The Best of La Fortuna: Volcanoes, Thermal Baths and Wildlife Galore

Tropical, lush, and teeming with wildlife – Costa Rica is one of my most favorite places in the world. Brad and I recently returned from two weeks in Costa Rica – one week in La Fortuna and one in the Osa Peninsula and it was a perfect tropical getaway.

La Fortuna is a small town northwest of the capital, San Jose. Located in the valley of the volcano Arenal and surrounded by jungle, filled with tropical birds and sloths lounging languidly in the trees, La Fortuna is like a jungle fairytale come to life.

Cabin, Rancho Cerro Azul
Our beautiful jungle cabin

Where to stay: Rancho Cerro Del Azul. This place was wonderful, a total jungle paradise. The property backs up into the jungle and has tons of wildlife. We loved walking the private hiking trail to the La Fortuna river and looking for monkeys. Great deck and hammock. Beautiful high ceiling wooden cabin. Great breakfast in open air cafe overlooking the jungle. Great coffee, good pancakes, loved the jungle sounds. Very pretty bar and lovely, friendly staff.

Jungle Cabin

How To Spend Your Days in La Fortuna: 

Wake up early to make the most of your days in La Fortuna and watch the jungle come alive! In the early morning and again at twilight, the jungle around Rancho Cerro Azul bursts into life – bright green parrots soar through the skies, toucans pause in trees outside your deck singing their high pitched songs, and howler monkeys shriek their presence with their deep throaty calls. Sometimes we jetted off into the jungle, binoculars in hand to find the howler monkeys. 

Head to an early breakfast for great coffee and more wildlife viewing. We had breakfast most mornings at our hotel’s restaurant Ginger, overlooking the jungle. The pancakes, fresh fruit and strong, rich, coffee were my favorite. It was a beautiful start to the day. Breakfast was not included, but was budget friendly.

Jungle Flower, Ginger Restaurant
Jungle flower table setting at breakfast

Because the afternoons can get very warm in La Fortuna, we either did our activities early in the morning, or later in the day. We spent entire afternoons lounging in our hammock, sipping wine and sparkling water, spotting toucans and parrots and a host of other brightly colored tropical birds flit from tree to tree.

Brie Hammock La Fortuna
Wake up, get breakfast, hop in the hammock!

The jungles of Costa Rica are so saturated with color it’s like looking through a filter at a rich technicolor world. Plants and flowers are vibrant greens and reds and neon pinks.  Bright yellow and turquoise butterflies flutter through the foliage and parrots soar across azure sky in pairs, landing on the tip top of trees and canoodling. Seriously, parrots cuddle. It’s wonderful. In the evening, on the way back to our cabin after dinner, the air was filled with a rich, fragrant scent from blooming flowers.

Jungle Cabin and Horse, La Fortuna
View from our deck

Visit the hot springs:  There are dozens of hot springs to try in La Fortuna, dotting the foot of the volcano. Our favorites are Ecotermales, Tabacon and Paradise.

Waterfall Ecotermales La Fortuna
Beautiful Ecotermales

Ecotermales: a magical, jungle paradise. I often find myself dreaming about this place. Picture: lush pools of increasingly warm temps, glittering waterfalls, stone lounge chairs submerged in the steaming pools and fresh fruit cocktails, all set in an idyllic, jungle oasis. It is the most magical at nighttime, as the jungle sounds come alive, and steam from the natural springs wafts into the night sky.

Eco Termales Brie

Rio Cholin: Free natural jungle hot springs. This gem was Brad’s favorite. Just past Tabacon, pay the parking guard two bucks and walk down the road to a series of natural hot springs in the jungle. Take a moment to breathe in the lush surroundings and pretend that you are in a scene from the Swiss Family Robinson! While luxuriating in the waters, we even spotted a massive green iguana enjoying the water himself! Tip: Head to the springs early in the morning to have them all to your yourself.

Brie and Brad Rio Cholin
Natural Hot Springs

Returning from the springs, we ran into this beautiful girl!

Pizote!
Hello gorgeous!

