After Tortuguero, we had decided to go to la Fortuna, and to visit the famous Arenal Volcano.
We were expecting some great volcano trails and a stay full of adventures. Our stay did not quite meet our expectations even though we did have some fun, and I have to admit we were not that lucky with the weather – out of 4 days there we had only half a day with some sun.
On arrival, we went to the highly recommend (both in guides on on internet) la Casa de la Hormiga (next to the bus station) – Please, run ! The service was not good, the food was not good and the price was not good.
Our one day tour in Arenal – La Fortuna
For tours (you will see you cannot do anything by yourself in la Fortuna, especially if you do not have a car), we would recommend the Red lava agency (just next to the bus station). The staff there is good and provide good advices, and the guides were great during our day.
As everything is quite expensive (especially the transportation – we have been told at our hotel it would be 25$ each way to be dropped at the Arenal volcano. Each way !), we had chosen to spend an entire day with an organized tour (quite unusual for us) to be able to see the la Fortuna waterwall, a Maleku Indian village, the Arenal 1968 Volcana view and lava trail and finally some time in hot springs to end the day. (From 8am to 5pm, 80$ per person including lunch, pick up and drop off from your hotel and reserve, trail and hot springs entrance fee)
We would not recommend this excursion but the other one without the la Fortuna waterfall but including the Arenal Observatory lodge trail. The hike and viewpoints seem more interesting there, and it includes a waterfall as well. La Fortuna waterfall was quite crowded and even if we were looking for it, the Maleku tribe we have met felt more like Disneyland with overpriced souvenirs. Quite a disappointment on our side.
As I mentioned before, we did not get very lucky with the weather so we spend our entire day under the rain, maybe that’s the reason why we did not enjoy it that much. The most frustrating part is that you do not get to see much wildlife nor even the Arenal volcano (surrounded by heavy clouds). The Arenal 1968 Volcano and Lava fields trail we did was also very easy, and really not expected compared to what we had read about it previously. Overall it was a nice day with some very nice points of view, spent with nice people and nice guides, but definitely not one of our best in Costa Rica.
Rafting day in Arenal
One of the activities we really wanted to do in Arenal was rafting. We had tried before and were pretty excited to do it again in Costa Rica ! This day did not disappointed !
We booked with Arenal Rafting for 90$ per person. It seems quite a lot but it is actually pretty standard for rafting in Costa Rica. It included transportation, lunch and equipment. We were the only group on the beautiful Balsa River. We rafted twice in Costa Rica, once in Arenal and once in our third stop in Monteverde and we preferred the latest.
Unfortunately, we forgot the attach of our DJI Action and were not able to take photos. They had strongly recommended not to bring any camera as we would very likely loose it. Eventually, this is not very accurate, there is very limited risk to loose anything as it is relatively quiet for a rafting. They sell the picture at the end, the price is per boat and we were only 2, so we chose not to buy them.
Overall, we think we could have skipped Arenal Vulcano and the whole area : it is extremely expensive, crowded and touristy. We felt more at Disneyland and the authenticity of this place is gone probably for good but it’s still a fun place to go to!