“Panza llena corazon contenta”

Translation: Stomach full, heart happy. 


Hello and welcome to the first post of my “Peek Inside My Journal” blog series! These posts will be selected parts of my journal during my trips galavanting around the world. I was last in Costa Rica in 2016, and thus – never created a blog post during my time. Heck – I wasn’t even a blogger nor photographer back then (which is why my IPhone photos look like these)! But I didn’t want to not share my past adventures, just because I didn’t own a nice camera or have a special blog on the internet. So. Here’s a little glimpse into my personal adventures around the globe and my recommended spots to visit: La Fortuna, Costa Rica edition.

La Fortuna

Alex and I are sitting side-by-side on a cramped truck with nine other backpackers. We’re starting our morning with a 4-5 hour drive by truck, an hour-long boat across Lake Arenal and then a bus to our Airbnb in Monteverde – home to the misty rainforests. Our stay in La Fortuna truly felt like paradise, complete with a beautiful stay at the Ti-fakara lodge where they included drinks upon arrival and a delicious complimentary breakfast every morning (“huevos” eggs, pinto gallos (rice + beans), and sweet plantains! I’m in love with the comforting food of Costa Rica. Every morning we sit in the tropical open-air lobby of the lodge, oftentimes with friends: a lizard and Lola/Romeo the parrots. The “tikos” or locals of Costa Rica are so friendly, warm and kind. They wave from their front porches as we pass, local drivers picking up friends and neighbors along their route – you can tell everyone loves their home.

Cerro Chato Volcano

Three hours climbing up steep cliffs and jungle trails later, we had made it to the top of Cerro Chato volcano. Climbing up tree roots and branches and muddle puddles, I was head-to-toe in mud by the time we arrived to the top. Alex nudged me to continue down a steep cliff to reach the crater and misty lagoon inside. Pushing my fears of the vertical drop aside was worth the view of the lake with the heavy fog rolling in. But luckily, the hike down was fast as we jumped down rocks, roots and used a few bamboo sticks to run down. We raced each other down grassy hills to reach the bottom, laughing and spotting colorful flowers and horses along the way before splurging on some “casado” – Costa Rican’s second most famous dish (least expensive and best prepared!) consisting of beans, cabbage salad, tortillas and sweet-fried plantains.

La Fortuna Waterfall

After paying a fee, trekking across a bridge in the jungle and climbing down a bajillion stairs, we came across the most glorious waterfall I’ve ever seen in my life. Being one of the most dramatic waterfalls in Costa Rica, it measures 230 feet and a requires a 20 minute hike down a 1,969 foot steep trail. We also discovered two observation platforms and a short trail leading to a series of small, calmer pools located downstream of the waterfall. We tore off our clothes and jumped in the powerful (and I mean, powerful) falls with the other tourists.

Eco-Termales Hot Lava Spring

With our muscles aching and a long day of hiking behind us, we opted for a relaxing evening in the hot lava springs. Costa Rica is famous for their natural springs, and we wanted to get our fix at the fancy, natural and sustainable Eco-Termales. (And I can’t recommend them enough!) We were given fluffy towels and wristbands and sipped on Pina Coladas and Caprinhas (for $6!) in the warm pools. We kissed under waterfalls like were teenagers and splurged on a dinner buffet after swimming.

Canyoning with Pure Trek

On Day 2 of our adventure in La Fortuna adventure, we started off the morning with a trip to Pure Trek headquarters! Canyoning tiiiime! With hard helmets, secured harnesses, and gloves, we began the hike down a green sloped mountain with twenty other adventurers. I was very scared during the first repel, repelling down a sharp and rocky 160 foot mountain past a 49 meter waterfall. Our descent was led down El Cacao Canyon and involved climbing and repelling down a rugged water-filled canyon using ropers and climbing equipment. Our favorite being the thrilling “monkey drop” zipline. After our morning canyoning, Pure Trek fed us lunch (casado) and we boarded a bus back to our beloved lodge at Ti-fakara. After resting for an hour, we began the next adventure….

Local Ti-fakara UTV Tour

Along the side roads during the UTV tour

Frank, our newest friend who manages the lodge at Ti-fakara, invited us to try his newest creation: a local UTV tour! We spent three hours speeding down secluded and hidden Costa Rican paths, down rugged mountains and rural areas of La Fortuna. Alex and I equally shared driving the car around (duh.) – I speeding down roads and bridges and Alex cautiously taking his time. We drove to River Choyin where we went tubing in the pouring cold rain one-by-one, jumping off mountains and swimming in the river. Next on the itinerary we visited a breathtaking volcanic overlook and ate packed lunches (which they provided!) and drank watermelon drinks in plastic bags at Rio Arenal. We visited the indegious Malecu tribal village, studying their hand-made crafts shop in the middle of the jungle at Malecu Villa. We also loved stopped at Arenal River – a local, natural hot springs hidden in the jungle that’s right off the main road – and relaxed in the clear, steaming spring water with the other locals. The final, but most favorite, adrenaline-filled adventure on the tour was driving in the pouring rain on a motorcross track at Montana del Fuego with the UTVs. Ponchos on, with Alex’s foot on the gas, we drove down muddle hills in the cold rain, laughing so hard, our stomachs became ripped. (Picture provided below)

La Fortuna Must-Dos: Hike Cerro Chato volcano, La Fortuna waterfall, Mistico hanging bridges (which we didn’t do and I so regret it!), relax at the Eco-Termales Lava Springs

Costa Rica Tips

  • If you’re flying in through San Jose, be sure to befriend some local backpackers in the long wait through customs and split on a private van to get to your lodging. Transportation is infrequent and a private vehicle is the fastest, although most expensive, way to get to where you’re going.
  • Costa Rica may look geographically close on a map, but always plan on distances to be much greater than they appear. Luckily, Tikos drive fast. 😉
  •  Be sure to try Salsa Lizano – a sweet, tangy go-to condiment in Costa Rica. The Tikos put it on everything.
  • For a local Tiko experience, stop at Heidos Cafeteria in Alajuelo on your way from the airport. It’s home to the most traditional and authentic food that the Tikos here in town eat.
  • Ti-fakara was my favorite place to stay in Costa Rica, and I really recommend taking Franks, UTV tour of the Arenal area!
  • If you love an experience (tour, lodging, restaurant, hot springs), the Tikos really appreciate when you give them a review and rating on Trip Advisor! Take a second to leave them a positive review, as it helps keeps their business up and running!
  • if you’re a chocolate-lover like I am, be sure to buy some Costa Rican Nahua chocolate bars at the local shops! They have ’em everywhere.

A few IPhone images from my Costa Rica Photo Diaries…

La Fortuna waterfall

Travel Guide to La Fortuna, Costa Rica

March 10, 2018


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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical moments through my lens and my pen. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I'm inspired to share the light around me. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.