An odor of sulfur passes under our noses, but we feel fortunate. We are looking at the Miravalles volcano, the highest point of the Guanacaste volcanic mountain range, a few kilometers off in the distance and one of its secondary highly active, bubbling craters takes on a series of formations around us, which we are going to tour inside.
Las Hornillas, a family tourism project in La Fortuna, Bagaces. Walking on a crater doesn’t mean getting close to lava like a volcanologist and risking your life. It’s a safe experience in which you walk down a series of trails that surround the steaming, bubbling formations that make up the crater.
Elberth Rodríguez, our guide, explains that the crater is made up of hot spots that produce mud, other spots that are very watery and fumaroles that produce smoke and gas. There are various hot spots here, but the tourist project only uses mud from one of them for facial and body treatments.
You have to walk carefully along the trails, Elberth tells us, because temperatures inside the formations range from 100 to 320 degrees fahrenheit.
That’s how it feels on your feet and body. The breeze that felt fresh a minute ago quickly becomes hot air.
“Do you feel like the vapor is opening your pores?” the guide asks us as we feel heat covering our skin.
After this short walk, it’s ideal to go directly to the natural sauna to finish opening up your pores and then try the volcanic mud.
It’s going to help purify the skin and reduce stains and pimples,” Elberth says.
The mud is creamy and it’s recommendable to use a thin layer so that it dries easily. Then you go into three natural volcanic water pools, including a hot one, then a warm one and finally a cold one. The skin fills with minerals, the mud is washed off and the pores close.
Mud and Forest
The property belonging to the Álvarez Zeledón family was dedicated to ranching until 2002 when they decided to switch activities because cows fell and died in the hot spots.
In 2002 they launched activities at the crater and in 2006 they took advantage of other properties a few kilometers away for forest tours. In order to get there, the tourist center gives you the options of a horse ride or taking cart pulled by a tractor.
We took the tractor and for 20 minutes were able to see the Miravalles volcano from different points as well as yellow trees and a landscape full of mountains and plains.
The trails are short and don’t require much physical effort, but you need a certain amount of bravery to cross the hanging bridges. One of the first surprises is the “bridge of fear” which got its name because it’s 100 meters long and swings a lot when the wind blows.
To the left we see the Mariposa waterfall and below the river that runs to the valley. According to Elberth, in June and July you can see hundreds of butterflies flying around the waterfall.
Ahead, we see the Cabromuco waterfall, where they’ll build a platform so you can see it up close.
After crossing another hanging bridge, we reach the Escondida waterfall, the only waterall that we are allowed to enter. It’s a small waterfall and very cold, our feet discover. It gives the false impression of being orange. The water is completely transparent, but the iron from the spring dies the rocks and gives them a different look.
That’s how our journey ends. Though our first breath of air was full of sulfur, we got a fresh, pure breath of air at the end.