This is a pizote, a relative to the raccoon. Pizotes are playful, a little mischievous and completely lovable! We have been in love with them for years, after spotting the resident pizote “Pancho,” at Lomas Del Volcan on our first stay in La Fortuna.

Tabacon: Gorgeous, sprawling, lush hot springs. This place is a splurge, but glorious.

Paradise: This beautiful hot springs is relatively budget friendly and quiet.

Tips: Always keep an eye out for wildlife. If you see a tour bus pull over and follow them! We got the best pictures of a beautiful sloth with her baby. Visited her four more times during the trip!

Sloth, La Fortuna

Lomas Del Volcan: The first time we visited La Fortuna, we stayed here at this hotel and thought that it was the most beautiful jungle setting that we had ever seen. Now – it is still lovely, but the owners built a restaurant so the unimpeded view of the volcano from the cafe is blocked.

Volcano views at Lomas Del Volcan
Volcano views at Lomas Del Volcan
Pool Lomas Del Volcan
Views from the Lomas Del Volcan pool

Where to Eat: Our favorite place was Tiquicia, a lovely open air restaurant with fresh Costa Rican food, about two minutes from Rancho Cerro Azul. Great cocktails, great mojitos, situated right next to a river. Very friendly, welcoming service. We loved the shrimp ceviche, and the arroz con pollo. We spent several leisurely evenings savoring our meals, sipping our cocktails and listening to the sounds of the jungle. We also liked Chipolte Tex Mex in town for great quesadillas and margaritas for less than 6 bucks. Ginger or Yellow Bark in town was good for laid back breakfasts of french toast and omelets though our favorite breakfasts were at our hotel – the view could not be beat.

Other things to do in La Fortuna:

Volcano Hike – we went on this and the view is nice, butI would advise to skip it. You can see better views of the volcano and more wildlife at other places.

Zip lining and ATVing – fun! went on our previous trip. Ziplining through the rainforest was my favorite.

Final Word: Go to La Fortuna for the gorgeous jungle hot springs, volcano views, amazing wildlife and to completely and totally disconnect, relax and rejuvenate in a jungle paradise. Laying in my hammock, listening to the howler monkeys, watching tropical birds and kaleidoscopic butterflies flit between the trees and flowers is a memory I will visit often in my dreams. At one point we lounged on our deck during a tropical rainstorm. I hope that you have a chance to visit as well!

More Costa Rica Pics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Week in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula: A Tropical Jungle Paradise

Known for its exquisite wildlife, lush jungles and secluded beaches, the remote Osa Peninsula has long been calling my name. It’s quite amazing to visit a place that is still relatively untouched, and it made my nature loving, adventure craving heart sing. I cannot recommend it enough.

After our time in Drakes Bay, we headed to the southern pacific coast of the Osa Peninsula, to a Lodge in Puerto Jiminez on the Golfo Dulce. And guys, it was take your breath away incredible. We glimpsed our first view of the beach through the palm trees and laughed with delight.

Iguana Lodge - Veranda
Iguana Lodge, That Veranda 😀

Where to Stay: Iguana Lodge. Set in the heart of the jungle, this eco lodge was wonderful. We loved every second. Amazing wildlife, gorgeous jungle pool and restaurant, delish fresh food, beautiful open air bungalow, thoughtful, eclectic touches everywhere.

This is the type of vacation where the balmy days melt into one another in a haze of sun glittering on sea, squawks of macaws, palm trees swaying, and fresh fruit drinks. There is no need to plan an activity, but rather breathe in your surroundings, enjoy the exquisite wildlife, laze in the hammocks, fully disconnect from real life and enjoy the wildness of the jungle.

How To Spend Your Days in the Osa Peninsula: 

The Osa Pensinsula in March is balmy, borderline sweltering. Wake up EARLY each day for sunrise and to spot macaws soaring overhead in pairs. Take a swim if you dare (those waves are big), or gently sway in the brightly colored hammocks with a book and perfect view. Listen to the thundering sound of the howler monkeys call and take off trying to find which tree they are playing in.

