La Fortuna & Arenal: Free/Cheap Activities + Photo Spots + Transportation Info + Hotsprings

La Fortuna is a popular tourist area, and therefore not particularly cheap. However, there are still a few free and cheap activities. The difference between Monteverde and La Fortuna is transportation. La Fortuna/Arenal is spread further apart, so getting from location to location can be expensive. This is important! Sure, there are free hot springs, but getting yourself there and back drives up the cost!

Heading to Monteverde? Check out my cheap Monteverde guide.

All locations will be provided in Google Maps!


Some transportation options…

Shuttle pass rumors: Some hostels or hotels have shuttle passes, but getting information on them from TripAdvisor forums can be difficult. I stayed at Hostel La Choza Inn and used their shuttle pass, which was great, but unfortunately it’s been discontinued. I’d check back to see if they offer it again in the future, but don’t hold your breath.

Renting bikes: Check out this post by Costa Rica Travel blog for information about riding bikes. I really doubt you could bike to the free hot springs (plus where would you park the bikes) but you could bike the waterfall, El Salto, and roam around freely. Just be careful.

What about walking? Some locations we were able to walk to. Other locations were too far and/or there was no sidewalk or shoulder on the road. Again, for locations like the free hot springs, the national park, the Arenal lake, etc, you’ll need a shuttle/taxi/private driver.

“I took a public bus from [area here] to La Fortuna, where do I buy bus tickets to my next location?” Red Lava Tours (located right next to the bus terminal), or at least that’s where we purchased bus tickets to get back to San Jose. Public bus info.


Hiking

Mirador El Silencio.

Arenal national park

Unfortunately, I did not visit the national park, so I’ll direct you to another resource here.

Location.
Tripadvisor page.
Cost: 17 USD per person.
Bug spray? Yes!

Mirador El Silencio

I wanted to try something different so we went to Mirador El Silencio. There’s a lake view (which we missed) and a fantastic volcano view, which I’ll get to in a minute. The trail is lots of walking up and down “steps” through a forested area. There is potential to spot wildlife here, but we only saw some pretty butterflies and many lizards. The real treat is the volcano view, which can accessed directly by following the road.

Read more!
Advertisements

Monteverde: Free/Cheap Activities + Photo Spots

Despite not being the most well-known desitnation, Monteverde, Costa Rica, still lands on many traveler’s itineraries. As a budget traveler, I’ve culminated a list of all the free (or cheap) activities I personally did while in Monteverde. This isn’t everything we did, just the cheap or free things. Also, since we’re living in the digital nomad era, I’ve included some places I think have good potential for photographers.

Transportation: It may sound crazy, but we walked everywhere (except to activities which included transportation). We stayed in downtown Santa Elena. It is doable, but keep in mind the area is tons of steep hills, so it’s not for those who need accessibility. 

Accommodations: We stayed at Hostel Sloth (private room). I’ll link you to their Tripadvisor page (which also happens to have my review on it). Our room was incredibly clean, and had a mini fridge. The only drawback is there doesn’t seem to be a big social aspect to this place versus some of the other hostels. 

Climate: We visited in mid-August, and much to our surprise (more like, we didn’t research), Monteverde was chilly and windy! To quote some other backpackers at our hostel: “I packed for Hawaii, not Anarctica!” It’s true, you will need a pair of long pants and a windbreaker/rain jacket while here. It’s not objectively cold, but it’s much cooler than you’d expect. 

Note: Location links will be in Google Maps. 


Hiking/Cloud Forrest Access

Cerro Amigos: Cerro Amigos (location link) is the most recommended free thing to do in Monteverde. It’s advertised as a free hike, and it is free, but I’ll warn you that this hike is no joke. There are two small parts of the hike that are relatively flat, but other than that, it’s an hour and a half of steep uphill death.

 The two *REAL* reason to hike Cerro Amigos:

  1. The trails off the peak give you free access to the cloud forest. Check out this blog for the map of the trail. Or you can ask the radio tower watchman. Speaking of which…
  2. There is a jewelry shop at the top run by the radio watchtower man, I believe his name is Carlos. Go visit Carlos. He’s nice (brush up on your Spanish beforehand), and he makes really unique pieces for really affordable prices (cash only, obv).
It’s an hour and a half of this. Steep. 

We saw a Coati…I think.
But it’s not all ugly. 
The top is better on a clear day, but still nice on a cloudy one.
Continue reading Monteverde: Free/Cheap Activities + Photo Spots

Travel Diaries | Costa Rica: Encounters of the awkward kind

This storytime is accompanied by a drinking game: take a shot every time I said awkward. Disclaimer: don’t do that. Unless you want to…at your own risk. 

