest part of rappelling for me was the climb back up. You have to climb multiple ladders, some of them completely vertical and it’s exhausting. My arms were so tired about half way up, but it’s the only way so really you have no choice. Don’t look down, just keep climbing and eventually you’ll get there! The stairs after the ladders are super slippery so hold on tight. I let go for a second and scraped up my shin a little.

After zip lining and rappelling, we ended the day on horseback. It was a short ride, but by then I was soaked and covered in dirt so I didn’t mind. I was ready to go back to the hotel for a long hot shower.

Jessica and I still can’t believe we did all that! It was such a rush!

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Travel Tips

  • Rainy season is not a term of endearment. Bring your rain coat and fast drying clothes. You WILL need them!
  • Bring lots of bug spray!
  • Bring more clothes than you think you’ll need. With the humidity, our clothes didn’t dry as fast as we expected and at the end we were running out. I recommend a change of clothes each day.
  • Bring a pair of hiking boots, maybe two. Bring walking shoes separate from those and a pair of flip fl0ps.
  • Don’t forget water shoes and a bathing suit. They came in handy for the hot springs and waterfalls.
  • If you’re doing an adventure vacation, bring band aids and antibacterial ointment. Battle scars are part of the charm.
  • You can drink the water in Costa Rica, but for the most part we drank filtered and bottled.
  • Transportation isn’t cheap. Gas in Costa Rica is about $7 a gallon, so expect to pay for it.
  • Bring cash! It was much easier for taxis and tips to have cash. La Fortuna did have a few banks in town and I did have to use the ATM once. The transaction fee is about $5.
  • US Dollars are widely accepted and easily converted
  • Getting Back into the States – Download Mobile Passport!! This is the second time I’ve used it coming through customs and it saved me so much time. You have to complete your mobile passport within 4 hours of arriving at your port of entry. I did it on the plane as soon as I landed in Atlanta. You answer questions, take your photo and complete the customs questionnaire all on the app. Then once you’re off the plane you follow signs to the Mobile Passport line which is MUCH short than the regular line. I was actually the only person in that line, so I didn’t have to wait at all.

If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica and have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at authorcgiardina at gmail dot com and I will do my best to answer them for you!