On account of the fact we’re hemorrhaging money right now we decided to choose between La Fortuna and Monterverde rather than doing both, then we’d head to the border and get into Nicaragua which would (hopefully) be a bit cheaper. We went for La Fortuna on account of the fact we’d already seen some nice cloud forest in Panama and we regret nothing though we didn’t actually do as much as we intended. We decided to do one tour then save the dolla dolla bills y’all for where they’d stretch a bit further.
As we were checking into the hostel I was instantly sucked in by the image of a waterfall on a poster advertising excursions in the reception. It was an otherworldly turquoise colour, I needed it in my life, just shut up and take my money, Mr Agency Guy! It was the Rio Celeste and it’s actually way more interesting than just the waterfall. You can’t swim in it but the tour takes you elsewhere so you can get your weird blue water submersion fix.
So off we fucked then. Our driver and guide (“and bartender, DJ, and later on your stripper!”), Mario, collected us at 7.20am, picked up a few more people around the town then we headed off, stopping just over halfway at a bakery for wees, drinks and pastries. It’s a good 90 minutes to the national park we were heading to and Mario kept us entertained with snippets of information. He’s also fucking hilarious so that helps with the early morning start.
The Rio Celeste hike isn’t a long one, only a five kilometre round trip, but it’s fucking brutal in parts albeit just for a short while. Like, you have these little pockets of “what the fuck am I doing with my life?!” as you haul yourself up steps designed for people who consist entirely of legs. But it’s absolutely manageable. Mario pointed things out to us as we went. He had his scope with him but we didn’t see a huge amount of wildlife. There was an eyelash pit viper curled up in a tree which was pretty awesome, I love snakes when they aren’t launching themselves at me.
We slogged up a particularly harrowing section (harrowing for my calf muscles, I don’t need therapy or anything) before Mario waited for us sweating messes to catch up before announcing, this is the easy part. The real hike starts soon! You fucking what?! It wasn’t too awful to be fair and we were appeased with a cracking view of the local volcano, Volcán Tenorio, for which the national park we were in was named. We’d started getting whiffs of sulphur too, just in case we were questioning the volcanic credentials of the region.
We rounded a corner and Mario pointed out the source of the smell; little bubbles of gas blasting to the surface of the river. He said if the volcano didn’t have pressure outlets like this then it’d erupt more often. There was a sign labelling the phenomenon as “borbollones” which, according to the mighty Google, means “gushing”. That’s a good word isn’t it? Gushing. Right up there with “moist”. Anyway, we left the moist gushing behind and headed to something they call the Teñideros which is where two perfectly normal coloured rivers, Rio Buenavista and Quebrada Agria, meet to form the insanely blue Rio Celeste.
It’s quite the sight. There’s a board explaining the science behind it, apparently when the two rivers meet it changes the pH thus increasing the particle size of a mineral present in Rio Buenavista. Some of the mineral sinks to the bottom and appears as a white residue, the rest remains suspended in the water and light refracting through it causes the sky blue colour. Fuck it, here’s the photos I took of the board, it explains it way better than I can paraphrase it.
We were being descended on by a swarm of completely harmless insects by this point but they were at the level that you could easily accidentally inhale one mid-sentence and there are easier and less gross ways of getting protein into my diet. We stayed until everyone’s tolerance reached breaking point then headed back the way we came. Teñideros is the furthest point along the trail, you can’t go any further from here.
We’d glimpsed a cool looking lake as we’d made our way along and we went to check it out on the way back. Laguna Azul, literally Blue Lake, lives up to its name. It’s the same incredible colour as the rest of the Rio Celeste. We gawped at that for a little bit before heading off. Where’s this damn waterfall then? The one that lured us in to part with substantial quantities of cash? We were saving the best for last. We all eventually congregated at the top of the waterfall trail and Mario asked us to just see the falls, take some photos then come straight back on account of the fact there were a metric fuck tonne of humans all wanting to put it in their eyeholes.
And yeah, the top of the trail. You’re looking at about 250 steps down and subsequently back up again. Oh gods, I’m so sorry, legs. Or am I? Probably not too be fair because it’s absolutely worth the horror you’re putting your poor lower body through. It’s a beautiful sight. Even now at the end of the dry season there’s plenty of water crashing over the edge into the stunning plunge pool. We got our photos and began the hike back up the steps then headed back to the entrance to wait for everyone to be ready.
