After a couple of days in Santa Elena we headed out towards the active volcano of Arenal next to La Fortuna. The road from Arenal to the town of La Fortuna is back to back with expensive resorts and thermal spas which have been constructed with a view of the active side of the volcano where even today you can see the indentations made to the ground by previous eruptions.
The town of La Fortuna itself is not very big but seems to have been built up for the sole purpose of catering to the tourists arriving to see Arenal. For good quality and very affordable accommodation head to Gringo Petes Too, the original Gringo Pete offers the same facilities and prices but the newer, number 2, has bigger rooms and better facilities. We managed to get a private room with bathroom for only $14 per night and still had views of Arenal and Cerro Chato.
During our time there we explored Arenal via the Silencio trail, which allows you access at the bottom of the volcano but not as far as the lava fields. We later learned that there were many access routes around the volcano as historically the land had been privately owned before it became a national park, as such, there are numerous “trails” with different costs and entry areas.
The Silencio trail takes you through a deep forest route which is great for seeing wildlife except you have no time to stop as there are hordes of mosquitos waiting to feast on you. The views from the view points are nice but not spectacular, partly because you have to get very lucky during the wet season to see the crater clear from clouds.
All in all it was a nice day out but I am sure it would have been better during the dry season and spectacular had it been active.
The next day we decided to visit a butterfly and frog conservation located on the outskirts of town. We had wanted to see one of these in Santa Elena but it had been closed for refurbishment.
The butterfly centre is made up of 4 large outdoor areas, each one with different climates for the various species. It is a beautiful experience to walk through and have all these colourful butterflies fly around you, some of which are also impressively large!
Unlike some places there was no time limit on the time you could spend there and we soon realised a couple of hours had gone by as we tried to photograph the butterflies.
We later headed onwards to an organic farm called Margot that we had seen on the tourist map, which was literally located at the end of a road. We weren’t sure as to what to expect and were slightly disappointed to discover they didn’t have a shop but soon cheered up when we discovered an all you can buffet of organically produced foods, including pork!
As we only eat organic meat this was a true treat for us, our first pork in 4 months, and needless to say we made sure we had our stomaches were truly full before leaving!