21 Best Things to Do in La Fortuna Costa Rica

Are you looking for the best things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica?  You’ve come to the right place. Esther and I spent two weeks in Costa Rica, and this was one of our absolute favorite stops.

For outdoor enthusiasts like us, La Fortuna has a little of everything (one reason we chose Costa Rica over the Dominican Republic as our destination for this year).  From hanging bridges, waterfalls, and the famous Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna was one adventure after another. 

So, get ready for some serious adventure in this tropical paradise.   

Where is La Fortuna Located?

This town of just over 15,000 is located approximately three hours northeast of the capital, San José.

  • Distance from Juan Santamaría International Airport near San José (in Rio Segundo) to La Fortuna: 2 hr 24 minutes
  • Distance from Monteverde to La Fortuna: 3 hr 3 min
  • Distance from Manuel Antonio to La Fortuna: 4 hr 30 min

How to Get to La Fortuna

  • Driving from San Jose to La Fortuna
    • Renting a car is the best option for flexibility.  Although more expensive, having your own car will give you the ability to experience everything on your timetable.  
  • Shared Shuttle service
    • Using a shared shuttle service is the best budget option.  This is what Esther and I did, and we saved a ton of money yet still had a fairly comfortable experience.
    • Price: $35-$65 (depending on which company you choose)
    • Duration: 4 hours (most companies make a bathroom/snack stop)
    • Best shared shuttle tour companies with price comparison from San José to La Fortuna
      • Paradise Shuttle 
      • Volcano Travel
      • Ride CR
      • Interbus
  • Public bus:
    • There is a fairly good public bus system that departs from San Jose.  This is by far the cheapest option but is a big sacrifice in comfort.  The majority of public buses do not have air conditioning.  
    • Also, depending on peak travel hours, you may have to stand if there are no available seats. 
    • Price for public bus from San José to La Fortuna: $5-7 dollars
    • Duration: 4-6 hours
    • Find routes on Rome2Rio
  • Domestic flight: IMPORTANT: flights from San José to La Fortuna only run on certain days, so options are limited.  Be sure to check Skyscanner in advance if you are considering this option.
    • Price: Cheapest around $120 for a one-way flight, $300 for a round-trip flight on Skyscanner
    • Flight duration: 30 minutes for a direct flight

Getting Around Within La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano National Park

Renting a car is the most popular option for getting around La Fortuna.  You can either rent a car in San José and drive yourself to La Fortuna, or you can use a shared shuttle service to get to La Fortuna and then rent a car once you are there, just for transportation within Arenal and the surrounding areas. 

Esther and I did neither of these; we are budget travelers and decided to try our luck relying on Uber to get us around once in La Fortuna. 

This has pros and cons.  We saved a good chunk of change, but there are not many Uber drivers in La Fortuna (a fairly small town), and sometimes, our cell service was spotty, and it was hard to connect to the Uber application. 

Also, some of the Uber drivers drive VERY fast; speed limits do not seem to be very enforced. 

If I were to visit La Fortuna again, I would still use the shared shuttle service to transport us the 4 hours from San José to La Fortuna as we enjoyed sitting back and letting the experts do the long-distance driving. 

But I would probably rent a car once in La Fortuna to avoid the headache of trying to coordinate transportation to the different destinations within Arenal.

How Many Days Should You Spend in La Fortuna?

How long to stay in La Fortuna entirely depends on your Costa Rica travel plans.  While some La Fortuna activities are unique to the area (Arenal Volcano National Park), others can also be experienced in other parts of the country.  

For example, La Fortuna offers fantastic ziplining experiences, but because Esther and I also spent three days in Monteverde, we decided to zipline there instead.

Bottom line: spend two days minimum if you are visiting many other destinations and five days if La Fortuna will be one of your main destinations. 

Best Time of Year to Go to La Fortuna

The rainiest months in La Fortuna are between May and October, with average rainfall peaking in late September.  The driest months are November-April.

The warmest months are March-June, with an average temperature of 81, but the temperature stays fairly consistent (the coolest months have an average temperature of 78).  See weatherspark.com for up-to-date averages.

