In today’s hike, we got to take to the mountains in Arenal for a high-flying bridge expedition! The Misticos Hanging Bridges Park was my favorite hike so far, mainly due to the unique views offered by the very adventurous rope bridges that we crossed. Being suspended higher up and held together by a less stable base, there seemed to be a much greater sense of excitement compared to the single longer bridge in Monteverde. Another thing that really elevated the experience was, well, the elevation change. While Monteverde’s hikes also went through mountains, they weren’t as steep, nor were the paths as windy. Here in Arenal, it really felt like we were hanging onto the side of a massively sloped mountain, which helped to make me feel more ingrained with the landscape. This also did wonders in terms of making the views more amazing, as there’s something so much more impressive about physically craning your neck up to see trees and other bridges (see image) suspended hundreds of feet above you just a little farther up the mountain, not to mention the great top-down perspective into the valley at the base of the volcano. Plus, the grandness of the volcano was, in itself, a sight to behold, as it was persistently taking up a large portion of my field of view.
From what we’ve seen aside from just the amazing excursion this morning, it certainly seems like La Fortuna is a more tourist-friendly location in relation to Monteverde. Whether it’s the hot springs, the usable WiFi, or the tourist-trap restaurant that six of us visited in town (I mean, it was okay, but certainly not an authentic Tico experience), La Fortuna appears to really be built for visitors. While Monteverde prioritized honesty with its ecological sustainability, La Fortuna appears to have really mastered the craft of tempting tourists with exciting offerings. This does come with a drawback in that the area is more terraformed to make way for fancy water parks and hiking visitor centers, though we are only talking about a handful of acres’ difference in this case. Still, it does seem like ecotourism in La Fortuna is, relatively speaking, less eco and more tourism. They still are careful about protecting the sanctity of the volcano and clearly offer plenty of authentically biological sights, though, which is why I am impressed by their model.
As we talked about in today’s great lecture, La Fortuna really showcases the extreme and wonderful biodiversity that is available in Costa Rica. There were several plants and animals (especially the awesome wild boars) that I never saw in Monteverde, despite merely being a few dozen kilometers away. It’s just that, in terms of cultural attitudes, citizens in La Fortuna care more about showcasing wildlife and less about taking initiatives to allow it to prosper in its own right. However, with such a strong degree of ecotourist infrastructure comes a lot of dependency, which was also mentioned in the lecture. Transportation is crucial for this kind of economy, which is definitely a drawback for this more out-of-the-way town. We were also told about how tourism, being a luxury service, is very susceptible to economic fluctuations, as people can only travel when they have disposable income. Lastly, we reflected on good old ‘rona and how it really hampered Costa Rica’s travel industry. Whereas the coffee plantations from earlier were able to continue to market to customers virtually, resorts can’t exactly offer Zoom vacations, meaning that there really was not anything that they could do but shut down and wait for laxed regulations.
Regardless of the economics behind it, this place is absolutely awesome. ¡No quiero salir de la selva!