There are stray dogs in many areas of Costa Rica, but for some reason there are especially a lot of them in La Fortuna. We probably saw more here than we did in the rest of the country combined.
They are almost always harmless, but don't get too friendly or else you'll have a very hard time getting rid of them. In fact, we had one follow us for over an hour as we walked from the waterfall back to our hotel, and it probably would have followed us into the hotel if we hadn't managed to lose it a few blocks away. We didn't even pet it, or feed it, or even acknowledge it in any way to get its attention - it just saw us walking and followed us.
Not really sure why there are so many strays here. And, again, they are generally harmless, but just be prepared for them I guess.
Arenal is one of the world's most active volcano. It woke up one day in 1968, wiped out 3 villages at its base, killing numerous ppl. Since then, it constantly has smaller eruptions on a daily basis, spewing toxic gases, rocks and lava regularly. A tourist and a guide were killed when they were in the path of the deadly pyroclastic flow in 2000.
Sure it's exciting to see the lava dancing at the top of Arenal, but you have to be very careful to where you view it from. There are areas that tourists often go to that maybe in danger of a deadly pyroclastic flow. (see the link listed below) And you can certainly see it from the Arenal map here, courtesy of the www.Arenal.net website. This map here shows the historical lava flow up to 2005. This site reguarly updates the lava flow information, which can be an important factor to determine where you are planning to stay.
Banc Nacional will only dispense money for its customers who have its ATM card. Luckily there are two other banks in La Fortuna. Banc Popular is in the center of the main street and will dispense cash readily. I used it a couple times and didn't have problems. The other bank was at the far end of the main street as you enter from the east. I didn't use it because it was further down the road.
It seemed obvious: a volcano is dangerous. But we didn't imagined how much. While on our Arenal volcano trip, our guide told us the history of the volcano. From one of the first eruption, when they didn't even know this big mountain was a volcano, the destruction of many villages, the death of citizens, the avalanche of rocks just as destructive and deadly (the volcano grows 1 meter evey month since it's so active... it creates unstable walls of rocks that can collapse anytime) and so on. Even the horrific story of a guided tour on another path (now close) where a guide and tourists lost their lives, lungs burned from volcanic ashes. Or that at the hot spring resorts, the cars will park with their back to the wall, so they can flee easier in case of emergency.
Maybe this is just a touristic speach so we'll get a huge feeling back from our trip, kind of horror stories at a children campfire, but some must be at least a little true...
In fact, it wont affect your trip. Don't do anything stupid (I wonder what it is like to climb up a volcano and look inside) and follow the instructions IF something happens. But still...! Pretty impressive!!
We were carefully warn about the risk of getting our handback stollen or being robbed by pickpocketers during the public bus ride around Fortuna, Santa Elena and Monteverde. Although we never felt as targets, we didn't took any chance.
We kept our fanny bag under our shirt and our handbag (small backpack) with us at all time. Also tried to keep an eye on our luggage under the bus each time it stopped, avoiding as much as possible to make these big touristic backpacks appealing...
But the bus company and local authority really seem to care about this problem. The driver was the one to tell us to keep our bags on hand (and not on the overhead compartment). He also gave us tags for our luggage, as he was the only one allowed to open the compartment under the bus.
Sneeking a climb up Arenal is a fatal idea. The volcano is very actuve and car sized chunks of lava fall off the rim about every three minutes. Do not even try and get near the bast of the volcano, it could be easily fatal, be careful and don't just wander around the volcano, you don't want to get too close.