Sunrise Osa Peninsula
Sunrise Osa Peninsula Styles
Hammock time! Iguana Lodge, Puerto Jiminez
Hammock, ocean, books = happy girl

Head to breakfast in the jungle – homemade baked goods and made to order specials are included with your stay at the Iguana Lodge. Try the cinnamon buns, banana muffins and mango scones lightly dusted with glistening crystallized sugar. (These were my absolute favorite). Sample the fresh pineapple and mango, all grown on property, or the made-to-order veggie omelettes.

Pet Cece, the resident massive Irish wolfhound as he pads around the resort on silent feet and rests his massive noggin in your lap, golden eyes staring into your soul.

Brad & CeCe - Iguana Lodge
Brad and CeCe – instant friends

Return to the beach to sway in the hammocks, listen to the waves and read more of your book before the weather gets really warm. Listen for the tell tale squeak of parrots or SQUAWK of the macaws.

Hammock time, Osa Peninsula
Pretty perfect tropical vibes

Take a dip in the sea salt pool, and breathe in the cacophonous jungle sounds. We spent languorous afternoons by the pool, reading books and watching howler monkeys play in the trees.

Pool Iguana Lodge
Spent a lot of time lounging around this baby

Head to the the gorgeous, airy, onsite restaurant for fresh seafood and pineapple/mango daiquiris. We just drank them constantly. The view from the restaurant was so staggeringly gorgeous, we spent quite a bit of time enjoying the balmy breeze off the sea, sipping daiquiris and basking in the view. Grab a shrimp salad or avo/orange/hearts of palm salad. Head back to your cabina for books and/or a nap. The afternoon heat this time of year gets so sweltering you will either want to be in the pool, or taking a nap. Probably both.

Mango daquiri - Iguana Lodge

VIews from the Iguana Lodge
View from the restaurant

The lodge upgraded us to an open air bungalow and we were so thrilled we took full advantage of it! Sit on your deck and listen as the jungle sounds come alive at twilight, like a siren’s call captivating you to drop everything and listen. Macaws squawk in the distance, howler monkeys make their presence known, and on our last evening a troupe of squirrel monkeys stopped by to say hello!

Jungle Casita Iguana Lodge
Our bungalow!
Hammock Jungle Casita Iguana Lodge
You know I’m a sucker for a hammock and deck!
Our Deck, Iguana Lodge
Jungle view and the Nevernight Trilogy ❤

Head to the Beach BBQ Sunset Dinner: Yes this was just as magical as is sounds. We arrived promptly at the beach at 5pm, and chose our candle lit table. We watched pelicans surf the waves. We feasted on pineapple carrot slaw (yesss), sweet potato pepper salad, greens with avo, plums, carmelized onions and candied walnuts. The lodge also served pulled pork and cornbread.  As the sky turned from cerulean to violet to pink to yellow, we sipped our Argentinian Sav Blanc, and toasted the Osa Peninsula.

Beach BBQ - Iguana Lodge
Beautiful beach BBQ + veggie heaven sides

Iguana Lodge Beach

Iguana Lodge Bonfire
Bonfire during dinner

Stroll out to the beach and watch the sky fill with stars while an orange moon rises.  Yep, I said orange moon. Brad & I love a good star gazing, and the only place I have ever seen stars this amazing was at Young Lakes, Yosemite on a backpacking trip.

Orange Moon Osa Peninsula

Other amazing dinners: Mahi mahi in garlic butter, served with pineapple carrot slaw, fries and a Chilean Sav Blanc. I’m always interested to find out from where different countries import their wines. Costa Rica offered quite a few Argentinean and Chilean wines.

Dinner, Iguana Lodge

IF YOU GO…

GETTING THERE: We took a 4X4 cab arranged by our hotel from Drake’s Bay to Puerto Jiminez. Most of the road was unpaved and intensely bumpy.  For the return trip we took a  prop plane to the San Jose Airport that was, let’s just say not for the faint of heart. Thank GOD for my Scopolamine patch. One very cool scene – as we while waiting for our plane we saw about twenty Scarlett Macaws exploding out of the surrounding jungle, squawking and flying overhead. It was absolutely amazing. I like to think they were saying goodbye. It happened so quickly we did not get a video, but I will remember it forever.

