La Fortuna is Costa Rica’s adventure-lovers paradise. The town may be little in size, but definitely don’t underestimate how much it has to offer.
If you’re obsessed with nature, there’s plenty of hiking to do. Want a relaxing couple of days? La Fortuna has a huge choice of luxury resorts, even with their own hot springs!
Basically what we’re saying here is that La Fortuna is so popular because it offers something for all types of travellers – backpackers, families, and couples.
There are so many different activities to do in La Fortuna. You can go white-water rafting, climb a volcano or two, relax at hot springs, go ziplining or become a kid again and visit one of the best waterparks in Costa Rica.
We’d recommend a minimum of 3 days, but if you can afford to spend a little longer, definitely do. You’ll fall in love with the little-town vibe and the countless things to do.
La Fortuna’s location, particularly during the rainy season, makes it a great place to try your hand at white water rafting.
Crashing through the rapids will undoubtedly get the heart pumping! Especially if you opt for a higher class of rapids.
The rapids in the rivers surrounding La Fortuna range from class 2 to 4. If you’re no rafting expert, the higher the class of the rapids, the more difficult and technical they are.
You can go white water rafting all-year-round in La Fortuna as the river levels are maintained by a hydroelectric dam. However, the best rapids are between June and October, during the rainy season.
The rivers are also great places to spot wildlife such as sloths, toucans and other birds.
New to La Fortuna? Our compact La Fortuna travel guide shows you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to La Fortuna!
Booking a tour
Everywhere you look in La Fortuna, you’ll see a sign advertising white water rafting.
To save you the hassle of choosing which company to go with, we’d recommend Costa Rica Roots & Culture. They offer two rivers; Rio Balsa for class 2/3 rapids ($65/person) and Río Sarapiquí for 3/4 class rapids ($85/person). The English-speaking guides create such a fun atmosphere and make the day even more memorable!
To book the tour with Costa Rica Roots & Culture, all you need to do is send them a message on Whatsapp +50663729633.
Ready for another adrenaline-pumping adventure? With a canyoning tour, you will slide down the rivers and waterfalls of La Fortuna, including some spectacular cliff jumps.
Gravity falls is one of the best companies to go canyoning within La Fortuna. Their slogan for the past 25 years has been ‘Be safe and have serious fun’. So if you’re a little apprehensive about canyoning, don’t be, you’ll be in safe hands.
As part of the adventure you’ll get to do a 40 metre rappel down a waterfall, plus a series of jumps off a number of waterfalls and cliffs ranging from 3-9 meters.
The waterfall jumping and extreme canyoning tour lasts for 6 hours and includes a delicious meal at a local restaurant and transportation for $125.
#3 Swing like Tarzan at El Salto rope swing and waterfall
The El Salto rope swing has become one of the most popular things to do in La Fortuna. Firstly because it’s fun, and secondly because it’s free!
You can easily walk past this hidden gem, because it’s set off the side of the road, almost under a bridge. Even if you don’t fancy the rope swing, El Salto is a beautiful place to hang out for the day.
It’s quite the place! The overhead bridge is being taken over by nature, the waterfall and plunge pool below are a stunning turquoise colour and the shallow riverbed is pleasant to paddle through.
You could spend all day just watching people attempt flips, and instead belly flopping into the water with a loud smack!
You must have a go yourself. It definitely gets the heart pumping.
#4 Spend the day relaxing in one of La Fortuna’s hot springs
La Fortuna has pretty much become known for its hot springs, created by the geothermal energy from Arenal Volcano.
As there are so many, choosing which hot springs to visit can be a bit overwhelming. To help you out, here are our top 3 recommendations for all budgets:
These range from free hotspring rivers that anyone can access, to luxury resorts that have harnessed the geothermally heated water.
All you need to do is follow the path from the road and you’ll get to a river that is naturally heated by the volcano. There are lots of different sections along this part of the river, separated by mini waterfalls.
You’ll feel like you’re stepping into a bath!
