La Fortuna de San Carlos

Our first and longest stop (4 days) was in La Fortuna de San Carlos. We actually got a bonus day but that is a funny story: because of an impending storm at home, we were afraid that our flight would be delayed or canceled, so we decided to change the flight to the day before, thus we added a day to our vacation. On this bonus day we took a trip to Cano Negro.

It turned out to be a perfect day on our way to Costa Rica. Away from the cold, we landed in sunny and warm San Jose Airport. It is always exciting at the beginning of a trip, especially to a new country or region, from the air, this new country spread below us -- first the coast, then the mountains of the interior, soon we would embark on an unforgettable journey.

(Click on each image to see the high-resolution version)

On way to Costa Rica!

On way to Costa Rica!

On way to Costa Rica!

The driver we hired picked us up at the airport and we were on the way to La Fortuna. Even this drive was perfect -- we did not hit any traffic, and none of the fog that people sometimes have to go through in the mountains. The drive did not seem long to us, and we arrived with still some daylight to spare.

As soon as we arrived in La Fortuna, a Social Flycatcher greeted me in the hotel parking lot, the first of my 80 new birds of this trip. I initially mistook it for a Great Kiskadee (they have essentially the same coloration, except that the Kiskadee is chunkier with a larger bill.

Social Flycatcher

I would get my Great Kiskadee soon enough, and other birds, in town. The best bird I got was a Black-mandibled Toucan in the garden at the back of the hotel by the river (Rio Burio).

Great Kiskadee

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Red-billed Pigeon

Black-mandibled Toucan

Our hotel, Monte Real (see my detailed Tripadvisor review here) is located on the eastern edge of town where Rio Burio makes a slight bend. There is a small garden in the back shaded by tall trees. The hotel owners planted some tropical plants in the garden, some of which have beautiful flowers that are nectar-rich which attract insects and hummingbirds. The False Bird-of-paradise and Shampoo Ginger were two of such specimens.

False Bird of Paradise

Shampoo Ginger

The dominant feature in town is of course the imposing Arenal Volcano. We were lucky that we saw it thinly veiled by clouds on an otherwise beautiful morning on our first morning there. We rushed out to the town square and snapped a few pictures before breakfast.

La Fortuna

La Fortuna

On our last morning, before we went to Monteverde, we lingered on the town square again. A flock of Crimson-fronted Parakeets were nesting in the church building (my last new bird in La Fortuna), and some White-winged Doves were leisurely walking about.

Crimson-fronted Parakeet

White-winged Dove

Then it happened. We were again lucky on this day that the Arenal Volcano finally unveiled itself -- we saw it free of clouds at last! Many people came here from all around the world and never got to see the volcano, but we were not to be denied (well, to be sure -- and to be a little greedy -- I wish we saw it in the early morning, as that is when the volcano is directly lit by the soft glow of the rising sun; at midday, the light hit it from the side and the volcano looks hazy).

La Fortuna

La Fortuna

As the last minutes slipped away from us, a Tropical Kingbird flew to a branch in front of us. It was a new bird for this trip, but no longer new at this point. Regardless, it was wonderful to see it so upclose. True to its name, it was not shy or afraid of people at all, it acted like a king surveying its domain from its high perch.

Tropical Kingbird

Then it was time to leave La Fortuna and head to Monteverde via taxi-boat-taxi (which turned out to be a wonderful way to travel, see my detailed Tripadvisor review here.). Because the volcano was unveiled, we got to see it clearly from different sides, including a view of the "back side" where the old lava flows were visible across Lake Arenal. By the time we reached the Monteverde side, it was getting cloudy already and the veil was about the enshroud Arenal Volcano again.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

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