A week in Costa Rica – Puerto Viejo to La Fortuna
After our wet New Years we said goodbye to Panama and headed north to Costa Rica. We reached the border and realised we were in for a long day when we saw a line crossing over the bridge from Panama to Costa Rica of hundreds of people waiting to get their passports stamped. We joined the end of the line and moved very slowly and cautiously over the rickety wooden bridge which was falling apart, with slats of wood missing, nails protruding and rusty metal edges poking out. We did our best to avoid the tetanus traps and falling down into the disease ridden waters below whilst carrying our huge backpacks and dealing with the rain. Puerto Viejo
Our first stop was Puerto Viejo, a small surf town on the Southern Caribbean coast where we spent 3 nights in a self contained cabin near the beach called Cabinas GACU. Due to massively high tides and even bigger swells the beaches were not swimmable so we spent our days at a near by resort – Banana Azul – where we used their pool, bar and wifi. This is basically all we did, as there was not much else we could do – we came here to snorkel but all snorkelling tours were cancelled due to the bad conditions.
La Fortuna Our second stop in Costa Rica was the beautiful La Fortuna, named so after the eruption of the Arenal Volcano that looms over the city in 1968 that wiped out many villages but spared the fortunate town that is now known as just that – fortunate. There is so much to see and do in the area and we never had a boring moment.
Food and Coffee We enjoyed huge meals at ‘Sodas’ – typical style restaurants in town offering Costa Rican favourites like tortillas, rice and beans, fried plantains and meat for a couple of dollars. Our favourite Sodas with the tastiest and best value food was Soda Mima and El Picadero. Costa Rican coffee is also very good and we tried all kinds of coffees in town, the best being at the rainforest cafe where they also offer traditional drip style coffee.
Rainforest Chocolate Tour A 2 hour “hands on” program at a cocoa farm where we learnt all things chocolate. Our guide was fun and taught us about the history and origin of cocoa in an interesting way. We then took part in the production process, from the harvesting of the fruit to drying and grinding the seeds and then enjoying the finished product. We tried hot chocolate made in the traditional way the Mayans used to drink it by adding cayenne pepper and vanilla, we then tried melted chocolate and dark and light chocolates. We tried so many kinds of chocolate that we didn’t even need lunch!
Cost: $29 – $2 off this price if you pay at a tourism vendor in town Getting there: walk out of town towards the waterfall, cross the bridge and walk another 1.5km until you reach a road on the right with signs pointing to the waterfall, turn right and from here it is another 1km on the right hand side. Proyecto Asis At this wildlife rescue centre there are around 80 different rescued animals who are being rehabilitated in order to be released back into the wild. Many of the animals were confiscated by local authorities, as poachers or individuals tried to restrain these animals illegally as house pets, or have tried to buy, sell, or transport them out of the country. The owner of the centre was very passionate spent 2 hours explaining each animals situation and rehabilitation plan. There is also the option to pay extra to volunteer time to feed the animals and help the animals in their rehabilitation which would be very rewarding. The highlights were the monkeys, a baby porcupine and macaws.
Cost: $29. 8:30am and 1:00pm daily Getting there: Catch the 7:15am or 11:00am bus daily for Chachagua, tell the bus driver to stop at Proyecto Asis. 45mins/$2.50 La Fortuna Waterfall This grand waterfall is the most popular waterfall in the area. It is so beautiful that it is on the lonely planets front cover for Central America. We decided the walk 7km out of town to get there and once we made it and paid our entry fees we had another 500 stairs to walk down! The walk isn’t too hard though, and once at the bottom we were rewarded with amazing views of the huge waterfall cascading from 70m above us into a pool with a tremendous roar. We had a swim in the refreshingly chilly waters down stream from the falls and once relaxed we then had to make our way back up the 500 stairs to get back!
Cost: $10 Entry to National Park Getting there: located 7km out of town it is 4km past the Rainforest Chocolate Tours, basically following the same road until it ends at the falls.