La Fortuna vs Arenal

La Fortuna is the name of the town itself.  This is where most people stay when visiting nearby attractions.  La Arenal Volcano National Park is located a 20-minute drive from the town of La Fortuna.

Best Things to Do in La Fortuna 

1. Arenal Volcano National Park

Getting to experience the grandeur of the iconic Arenal Volcano is hands-down one of the best things to do in La Fortuna.  This is one thing you can’t find anywhere else in Costa Rica and is a must-see while in this part of the country.

We had traveled to Peru the year prior, and in comparing these two trips; one big difference between Costa Rica and Peru is this iconic cone-shaped volcano.

Although not currently active, this massive mountain is a sight to behold.  While you cannot climb the mountain itself, Arenal is full of hiking trails that allow visitors to get up close to the mountain and old lava flows. 

map showing the trails and points of interest at Arenal Volcano National Park in La Fortuna
Arenal Volcano National Park map
  • Pricing: tickets are $15 for foreigners and $5 for children 
  • Hours: The main visitor center is open daily from 8 am-4 pm.  The Peninsula sector is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm, with the last entry at 4 pm. 
  • How to get there: the drive from La Fortuna to Arenal Volcano National Park takes about 20 minutes.  The easiest options are driving your rental car or taking a taxi/uber. 
  • How long to spend: We recommend dedicating one full day to Arenal.  Unless you plan to be in La Fortuna for more than four days, one full day is enough to experience the best hikes and still have time for the other fantastic activities near La Fortuna.
  • Best hikes
    • Arenal 1968 Volcano Trail: Forest Trail
      • Distance: 2.9 miles
      • Difficulty: easy
    • Mirador El Silencio
      • Distance: 3.1 miles
      • Difficulty: moderate
    • Las Arañas Trail
      • Distance: 2.4 miles
      • Difficulty: moderate
my sister and I on a balcony with the backdrop of Arenal Volcano
Esther and I posing in front of a mangrove tree on El Ceibo Trail in Arenal Volcano National Park
El Ceibo Trail in Arenal Volcano National Park

2. La Fortuna Waterfall

This waterfall is gorgeous, and the best part?  It’s easily doable without a tour and is located right outside of La Fortuna.  It’s a great activity to fit into an afternoon as you only need a few hours (tops) at the falls. 

  • How to get to La Fortuna Waterfall: The waterfall is located just an 8-minute drive from downtown La Fortuna.  Taking your rental car or an Uber/taxi is the easiest option.
  • Can you hike to La Fortuna waterfall without a tour?: Absolutely, no tour is required, simply pay your entrance fee upon arrival. 
  • Pricing: $18 per person
  • Tours of La Fortuna Waterfall: If you would like to skip the hassle of coordinating transportation, you can hike to La Fortuna Waterfall as part of a guided tour.  Many of these tours are ‘combo’ tours that include hiking in Arenal, the Mistico Hanging Bridges, and La Fortuna Waterfall.  Prices range anywhere from $90-$160.
  • La Fortuna waterfall hike time: The hike to the falls is short (only 0.6 miles), but consists of 530 stairs descending to the falls.  It only took Esther and I 15 minutes to descend, but longer (30 minutes or so), to climb back up the stairs on our way out. 
balcony view of La Fortuna waterfall, one of the best things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica
Overlook point at La Fortuna Waterfall

3. Bogarin Sloth Trail

This is hands-down one of our favorite low-cost activities.  The Bogarin Sloth Trail is located just a short walk (or a VERY short drive) from central La Fortuna.

With 1.5 miles of easy trails, this makes for a fantastic afternoon activity. Apart from our visit to Manuel Antonio National Park, the Bogarin trail was one of our favorite places to see wildlife.  We saw toucans, sloths, and impressive lines of leafcutter ants.

