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La Fortuna has been discovered by ecological and adventure tourists !!

Fortune knocks at everyman’s door once in a life, but in a good many cases the man is in a neighboring saloon and does not hear her. ~ Mark Twain, 1835-1910

With clean, fresh air and beautiful countryside, the town of La Fortuna has been discovered in no small way by ecological and adventure tourists. It feels a bit like either a college or frontier town, depending on your perspective, with many happening bars and restaurants and numerous pleasant hotels in a variety of price ranges.

When La Fortuna changed governing districts from San Ramón to San Carlos in 1950, it marked the first election that allowed women to vote in Costa Rica, following the passage of national suffrage legislation.

There are more active adventures than bathing in the hot springs or watching the active volcano. Whitewater rafting is big in the area on the Toro and Peñas Blancas rivers, both of which have some excellent Class III and IV (even Class V) rapids.

Guided hikes, such as the one to La Fortuna Waterfall, mountain biking trips, or a visit to explore the Venado Cavern can be arranged with local adventure tour agencies. Sunset Tours (. 506/479-9415) has a Safari Adventure that features a raft float to the finca (farm) of Don Pedro, where you hike to see frogs and share coffee and snacks. Sport Gym Fortuna is located in back of Nenes Restaurant, open 5 am-9 pm weekdays and 9-6 pm on Saturday. It has weights and exercise machines.

There’s also horseback riding, including a ride over the mountain to Monteverde (skip during the rainy season) or one to the nearby extinct cinder cone volcano, Cerro Chato (1,100 meters/3,618 feet). By car, take an educational side trip to the Guatuso Indian Reserve near San Rafael de Guatuso, north of La Fortuna. There isn’t too much to see, but the Indians need the money tourism brings. If you’re there during a traditional ceremony, you’ll be lucky enough to see their colorful native costume.

Contact any of the local tour agencies for eco-adventure activities in the area: Sunset Tours (east of park, .506/479-9415); Aguas Bravas (just north of downtown, 506/479-9025,; Desafío (east of the park, 506/479-9464); or Aventuras Arenal ( 506/479- 9133,

If you’re fortunate enough to be in La Fortuna on a weekend, take off your hiking boots, put on your dancing shoes and head for Volcan Look ( 506/479-6961), a huge new disco a short distance from town on the road toward Tabacón. Put 200 people on the dance floor and it still looks empty.

In the Way In Chachagua Rain Forest Lodge (a few kilometers outside Chachagua,.506 / 231-0356, fax 290-6506, www.novanet., 22 rooms, pool, restaurant, pick-up service, conference facility, $$$-$$$$). This is one of Costa Rica’s hidden treasures. While everyone goes to hotels at Arenal or Monteverde, a short side trip leads to this really appealing private lodge just below a cloud forest. Individual rustic cabins speckle the landscaped gardens where streams splash down from the mountaintop. Each good-size cabin boasts a large wooden porch for sitting and birdwatching. Inside, the bedrooms have two beds, dresser, table and chair. They are made of natural wood, with memorably big, bright and airy bathrooms, lush plants and lots of light. The wooden deck restaurant (everything they prepare is grown on the farm, except the seafood) is also a communal meeting area.

From there, it is a 20-minute walk to a five-meter/16-foot waterfall where you can swim. Heck, you can even swim in any of the numerous streams on the property – or in the swimming pool, built to look like a natural swimming hole. It’s a two-hour hike up to the mountaintop –Wellington boots supplied.

One of the main activities at Chachagua (pronounced cha- CHAG-wa) is horseback riding. Their lodge stables 30 horses, including five Spanish stallions, that ride in festivities all over Costa Rica. Breakfast is not included, but you should negotiate for it. Afine place to relax or take tours to the area’s natural wonders.

The Venado (deer) cave entrance was discovered in 1945 on a private farm in the rural town of Venado (about 10 km/six miles north of La Fortuna) by following a stream that flows from its mouth. The interior is undeveloped, without railings or cement walkways, and no enlarged headroom where the cave roof drops to under two meters/6.6 feet. Resident cave dwellers include a large colony of bats (not always hanging out), tarantulas, big crickets and the occasional snake. Be prepared to get dirty – rubber boots, hard hats, flashlights and face masks supplied by tour operators who run trips here.

In Town La Fortuna offers the best opportunity to stay close to the volcano without paying extra for the nighttime view. Click here for more Hotels

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