Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna is perfect for nature lovers and thrill-seekers. Every adventure activity you can imagine is available here, whether it’s horseback riding, ziplining, tubing, canyoning, or white water rafting. Use these methods of travel to discover tropical wildlife, excellent birdwatching, and luscious landscapes.
1. La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall sits just outside town and is popular with travelers and locals looking to cool off in the impressive natural pools. Hike for around 30 minutes down steep stairs (about 600!), through the stunning green rainforest, before reaching the base of the mighty waterfall. The powerful waterfall plummets to the natural pool below from a height of 70 meters.
Once you’re at the bottom, you’ll be able to swim in the pool under the falls. However, be aware that there is a strong current from the water, and there are more relaxed places to swim downstream.
2. El Salto Rope Swing
True to its name (Salto means ‘jump’ in Spanish), the El Salto rope swing is the perfect place to jump into the beautiful blue water below. This stunning spot is located just on the side of the bridge in town. Grab hold of the swing and launch yourself from the rocks, into the refreshing pool. It’s the perfect place to cool off and enjoy nature as you relax and sunbathe on the surrounding rocks.
At the weekends, locals flock to the area to show off their skills, using the swings to do backflips and tricks. Best of all, the entrance to the El Salto rope swing and the waterfall is completely free!
3. Arenal Volcano National Park
The national park where the Arenal Volcano sits is one of the absolute must things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. It’s also the country’s most active volcano, with lava flowing continuously since its eruption in 1968. Don’t worry though, park rangers keep a close eye on volcanic activity and close the parts of the trail that they feel are unsafe. Arenal Volcano National Park is about 30 minutes from La Fortuna and is the perfect place to hike and get a better understanding of Costa Rica’s famous nature. (Entrance fee: 17 USD)
The Arenal 1968 Route
Head for the Arenal 1968 section of the park, where you’ll find two paths to choose from (there is a network of trails you can find in other areas of the park, too) that snake through the rainforest. Follow signs and take the two-hour walk to the volcano viewpoint.
As you go, the luscious rainforest will turn into a black volcanic terrain before you reach one of the most spectacular viewpoints. Here, you’ll have an incredible view of the volcano as the clouds surround the peak and down onto the rainforest below. You can also see Arenal Lake on the other side!
If you’re hungry, there is also a cafe at the end of the path where you can get snacks or drinks. Alternatively, there are water refill stations on your route so bring your reusable water bottle for the hike.
4. Hot Springs, La Fortuna
The active volcano in La Fortuna makes it a hotspot for geothermal activity. This means there are lots of Hot Springs in La Fortuna to choose from, all of which are between a comfortable 35-38 degrees. Generally, these springs are attached to hotels, so you have to pay for a day pass or stay at the hotel to access them. However, there are hot springs in La Fortuna for all budgets and even some free ones!
Free Hot Springs
If you’re on a budget, La Fortuna has free hot springs situated right next to Tabacon resort. Unlike the hotels, you won’t find amenities like changing rooms, bathrooms, or lockers here, but it’s a more natural experience. Because it’s free, it can be very crowded. However, it’s a great way to meet locals and other travellers in La Fortuna.
Paid Hot Springs
If you have a bit more money to spend, a visit to Tabacon Resort is worth your money, without a doubt! Here you’ll find a stunning landscape of different leveled pools, with waterfalls and lush tropical greenery. You might also see wild animals like hummingbirds and iguanas enjoying the surrounding nature. Each pool has a different temperature, so you can find the right hot spring for you, depending on how you like it.
You can choose from a full-day pass (from $85 USD) or a half-day pass (from $70USD). The full-day pass includes food, for example, lunch or dinner with three courses and a drink. What’s more, you’ll have access to all amenities like bathrooms, lockers, changing rooms, and towels.
It’s worth checking the price of staying at Tabacon Resort overnight. Sometimes, staying for the night is not much more than the day pass; a lovely luxury treat on your trip!
5. Tubing, La Fortuna
Tubing is the ultimate adventure and a top thing to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Book from one of the tour companies in La Fortuna, who will provide a guide and a rubber tube. Then simply jump inside the tube and enjoy the rapids of the River Arenal! The guide will help you navigate the narrow parts of the river, the white water, and the exhilarating drops along the way. Although the tours are offered in La Fortuna, the best tubing experience is around Rio Celeste.