  • Pricing
    • Self-guided tour: $16.30
    • Guided tour: $48.00
  • Hours: The Bogarin Sloth Trail is open daily from 0700-1600
  • How to get there: The Bogarin trail is just a 4-minute drive (or 10-minute walk) from the central Parque de La Fortuna.  Esther and I simply walked, or you can take a short Uber/taxi ride.
  • How long to spend: We spent about 2 hours and felt this was the perfect amount of time to roam all the trails. 
Toucan in the tree branches at the Bogarin Sloth Trail
Toucan in the tree branches at the Bogarin Sloth Trail

4. Mistico Hanging Bridges

Hanging bridges in Costa Rica are another must-do.  We argue that the Mistico bridges are one of the best things to do in La Fortuna IF you are not planning on visiting Monteverde.  The Monteverde Cloud Forest has incredible hanging bridges as well, so again, if you are short on time, I might skip Mistico and spend more time doing things that can only be done in La Fortuna (like Arenal Volcano National Park).

Prices for self-guided tour:

  • $32/adult (19-64)
  • $21/teenager (11-18)
  • $26/elderly (65+)
  • Children are free

Prices for Mistico Natural History Guided tour

  • $48/adult (19-64 years old)
  • $42/elderly (65+)
  • $36/teenager (11-18 years old)
  • $18/children (6-10 years old)

How long to spend at Mistico Hanging Bridges? We spent about 2 hours in the park and were able to walk all the trails with plenty of stops for photos. 

Me standing in the middle of one of the hanging bridges at Mistico Hanging Bridges Park near La Fortuna
hanging bridges at Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

5. White-Water Rafting on the Balsa River or the Sarapiqui River 

Looking for an adrenaline rush?  White water rafting on the Balsa River or the Sarapiqui River is a great way to get your heart pumping while getting to experience the jungle.

Tours last anywhere from 2 and a half hours to a full 8 hours, and you can choose milder rapids (class 2 or 3), or the more intense (class 3 or 4).  

Best White-water rafting tour companies 

  • Arenal Rafting Company
    • Price: $68 (class 2/3 rapids tour) or $85/person (class 3/4 rapids tour)
    • Tour duration: 5 hours (for class 2/3 rapids tour) or 2.5 hours (for class 3/4 rapids tour)
  • Flow Trips Costa Rica
    • Price: $96.05/person
    • Tour duration: 5 hours
  • Wave Expeditions (Raft and ATV tour combo)
    • Price: $175/person
    • Tour duration: 8 hours

6. Arenal Horseback Riding

A horseback riding tour in Arenal is a great way to cover more distance and see the incredible views within the park.

Top tour companies

  • Tico Paradise
    • Price: $90/adult
    • Tour duration: 2h 30min
  • Centaura-Day Horseback Riding Tours
    • Price: $130/adult
    • Tour duration: 3h 30min

7. Arenal Night Tour

Should you do a night tour in Arenal?  It depends.  If you are not planning on visiting Monteverde, then we say yes.  Night tours in Costa Rica in general are incredible. 

That being said, many other big destinations offer night tours as well, so if you are short on time, this might be something that you save for later in your trip.  But definitely do one while you are in Costa Rica!  We saw SO much wildlife.  

Top night tour companies La Fortuna

  • Ecogarden Arenal Family Project
    • Price: $60/adult
    • Tour duration: 2h
  • Destination Services
    • Price: $67.20/adult
    • Tour duration: 3h
butterfly with transparent wings at nighttime in Costa Rica
transparent butterfly we saw during one of our night tours in Costa Rica

8. Canyoning/Rappel tour

This is another great way to get your heart pumping and get to experience the landscape of this part of Costa Rica up close.

Top-rated canyoning/rappel tour companies

  • Pure Trek Canyoning
    • Price: $119/adult
    • Tour duration: 4h
  • Desafio Adventure Company
    • Price: $112/adult
    • Tour duration: 4h
  • ABC Canyoning
    • Price: $85/adult
    • Tour duration: 5h

9. Lake Arenal

Whether you are looking to relax on the shore or get some activity in with kayaking or paddleboarding, Lake Arenal is a fantastic way to spend the afternoon.

How to get to Lake Arenal: The east shore of Lake Arenal is just a 25-minute car ride from La Fortuna, while driving all the way around to the west shore takes around 1hr 20min

Best things to do at Lake Arenal

  • Arenal Lake Boat Tour
    • $100/adult with Volcano Lake Adventures
    • Tour duration: 1hr
  • Kayak tour
    • $70/adult with Jacamar Naturalist Tours
    • Tour duration: 3h

10. El Salto Rope Swing

This is a favorite local hang-out spot to the south of La Fortuna along Río Fortuna and the best part is that it’s free.  El Salto is a giant rope swing over the Rio La Fortuna.  If you are up for the adrenaline rush (the rope swing starts on a tall rock outcropping), go for it.  Esther and I enjoyed sitting by the river but ultimately decided against jumping ourselves.

