The perfect cone shape of Volcan Arenal can be seen from miles away in this part of Costa Rica. Sitting at the eastern end of Lake Arenal this is Costa Rica’s most active volcano producing ash columns and some lava flows regularly since 1968. The former farming town of La Fortuna sits 15km to the east of Volcan Arenal.
Traveling around this part of Costa Rica involves either going around Lake Arenal, which is a long, slow, rough ride, or going across the lake. From Monteverde, we booked the Jeep-Boat-Jeep service which is essentially door to door service. They picked us up at our hotel in Santa Elena and delivered us to the shore of Lake Arenal. From there a boat took us across the lake to the northeastern shore where we were put in a van for the relatively short trip to La Fortuna. This makes for a 3 1/2 hour trip instead of a 6 hour trip around the lake. Lake Arenal is a large lake which is getting a lot of attention from retirees lately. The shores of the lake are relatively undeveloped and the location offers a somewhat mild climate only an hour away from the capital city of San Jose.
In La Fortuna, we stayed at a nice little hotel called Las Colinas which had a terrace that afforded a mostly unimpeded view of the volcano. While in La Fortuna, we took a tour called “Real Cano Negro” which is a boat tour on the Rio Frio just over the border in Nicaragua.
They picked us up at our hotel early in the morning and drove for about 2 hours north. Along the way the guide provided some information about Costa Rica and about the agriculture in that area of the country. It’s interesting to note that most of the farmers plant a particular type of tree along their property lines. These trees become living fence posts that they use to hold the wire for the fence. Periodically, they cut any growth from the top of the tree. Once we arrived at the river, we spent about 2 1/2 hours cruising the river and observing some of the wildlife. We were able to see caimans, many kinds of water birds, lizards, iguanas, monkeys and sloths. These are the 3 toed sloths versus the 2 toed sloths found in the higher elevations around Monteverde. Unfortunately, it began to rain part way through the boat tour and this may have kept us from being able to see more wildlife. Following the boat cruise, we were served a nice typical Costa Rican lunch before returning to La Fortuna.
A note about the Howler Monkeys. I don’t think either of us had ever heard them before this trip. Our first experience with their “howl” was in Playa Samara. We had to catch an early bus from there to get to Monteverde. It was still dark (around 4:00am) when we got to the bus stop up on the road. There were some dogs barking and roosters crowing in the nearby neighborhood and then we heard the Howler. At first we thought it was a dog. It is a very deep guttural sound somewhere between a growl, a bark and a howl. We soon realized that it was not a dog and speculated that it was the Howler Monkey. Later we had that confirmed when we heard them in Monteverde. Very neat and a tiny bit scary to hear in the still of the early morning hours standing in the dark.