Costa Rica Diary Day 5 – La Fortuna to Liberia

It’s our final morning in La Fortuna and it rained heavily in the night. The volcano has disappeared completely behind a thick blanket of cloud and our last chance of seeing it in its entirety has gone. Never mind, it’s time to move on to another volcano – Rincon de la Vieja. As accommodation around the volcano itself is expensive, we are staying in the nearby town of Liberia.

Liberia sign
Arenal sign

Today’s drive is 80 miles, the first half of which skirts the shore of Lake Arenal. So, the plan is to go slow with plenty of photo stops, arriving at our hotel in Liberia around lunch time. By then, the temperature should be 32 degrees. Luckily, it has a pool!


After a breakfast of fruit and gallo pinto (rice & beans) for us, whilst watching the birds eat their breakfast of bananas, we set off. The drive round the lake is somewhat underwhelming; there are very limited opportunities to actually see it due to vegetation and even when we can, the road is too narrow and winding to stop safely.

Arenal dam

Once we reach the north west corner of the lake, the road takes three sides of a square to join Route 1; the Inter American Highway. Google Maps sends us along a short cut (the 4th side of the square). It’s unpaved, very bumpy and very steep. It’s significantly shorter but with hindsight, I think we would have gone round. At least we finally get a good view of the lake when we reach the top.

View over Lake Arenal

On the hill is enormous wind farm, and then, once over the top, we rejoin the actual paved road. It’s like entering a different world; we leave behind the cool, green rainforest and all of a sudden we’re on the hot, red plains of Guancaste – cattle country.

Road to Liberia

Soon, we reach the highway and drive the final 25 miles to tonight’s destination – Las Espuelas – a roadside motel in Liberia. We reach the motel 90 minutes before check-in. Although it’s on the side of the motorway, it’s surprisingly quiet and serene inside the hotel itself. The accommodation is in rows of cabins, leading to a very nice pool. There is no chance of an early check in. No matter. The old man has important candy to crush, while I decamp to the pool. 100 laps later, we can finally check in.

Hotel Las Espuelas – pool

After the old man has faffed sufficiently, we head into town for a wander and dinner. By now it’s gone 3 and the combination of no lunch and a long swim are taking their toll. A read of Lonely Planet’s guide to Liberia has left us with low expectations. The first thing we notice about Liberia is that many of the roads are one way, so getting where you want to go isn’t as simple as it sounds. We finally reach the centre of town and park up near Central Park.

Church of the Immaculate Conception

After a quick wander around the park (which is really just a plaza) we for the old man’s restaurant of choice. It’s shut. More faffing before we finally settle on a nearby Indian restaurant (Masala). By the time the food comes, I’m ravenous, but it’s worth the wait – Palak Paneer; cheese cooked in a spinach sauce, served with cumin rice.

Palak Paneer and cumin rice at Masala

After we have taken the obligatory photos next to the Liberia sign, we return to the motel for an early night. This travel malarkey can be hard work sometimes.

Hotel Las Espuelas

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