Baldi Hot Springs, La Fortuna

As you may have read in my accommodation review for La Fortuna, we ended up on some tours that weren’t really what we expected. Baldi Hot Springs was one of them.

Luckily, Shaun and I managed to make the most of it.

Our tour started around 2:30, with what we thought was a volcano tour. What we ended up getting was a nature hike around the base of the volcano with a guide that spoke very little English. We wandered around for about 2 hours, and all we saw were two different kinds of worms. It was odd, and Shaun and I were quite happy when it was over.

Ready for some hot springing!

Ready for some hot springing!

We weren’t too concerned with the lack of excitement on the first part of the tour, as we knew we had the hot springs to look forward to afterwards.

There are several hot springs to choose from in the La Fortuna area, but our hostel recommended Baldi. Our book describes Baldi as “The Disneyland of Hot Springs”, and it certainly lived up to its name.

lovely eh?

lovely eh?

Located just outside of the centre of La Fortuna, the hot springs is just as big, if not bigger as the town itself. It boasts a huge number of hot spring pools of various sizes, and temperatures, many of which have bars, and disco like lights and music.

Not exactly the relaxing soak we were looking for.

Regardless, after several days of hiking, tours, and cold showers, a soak in any hot springs seemed like a lovely idea.

Our tour dropped us off in front of the hot springs and said they would be back at nine to pick us up. We were given wrist bands, and booked in for our buffet dinner at 8pm.

The helicopter pad!

The helicopter pad!

This gave us a couple hours to enjoy the springs before cleaning up for dinner (as soppy bathing suits are not allowed).

As we entered the springs we realized…this is where the other half lives. It was super swanky, and far classier then anything we’ve seen in a long time. I was so glad I had shaved my legs!

We changed into our suits, rented a locker, and towels and went out to explore. There are maps everywhere because this place is huge. Between the multiple waterslides, sauna’s, swim up bars, and helicopter pad, it is very easy to get lost.

One of the many swim up bars

One of the many swim up bars

I decided I wanted to go into every hot spring pool, so we started at the bottom of the hill and worked our way up. Luckily, the first pool  had a swim up bar, so we decided to have a slow start, and get a drink.

We glanced at the menu and our eyes bulged. Beers were 5.50, and cocktails were 10 dollars. It was just like being back at home. We laughed and figured there were people who came to stay at the hotel in Baldi, and never leave. Therefore spending all their money on this expensive booze, not realizing that there are 2 dollar beers offered right down the road.

Enjoying one of the many falls (also hoping it washes my hair at the same time)

Enjoying one of the many falls (also hoping it washes my hair at the same time)

Anyways, we drank our pricey Imperials, savouring every overpriced drop, and relished in the deliciously hot water. We both agreed that after our lack of hygiene we were probably the dirtiest people in the pool. I joked that we should have brought a bar of soap to really get our money’s worth.

After our bevvies, we moved on to the next pools. I stuck to my word, and went in every one. Although the cold ones I just dipped a toe it.

That counts right?

Make sure you hug the infamous "Fat Lady" at the entrance!

Make sure you hug the infamous “Fat Lady” at the entrance!

Some of the pools were hotter then others, but the vast majority were really nice and warm. If someone had told me the week prior,while I was roasting away in Panama, that I would soon be enjoying a hot tub, I would have laughed. But there we were!

We made our way through all the pools and sauna’s, pausing to relax in some of the less crowded ones. At the top of the hill is the buffet, and the waterslides. I had read all sorts of things about these infamous waterslides, mainly that they are pretty dangerous. Just Google “Baldi Hot Springs Waterslides”, you’ll see what I mean.

We opted out of this part of the adventure, and headed back to the lockers to change for dinner.

At this point we were pretty raveous, and ready to get our moneys worth at the buffet. And let me tell you, they could have rolled me out of there like the blueberry girl from Willy Wonka! After a week of salads, chickpeas, and eggs, having such a huge selection was so awesome.

Shaun and I started with soup, chicken for me, and cream of vegetable for him. Then we rocked a salad bar, with this amazing plantain ceviche (which we went back for seconds and thirds of). After that, we went and sampled a little bit of everything for our mains. Seafood jambalaya, Chilli, Pork, Beef, Chicken, some good, some bad, but we tried a little bit of it all.

After fruit, and a little piece of chocolate cake for dessert, I went back for more jambalaya, and Shaun went back for more soup. Can you tell the food was a real highlight for me?