Every traveler knows that hostels are a great place to meet other people. Even if you’re a nervous a-social being hiding away in a private room (like myself), you can’t escape the social nature of the hostel. However, what happens when you combine two socially inept introverts (cough…like myself and my boyfriend) with a couple of clearly social stoners? A really awkward story, that’s what.

All it needs is a couple hammocks…

My boyfriend had cooked us dinner (thanks babe) and I was cleaning up the shared kitchen. Out of nowhere, this young lady asks me “did you cook in here?” – or something of the sort. That’s not important. I tell her yes, my boyfriend made us dinner…blah blah blah, not important. We’re just going to call her…Jane. Jane is from the states, like I am, so naturally we start talking. I tell her we were in Monteverde, and as it turns out, that’s where her and her boyfriend are heading to next. She wants recommendations on cheap things to do. Turns out our private rooms were right next to each other. I went into my room to get my Monteverde map.

We’re sitting on the bench in front of her room and her boyfriend comes out. We’re going to call him…Nolan. Still no problem, super nice seeming people, very chill, kind of stoners, but to each their own. Anyway, Jane says shes gotta go take a shower and returns to her room My boyfriend and I decide to sit outside on our bench. About fifteen to thirty minutes later, Nolan comes outside the room and sees us sitting on our bench. He says “Oh…You guys totally heard us didn’t you?” Hahaha. We said no, and to be honest, we didn’t hear them having sex. But it was still awkward.

He asks if we’d be up to go out to eat. My boyfriend, being the great conversationalist that he is says something like: “We already ate, but we’re totally up to watch you eat.” Eep. Awkward. 

GREAT choice of words, babe. What he MEANT to say was “we’re down for anything.” Needless to say, thing’s did progress very well afterwards. We continue to sit on our bench until the two came out, showered and changed, and made a b-line past us towards the courtyard exist…and didn’t say annnyyythhhinnggg to us.

Ouch, owwie. Awkward. To make things even worse, they kept coming and going in and out of the courtyard, which, mind you, is fairly small (I think they were trying to acquire weed from someone outside). It was weird, because there was no communication from them if they wanted to hang out, or not. I don’t exactly know when they left, because my boyfriend and I were so tired we passed out around 8-9. Anyway, the next day at breakfast we completely avoided them but they also avoided us. It was awkward. There were some…glances. My boyfriend and I decided to get out of there and when we came back later, they had left. Phewww.

The moral of the story is I’m 21 and still socially inept. But that’s ok, because the internet has taught me to post these stories online.

What the most awkward encounter you’ve had while traveling? I’m positive this is not the most awkward thing that will happen to me.

-Knurly 

Travel Diary | I went to La Fortuna waterfall and all I got was this postcard…

Hello wonderful readers! Yes, it may be at least three weeks since I returned from my trip to Costa Rica…but forgive my absence, and I’ll spare you the excuses. It’s time for one of many travel diaries and Costa-Rica related content. 

If you are not aware, La Fortuna waterfall is a popular tourist attraction where visitors can visit the incredible 75 foot cataract and swim in its chilly river. We (myself, and my boyfriend) had not planned on visiting the waterfall, but we had a free day and our shuttle pass (more on that in a later post) would provide us with transportation to the site. There was only one tiny detail that we were unsure about; we had no idea whether or not our belonging would be safe while we swam. As a result, we made the bone-headed decision to not bring our cellphones, cameras, or our wallets. Instead, we brought our pre-installed cameras (or…eyes…whatever the kids are calling them) and enough cash to enter the park.

Before you stop reading – are you still reading? Good. I took the opportunity to disconnect myself from my phone. While traveling, I find it incredibly easy to constantly be holding my phone or camera in front of my face. However, it is better to try and live in the experience rather than record the experience. I thought I’d be doing myself a favor. I was completely wrong.

Wikipedia

I don’t think when people suggest forgoing photos and “living in the moment” they think about how the human mind works. Frankly, it’s easier for me to remember an experience when I’m looking at photos of said experience, rather than trying to pull the thoughts out of my brain. When I’m ninety, am I going to remember the waterfall more or less than everything else that I experienced? Probably not. What I will do is sit around in my levitating wheelchair and reflect on photos of my youth. All I’m going to remember about that damn waterfall is that I didn’t take any photos!

What can be done about the ever-existing struggle between taking photos/videos, and living in the moment? It’s not impossible to find a balance. I’d say the best advice I could give you is to live through an experience first, and then take photos when you’re done.  How many times have you been with a group of people and the second something  occurs, everyone whips out their phone? Maybe take some time to see with your eyes, and then pull the camera. If you’re in a certain location, maybe set aside a specific amount of time to take photos. But don’t forget to take photos! Especially photos of you in the location. I can google La Fortuna Waterfall and see what the cataract looks like, but I can’t go back and take photos of myself there. I have many regrets.

So in short, I went to La Fortuna Waterfall and all I got was this postcard…

-Knurly