GETTING AROUND: The Iguana lodge is so remote that we spent all of our time exploring the beach and surrounding jungle.  It was fab. You can take a taxi to town for $15 each way, if you would like. You can also take a tour to Matapalo which is meant to have fabulous wildlife.

Other Pictures from Osa:

Final thoughts: The Osa Peninsula is a wondrous, gorgeous, awe inspiring place. I cannot recommend it enough. It’s quite amazing to visit a place that is still relatively untouched, and it made my nature loving, adventure craving heart sing.  The Iguana lodge was a special place with it’s almost deserted beach, wildlife, jungle casitas and unique touches, I know that we will visit again again and again. Next up on the blog – One Week in La Fortuna, Costa Rica – Volanoes, hot springs and wildlife galore!

 

One Week in Drakes Bay: Costa Rica’s Jungle Paradise

I don’t know how you all are spending your Shelter In Place, but I’ve been spending a lot of it dreaming about our very recent trip to Costa Rica, and it’s been helping, a lot. I hope that this can provide a bit of escapist, jungle, fantasy for you as well.

This place, oh this wondrous place.

The remote Osa Peninsula, located on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica is the tropical jungle paradise of my dreams.

Cabinas Drake Bay
Beach Cabinas at Osa ❤

During the first half of our trip, we based ourselves in Drakes Bay, a wild and remote bay on the northern Osa Peninsula. This place was absolutely spectacular. Think: secluded beaches straight out of Jurassic Park, jungle rivers, resplendent red, blue and yellow scarlet macaws swooping out of the jungle and toucans singing in the trees outside our deck. Due to it’s secluded location, Drake’s Bay remains for the most party largely untouched, and it felt like we were exploring our very own deserted island.

Palm Trees & Surf Drake Bay

Highlights:

Take in the sprawling, sparkling, views:  Rent a Superior View Room and just take in the view from the bed! Enjoy the glittering azure waters and balmy breezes from your deck. We saw Macaws fly past as we were lounging.

View from our deck, Osa De Jinetas, Drake's Bay
View from our deck – insert angels singing on high.

We woke up early each morning, around 6am to watch the jungle come alive. (Now, I am NOT the kind of gal who enjoys waking up at the crack of dawn on a vacation, but in the Osa Peninsula this is the most magical time of day). We were greeted each morning by toucans singing in a tree next to our deck, dazzling Scarlet Macaws exploding out of the jungle, soaring in pairs overhead. Capuchin monkeys leapt from tree to tree. During our first morning, as I was sitting reading on our deck, the resident puppy literally slept underneath my deck chair.

Our dogger friend, Drake's Bay, Osa De Jinetas
I made a friend 😀
Toucan Drake Bay, Osa De Jinetas
Woke up this morning to toucan singing it’s little lungs out in a tree next to our cabin!
Two toucans! Osa De Jinetas, Drakes Bay
TWO TOUCANS

Hike to deserted beaches: Hike 20 minutes through a jungle path to Playa Cocolito, a gorgeous little crescent shaped secluded beach. Cross the hanging bridge. Keep your eyes peeled for toucans and monkeys! We saw a howler monkey just chilling as we crossed, in a branch directly across from the bridge. We even had a little dog friend accompany us on the hike! We lounged for ages watching Scarlett Macaws fly overhead and feed in the almond trees. Stay for the unreal sunset.

Playa Cocolito Drakes Bay
Playa Cocolito – Secluded Beach #1

You can hike even farther to Playa San Josecito, known for its Scarlet Macaws about 2 1/2 hours total. But the weather was way too warm for us to commit to a 3 + hour hike, and we ended up seeing a ton of macaws anyway!

Hiking Trails Drakes Bay
Just follow the jungle signs!

That tell tale squawk means a Macaw is on its way!

Scarlet Macaw Playa Cocolito
Look at this beauty! NOT easy to capture on camera as these beauties are movers!

