You needn’t stand under a waterfall to get immediately drenched in Costa Rica—the sky opens up regularly throughout the day and seemingly pours out hundreds of gallons of water within a few minutes. In my entire life, I’ve maybe seen it rain that hard a handful of times, but apparently the driving rain is quite normal in Costa Rica, which makes sense considering it’s a rainforest…
However, La Fortuna waterfall (Spanish for The Fortune) is a good place to get drenched, sans rainfall. The climb to the bottom is made up of weathered cinder blocks about a foot and half tall each. So, more accurately, you have to lunge to the bottom. The bright emerald leaves and the wet chocolate-colored bark contrasted against the ash colored steps, and the effect of the green-brown-gray color combination made for a dizzying effect. By the time I made it to the waterfall, my leg muscles were quivering with the exertion, but seeing the La Fortuna crash 200 feet into a deep icy blue pool made me forget all about the Advil I wish I had brought along.
After stuffing our digital cameras into our tennis shoes and stripping down to our swimsuits, we eased into the thrashing water fifty feet from the churning whirlpool. Now I’ve always considering myself a fairly strong swimmer, so I took the plunge among the mammoth boulders and started swimming, hard, towards the base of the falls.
After a solid 45 seconds of freestyle-stroking forward, I popped my head above water to view my progress: for a second, I was confused. Then I realized that instead of being anywhere near the roiling waters, I was steadily drifting down the river away from the falls, about 300 yards from where I started. Startled by the power of the water, I scrambled towards the rounded stones of the shore and crawled out, amazed as I realized how easily someone could drown in those conditions. After lounging in the cold water and watching others attempt to swim with the same success of myself, we pulled our clothes back on and hiked back up the stone ladder.