How to get to the El Salto rope swing: Just plug in ‘El Salto’ to Google Maps.  It’s a 4-minute drive or 25-minute walk from the center of La Fortuna.

11. La Fortuna Hot Springs

Costa Rica is all about rejuvenation, and La Fortuna is no exception.  La Fortuna is a hub for hot springs.  Whether you are on a budget and are looking for a free option, or you want a full luxury experience, La Fortuna has got you covered.

Best Hot Springs near La Fortuna

Free Hot Springs (Rio Choyin)

This is a locally known spot located just down the road from Tabacon Hot Springs (a resort with a paid hot springs option).  We went on a Sunday, and the hot springs were very busy with local families, but we found a quiet spot and enjoyed soaking in the warm water. 

families relaxing in the free Rio Choyin hot springs near La Fortuna Costa Rica
Free hot springs (Rio Choyin) near La Fortuna Costa Rica

Ecotermales Fortuna

  • Highlights: series of cascading waterfalls, lunch or buffet-style dinner offered with meats, salads, and side dishes.  2 scheduled visit times (9 am-4 pm and 4 pm-9:30 pm) with maximum number of visitors (to avoid crowds)
  • Pricing
    • Entrance fee: $47
    • Entrance fee plus lunch or dinner: $77

Baldi Hot Springs

  • Highlights: 25 thermal pools with crystal-clear water, a slide and play area for kids, beautiful rooms, and a spa.
  • Pricing
    • Entrance fee for foreign adults: $47, $34 for kids
    • Entrance fee plus lunch OR dinner: $69, $50 for kids
    • Entrance fee plus lunch AND dinner: $91, $66 for kids

Tabacon Hot Springs

  • Highlights: thermal waterfalls, various thermal pools with temperatures ranging from 72-105 degrees
  • Pricing
    • Day pass: rates from $81 for adults, $39 for children
    • Hot springs plus lunch or dinner: from $149 for adults, $73 for children

12. Rio Celeste Waterfall

This gorgeous waterfall is one of the best day trips from La Fortuna.  The turquoise waters are stunning, and the falls are surrounded by thick tropical forests.

Why is the Rio Celeste waterfall so blue?

Rio Celeste is located at the junction of two rivers, one with slightly acidic water, and the other with ‘neutral’ water.  When the two rivers meet, the mixing of particles results in a certain particle size that scatters light in a specific way. 

How to get to Rio Celeste from La Fortuna

Rio Celeste is a 1hr 20min drive from La Fortuna, accessible with a normal vehicle during the dry season only.  Parking is available for a fee.

Important: you must purchase tickets online before visiting, ticket purchase on-site is no longer allowed.

Pricing

  • Entrance fee to Tenorio Volcano National Park: $12 for adults, $5 for children
  • Parking: 2000 colones per car, no credit cards accepted

Open hours: daily from 8 am-5 pm

Tours to Rio Celeste Waterfall

  • Full-Day Rio Celeste Tour from La Fortuna by Adventure Tours
    • Price: $89/adult
    • Tour duration: 8hr
  • Rio Celeste Waterfall Hike from Arenal by Desafio Adventure Company
    • Price: $108/adult
    • Tour duration: 6hr

13. Venado Caves

As long as you are not overly claustrophobic, the Venado caves are one of the most unique things to do near La Fortuna.  These caves are an amazing network of twisting passageways, waterfalls, and interesting formations.

How to get to the Venado Caves? The caves are a 50-minute drive from La Fortuna and the road is accessible with a regular vehicle.

Can I visit Venado Caves without a tour? No. You can drive to the caves yourself, but the actual cave visit must be part of a guided tour. 