 

Brad Playa Caletas

Secluded Beach Drakes Bay
100%, we kept expecting a raptor to lunge through the foliage

Fresh Seafood and Pineapple/Mango Daiquiris: Lounge on the hotel’s deck in the afternoon sipping fresh mango/pineapple daiquiris and enjoy the balmy breezes. Dine at the open air seafront restaurant, Kalaluna. Personal faves: We had the mixed ceviche each day, while listening to the ocean crashing on the shores.

Ceviche and pineapple daquiri, Drakes Bay
Mixed ceviche topped with avocado and fried plantains
Mojito Time - Drakes Bay!
Mojito time on the deck!

Paddle the Jungle River: Borrow kayaks and paddle up the jungle river in the bright green lagoon like water. It’s magical. Felt like we were part of The Jungle Book! If you’re daring, go for a swim in the crystal clear water. Brad did a little snorkel. I went for a swim as well, but honestly I am terrified of snakes and drew the line at a leisurely jungle river swim.

Hanging Bridge Drake Bay

Go for Sunset Swims with the  Pelicans: Each night, we went for a sunset swim in the bathtub temp water, floating in the gentle waves as pelicans soared and dived right above our heads.

Sunset Swim Drakes Bay
How’s that violet sunset and cotton candy clouds??

Sunset Drake's Bay, Osa De Jinetas

Visit Corcovado National Park: A trip to tropical rainforest Corcovado, considered one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, is a must when visiting Drake’s Bay.  The trip entailed an intense hour speed boat ride, with a wake up call at 5am, brekkie at our lodge and then boat. We saw peccaries, a family of playful pizote (my favorite), capuchins and squirrel monkeys with their babies. Because Corcovado is such an an iconic place you have to go, and I don’t regret it, but I think we saw just as many animals in the jungles surrounding our lodge.

Corcovado Peccaries

Dive/Snorkel Cano Island: Brad did this and loved it. Swam with 20 foot manta rays and saw a frog fish, which is apparently very rare, (and rather insane looking.)

Frog Fish! Diving Cano Island
Frog fish! Told you it was insane looking.

Where to eat: We ate most of our meals at the open air beach restaurant at the lodge, Kalaluna, which is wildly romantic and has a great vibe. They have yummy seafood and Italian meals. Breakfast was included and offered fresh fruits, great coffee and made to order breakfasts. We also strolled about twenty minutes along the beach and into town. In town, we also liked Casa El Tortugo, right on the river.

Breakfast View Drakes Bay, Osa De Jinetas
Breakfast with a view!
Fresh Seafood Pasta Drakes Bay
Chef’s Special – seafood pasta!
Grilled Shrimp & Coconut Shrimp Drakes Bay
Grilled & Coconut Shrimp

Where to stay: Osa De Jinetas. Unbelievable views! Beautiful spacious cabinas. Tons of wildlife. Delish food. LOVED IT.

Osa De Jinetas, Drakes Bay
Osa De Jinetas, Drakes Bay
Our Deck - Osa De Jinetas
View from our deck

IF YOU GO…

GETTING THERE: We took a 6 person prop plane from San Jose Airport that was effing terrifying, open air, and beautiful as all get out. Thank GOD for my Scopolamine patch.

IMG-9233

GETTING AROUND: Our hotels arranged a shuttle to pick us up from the tiny airport. The road is unpaved and super bumpy. At one point we forded a river. Once you get to your hotel, no car is needed. We walked everywhere – to deserted beaches, into town, etc. It was fab.

Final thoughts: I have been dreaming of the Osa Peninsula since we first visited Costa Rica about four years ago and it surpassed my wildest expectations. It’s amazing to visit a place that is still relatively untouched, and it made my nature loving, adventure craving heart sing. I felt like I was in a scene straight out of the Swiss Family Robinson. ( I realize they were shipwrecked in the East Indies, but I was competently obsessed with this story as I kid, and Drake’s Bay is exactly how I pictured their island). I know that we will visit the Osa Pensinsula again and again, or at least, I sure hope that we have the opportunity.

Next up on the blog: Exploring more of the Osa Peninsula. We’re headed to the Iguana Lodge in Puerto Jiminez. Jungle central!