Tuesday, December 13, 2011

La Fortuna

  One thing I have found about the mountainous region of Guanacaste, Costa Rica is that no matter what local feature you are looking at, it almost always ends in a waterfall. The area where we are staying gets 200 inches of rain a year, (that translates to about 17 feet of rain a year). The number goes up as you travel around Lake Arenal toward Mount Arenal, one of the ten most active volcanoes on Earth...(more about that another day). The volcano and the rain forest both create their own weather, so the daily weather report is virtually useless. One thing is certain, when it comes to the weather here in the area around the lake... it will rain sometime today. Maybe all day, maybe while the sun is shining (rainbow time!!), maybe in fits and spurts, or after the sun goes down, but it will rain. That brings me back to the real point I am trying to make, there are a lot of waterfalls in this part of Guanacaste. All that water has to go somewhere. So it runs from the canopy to the ground, the ground soaks in as much as it can but the majority runs down hill to the nearest river, which then cuts its way through craggy rocks and over land falls to become some pretty awesome waterfalls. The waterfall de jour is the La Fortuna Waterfall.

A view of Lake Arenal from the road
  My husband and I and our 11 guests made our way from Tilaran to La Fortuna by bus early in the morning. The winds were up but the skies were clear. The view of the lake was lovely with the sun shining on the water. You could see the water being whipped up into white caps by the strong Tilawa winds. The wind mills on the ridge of the mountains around the lake are whirring away, generating electricity that will supply the locals with power. This is a familiar view for my husband and I, since we lived on a mountain top right across the valley from a row of wind turbines, but for the group visiting us it was a first. Unfortunately, there is no good place on this twisty turny road to pull a bus off for a photo op, so we continue on around the lake. We pass by the quaint pueblo of Rio Piedras, (Rock River), and Aguacate, (Avacado), and then on to Nuevo Arenal, which is a slightly larger community with a delightful German Bakery and some tourist traps that sell souveniers. From this point on to La Fortuna it is mostly just unimpeded views of the lake and rolling mountains on one side and jungle on the other. It is only 52 kilometers fromTilaran to La Fortuna, (about 33 miles) but takes more than 1 1/2 hours to get there due to the curvy roads and poor road conditions in some areas. Except for those who had to deal with motion sickness no one seemed to mind the time it took to get around the lake.
  La Fortuna's most famous attraction is Arenal Volcano which looms large on the scene, jutting 3000 feet above the surrounding lanscape. But today we are not able to see the volcano as it is wreathed in a thick layer of clouds and will remain so all day. Fortunately, today we are here to see the waterfall and for some of the more intrepid souls on our trip, a hike (scramble, climb, crawl, grapple) up to the smaller, dormant volcano Cerro Chato... Later in the week we will return to La Fortuna to view the volcano and go to the hot springs. Hopefully Arenal will oblige us by showing itself when we return.

Stairs down to the rocky beach
The descent to the La Fortuna water fall is steep, but there are very solid steps and a rail most of the way down so it is possible for most people to make it down to the falls. I am still gimping on an injured knee so it is slow going for me and I definitely will not be trying Cerro Chato with the rest of the group. I enjoyed all the foliage and the birds that called back and forth and flit through the scene as I make my way to the bottom. I would love to just park myself on the stairs and take it all in for awhile, but there is a time table to be met today, so I continue on.
  At the base of the stairs there is a  mirada, (a look out platform), where you can get a really nice view of the falls and the pool below.

La Fortuna waterfall

Around the bend and down a little further there is a little rock beach and a safe place to wade out into the river below the falls. I spent the majority of my time in this area, watching the birds and marveling at the great heights of the rain forest above me. I hung my backpack on one of the several hooks that were screwed into a railing at the base of a giant tree and waded out in the water to get a better view of the dense foliage clad mountains that loomed above. The water was brisk in speed and temperature and felt great running past my tired feet and sore knee.
The water rushes over these rocks and then quiets down to become a pool safe for wading in.
  By the time I was ready to make my way back to the top, our hikers had returned from making a run at Cerro Chato. It is a difficult hike, even for experienced hikers. So they were grateful for a less demanding trail and the cooling water of the falls. Once they were down I began my slow climb to the top... step with the left foot, bring up the right, being careful not to anger my knee by putting any strain on it. I am glad that I am alone so there is no one to witness my ascent.
   We made our way back around the lake just in time to witness the sunset over the lake. The sky splashed its lovely pinks and oranges onto the face of the lake where they dissolved and faded into the depths. The sun sets quickly in this part of the world but puts on a lovely, if brief show for those fortunate enough to be there for it.
  There are no words to describe how my heart swells with love for this place. There is so much life, so many wonders that the dense forest keeps secret, only to share with those who are willing to brave its depths. The strong Tilawa winds sing songs of the power of volcanos and the goodness of the lush misty rain forest that is home to hundreds of species of living things. As the wind blows my hair into tangles and moves on down towards the lake it carries my heart's song along with it, a song sung to God for creating such a place.


  1. This post almost makes me forget about the scorpions. Almost... ;-)

  2. Next time you should come with us and enjoy it all first hand... hopefully sans scorpions :)