We managed to waddle our ways back to our shuttle, and then back to our hostel. We woke up in the morning so full still, and puffy from all the salt we had ingested!

Baldi certainly is a once in a lifetime experience. If you are looking for the exciting hot springs, this if the one for you. If you are looking for somewhere to relax that has a more serene spa like experience, I would check out some of the others.

Have you ever been to a hot spring?

Pura Vida

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Our Favourite Places in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

As I mentioned before, we were kind of grouchy during our stay in La Fortuna. That being said, we did manage to rustle up a few of our favourite places for you to check out.

The entrance, I loved this little patio.

The entrance, I loved this little patio.

My Coffee: Seriously, what would a “Favourite Places” post be without a coffee shop.

Being away from the beach certainly had one huge perk, we were now in the land of coffee! There were coffee shops everywhere in La Fortuna, some of which even grew their own beans. I was a trooper, and tested out three different shops before deciding on my favourite.

I had to put my glasses on because I looked so tired, this coffee helped!

I had to put my glasses on because I looked so tired, this coffee helped!

My Coffee is centrally located right across from the central park. It’s actually a nice combination of restaurant and coffee shop. I could have easily gone there for a glass of wine and dinner, but I also didn’t feel bad just ordering a Cappuccino and sitting down.

Their service is wonderful, and it is apparent that the owners take a lot of pride in their establishment. Little touches like bringing you water, and playing ziplining videos on their flat screen really make them stand out.

If you are looking for a delicious coffee in La Fortuna, I would highly suggest My Coffee.

Doesn't look like much I know!

Doesn’t look like much I know!

Soda Sabor Tico: I can’t take credit for this place, it’s all Shaun. During our time in La Fortuna, Shaun was definitely getting sick of chickpeas and eggs and was on the hunt for some delicious, and cheap grub. He struck out one evening on a quest for a burger and fries.

When he returned, I could tell he struck gold. Not only had he found a soda that sold a burger and fries for 5 dollars, but it was half a block from our hostel. This soda sold both typical Costa Rican, and western food. It was always packed, a sure sign that it is a good place to eat. If you are looking for a bargain, this is a great place to go.

It was a cloudy day, but I swear there is a volcano there!

It was a cloudy day, but I swear there is a volcano there!

La Fortuna Park: This park isn’t hard to miss, it is literally the centre of La Fortuna. Like I said in previous posts, there isn’t much to do in La Fortuna outside of tours. So, I ended up spending a lot of time in the park. It’s not huge, but it has a lot of benches, and other places to sit, enjoy a coffee, and marvel at the Arenal volcano looming overhead.

The church in the background is also worth checking out. I popped in one afternoon while I was wandering around and It is gorgeous inside.

So there you have it, anther edition of “Our Favourite Places” is complete. As always, if you have questions about this area, or any others we’ve visited. Feel free to ask in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Arenal Hostel Resort, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Well, after a run of fabulous hostels, we were bound to have a dud eventually. It’s not that this place was that terrible but, it just wasn’t our cup of tea..Let me explain

sloth friend at the entrance

sloth friend at the entrance

During our time in La Fortuna we stayed at the Arenal Hostel Resort. This hostel is tucked in behind the main strip of La Fortuna.

From the front, it certainly doesn’t look like much of a hostel, in fact it looks more like a zoo! A cement sloth hanging from fake trees acts as an archway to welcome guests. As you enter the hallway thing continue to be a little bit different. Concrete statues of frogs and lizards sit suspended on the walls, while real flowers dangle over you from the roof on which they are growing. I was pretty stoked when I saw all this. Totally funky, cool, and right up my alley

More like entering a zoo then a hostel!

More like entering a zoo then a hostel!

The whimsy continues as you enter the property. Large concrete trees have been erected throughout the resorts small green space. Multiple hammocks are suspended from each one. Palm trees dot the lawn with multi coloured rope lights wrapped around them.

The pool is small but perfectly located right next to the bar. They offer a full drink list, and a small food menu. There is a buffet breakfast each morning at an additional cost.

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Shaun and I had our own room, with two double beds, ensuite bathroom, and TV. Shaun  was happy, as this was the TV he ended up watching the Superbowl on.

Now at this point, I guess it’s pretty clear that I wanted to like this place.. It had all the makings for a really good time. I’ll get into the reasons why I didn’t like it in a second, but I should preface this by explaining where Shaun and I were at.

