The drive to La Fortuna from San Jose is well paved and the GPS was spot on. It took about three hours. The road is windy and many of the roads aren’t marked well, so I would not recommend doing the drive at night. I opted to stay at a cheap hostel ($15/night) Arenal Backpackers Resort in La Fortuna. It’s more of a party hostel. There is a bar with food on site. As well as a pool with a slackline over it! Music is played loudly but they are pretty good about lowering around 11 or midnight. It was clean and cheap. Located on the main drag, it is within walking distance to many restaurants, bars and shops.
Arenal Volcano is 5,437 feet and was active for 43 years up until 2010. Arenal Volcano National Park is over 29,000 acres. The area offers lots of adventures including rainforest hikes, whitewater rafting, canyoning, windsurfing, and numerous hot springs.
Hiking Cerro Chato Volcano
I don’t know why hikes always have to start with a sketchy suspension bridge.
It was a hot and sunny day. Thankfully, most of the hike is well covered under the trees. Otherwise, it would be unbearable. So be sure to bring plenty of water.
Along the way, there were great overlooks of Arenal Volcano. It is almost always under the clouds, but if you are lucky you can get a shot of it in clear sky.
Had to make lots of water breaks and photo breaks (of course). We took the most strenuous route and to make it more difficult the path is steep, especially towards the top, and muddy and crumbly. Combined with the heat, this is definitely one of the more strenuous hikes I have been on. After 3 hours, we finally made it to the top of Cerro Chato to Verde Laguna. On the side of the lake we were on, there isn’t a great shoreline and it was really muddy and hard to get into the water. Though on the otherside, was a small “beach” and people were swimming. I believe this is the route from the waterfall in town.
The guy at the base of the volcano gave us props for going all the way to the summit. I don’t think he thought we would make it. There was a driver at the bottom waiting for his tour group and he sold us some cold water. Best $2 spent on the whole trip.
Canyoning (canyoneering in the states) is traveling through a canyon by utilizing various techniques such as walking, scrambling, swimming, cliff jumping, and rappelling. After getting our gear and brief instruction on how to rappel, we headed into the canyon.
I was slightly disappointed in the canyoning. Only because it was dry season, so the water lever was low and we could walk through most of the canyon. There was only one small pool to jump into. The waterfall was minimal due to the lack of rain, so it wasn’t as awesome as it could be. After rappelling down a 400 foot skyscraper, this was nothing. For others in my group who have never been rappelling before, it was more of a rush. This was just normal fun for me.
I was also disappointed because you don’t actually rappel down the whole way. It’s like a zipline instead. The guides at Desafio were fun and great. Food is included when you get back from canyoning. I would recommend this to people who have zero experience with rappelling or climbing but for serious adrenaline junkies, I would pass. Especially, since it cost $75 – I could buy a ton of Imperial for that!
So there are fancy thermal spas all over Arenal. For $60 a day you can visit places like Tabacon and use all their serene pools. But I’m a girl on a budget, so I went across the street to the free hot springs. We went early in the morning and there was only one couple there. It was very quiet and relaxing and FREE. Try to bring as little with you as possible. There isn’t much space to leave your belongings, and I wouldn’t recommend leaving it out of your sight.