Baldi Hot Springs – $20 per person
If you’d like to enjoy some facilities whilst relaxing in the hot springs, but don’t want to pay a huge price tag, then Baldi Hot Springs is probably your best bet.
They’re one of the largest hot spring resorts in Costa Rica, boasting 25 thermal pools. You can find the perfect pool for you as they vary in temperature. They even have a jacuzzi big enough for 60 people!
It’s a family-friendly resort, so do keep this in mind if you’re looking for absolute tranquility.
The hotel has created a tropical oasis full of various pools, all at different temperatures, with waterfalls running throughout. Set in the heart of the jungle, it’s the perfect place to spend the day relaxing.
Day passes start from $70 per adult, with lunch included. You can check out the different packages available on Tabacon’s website. It’s also advised to book your tickets in advance.
PRO TIP: A lot of the hotels in La Fortuna actually have their own hot springs which you usually have to buy a day pass for in order to access them. In some cases, it can be more cost effective to stay in the hotel for the night and have free access to the hot springs.
#5 Climb (around) Arenal Volcano
Unfortunately, you can’t actually climb to the summit of Arenal Volcano. It’s been made illegal due to it being too dangerous.
However, there are still plenty of trails within Arenal National Park that can take you around the volcano and up to a certain viewpoint. All of which gives you great views of the volcano and Lake Arenal.
The trails will take you through a secondary forest where you’ll be able to see remnants of previous eruptions and lava flows. Also keep your eye out for wildlife, as there’s an abundant amount of birds and potentially a few sloths and toucans.
You are able to do the trails without a guide. Just get a trail map from the ranger station and follow the well-maintained trails. Entrance to the park is $15 per person.
Alternatively, if you’re short on time in La Fortuna, you can join this 3-in-1 tour which takes you to Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall and Hot Springs for just $88.
Arenal National Park is open from 08:00 to 16:00 every day.
*Continue reading to learn more about La Fortuna waterfall (#7)
#6 Go hiking on La Fortuna’s trails – 1968 trail and Cerro Chato Volcano
There are a number of hiking trails and walks you can go on in La Fortuna. Unfortunately, they aren’t all free and you have to pay an entrance fee for most of them.
A great place to find out what trails are available is Alltrails.
Here are two of our favourite trails:
Arenal 1968 Trail
Why’s it called the 1968 trail? Well that was the year of one of Arenal Volcano’s biggest eruptions that buried over 15 square kilometers in rock, lava and ash.
The trail brings you through a thick forest close to the volcano, offering you spectacular views. The real highlight of the trail is the old lava flows that run down the volcano’s flank.
On the edge of the lava field, you’ll be able to see lots of volcanic boulders that were thrown out of the volcano at speeds of up to 2,000 km per hour!
The trail is a moderate hike, there are some steep portions, and is 4.7 km long. You’ll need to pay an entrance fee of $15.
Cerro Chato Volcano
This hike is many people’s favourite hike in the whole of Costa Rica, but be prepared because won’t be easy. The trail takes you to the top of Cerro Chato Volcano and its stunning green crater lake.
Now there is a slight problem. The trail has actually been closed and you’re not allowed to climb to the top. There are still ways to do it, so if you’re keen on doing it, ask your hotel or hostel owner if they can give you the information.
#7 Admire the huge and powerful La Fortuna waterfall
La Fortuna waterfall is located just a 10-minute drive outside of La Fortuna town. It’s a stunning and magnificent 70m tall waterfall that crashes into a turquoise plunge pool below.
You can’t help but admire the power of the water as it comes racing from the opening of the surrounding jungle.
You can’t actually swim in this pool due to the currents and power of the waterfall, luckily there are other pools downstream where you can swim.
The best things in life don’t come easy. That’s definitely true when it comes to La Fortuna waterfall as you’ll have to walk down 500 steps to get to the base of it. It’s about a 10-minute walk down from the carpark, but the hardest part will be the 20-minutes backup.
Entrance to the waterfall is $18 per person and it’s open from 07:30 to 16:00. To avoid the crowds, we’d recommend going as early as possible.