At this point in our trip, Shaun and I were in desperate need of a battery recharge. We had been travelling pretty intensely over the past couple weeks, so we were pretty antisocial during our stay here. Not meeting anyone new, and keeping to ourselves might have had an impact on our perspective of the place.

Outside of our room

Outside of our room

Also, because there isn’t a whole lot you can do or see in the heart of La Fortuna, we found we were often sitting around the hostel waiting for our next activity. This also might have contributed to our opinon.

Either way, there were a couple things that irked me about Arenal Hostel Resort, mainly having to do with the tours they offered.

At least there was towel art

At least there was towel art

The reception if the hostel is more like a tour agency then a hotel.There is obviously a commission to be had here. We were assured that all the prices in town were the same, so there was no point going to look around. In our previous experiences in Costa Rica, this tended to be the case. So we booked our first few tours at the front desk.

This was an error. I found a place that offered my first tour for 35 dollars cheaper, and most places were offering it for at least 15 dollars cheaper. I was choked at first, because you want to feel like you can trust the people at the place that you were staying. I decided just to let it go and chalk it up to being lazy and not going to look for myself.

Obviously my lack of enthusiasm towards this place is showing since I have no more pictures to show!

Obviously my lack of enthusiasm towards this place is showing since I have no more pictures to show!

Then we explained to them that we wanted to see the volcano, and relax in some hot springs. They booked the volcano tour, and then told us they’d heard of problems with some of the other hot springs, and recommended we relax at Baldi Hot Springs.

Things didn’t quite go as planned…

Our Volcano tour ended up being a nature hike. We actually never even went into the park itesef. Then our trip to Baldi was definitely not the relaxing experience we were looking for. Althought Baldi was fun, it was more like Disneyland then a spa.Lots of kids, thumping music, that sort of thing. I found out later that Baldi is the only hot springs that offers commission for booking for them. That made a little more sense…and how we ended up on  a nature hike instead of a volcano tour, I have no idea.

Anyways, these experiences with the tours, combined with our introverted attitude, and the fact that we were bumming around the place for so long, really tainted out view on Arenal Hostel Resort.

La Fortuna is so touristy that there are TONS of options out there for accommodation. Take a look around and I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your fancy.

Have you ever found that your mindset has changed your perspective on a place? Or do you have any bad accommodation stories?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica

If waterfalls had personalities, La Fortuna would be an attention seeking drama queen.

It is easily accessible, and insanely dramatic.

For most visitors to La Fortuna, a trip to see the waterfall is a no brainer. It’s much closer to town then many of the other attractions, and with only a $10 entrance fee, it is one of the more affordable activities you can do in the town.

Heading to the falls

Heading to the falls

Shaun and I decided to venture out to the waterfall early in the morning. The waterfall can attract over 400 people a day, so we wanted to beat the rush.

Although the falls were only 5km away from our hostel, we decided to take the $7 cab ride. We were sure glad we did, as the entire ride to the falls was uphill. Not exactly a leisurely stroll for first thing in the morning.

Shaun the climber

Shaun the climber

We got to the park, paid our entrance fee, and started down the steep slope to the falls. You may have read, that I kind of really love waterfalls, so my excitement level was growing by the minute. We stopped for a couple of quick photo ops along the way, including one for my Brother, the rock climber. See Sean, Shaun rock climbs too!

Yes they have the same name… I like to keep things simple.

So powerful

So powerful

We finally made it to the falls, and it was everything I had hoped it would be.  I sometimes find that when I’m faced with these powerful wonders of nature I get a little wobbly. My knees felt weak as I was faced with the intensity of the water falling right in front of me. It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced before visiting this country.

We poked around for a bit, climbing rocks, and watching a few very brave souls jump in the water for a swim. No one that I saw got even close to the waterfall as the current would just push them away. Regardless, I was not remotely tempted to take a dip.

I told Shaun about a picture I’d seen of Beyonce at these falls. We decided that my own photoshoot was in order. So I climbed onto a rock, and Shaun started snapping away. Here are a couple of my fave shots.

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I feel so vain, but hey, it is not often you have your own personal paparazzi present.

After about an hour we started the climb up the stairs. Although we tend to think that we are pretty fit, we had to take a break at the half way point.I didn’t mind, it gave me one last chance to see the falls before leaving.

