Destination Costa Rica – La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano
Sustainable tourism is essential in Costa Rica, one of the most bio-diverse areas on earth. The intense ecosystem of its tropical rain and cloud forests, swamps, beaches, and active volcanoes requires everyone who visits to be mindful and respectful of the exotic wildlife and their habitats. Costa Rica has established an advanced national conservation system to ensure the protection and preservation of the land by designating certain areas as national parks, wildlife refuges or private reserves. Costa Rican’s are extremely friendly and live “Pura Vida”, which means “pure life.” It refers to the state of being happy and simply enjoying life.
There are areas of Costa Rica that tend to attract more tourist then others, especially near some of the trendy beaches. We chose to stay in La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano area because of its reputation for being less crowded and its abundant outdoor adventures. The idea of seeing one of the most active volcanoes in the country was also appealing. In addition, the geothermal activity underneath Arenal creates natural hot springs in the surrounding area offering unobstructed views of the volcano. Unfortunately, while we were there the clouds only cleared once lending a “peek-a-boo” view of the volcano. Our experience was not spoiled however, as the weather was always pleasant and the tropical landscape of our hotel, abundant in lush vegetation was pleasing to the eye. Orchids, ferns, a variety of palms, and heliconia all beautifully planned to look naturally grown.
To say that there is a lot to do in Costa Rica is an understatement! In order to get a layout of the country and familiarize ourselves with the varied regions for our next trip, we opted to consult with a well regarded tour company Pacific Trade Winds who helped us with our planning. They secured an all inclusive hotel, Arenal Springs Resort and Spa. Outdoor adventure activities were easily accessible from our resort.
Our first adventure was zip lining. We chose Big 11 AMA Xtreme Waterfall Canopy Zip-lining as our destination. This was our first time zip-lining and we could not have selected a better company. The adventure starts with a safety and riding lesson followed by a tractor ride up the initial climb into the forest. Continued with a 15-20 minute hike to the first platform. The course consists of 12 zips traversing the forest from platform to platform soaring at moderate to a high speed pace, depending on the zip, until you reach the base of the forest. The views from atop the canopies are amazing, The most impressive was the view of La Fortuna Waterfall which is up to 120 meters high and 980 meters long and is spectacular!
Our next adventure was white water rafting the Rio Balsa river. Rio Balsa is a class II and III white water rafting experience that is packed with just the right amount of thrills if you’re not in the mood to be tossed overboard. An experienced guide rides along in each boat navigating you along the river. At the end of the ride, a light lunch was served with fresh pineapple, which was the only part of the meal suitable for us to eat. It would have been easy to pack fruit and nut snacks or vegan protein bars. Oh well…next time.
The task of finding vegan or vegan friendly restaurants in the areas of our choice became
daunting and this hotel also satisfied our priority to stay at an eco-resort that is locally owned and sustainable. The main restaurant at the Arenal Springs Resort is buffet style dining with an open concept and panoramic views of the lush, green gardens. A variety of ripe, seasonal fruits, vegetables, and Costa Rica’s signature dish, Gallo Pinto was available at every meal. Gallo Pinto consists of black beans and pre-cooked rice that is blended together, often sautéed with onions, sweet red peppers, and or cilantro. It is probably fair to say that every eating establishment in Costa Rica offers some variation of Gallo Pinto. While an all inclusive hotel worked out well for us (this time), we highly recommend staying in the town of La Fortuna with the locals. Eat with them and experience first hand the “Pura Vida” lifestyle. You can always find something to satisfy the vegan taste buds. If nothing else you will always find Gallo Pinto!