Chasing Waterfalls in Costa Rica's Rainforest

Admiring La Fortuna Waterfall from afar Leaving Costa Rica's beach scene wasn’t easy, but we eventually made our way east to the rain forest region surrounding one of the most active volcanoes in the world, the Arenal volcano. We traded sand and sunshine for rain, fog, and mud. We arrived to our hotel, the Lomas Del Volcan, in the middle of a torrential downpour.  We attempted to “wait it out” before heading out that evening to no avail.  The air was so dense with fog and rain that I couldn’t even see the giant volcano that frames the entire town.  I learned a seemingly obvious thing: It rains a lot in the rainforest.

Fortunately, the rain subsided the next morning and I was able to get my first look at the regal and majestic volcano that erupted and spewed frequently until just a few years ago.  A halo-like cloud hovered its zenith.  Our hotel cabin was situated right at the base of the volcano, offering an unparalleled view, free from obstruction.

View of the Arenal Volcano from our cabin at the Lomas Del Volcan

Swimming in the plunge pool at the base of a waterfall is something that I had the opportunity to do half a lifetime ago in Guadeloupe, but I declined because I was afraid.  I was determined to do it on this trip. We decided to visit the La Fortuna Waterfall that afternoon. The sky had been a pre-tornado gray of rumbling clouds for a couple of hours. We pushed our luck by not going as soon as possible. The sky darkened still. By the time we made the trek via two-wheel drive on a dirt road up the mountain, the lightest of drizzles sprinkled—pin point-sized droplets dampened my bikini cover up.  We continued, stopping at different views to take pictures, continuing our at times daunting descent down the equivalent of 50 flights of steep, muddy steps with flip flop-clad feet. Much of the terrain was rocky and uneven.  We made it to the bottom, passing numerous less grand, yet equally beautiful, waterfalls along the way. The clouds darkened and the sky began to rumble in low, deep moans. Seconds later, the sky opened up, and the rainforest yet again lived up to its name.

A waterfall we saw on our journey to *the* waterfall


Gazing at La Fortuna Waterfall

What happened next was an experience that I can only describe as idyllic, magical, epic… I reached the rocky area of the plunge pool. The water was higher than usual and moved in torrents, racing by, relenting only to crash on giant rocks, catapulting splashes into the air.  The rain pounded me, and I was soaking wet before I could put my bag down and even think about stepping in.

Sometimes you have to dive in. Even when you’re scared. Even when it’s raining. Even when the water is ice cold. Even when the currents are rushing by, and it’s something you have never done before. There can be sanctuary in the unknown. In cold torrents. In the seeming abyss. And there was.

Becoming one with nature at Catarata de la Fortuna

Soaking up sun and rain at La Fortuna Waterfall

Despite the icy cold water, I was giddy with excitement.  I fought against the currents to maintain a foothold. At one point, I lost and was overtaken, but quickly found a giant rock to cling against, sheltering me from the water rushing by. The sky unleashed the heavens that day, but the giant rain drops were less bothersome now that I was in the water. I took a moment to look up and around at the tall and lush trees surrounding me. Light poured in from the sky as well. I felt at peace.

Eventually, we gathered our now-soaked belongings and made the long trek back to where we started. That evening, I journeyed another few short kilometers from our hotel to Ecotermales, a natural hot spring. One of the great things about volcanoes is that they warm the water surrounding them in the form of natural hot springs.  Relaxing in the 100+ degree warm water was the perfect way to end the day, balancing my escapade in the freezing waters of the La Fortuna waterfall.

Relaxing in the natural hot springs at ecotermales