Once we got to the top, we decided to save our $7 dollars worth of cab money, and walk the 5km back to the hostel. Much easier going downhill then up!P1020384

If you are heading to the La Fortuna Waterfall here are a couple tips:

  • Go early, this place can get really busy!
  • Wear good shoes, there are lots of rocks to climb over near the bottom
  • Bring your suit if you feel brave, unlike many of the waterfalls we’ve visited, swimming is allowed here.
  • Embrace your inner tourist, and get those corny waterfall photos… we did!

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Another tour down, many more to go!

Have you ever seen something in nature that has had a big impact on you? Lets hear about it?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Rio Celeste, Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica Part 2

Now where were we…

The view from the mid way point of the stairs, lots more to go.

The view from the mid way point of the stairs, lots more to go.

There are five different things to see during the Rio Celeste hike: the waterfall, the lookout, the hot springs, the blue lagoon, and the river mouth.

When we left off, we had just arrived at the staircase down to the waterfall. The stairs are well maintained, but there are A LOT of them. Many guidebooks I’ve read suggest skipping the waterfall at first, and visiting it on your way back. The idea is that the will tire you out for the rest of your hike. I disagree. I was so tired by the end of the hike that I don’t think I would have fully appreciated the sight of these majestic falls at the end.

Killer boots man

Killer boots man

As I made my way down the steep slope, and caught my first glimpse of the water, I knew going on this tour had been the right choice. Never in my life had I seen water that blue. It didn’t even seem real. Jessica was kind enough to take a picture of me, and my wicked boots.

The famous tapir photo

The Blue Lagoon

After spending some time enjoying the falls, we made our way up the zillions of stairs, and back onto the trail. We had about 750m to go until the lookout. Jessica was right in encouraging me to rent the gumboots. I watched so many people trying to dodge the puddles and thick mud. It was so nice to be able to just trudge right through the muck, and not have to worry about getting dirty.

The next stop was the lookout. On some days you can see the volcano mountain range in the distance, but today it was too cloudy. It was however, a good vantage point to catch my first look at the wispy rain of the cloud forest dancing through the trees, a sight I would become all too familiar with in the days to come!

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The famous Tapir photo…to be clear, this is not my photo!

Another 250m down the trail, and we arrived at the Blue Lagoon. Jessica asked me if I’d ever seen the Blue Lagoon movie, because it was filmed here. I totally believed her until she started laughing. Silly tourist. I could hardly imagine Brooke Shields trudging through the mud every day to get to set.

While we were there Jessica told us a story about the infamous Blue Lagoon Tapir photo. A Tapir is an animal that sort of looks like a cross between a gray pig, and an ant eater. They live around Rio Celeste, but are fairly elusive. Seeing one on this tour would be like striking gold. I had noticed in the advertising for the tour that the photos of the blue lagoon have a Tapir front and centre. I assumed it was photoshopped, and was used to lure tourists into thinking they would see one.

Well apparently the photo IS real (see above) and was actually taken by one of the women who works at the soda we had lunch at. She was hiking the trail one day, got to the blue lagoon, and there was a Tapir, taking a dip.

Egg Salad anyone?

Egg Salad anyone?

Luckily she had her camera with her, because now this photograph is famous, and used all over Costa Rica!

Not far from the Blue Lagoon was the hot springs, a bubbling corner of the river that wafted the smell of sulpher into the air. I knew I was getting hungry as it made me want an egg salad sandwich really bad!

Although everything we’d seen was really neat, I thought the final stop was the coolest.

Wonder if Shaun thinks this is up to code?

Wonder if Shaun thinks this is up to code?

We crossed over a couple rickety bridges, and came to the river mouth. This is where two rivers converge, and the chemical reaction that creates the colour occurs.

Okay, so here is my attempt at a chemistry lesson, bare with me:

People used to believe that the colour is caused by a chemical reaction between Sulphur, which is emitted by the volcanic activity, and Calcium Carbonate. This is the information you will find all over the internet, but it is wrong. A study completed in September of last year found that the colour is actually an optical illusion.

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If you look at the photo, you’ll see two river intersecting, one straight, and the other off to the right. Take a look at the whitish hue that covers the rocks on the bottom of the river. This is a combination of Aluminun, Oxygen, and Silicon, and its suspended in the water. When the sun hits it, it creates the illusion of the celestial blue waters we see with our eyes. That’s why if you take the water out of the river, it looks clear.

Clear as the mud on my boot eh? You can read more about it here.

