Costa Rica's


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Description : A stopover on the way to Monteverde or Fortuna

Comment : There is nothing to see in this little town but the atmosphere is not unpleasant and the countryside is attractive enough

What to do ? Not much actually : maybe surf the web for C300 an hour at the Correo (300m N-E of Parque). As there is one computer only, you may have to wait your turn / Walk the countryside a bit ? / Leave your bag at the station's toilets (C100)

What you may not like ? The guy jumping on you with tickets for Fortuna and his claim that you need to buy them before 11am : off course, you can do it once in the bus ! / The usual crowd for the bus toward Monteverde (especially on WE) / Having to wait here ! 

How long ? A couple of hours

Where to stay ? There is really no reason to stay, except if you miss the bus :

  • Cabinas El Sueno (6955347), N Parque / w. HW shower & cable TV $15(1) or 20(2) / Lovely rooms but expensive
  • Hotel Mary (6955479), S plaza / 2000(1) or 3000(2), w. HW shower & cable TV 3500(1) or 4000(2) / Go there for the nice rooms at correct prices . What you may not like : bunk beds for the cheapest
  • Hotel Guadalupe (6955943), S-E plaza / w. HW shower & big cable TV $12(1) or $20(2) / Go there for a bit of luxury if alone. A bit expensive for two.
  • Hotel Central (6955363), a bit N from the above / 1200 p.p., w shower 2500(1) or 3000(2) / Go there for the cheapest prices, acceptable cleanliness and nice view from upstairs rooms / What you may not like : it is basic, empty (no fan) and the room w. shower is exp for what you get

Leaving ? That is usually the reason you came here ! To San Carlos via Fortuna at 7 & 12:30. C650. 3 hours / To Monteverde (Sta Elena) at 12:30. C620. 3 hours / To Arenal (on the way to Fortuna and therefore a good waiting option) at 5, 6, 10, 14:30 &16:30. C250. 1 hour / To Canas at 5, 6:40, 7:30, 9, 10, 11:30 & 15:30. C150. 45mn / To San Jose at 5, 7, 7:45, 14 & 16:55

The trip to La Fortuna : SSSSS / Right / C650 / 3 great hours
Up to the last minute, I wondered whether to go to Monteverde or Liberia first. I was actually on the bus toward Monteverde when I decided to switch : too crowded to my taste ! Also, going later on to Montezuma, it made sense to do Monteverde last and take a bus to Puntarenas from there. If planning to head toward San Jose, then Fortuna last would be the best option : much more buses from there and a slightly nicer road than from Monteverde. 
We left a bit late (thanks to me switching bus) and soon reached the lake. Waow ! This is gonna be a great trip ! It was, with amazingly beautiful scenery over the lake and volcano Arenal on the right side. 
We reached the village of Arenal an hour later. This looked as a pleasant enough place to spend a couple of hours (better than Tilaran) with nice view from the hill. There are a couple of places to stay as well. The bus still wasn't full but most seats on the right side were occupied. 
The scenery kept being great, with a novelty after the village : a bamboo forest ! And then it was the majestic volcano Arenal... The road was mostly good but some delicate parts required slow speed. The stops to get more passengers in (it was eventually full) offered a few photos opportunities : keep your camera handy !
We arrived within 2.5 hours. 

The trip to Santa Elena (Monteverde) : SSSS / Right / C620 / 3.5 hours
As two days before, the bus showed up a couple of minutes late and was assaulted by the locals. The idea of the game here is to rush in and reserve as many seats as possible. The locals are expert at it but have an advantage over the travelers : no backpack to carry ! If you do not wish to stand in the alley, ask a friend to look at your bags and fight your way in to reserve the precious seats. Then only take care of your bags.
"The road is often very rough, but provides spectacular views over the laguna de Arenal and Volcano Arenal" said my guidebook. It therefore looked logical to seat on the left side. In practice, I wonder where the writer went to spot the laguna : there was indeed a good panorama on the left but it did not last long and, overall, the scenery was better on the right. A better weather would certainly enhance it a bit more...
Monteverde is the biggest tourist attraction of Costa Rica, itself the most touristy country in Central America. It therefore make sense that the road be the worst spotted in my trip ! You may think that the tours operator make pression on the government to keep this road as bad as possible so that they can continue to provide their expensive boat or horses alternatives !  In fact, it is also a way to prevent too many tourists to come as a day trip and have too much impact on the ecosystem...
Anyway, this ride was certainly an adventure in itself and a cheap one ! The twinkling road was full of potholes and, thanks to the rain, very muggy. The worst road like I told you ! A part was particularly fun : the driver tried to force his way twice without success. Too much mug ! Getting pulled by another truck did not give any result as well. Eventually, everybody got off and, lighter and at full power, the mug was eventually vanquished ! Those 20mn were certainly the highlights of the trip...
As you may have understood, the bus was pretty old and not really fit for the road. It was also a big polluter with heavy black chokes. A four-wheeler would be much better. Considering the shakes, standing in the alley is really not a good idea. Fortunately, most locals got off within the first hour and 90mn after departure, everybody was sited. 
This was a particularly slow ride : 3.5 hours for 40km ! And 2.5 hours for the last 26km ! The speed was not improved by the fact that the driver was alone to discharge the luggage and collect the money of the passengers. We arrived at 15:50, the rain still pouring. On the floor of the bus, something else had been pouring from an upset stomach. Another road's victim...

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See also the trip from Liberia