Our Hike To La Fortuna Waterfall In Costa Rica
How exciting it would be to discover a waterfall deep in a tropical rainforest, a cascade where one can enjoy a refreshing dip in a plunge pool while mist wraps around your shoulders. Well, hidden among the lush jungle of Costa Rica is one such spot, the La Fortuna Waterfall in Alajuela Province.
Since Bob and I were staying in the town of La Fortuna for a few days, it took us no time to drive to the site of the Welcome Centre and purchase our tickets for admission. Even before hiking to the Falls, we could hear its roar and see water vapour spilling up towards the clouds.
La Fortuna Waterfall lies at the base of Chato Volcano within a 250-acre biological reserve that is part of Arenal Volcano National Park. Chato Volcano last erupted about 3,500 years ago, and one of its lava flows created the route for the Fortuna River.
Fortuna River travels through the rainforest in the Arenal Mountain range before plunging over the precipice and forming La Fortuna Waterfall.
We had been warned that the descent to the base of the Falls was steep on a trail that follows the contours of the hillside. It was never more evident than when we got to the edge of the river valley. Right away, Bob and I came to a rest area, a platform with benches designed for visitors climbing back up the stairs.
Pausing there to admire the lush foliage and look for wildlife, we were provided a peak at La Fortuna Waterfall through the thick tangle of vines and trees.
The trail alternated between concrete steps carved into the earth,
a paved walkway,
and hanging bridges with sturdy steel handrails.
In all, there were over 500 steps conveying visitors to the swimming hole, all laid out along a series of switchbacks.
Bob and I did not rush but instead soaked up the atmosphere as the Falls thundered in the distance. Little sunlight was able to filter through the dense canopy in most areas, but a view to the sky was possible above the trail.
In our quest to add new bird species to our Life List, our eyes were drawn to the flitting movement of a Green Hermit Hummingbird. It was beautifully lit where a few stray rays of sunshine penetrated the tree cover.
The hummingbird was nectaring at a vivid red Passiflora Vitafolia, more commonly referred to as a Perfumed Passionflower, that was conspicuous among the subtler tones of green and brown.
The walk to the bottom of the valley took us about 35 minutes, and the closer to the Falls we got, the cooler the temperature became. We could feel the fine mist borne on a cool breeze. And then the jungle opened up revealing a turquoise pool of water dappled with flickering sunshine.
The scene was picture perfect! The Fortuna River spilled forth in gushing torrents before plummeting 70 metres as La Fortuna Waterfall.
Bob and I were captivated by the idyllic atmosphere.
Behind the white ribbon of falling water, evidence of Chato Volcano’s eruptions could be seen in the time-worn igneous rocks of the valley’s wall.
Beautiful as it is surrounded by mossy hillsides, La Fortuna Waterfall can be dangerous for bathers owing to strong currents at the base of the mighty torrent. They are told to stay clear and to be mindful of the slippery rocks.
It was a chilly day when Bob and I visited La Fortuna Waterfall, and the water in the swimming hole is cold, so instead of taking a dip, we wandered a little downstream from the cascade to seek out a more secluded location.
Even as we rambled, squeals of delight were heard when bathers immersed themselves in the cool water or were caught offguard by an errant stream of spray. I was content to have the breeze ruffling my hair and my cheeks covered with a film of mist.
Between a couple of small rapids, natural pools have formed in the river. They are ideal for swimming, placid with sandy bottoms and crisp, clear water. Less adventurous bathers preferred these swimming holes.
The river water was so pristine that we observed scores of fish, a testament to the health of the ecosystem, in general.
Bob and I dallied overlooking the La Fortuna Waterfall and river for quite sometime and then faced the daunting walk back up the staircase. The benches, so thoughtfully provided at intervals, did not come amiss.
Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean