Onto our second day in La Fortuna..
This day we woke up later than normal, at 8:30AM, to a super cloudy day. As soon as we hit up breakfast at the Tres Cascadas the sun started to shine. We hung out at breakfast a long while, just soaking in all the beautiful surroundings. As we were joking around together, we decided that this was the perfect day to take advantage of the grounds of the resort then take an adventure in our car to find a chocolate farm we had researched before hand. We contacted the farm to make a reservation for 3PM. All was set.
The resort had the most awe-inspiring descending landscaping of pools along this mountain. The grounds were lush, the landscaping tranquil and the waterfalls a delight. The surroundings were meticulous in design, to say the least, keeping the natural feel of the rainforest. The part that was spectacular were the pools, they are fed directly from the thermal river of the Arenal Volcano, so they are naturally hot and mineralized. To keep integrity of the water, each night at closing the pools are drained, scrubbed, then refilled for 6AM, and they only offer one pool (the swim up bar one) chlorinated. The pools are situated in connecting trails, as I mentioned before, and they spill into one another to create varying degrees of waters. I just thought it was the coolest thing to notice, how they designed the pools to naturally be used and mixed with other waters to create these different temp pools. Functional beauty.
We spent most of our day swimming; watching the kids going up and down on the slide, trying out different stunts along with my husband. My husband might have loved it more than they did..ahem. But once we decided to relax together, which we did a lot this part of the trip, we spent time in the hot pools of the Perdido Springs area. This was the perfect spot because we could still watch the kids as we swam, cuddled and relaxed in the 99F waters. Utter paradise. But after about two hours of relaxing, we started to experience rain. Rain, hah..it was a deluge! We started feeling a light drizzle, that stopped. Then we felt a light rain, that stopped. Then we felt large drops of rain, that didn’t stop, but turned into a huge rainstorm! The girls ran up to us in the pools, then we took some shelter in the tiki bar, but that didn’t last long.. duh we were swimming! haha We all got into the hot pool and then the rain stopped just as fast as it started. Super cool.
Side note .. The warmth and minerals of the pools are not only therapeutic and relaxing, but to me, they had such a beautiful scent, too. My husband smelled it too, but I don’t know if this is a thing. The scent of the waters were dreamy; like a clean cologne. It made me so happy swimming around smelling so good. I am smiling just thinking about the scent..gah I miss this place!! 😦
Ok, so back to the trip!
Then we dragged ourselves out of the pools to get ready for the afternoon. I wasn’t really sure what we had in store so I made sure everyone dressed as comfortable as possible.. sneakers, shorts, and bring a rain poncho in case! The farm was located about 25 minutes away from our resort, not a bad drive at all since most everything is one straight shot through the center of La Fortuna. We found the residential area to be totally different from the downtown area. Lots of dirt roads, houses congregated together in a pod like formation with roads surrounding them. We found the chocolate farm, Don Olivo Chocolate Farm.
I LOVED IT!
This was a family farm, not a commercialized place. Super rustic with the drive way flanked with colorful carved trees and a quaint flat yellow house centrally located. This place was full of fruiting trees and wildlife.
Quickly we were greeted by the abuelo of the family. He greeted us so enthusiastically, telling us his son would be right with us. Super cute older man. We got to looking around a few minutes, and met the family German shepherds. The grounds reminded me of a version of campagna (the countryside) in Sicily, not the look but the vibe. Almost everyone in Sicily owns a family farm, a second countryside home. Some small. Some large. They grow so many things on their farms for their day to day lives, and they use the farms during vacations, holiday weekends, and some like to live there all Summer long to get out of the city.
The farm owner came out to greet us, all smiles, beaming in English. Very sweet guy. As he is talking to us about his farm, cutting down fruits from the trees to have us eat them ripe, another family shows up, unexpectedly, to take a tour, too! So we went on to the tour together. The farmer takes us on a tour of his fruiting trees, and like I said, he was literally talking and cutting stuff down for us to try them. Then a minute later, his father would come over with a machete slicing more fruit for us. It was awesome. We got to try star fruit, papaya, soursop, mango, green coconut water, peppercorns, spearmint, and so much more I can’t think straight. After we toured the front part of the grounds, he took us to his house’s porch to talk about sugar cane. He showed us how you take the stalk, beat it to loosen the fibers, then squeeze it to extract the juice. We tried it over ice, and it was yummy. Then because my husband loves rum, the conversation of rum came up and the father went into his private stash to let us adults take a shot of rum.
