When planning a Costa Rican vacation it seems all roads lead to La Fortuna or Manuel Antonio National Park. All itineraries seem to include at least one of these destinations, many visit both. Although, I typically opt for the path less chosen, I simply could not miss the Arenal Volcano. I have been enamored with volcanoes since we were able witness the Tungurahua spew smoke and hot ash during our trip to Banos, Ecuador. You could say, I lava them. I was willing to brave the crowds for the adventure. This area is the gateway for ALL THE THINGS TO DO. If you can think it, they have a tour for it.
We started looking at accommodations a month before we due to arrive. The short notice did not provide a wide variety of affordable options. Air Conditioning was a must, so we were left with only a few choices. We could book an Airbnb on the lake or a swanky hotel right at the heart of the city. We chose the Royal Corin Resort. Our time was limited to two nights so convenience was key. Plus, we wanted to visit the thermal springs and when we learned the hotel has their own it was easier to justify the splurge, especially was single day passes were going for $49. Reviews were solid, the only complaint seemed to be it had a Vegasy feel. We figured we'd feel right at home.
We left Jaco on Monday morning and drove to San Jose to pick up Bob and Hugh. We parked in the garage, I stayed with the car and our bags while Frank met them outside the airport. We drove straight to La Fortuna only with a brief stop once in San Ramon at the grocery store for snacks and a bathroom break. It took about two hours. The drive was scenic with many farms. The roads were easy to navigate it was a pleasant ride.
La Fortuna is a tourist trap, no doubt. However, it is charming with a church and gardens at its center; flanked by the star attraction, Arenal Volcano, which can be spotted from almost anywhere since it reaches 5,358 ft high. The top is most often hidden by cloud cover. I was hopeful for a clear night that would allow an ember glow, but I wasn't so lucky.
We received a warm welcome upon our arrival at Royal Corbin. We settled in quickly, Frank went to enjoy a cigar on the smoking patio. Bob, Hugh and I went to the pool. I don't think I've been in hotel pool since the Orleans on Vegas trip back in 2003. Usually, they're too cold or too crowded for me to enjoy. The thermal springs spared me from any chill and I was banking on its healing abilities. My foot had been in spasm the past 24 hours and walking was a real chore. I don't know if it was the minerals or the cocktails at the swim up bar, but I was feeling world's better after a soak.
We cleaned up for dinner; we chose a Lebanese steakhouse for our first meal, La Parrilla de Maria Bonita. Our starter was really delcious with hummus, babaganoush and falafel. The chicken was also a winner. The steaks and fish fell flat, but service was warm attentive and made up for any shortfalls.
The next morning, we got an early start, my plan was to beat the crowds at the Mistico Hanging Bridges and leave enough time for an afternoon adventure. The roads were bare at 7:30 and we might have been the first customers of the day at Red Frog Coffee Roasters.
With a boost from the caffeine, we were eager to get a start on all the day had in store for us. We made no prior reservations for the hanging bridges tour, but I suspected they'd happily take our money upon arrival anyway. I was not mistaken, we were given the option of a guide - the guys left the decision up to me and I went ahead and agreed to the higher admission price that included the guide. It was a 2 hour hike with multiple bridges and our guide, Julio, was informative and friendly. Definitely get the guide! It will enhance the experience greatly. The guides lead groups of no more than 10. It was early and rain clouds were overhead, we lucked out and no one join us. Julio did recommend ponchos so we bought some from the gift shop. It was good advice. Though, it wasn't a heavy storm, it would have been no fun had we been soaked to the bone.
Julio pointed out all sorts of things we would have missed, plus he had a telescope that allowed us to get a closer look at all that we encountered. We never spotted a sloth, but it was neat that the rain brought out multiple blue jean frogs. We had a lot of sightings and the walk through the rainforest was really enjoyable. Considering I used to have a terrible fear of bridges, it was fun to easily cross the six suspension bridges now.
See the blue jeans frog?
Barely, right? That's why you hire the guide.
After leaving Mistico, we spotted an ad for a Sky Tram, we followed the signage to check it out. Turns out the tram reaches 4,100 ft with views of the lake and volcano, and then you can opt to return by zipline. There are seven ziplines that wind through the rainforest, they vary in height (656 ft) and length (2493 ft). Bob and Hugh have been before in Vancouver, but it was our first time.
If you want to get a feel of the zipline here's a link to a You Tube video someone shared. The views are unobstructed while riding, the Go Pro strapped to the helmet skews the perspective, but it gives you an idea. I especially enjoyed the line that heads toward the volcano, just stunning.
We worked up a hunger with all that adventuring. We grabbed lunch at Rana Rojo Grill. Again, the chicken was the star.
And later, for dinner, we had this amazing pizza at La Forchetta.
Our final stop in the area was North Fields Coffee Tour. Our timing was off and the next tour wasn't for 90 minutes. We weren't interested in waiting for the full experience, but we stayed and tried their dark roast brewed in the traditional manner. It was the best coffee of the trip!