7. Canyoning Tour
A canyoning tour in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, is a heart-racing opportunity for thrill-seekers. Especially those who want to see the landscape from a different perspective. Join a canyoning tour, hop in the 4×4, and head off-road into the wilderness to your first canyoning location. Professional guides will help you rappel down the cliffs, spiraling between the rock walls into the streams and rivers below. Not only is this a completely different way to see nature, but you’ll also have the most incredible feeling of satisfaction when you reach the bottom and see how far you’ve come. (Book your canyoning tour here)
8. Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges
The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges are a bucket list thing to do in La Fortuna. Discover the unique hanging bridges suspended among the rainforest canopy as you walk among amazing animals like sloths, tarantulas, and frogs.
As you walk, take the time to look down onto the stunning forest from the incredible height of 45 meters (or 148 feet)! Floating among the treetops, listening to the peaceful sounds of wildlife around you is truly an experience like no other. (For more wildlife visit Manuel Antonio National Park)
The trail is around 3km long and includes six hanging bridges and ten normal throughout the forest trail. Along the way, you’ll see a waterfall and even have a view of the volcano on a clear day.
How to Get to the Hanging Bridges
The hanging bridges are about a 30-minute drive from the center of La Fortuna. It’s best to drive using a rental car. Alternatively, you can take a taxi (expect to pay around 30 USD) or book a guided tour from La Fortuna that includes transportation.
Entrance fee: 26 USD per person (without a guide). You don’t need a guide to walk the trail, but it’s a good idea if you want professional help spotting different wildlife species. The route will take you around 2.5 hours with a guide. Without a guide, allocate 1.5 hours.
Where to Stay in La Fortuna
If you have your own transport, you’ll find the best accommodations and campsites just outside the village. Otherwise, La Fortuna has many excellent accommodations that fit a range of budgets. If the hot springs play a big part in your trip, consider staying in a hotel with hot springs included in the nightly price. (Here are all your hotel options) We’d recommend staying 3-4 days to allow enough time to do all the top things to do in La Fortuna.
How to Visit La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Most international flights come into San Jose, around 3 hours away from La Fortuna. The road is well-paved, and you can rent a car (no need for a 4×4 for this route). There are also many shuttle buses to choose from or public buses for an even lower price. (Book your transfers here)
Liberia also has an international airport and is a 2.5-hour drive from La Fortuna. Halfway is the Rio Celeste Waterfall, if you want to make a stop en route.
Everything is very remote and wild around La Fortuna. While beautiful, this can make it hard to get around, especially as there aren’t any public transport options. For that reason, it’s easiest to rent a car, so you have freedom of movement on your trip. (No 4×4 needed!)
Best time to visit La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna is tropical all year round, making it luscious and green. The dry season spans the months of December to April and is a great time to visit if you want to enjoy all the outdoor activities on offer. However, these are also the busiest months, and accommodation prices can get very expensive (especially around Christmas and New Year).
If you don’t mind a bit of rain, the wet season (mid-April to November) is also a great option. During this time, there are fewer people, cheaper accommodation, and the waterfalls and rivers are at their fullest. Typically, the rain showers only come in the afternoon, so you’ll still have lovely sunshine and clear skies in the mornings.
Best Cafes and Restaurants in La Fortuna
La Fortuna town is the jumping-off point for many adventure activities, rivers, hot springs, and national parks. It’s also the place to find lots of yummy restaurants and cafes. In line with the adventurous and outdoor lifestyle, there are great healthy cafes where you can enjoy delicious tropical fruit and seasonal veggies. Some of our favourites were:
- Organico Fortuna: for a healthy, tasty lunch
- Jungle Bowls (Smoothie bowls)
- Soda la Hormiga (Costa Rican)
- Kappa (Sushi)
Your budget for La Fortuna
In La Fortuna hotel or hostel rooms are priced between 20 – 250 USD a night. Going out for a meal its about 10 – 40 USD. There are quite some high entrance fees like La Fortuna waterfall or the Volcano park. Luckily you can opt for the free hot springs! Like almost everywhere in Costa Rica tap water is safe to drink in La Fortuna.
Helpful Budget tip! The currency in Costa Rica is Colones. Save up a lot of exchange fees by converting your own local currency to Colones with a Wise card. You can use that card to withdraw Colonos from the ATM in Costa Rica or pay by card at pretty much all the shops. Some restaurants charge USD by default, but if you ask them to charge Colones it will make a significant difference on the total bill. Get a Wise card here, it’s free!