#8 Visit the stunning turquoise Rio Celeste waterfall
If La Fortuna waterfall hasn’t satisfied your waterfall cravings, then you can also head to Rio Celeste waterfall. Its magical turquoise waters attract lots of visitors, so make sure to get there early.
Rio Celeste can be found in Tenorio Volcano National Park, about a 2-hour drive from La Fortuna. The water gets its magnificent colour from a chemical reaction that occurs with the volcano within the park.
Of course, the waterfall itself is stunning, but so is the national park that it’s set within. Before reaching Rio Celeste waterfall, you’ll have to hike for around 30 minutes. The whole time you’ll be surrounded by unspoiled jungle and hopefully some monkeys!
Unfortunately, you can’t go swimming in the actual waterfall, but the views and the hike along the river make the entire visit worth it.
How to visit
Tenorio Volcano National Park is open every day from 08:00 to 16:00. However, the last entrance into the park is at 14:00.
We’d also recommend getting there as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
Entrance to the park costs $12 per person.
Rio Celeste is 2 hours from La Fortuna. The best way to get there is by car, but if you don’t have one you can book a transfer. However, these tend to be pretty expensive at around $50 per person.
#9 One of your best chances at seeing sloths at the Sloth Watching Trail
Most people who come to Costa Rica are on a mission to see a sloth before they leave the country.
The land where the trail runs through used to be a cattle farm without any trees. In 2000, a local Costa Rican started restoring the land, creating what is now a flourishing forest with plenty of trees, birds and sloths!
It’s now home to around 25 sloths, making it a great place to spot one. We’d recommend a guided tour to increase your chances to spot these little creatures. The guides are trained experts in spotting sloths and other small creatures that you wouldn’t be able to find on your own.
#10 See another side of Costa Rica’s wildlife on a night walk
As the sun goes down in La Fortuna, a whole host of new creatures start to come alive. A night walk is a must whilst in Costa Rica, if you want to experience all of its diverse wildlife.
You can actually head back to the Sloth Watching Trail at 17:30pm. This is when their night walk commences.
The walk lasts 1.5 hours, giving you plenty of time to spot owls, snakes, spiders, frogs and even more sloths.
This guided tour also costs $45 and there’s only one evening tour per day.
#11 Visit Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Lots of exotic animals don’t live on the ground, but in the trees. The hanging bridges give you the opportunity to get a closer look at these animals, whilst getting a bird’s eye view of the rest of the rainforest.
Mistico Park has over 350 species of birds, and over 700 species of plants, giving you plenty to look out for. The trail includes 6 hanging bridges and is 3.2 km long, taking around 2.5 hours to complete.
There is the option to take a guided tour, which we would recommend. With a guided tour, you will actually learn about the wildlife in the park rather than just appreciate its beauty. Listening to the stories of the guides really brings the park to life!
Entrance into the park costs $26 per person, or you could opt for a guided tour costing $69 per person. The guided tour also includes transportation to and from your accommodation.
NOTE: You need to have bought your ticket online, or joined a tour prior to your arrival at Mistico park.
The waterpark is open Monday-Friday from 09:00 to 20:00 and weekends from 09:00 to 21:00.
#13 Explore the 6 million-year-old Venado Caves
Located 45 minutes outside of La Fortuna, Venado caves offer an unforgettable underground adventure.
With the caverns dating back 6 million years, you’ll be able to see ancient stalactites and stalagmites, waterfalls, fish, insects, spiders and four different species of bats.
The tour lasts for around 1.5 hours and tickets cost $28. For this price, you’ll get an experienced English-speaking guide, equipment and access to the swimming pool within the caves.
#14 Go kayaking, paddleboarding, or windsurfing at Lake Arenal
You may have passed Lake Arenal on your way to La Fortuna and probably couldn’t help but admire how beautiful it is.
Sitting at the base of Arenal Volcano, the lake is the largest in Costa Rica. It’s actually man-made and is used to produce hydroelectric power for the country.