WOAH. I mixed mine with the sugar cane juice cause it was potent. haha
From here, the group was guided to the cocoa tree grove. A grove with a thousand trees! We learned so much about the history of the cocoa trees, amazing and ugly cocoa! hah We were then taken along the stages of the cocoa pods to cocoa beans to chocolate. As we were walking the rain came, but it wasn’t a big deal. It lasted a few minutes then the sun came out. Didn’t stop us from seeing all the trees full of cocoa pods. The pods grow in a few colors, brown, purple and yellow, but the pods inside are the same. The farmer grabbed one right off the tree, a yellow one, and smashed it open. We were allowed to try a piece of the interior fruit, which were white gelatinous blobs (to me, tasted floral and bland), these were raw cocoa beans. The cool part was the bite of one showed this vibrant purple color inside. The farmer then walked us over to his backyard covered patio, it was the coolest spot, where he showed us the process going forward
After the pods were opened, the beans are taken out and fermented for 5 days in a barrel. From this fermentation the pods turn brown, and they smell horrible! haha Then they need to be dried out in the sun/dry place for 15-20 days. He had a greenhouse full of drying beans we got to walk into, touch them and smell them. The beans are then husked by hand here. He had a large wooden mortar and pestle he uses to bang up the skins, then the breezes of the area naturally whisks the husks away. Then there is only the bean left, which is then ground by hand, which we all had a crack at doing. Then this ground cocoa is at the stage to be made into chocolate however you like!
It was so fun!!
The farmer had set up two large farm tables for us to enjoy some chocolate inside the patio. There were mugs, spoons, homemade sugar in the raw and cookies. His father cooked up hot cocoa for everyone with the grounds we all participated in grinding, and let us sample fresh 90% dark cocoa chocolates he made. YUM! The hot cocoa was delicious. Soooo rich and good! I could only take a few sips. Then afterwards his daughter came out with his wife, and we got to hang out together, talk and get to know what the culture of Costa Rica was really like. I LOVE TALKING TO LOCAL PEOPLE! The farmer’s daughter was so sweet. My gosh. She wouldn’t leave me alone, it was so cute. She pulled up her bunny chair next to me, talking and talking and talking. We exchanged a lot of Spanish together, and her mom. She was almost 3, but her personality was beyond her years. What a funny kid. She was so upset I had to leave. Good people there. So glad we went.
Then after we left there, we traveled to go eat in the center of La Fortuna at a chicken rotisserie place we researched, Pollo Fortuneno. We were happy to see it was right smack dab in the middle of the town as we drove in. We parked the car, went a little souvenir shopping, then made a bee line right to eat. The restaurant didn’t have a lot of tables, about 10 in total. We grabbed one of the large, grass thatched tables out front, and so glad for that luck! Because in minutes the place was chock full and a line started to form… I overheard one woman say that there was over an hour wait!!
AND THEN THE HEAVENS OPENED UP, ANOTHER DELUGE!! HOLY MOTHER OF WATER! Then again, as soon as it started it was over!
Thank goodness for the umbrella over the table!
The restaurant was a lot of fun. It is situated on a corner, with their large stacked rotisserie facing the street on a platform for show. It was the coolest thing to watch, all engulfed in flames, mesmerizing. The staff going up there to grab chickens was like some show. We ordered a few fun items, like chalupas, patacones, rosemary oil papas fritas, rotisserie chicken and pork ribs….can we say DeLiCiOuS!?! We had such a great time dining there. The wait for food was long, but that isn’t a complaint, more of a FYI. I personally love hanging out for a long time, no rush here! Bonus, we were allowed to bring our own beer and sangria, which was great. We left there happy and full.
Another great day spent in paradise. 🙂
Next up…our last full day in La Fortuna!
