I know I only posted very recently, but truth be told, I don’t really like the way my super-long and pictureless rant looks at the top of my homepage. I’m not ashamed of it, and I stick by everything I said; however, it’s not really what you all want to be reading about, and it’s not really what I want you to be reading about, either. What I do want you to be reading about is the fantastic time that Grant and I had in La Fortuna! After Episode Thirty Seven, if you read it, you’ll probably be pleased to hear that we only spent three nights in La Fortuna and this will consequently be a short-ish blog post. And after all the times I’ve said that before, if you read them, you’ll probably be a little skeptical about the truth behind that statement. Read on and see!
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From San José, we jumped right in to the ‘real’ Costa Rica – by which I mean the image of Costa Rica you would conjure up if prompted. We hadn’t known when we booked our hostel that La Fortuna was the town to visit if you wanted to see Arenal volcano – we just thought it’d be a good town to get there from. But as we drew into the bus station and the tour guides crowded in wielding leaflets and brandishing flyers in our direction, it became obvious that we were in Arenal-town.
The volcano is, on a clear day, visible from almost any part of La Fortuna. In fact, the low clouds on the day we arrived were the only reason we hadn’t clicked sooner exactly how close we were to the imposing giant. Later in the evening, though, when we were cozied up in the natural volcanically-heated pools of The Springs resort and spa, the mountain cast off its mantle and we had the opportunity to see the whole thing in the sunset.
We’d had a look online and in my guidebook at the sort of activities we could get up to around the volcano. (I almost said ‘in and around’; I think in this situation that would have been misleading). Many of the adventure organisations were offering packages including a volcano hike and a visit to one of several hot-spring resorts in the area. However, we did a little shopping around and, to our delight, realised that for little more than the half-day Hike-And-Baldí-Hot-Springs deal (Baldí being a cheaper and more water-park-esque option), we could pay for the hike on its own and separately buy a two-day pass to the super-luxurious and highly-rated The Springs resort; and this pass even included a tour of their big cat sanctuary! We were sold, and, feeling proud of ourselves, set off from our hostel around 4 so we could make the most of our first day in paradise before closing time at 10pm.
We hopped in a taxi we found at the bus terminal and instructed the driver to take us to The Springs, which was at the top of the hill. While we’d guessed that the cartoon-style map of La Fortuna wasn’t exactly to scale, we had not expected the taxista to drive for fifteen minutes beyond the main town to a cluster of similar resorts; and then drive PAST them only to discover a sign which pointed away down a dirt-track precipice and read: ‘The Springs Resort and Spa: 3.5 km’.
By the time we’d reached the legendary Springs, the meter had racked up a steep $16, and when we enquired at the reception desk while purchasing our passes, the man said that no they did not operate a shuttle service to the town. They did, however, have a private taxi service which charged – how much did we pay for the taxi here, $16 did we say? – well their taxi service charged $15!
The resort itself was every bit as luxurious as we’d read. It had four restaurants including a sushi bar, a couple of bar bars, one of which was of the wet variety (meaning it was submerged in one of the pools), and at least twelve springs of varying temperatures as well as a spa and a gym. We took our free towels and went to get settled in.
I always forget that I don’t like baths. Every so often, I’ll say to myself: ‘I’ve had a long day. I feel a little headachey/stressed-out/under the weather: I know! I’ll treat myself to a nice hot bath for once! I never do that!’. Then as soon as I’m submerged in steamy, bubbly bliss, with a lovely relaxing playlist on my not-at-all-precariously-perched computer nearby, I remember: I do not enjoy this.
The water is too hot and makes me break a sweat within minutes, making my skin prickle uncomfortably, causing me to feel gross and defeating the original purpose of the bath. The bubbles disperse faster than I expect, leaving me essentially lying still in a couple of feet of water in a windowless room, bored and alone. And the water is never deep enough to cover my whole body at once, so either my knees or my shoulders always feel chilly compared to the rest of me. I totally understand why all Meredith cared about when Derek built her the dream house that the tub was ‘deep enough to cover her knees and boobs at the same time’. Oh, and when I wash my hair, I never feel confident that I’ve rinsed all the product out of it, so I end up wanting to take a post-bath shower: which, again, renders the bath itself a waste of time and water.
However. Natural hot springs are something I could quickly get used to. Especially in La Fortuna, where the spas tend to include several pools of varying temperatures, and where I don’t lament all the power going to waste heating them all day and night. To slip into a pool of non-treated, totally natural water and find it not only warm but truly hot is a strange feeling indeed, and while the artificial waterfalls and tourist resort setting detracted somewhat from this phenomenon, it was still a fantastic experience. The pools were the right temperatures (although we avoided the hottest ones, agreeing that they were ‘too much effort’ to be in); they were deep enough that all of me could be underwater at once; and the lovely view of the volcano that Grant and I shared took the experience miles away from the lying-alone-and-bored-in-a-windowless-room experience. Plus, there was no expectation to be clean when I emerged, so I didn’t care that my hair was sticky and yuck. Well, I did, but I’d anticipated it. All in all, much better than a bath; so although I’m not sure why I thought I’d enjoy The Springs, just as I question myself every time I take a bath on the off-chance that I’ve changed my mind about them; I was right this time.
Grant and I spent hours floating around in the pools, playing on the water slide, kissing under waterfalls and enjoying the view. Once it got dark, we dried off (slightly) and wandered off in search of dinner. After the hefty taxi fare and the promise of another to come, we had accepted the fact that we probably couldn’t afford dinner here; but we were extremely peckish and decided to go for the $12 club (or in Grant’s case, pulled pork) sandwich. And they were good.
After dinner we didn’t really feel like getting back in the water so we headed back up to reception to request our ridiculously expensive journey home. Another group of people were leaving so I asked (in Spanish which they commended, no less) if they wished to share the trip home. There were four of them, so they politely declined; however, when we got into our minibus (which, by the way, ended up costing $20 instead of the promised $15), it was clear that there would in fact have been plenty of room for all six of us, the driver, and many more besides.
So as you can see, many misinformed decisions were made by us that day, and we were essentially tricked into an evening we couldn’t really afford; however, the $150 we spent between us (it was supposed to be $40 each) was not actually over-priced for what we got. If we’d known it would cost so much and decided to go for it anyway, we would not have been disappointed; the only thing is, if we’d known it would cost that much, we almost certainly would have just gone for the hike-and-spa package, which included transport.
We later found, in a leaflet in the tourist information office in Tamarindo, that the resort does actually offer a shuttle to selected hotels in La Fortuna and that we could have located the nearest pick-up spot and hopped on. At least we managed to bequeath our second day-pass to a nice couple on the bus home from the volcano hike, all about which you’ll hear shortly. To conclude, though, The Springs is a magnificent luxury resort: but the too-good-to-be-true deal, as is the nature of too-good-to-be-true deals, was in fact too good to be true. I don’t know if the brochure in Tamarindo was a con or if the guy we spoke to at reception was conning us (or maybe it was just his first day); but either way, we felt a little put out, because we would have liked to return for our second day. Considering that the taxi ride alone would cost as much as another two-day pass, though, we decided to cut our losses and call it quits. Maybe we got some good karma out of our gift to the couple, too.
Well, there you go. Over 1600 words, and I’ve only covered one evening in La Fortuna. Who called it? Have a gold star.
Well, have a black asterisk. And don’t say I’m not good to you.
In Episode Thirty Nine, we’ll learn all about the character of the little town of La Fortuna, and about the natural wonder of the volcano, as told by Franklin the buoyant tour guide. Oh, and I’ll also recount one of those holiday anecdotes that all couples seem to have. Hooray!
Lots of love,