Paddleboarding and kayaking
Aside from just admiring its beauty, there are lots of things to do in and around Lake Arenal. Paddleboarding and kayaking are two very popular activities.
Whilst between November and April you’ll see a number of windsurfers and kitesurfers taking advantage of the strong and consistent winds that blow over the lake. Why not try your hand at one of these water sports?
Sport fishing is also becoming quite popular due to the healthy population of rainbow bass that lives within the lake.
Enjoying the views
If you don’t fancy being on the water, you can just hike around the lake which offers spectacular views and an array of wildlife.
The lake is around a 20-minute drive from the centre of La Fortuna.
#15 Zipline through the jungle canopy
If you’re visiting Monteverde, we’d recommend saving ziplining for there, as Monteverde has the longest zipline in Latin America.
Don’t worry if you’re just visiting La Fortuna, though. La Fortuna offers two great parks that will make you fly like a bird; Arenal Sky Adventures Park and Arenal Mundo Aventura Park.
Arenal Sky Adventures offers 7 cables that go up to 200m in height and 750m in length. There’s no walking sections and all the time you’re surrounded by stunning views and jungle. It costs $84 per person.
Arenal Mundo has 12 cables and incredible views of Arenal Volcano and 2 waterfalls. You’ll also get a 3 km cart ride. It costs $73 per person.
We recommend checking out both and seeing which one is more appealing to you. Whichever one you pick, you’ll have an incredible, adrenaline-packed day!
#16 Learn how both coffee and chocolate are made (plus tastings)
If you’ve always wanted to learn a thing or two about coffee and chocolate, then now’s your chance.
#17 Enjoy incredible views of Arenal volcano while horse riding
If you’re looking for a different way to explore the area around Arenal Volcano, then why not go horse riding?
The slow and natural pace of the horse allows you to appreciate the surrounding flora and look for native wildlife. Doing the journey by horseback definitely makes the experience more memorable and special.
Having a guide also means you won’t miss out on spotting some of Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife.
With this 2.5-hour horse riding tour for $57, you’ll get the opportunity to ride along a new riding trail that winds up to the hilltop pastures in Mistico Hanging Bridges Park.
Here you’ll be treated to beautiful views of Arenal Volcano and the lake below.
This place is just wow! You’ll feel like you’re staying in a luxury resort, without paying those high prices you would normally pay at premium places. This eco-friendly hotel offers a number of outdoor pools, hot springs, a spa and a grill restaurant. All surrounded by tropical gardens.
Slip on your robe and enjoy the comfy bed after your spa treatment. The staff here are super friendly and will help you with anything they can. You won’t want to leave your private tropical oasis.
This hotel offers more than just a typical room. You’ll get to stay in fully equipped apartments, for a very reasonable price. Each apartment has its own sitting area, TV and kitchen.
On top of that, you’ll also have access to a really good gym that includes most of the equipment that goes way beyond the typical hotel gym! Then after you’ve worked up a sweat, you can relax on the hotel’s terrace or play a game of snooker.
Hotel Secreto feels like a mini oasis, surrounded by lush plants and views of Arenal Volcano. There are not many places where you can lounge in a swimming pool, or hot tub, and admire views of a 1,600m volcano. Well here you can!
The large glass doors of the rooms mean you’re never shut away from the glorious views and nature. They’re also large, modern and clean. Every morning you can start the day right by enjoying their delicious free breakfast.
Just the view on Arenal Volcano should already be enough to convince you to stay at Arenal Xilopalo. Enjoy the breakfast with a direct view on the volcano while listening to the chirping birds in the surrounding trees.
The rooms match the vibe of La Fortuna, boasting a rustic and natural design. Each room is clean, spacious and also includes extras like a coffee machine and a fridge. The location of the hotel is also perfect.
If you manage to book a mountain view room at Hotel Bijagua, you’ll never want to leave your private balcony. The view is just too good!
The hotel's garden, the public terrace and the swimming pool also provide a peaceful place to relax after a busy day of activities in La Fortuna. There’s also a small kitchen available and free bikes for rent.