The ride from San Carlos to La Fortuna Arenal was idyllic. After battling the mountains, and the relatively heavily trafficked roads out of the central valley, we luxuriated on the gentle rolling hills and lonely gravel road to La Tigra. A couple of miles before we reached La Fortuna, we turned onto a four-wheel-drive track that led a couple of miles to the head of the short trail to La Catarata Fortuna. It was a steep tough ride up, and the blazing sun simultaneously drained our energy, and motivated us to push on to the refreshing pool that we knew awaited us.
After a long hot day of riding there are three sensations that are incomparable: relaxation, rehydration, and refueling. After floating around under the waterfall we were well on our way achieving the first two, but our bike tour metabolisms were starting to kick in so we headed into town to satisfy the third and find a place to stay for the night.
We had been to La Fortuna de Arenal (AKA La Fortuna de San Carlos, or simply Fortuna) on our first trip and liked the relaxed atmosphere and wide selection of cabinas and restaurants, but we didn’t plan to see the area’s biggest attraction again. Most people in Fortuna are either on their way to or from Arenal Volcano National Park, but we were just stopping on our way to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
Several things conspired to land us and our bikes in a jeep taxi to Monteverde instead of in the saddle. We both felt like we might be coming down with something, and I was still practicing not pushing too hard. (An alternative that some visitors to this site have highly recommended is a horseback ride from Fortuna to Monteverde, while your baggage and/or bikes are shuttled around the other side of the lake by 4WD).
We were both mildly ill while we visited Monteverde, but that didn’t ruin the visit. The cloud forest is beautiful and fascinating, and the cool and constant light rain at high altitude was refreshing. We spent a couple of days walking through the forest and evenings browsing restaurants until one appealed to our rebelling stomachs. We left Monteverde renergized, and it was a good thing because we were headed into adventure.
The ride down through Santa Elena and Juntas to Canas was a roller coaster through patches of primary and secondary forest clinging to the edges of cattle pasture. By the time we reached the plains and headed northwest to Canas the sun was pouring down, and the cool mists of the cloud forest seemed distant. Canas isn’t the most attractive place in Costa Rica, but it was a logical stopping point before Palo Verde National Park.
Palo Verde National Park is nearly flat. It’s not the kind of place we expected to run into the most difficult section of off-road riding in Costa Rica.
The birds were spectacular, and we saw plenty of reptiles and amphibians as well. The latter wasn’t surprising since we ended up riding through 2 to 10 inches of the stickiest mud imaginable as we traversed the park from east to west.