Our first day in La Fortuna…
We woke up early; OK, I woke up crazy early at 5:50AM!, the rest woke up at 8AM, and we went to our first breakfast on the resort. The restaurant where they served breakfast, the Tres Cascadas, was on the third floor, all open and partially outdoors. This first morning we ate at a table situated at the edge of the balcony, overlooking vegetation and facing that glorious volcano. She was breathtakingly beautiful. The funny thing is this area reminded me of San Francisco, weather wise only. You wake up in a dense cloud cover, then after the morning comes to surface it dissolves, and you are left with sunshine and vast views all over. I liked it a lot.
The weather in this region is so iffy at times that no one ever tells you what the weather for the day will hold.. no one. We’d always get the same answer, “Today will be a great day after some cloudiness and a small shower, maybe we will have sun but we can’t say for sure.” haha EVERY DAY!?! That was part of the fun…chancing it. We got real lucky throughout our stay, because it was still the dry season, so the rain wasn’t an all day thing. Especially not this day!
Before arriving to Costa Rica we had drafted out ideas on what to do when, never concrete plans in case of weather but concrete enough that we knew we were doing them at some point. In this region, we knew we wanted to go to the rainforest, hike and see some agriculture. So..During breakfast we decided this was the day for us to go to the Sky Adventure Arenal park for some hiking and zip lining. We were guaranteed that the sun would shine by one local, so we took their word for it and made reservations. This place was the coolest, most impressive. You drive through the craziest dirt road, and pull up to a parking lot facing this huge natural park. They have an outdoor desk to check in, and signage around to guide you after you are given the quickest instructions of your life. hahah It only seems quick because adrenaline, I swear it because after this point everyone you deal with is super funny, cool and explains it all to you in detail.
This adventure park offers a lot of tours…
Sky Tram= ride the tram up to the 4100FT high platform then back down
Sky Trek= 2H zip lining (6 lines, some as long as 2400FT and 656FT high above the tree tops!)
Sky Walk=hiking and hanging bridges (guided or on your own)
Sky Bike= trail biking along Lake Arenal
Sky River= a combo of zipping and river rafting
Sky Wild Biking= cross country and downhill through the rainforest on bikes
Sky Limit= 10 activities weaved together for the adrenal junky!
And a herpetarium gallery.
We chose the Sky Tram, Sky Trek and Sky Walk (unguided).
The Sky Walk is a hike through the rainforest going over hanging cable bridges. Very natural and still a great adventure! We decided to go for this long hike because the zip reservations were at 3PM, but if we made it back by 2PM they would take us early as their last zips of the day are at 3PM and they had space at 2PM if we wanted. They gave us a trail map, pointed in a direction and off we went. This was the first type of hike like this I have ever been on. Actually, hiking is real new to me, about five years ago I went on my first one in the local conservation circuit in my town…which I loved and now I always suggest a hike if we go somewhere. This might be hard to trump after this trip!!
The trail was about 2.2Miles long, through lush vegetation and wild life… lots of turns and stairs and elevation changes, but not terribly challenging that you would want to miss it. There was plenty of room to move, rest and the views were beyond expectations. We walked over 5 hanging bridges, 3 of them were short, but the 2 long ones were anxiety inducing. haha I wasn’t sure what to expect here because all the videos and photos look like the bridges were solid flat, butttttt they teetered, and moved quite a lot, and that sort of flipped me out at first. My family was strolling across stopping, videoing everything, looking at everything on the first one, but I was opposite. I had to zoom across then walk back. Seriously, it took me a walk across freaking out to help me go back to look at the views I missed…ahaha Sounds crazy, but I wasn’t the only one freaked out (I saw other people not moving on after that first bridge!). Plus, we are talking HIGH UP IN THE CANOPY on a swinging plastic bridge!! I was proud of myself for doing what I did because then on the walk back through I had NO ISSUE with these bridges and stopped for pictures, soaking in views. I was the one at the end saying wait up cause I was enjoying the sights so much!!
Midway, we happened upon two waterfalls and look out points of Lake Arenal. Just gorgeous. They did have a bathroom and potable water running at one stop a mile in, which was real cute and rustic. The water ended up being so much nicer than the bottled water we brought, that we dumped it and filled our bottles up. Costa Rica has very clean water. We enjoyed every moment on that hike, and the weather this day ended up being perfect for our hike…sunny, breezy and clear! The time flew, but we made it back to the check in point right at 2PM. Seriously great timing!!