I much prefer the legend which believes that when God painted the sky, he used Rio Celeste to dip his paint brush into. A much lovelier sentiment if I do say so myself.

After taking it all in, we started the big hike back to the van. Although the trail is only 2.5km both ways, the terrain is challenging, and with the rain it made for a long haul. By the time we got back, washed the mud off us, and got in the van I was exhausted, and SO ready for lunch.

I did bring my camera to the restaurant, but was so hungry by the time it arrived I snorfed it up before remember to take a photo. It was salad with fish, and vegetables.  After lunch we got back into the van for the 2 hour drive back to La Fortuna. I’m pretty sure all the guests, including myself, napped the whole way.

If this is a hike you are interested in doing, here are a couple tips:

  • Wear long pants, and bring rain gear, regardless of the season there will be mud
  • Rent the boots, not having to deal with muddy shoes when you get back to your hotel makes it well worth it
  • Bring a snack, an apple of something small will help keep you stamina up during the long hike
  • Although bugs weren’t a huge problem, it’s probably good to have some bugspray handy just in case.
  • Get a good guide. Jessica was amazing, and I would highly suggest requesting her from Canoa Aventura.
  • Ask your tour company about the conditions of the river before booking your tour. You want to make sure it’s in its brilliant blue form.

wowza!!!

wowza!!!

So there you have it, my first big epic tour adventure. I’m so glad I went, as it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

5 Tips for Booking Tours in Costa Rica

Over the past week or so Shaun and I have been travelling in La Fortuna, and Monteverde, some of the busiest tourist towns in all of Costa Rica.

These areas have lots of sights to see, but all of the attractions are pretty spread out. When you add up transportation costs, park entrance fees, and guides, the cheapest way to see everything you want to see is by booking a tour.

We put on our tourist hats and dove into the world of tours, and tour companies. Throughout our week we went on some amazing tours, and went on some real stinkers.

Here are a couple tips we’ve picked up along the way to help make your tour experiences a level 10.

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5 Tips for Booking Tours in Costa Rica.

1- Shop Around: The amount of tour companies in tourist towns such as Monteverde, and La Fortuna can be very overwhelming. There are people calling out to you on every street corner trying to sell you a tour. Your own hotel will likely be trying to do the same thing.

In some towns we visit, we find that everyone offers the same tours, at the same prices, yet here in La Fortuna, we noticed big differences in many of the tours costs.  So before you commit, just take a look around. If you are on a budget, shop around to the various tour company’s, talk to them, and don’t be afraid to barter. Some companies are jacking up their prices, hoping that tourists will just commit without doing their research.

2-Don’t Sacrifice Safety For Price: Although finding a good deal is important, safety should always come first. It may be tempting to save some money by booking the cheap white-water rafting tour with the guy on the side of the road whose “buddy” has a boat, but don’t sacrifice your safety for a bargain. Adventures are called adventures for a reason, they often involve some risk. Make sure that your guides have the proper training, and insurance to keep you safe, and protected.

3-Do Your Homework: As much as we’d like to do all the tours, the costs can really add up. So, take the time to figure out what your priorities are. Read the guidebooks, check Trip Advisor, and ask around to find out what things you really want to see, and what you can pass on. I recently graciously passed on the opportunity to take a tour to some snake and bat exhibits. Such a sacrifice I know.

4-Make Sure The Tour is Right For You: Have you had both knees replaced? An intense four hour hike might not be for you. Have a crippling fear of water? White-water rafting might not be your bag. We all have limitations, and as much as we want to experience everything, sometimes we can’t. A reputable tour company will be honest about what a tour entails, and it is in your best interest to listen. I’m speaking from experience on this one, I recently took La Fortuna’s second most difficult hike with a four year old in the group. *sigh*

5- Invest in a Quality Experience: Imagine waiting your entire life to tour the Arenal Volcano, just to have your guide pick you up in an old dented van, and have him only speak a couple words of English. Or finally getting to see the Cloud Forst of Monteverde, only to have your guide read from a guidebook the whole time.

The best tours we’ve had have been from reputable, long tenured companies. You may not get the screaming deal you’ll find from the guy on the side of the road, but you are going to end up with a higher degree of safety, and quality and ultimately end up with a more memorable experience.

So there you have it, a couple tips on booking tours while in Costa Rica. I have so many great recaps coming your way about all the adventures we’ve had over the last week or so. Stay Tuned!

Do you have any tips for booking tours?

Pura Vida!

Kate