Arenal Volcano is the first thing you see as you navigate the mountainous road from Monteverde to La Fortuna.
It looks exactly what your 8 year old self would have drawn if told in school to draw a volcano. Cone shaped and perfect, a plume of cloud sitting atop.
It burst into life in 1968 with a pyroplastic show of force, changing the landscape and the lives of surrounding residents. Quiet now, surrounding hot springs are the tell tale signs that destructive power still lurks within.
La Fortuna is one of the bigger towns outside San Jose that we’ve visited. It serves a burgeoning tourist trade of travellers seeking thrills and nature experiences.
We climbed the lower slopes of Arenal for views of the lava fields. It is illegal to climb to the crater rim, given the dangers. Climbing down through jungle rainforest, we then rewarded ourselves with a long luxurious twilight soak in a hot river flowing down from the slopes.
Next day we were off to a much colder river, under a grey and rainy sky, for our Gravity Falls experience. This entailed rappelling down ferny waterfalls, jumping into fast flowing rapids, and throwing ourselves off a platform high above a deep rock pool.
All of this supervised by experienced guides and instructors of course. Plenty of adrenaline, never any real danger.
Back in LF, there are plenty more tours to sign up to if you are so inclined. We wandered out to a small sloth sanctuary in town. Not the most authentic way to go sloth spotting, but the sloths here are still free to roam about the canopy, and we did enjoy our closest-yet sloth encounter.
outside LF, you can hike beside the Rio Celeste in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Depending on weather conditions the water is often a dazzling blue, there’s a beautiful waterfalls, and you’ll see (and smell) thermal springs bubbling up out of the river.
By night, Restaurante Don Rufino offers some very fine dining. The arracacha and beet salad is a knockout. Expensive compared to other options, but a delicious reprieve from rice and beans.