After our hike, we checked in and they were able to take us for their 2PM zip lining session. Woohoo! (well, woo not for me.)
To head up to the zip lines, you have to take that Sky Tram, which is pretty self-explanatory. It is a cabled tram ride that goes up to a large deck at the top of a mountain side, the same deck the zip lines go off from. It was a sweet slow ride up to 4100FT to the platforms. Wow, the views of the volcano and lake from the platforms looked painted, so impressive, and beautiful. They let us all hang out up here for about 15 minutes or so, taking pictures, drinking water and enjoying some time before our families plummeted to their death … JUST KIDDING!!
The Sky Trek is the zip lining that my husband and oldest daughter did together. I have to tell you that I had planned to go, but around December we started researching zip line companies and well, I freaked out when I saw how high this was above the tree tops. My knees went weak, I think I blacked out, and my soul just said THIS IS NOT HAPPENING LADY! haha But also, my youngest had no desire to do it so I wasn’t forced into doing it and stayed with her while my husband and daughter went along. We got to be a part of so much of their experience though, the ride up, watching them practice, and being able to view that first (and longest!) cable run into the rainforest abyss.
So I watched my 11yr old daughter, outweighed by all the gear and helmet, get tethered to a zip line, then taken on a sky flying trip of her lifetime. She went on that first run with a guide, and she told me later a few of the runs together too because she wasn’t heavy enough by herself. I had such crazy emotions watching all this…like “should I stop her?” mixed in with “wow she is the coolest kid”. I am really proud of her fearlessness, absolutely makes me feel real good inside that she isn’t anything like me. She has always been this way… and seeing her being so fearless makes me feel like I am doing a good job as her Mom. It always makes me think of when she “learned to walk” right around her first birthday. She was standing for some time by this point, holding and walking carefully everywhere..always wanted to be put down to stand and move. But the funny thing is when her and I were together as she took that leap of faith from holding my hands, needing me to feel secure, to letting go to take her first real step, she let go and you could tell she said to herself “screw walking, I am running!”. I KID YOU NOT. She went right into a trot, tumbling, laughing her bum off. Then she would scream motioning to me to do it again, “Ava I do!”. Her tagline for everything since she started talking! haha What a joy! She could see that running was more fun, even if she would fall more, running was exhilarating. Around age 3 she honed that energy, but she hasn’t stopped running.
..and I would never stop her. 🙂
Ok, so back to the trip. SOrry I keep veering off track. haha
While they took off on their lines, I got real emotional and nervous cause that was it, I couldn’t stop this, and I wouldn’t see them for an hour. My husband was with her, but I couldn’t help being nervous for my baby. The adventure team told us that they would be back to the main building within an hour. They took us on a sweet ride back down by tram, my youngest daughter and I decided to make it our journey, so we enjoyed the views of the grounds together as she comforted me about her sister. So sweet.
We got to the main area, went to the souvenir shop for a minute then headed to the cafe for some mom and daughter bonding. We decided to get fun drinks, wait for them there because it was a perfect spot to hang out. The cafe was all decked out with high top seating, which every kid loves right?, and it had giant windows of the views all around..one side the view was of the rainforest canopy, the adjacent side was of the volcano, then the side next to that was a half glass wall of the last zip line to the building. My daughter and I were not even in that cafe thirty minutes, enjoying a sangria and ginger-ale, when we recognize someone from the zip tour coming down that line! We shoot out of our chairs to look where it is headed and we see my husband on the platform! Once we shouted to him, we were about 100 feet away, we turn to the line from the half window just in time to see my daughter coming down on her own! SHE WAS ALONE!!
They got to us as fast as they could, like ten minutes, and were all hyped up telling us about their experiences. God it sounded amazing, but I was just so glad they were back, whole in their bodies. haha We made a decision to eat dinner at the cafe. Guess my husband read that it was a great local spot..and he was right. We enjoyed a fun meal, talking all about our day. We left there at dusk to change into swimsuits to enjoy the thermal pools at the resort. On the way home we saw some fun wildlife in the streets AND a public thermal river where tons of people were swimming! What a paradise!
We spent the night swimming, enjoying the slide and bars of the resort. It was the perfect end to a fun family adventure!
Up next is the chocolate farm tour!