Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Costa Rica: Fortuna-You Stole My Heart, Then You Stole My Stuff

Actually starting our vacation in Costa Rica, we left San Jose pretty early to get a jump out to Fortuna. The trip, in our endlessly scorned Suzuki Jimmy (I yearned for a Rav 4) was uneventful and full of twists, turns, and two lane roads. When we arrived at our hotel we were met with by an iguana who was out sunning himself. We stayed at the Tilajari resort, which was an amazing place but a bit far from most of our planned destinations.
We visited the Tabacon hot springs first, which came complete with lunch, which was nice (sea bass ceviche) but felt like a typical "spa" meal. They did serve some chayote on the side, which was delicious. It's a squash that's extremely common in that area of the world and to me tastes like zucchini with much better texture. Also, hot springs are fantastic and highly recommended.

It rains a lot in the summer in Costa Rica, so most evenings are spent indoors eating and drinking. Costa Rica has a wonderful pilsner "Imperial", which I found was extremely refreshing after hot days, and also brews a darker ale called "". Both have a distinct fresh quality that most macro-brews in the states lack. And in case you are wondering, we did drink the water. And it was fine, and so were we.

We sought out Don Ruffino for dinner, a local place on the main drag in Fortuna. I specifically mention this place because it was so unbelievably delicious. I had Grandma's chicken, a half chicken marinated in a mole-style sauce and steamed in a banana leaf. Oh wow, was it tender and flavorful. Em had crab risotto with fish which was equally outstanding. And the dessert included strawberry beignets, which were as good as they sound.

I was really starting to like Fortuna! The next day we went hiking up the volcano and then zip-lining, which was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done. Riding out 600 feet off the ground and seeing so much of the forest cannot be captured in simple words.
Then things started to go downhill. It started to pour during dinner, and I'm not just talking rain, I'm talking buckets. Dinner at La Chosa was awful; we went off a recommendation and found it to be a tourist trap complete with hilarious/awful drink choices and bland food. I'm also not a fan of elaborate garnishes (like cucumber flowers); I feel it adds nothing to my dish except price. Then we stopped to get a few souvenirs, only to return to our car two minutes later and find it had been broken into and our GPS stolen. Wow, what a turn of events. The police was super-unhelpful too, and it somewhat overshadowed most of our time in Fortuna.

My final thoughts about Fortuna are that it's a resort town, built up by people going to hot springs, but it has no other true industry, and has become somewhat of a party place with a seediness underneath. Monteverde? Never felt that, but here it seemed that there were two distinct towns living on top of each other, which led to an artificial resemblance of the entire place. I enjoyed some of my time, but if I return to Costa Rica, I won't be stopping by here.

More from the road, Monteverde, and a lot of birds tomorrow…