Next stop, lunch. Fuck me, I was ravenous. I’d have fought a rabid dog for its lunch then eaten the dog too. It was about a fifteen minute drive to El Jarra down a bumpy unsealed road. We bounced around in the back as Mario asked us how we liked our Costa Rican massage. I love him. He’s such an excellent guide. I love lunch more though, it was a decent portion of decent food which surprised me considering it was included in the price of the tour. I was expecting sandwiches or something but we got rice, beans and plantain with a choice of either chicken, beef, fish or vegetarian. We went for a spot of dead poultry. Central America does chicken particularly well.
Absolutely stuffed, we waddled back to the minibus and bounced along another rough track led by Negro, an adorable dog from the restaurant who wanders up to visitors and presents the belly for immediate rubs. I don’t think you’re permitted to refuse, nor would you want to. He’s such a lovely doggo. We were heading to our final stop, a swimming hole on the Rio Celeste which meant we got to submerge ourselves in the weird, blue water. Obviously it’s just water but that’s not the point, it’s somehow better when it’s more beautiful.
We didn’t have any real time limit, we just chilled out for as long as we wanted to. There are changing rooms so we utilised them, then Mario pointed out some cool little bats. You can’t really take a good photo of them but I guess bats give no fucks about Instagram. That was pretty much it then, all that remained was to head back to La Fortuna but we did stop at a particularly good viewpoint of Volcán Arenal, the beast that looms over the town. We also stopped when we saw an ATV tour that had pulled over, they’d spotted a sloth with her baby in the trees so Mario got his scope out so we could have a proper look. That was a pretty awesome way to end the day before we were all dropped at our respective accommodations.
There are loads of other things to do in and around La Fortuna but we decided to, well, just not really. There’s a night walk we were interested in but not for US$30 each, especially with La Fortuna’s liberal relationship with the exchange rate. You might think it’s ₡532 to the dollar because it fucking well is ₡532 to the dollar. But if you want to pay in colones then they’ll take them at ₡570 colones to the dollar so, quite frankly, fuck them. We do like a night walk but we’ll see if we can do one elsewhere in Central America.
There’s a waterfall which we intended to visit until we found out they were charging US$18 per person. The guys at the hostel said it wasn’t worth it. There are some free hot springs but my internal organs are already roasting in this heat, I really don’t need to heat them up any further. So we just spent time at the free swimming hole that’s really close to town and is lovely, cold and refreshing. That was pretty much our La Fortuna experience along with the odd tasty cold motor impairment beverage which we obviously sipped whilst whinging about how much money we were spending.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Rio Celeste & La Fortuna, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Stayed at: Arenal Sloth Hostel, La Fortuna
Useful shit to know…
How To Get From Manuel Antonio To La Fortuna By Bus
- You’re best off going to the terminal in Quepos to buy your ticket to San Jose and tell them you want to get on in Manuel Antonio.
- You’ll be given a choice of three places you can get on.
- It costs ₡6085 and took 4 hours.
- We walked a couple of blocks to hail an Uber so we didn’t incur the wrath of taxi drivers.
- The Uber from Terminal Tracopa to Terminal 7-10 cost ₡1504.
- There is only one direct bus a day to La Fortuna and this is at 8.40am. Obviously that was long gone.
- Instead you can take a bus to Ciudad Quesada. Just walk onto the platform and ask the guys which bus.
- You can’t buy a ticket at the window inside, you pay the driver when you get on.
- It cost ₡3260 and took about three hours.
- The bus to La Fortuna leaves from the same terminal that you’re dropped at in Ciudad Quesada.
- We had to wait an hour for the 2.30pm bus.
- It cost ₡1810 and took 1.5 hours.
- Total cost: ₡11907 (US$22.35) each.
- Total time: 10 hours including waiting time between buses.
- We booked our Rio Celeste tour through the hostel and we went with 7 Tours.
- Apparently it’s cheaper to book through the hostel but the guy who organised it (Douglas from One Tour) took the piss with the exchange rate.
- It was meant to be US$60 each but we wanted to pay in colones. He made up his own rate and it ended up being closer to US$65.
- The price included pretty much everything; lunch, entrance fees, transport and guide. The only extra we paid was Mario’s tip.
- If you want to do this independently you can but you’ll have to find your own swimming hole. I don’t know if the one we went to is free or if it belongs to the restaurant or what.
- Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio costs US$13.56 for foreigners to enter.