Best Tour companies for visiting Venado Caves

  • Ecoterra Costa Rica
    • Price: $79/adult
    • Tour duration: 4h
  • Seven Tours Costa Rica
    • Price: $80/adult
    • Tour duration: 4-5h

14. Canopy Zipline

Doing a canopy zipline should most definitely be on your Costa Rica to-do list.  Should you do it while in La Fortuna?  Maybe.  Again, we think it depends on how much time you have in the area and the other destinations you plan on visiting.  

Esther and I did an incredible zipline tour in Monteverde, and we were glad that we spent our time in La Fortuna doing the more ‘La Fortuna’ specific things.  But, it depends on your itinerary.

Best Zipline Tour Companies La Fortuna

  • Sky Adventures
    • Price: $105.91/adult
    • Tour duration: 2h
  • Canopy San Lorenzo
    • Highlights: includes Superman-style zipline and Tarzan swing
    • Price: $98/adult
    • Tour duration: 3h
me on the platform of a zipline over the forest canopy in Costa Rica
Canopy Zipline Tour Costa Rica

15. ATV Tour

An ATV tour is another great way to get some awesome volcano views and cover a ton of miles without all the walking. 

Best Arenal ATV tour companies 

  • Original Arenal ATV
    • Tour Highlights: ATV through Costa Rican rainforest through a private farm next to Arenal Volcano.  Optional national facial treatment included.
    • Price: $105/adult
    • Tour duration: 2h
  • Outback Quads
    • Tour Highlights: ATV through a private jungle trail.
    • Price: $91/adult
    • Tour duration: 2h

16. Wander the Town of La Fortuna

This is a great afternoon activity to squeeze in after a morning tour.  The town of La Fortuna is beautiful, and Esther and I loved wandering the streets surrounding Parque La Fortuna and browsing the souvenir shops. 

17. Coffee or Chocolate Tour

We always love learning about the production of local goods.  While La Fortuna is not the coffee-producing hub of Costa Rica, the tour we did here was absolutely amazing and is hands-down one of the best things do to while in La Fortuna. 

Esther and I sitting together with tiny coffee cups, sampling coffee as part of our coffee and chocolate tour in La Fortuna
Sampling coffee with our North Fields Coffee Tour

Best Coffee/Chocolate Tour Companies in La Fortuna

  • North Fields Coffee Tours
    • Highlights: learn about both the coffee and chocolate-making processes at a family farm near La Fortuna—lots of opportunities to sample various coffees, chocolates, and tea.  Group sizes are small (limited to 8 people).
    • Price: $43/adult
    • Tour duration: 2h 30min
  • Rainforest Chocolate Tour
    • Learn about the chocolate production process as well as ancient traditions/rituals involving the cacao tree.  Lots of opportunities for tasting organic chocolate.  
  • Eden Chocolate Tour
    • Highlights: learn about the chocolate production process from start to finish at a local plantation.  The tour ends with the opportunity to make your own chocolate bonbons. 
    • Price: $33.90/adult
    • Tour duration: 1hr 45min

18. Visit the Butterfly Conservatory

The butterfly conservatory, located in the town of El Castillo (not to be confused with the smaller butterfly garden in La Fortuna), is the biggest butterfly conservatory in Costa Rica.

How to get to the Butterfly Conservatory in El Castillo? The conservatory is a 40-minute drive from La Fortuna. 

Hours of Operation: open daily from 10 am-4 pm

19. Take a Costa Rican Cooking Class

Top Cooking classes tour companies

  • Costa Rica Descents
    • Highlights: Costa Rica Descents offers a farm-to-table cooking class where the participants get to help collect the food themselves from the field and then use it to prepare typical Costa Rican dishes.
    • Cost: $45/adult
    • Tour duration: 2h
  • Desafio Adventure Company
    • Highlights: Join a local family for a cooking class that includes learning about household traditions and cooking techniques.
    • Cost: $63/adult
    • Tour duration: 2h 30min

20. Arenal Observatory Lodge and Trails

The Arenal Observatory and Lodge is an eco-friendly hotel with a surrounding area of over 352 acres of forest and tropical gardens.  The lodge offers activities such as horseback riding, an ‘observatory’ restaurant with fantastic views of Arenal, a spa, and daily walks in the gardens and rainforest.

How to get to Arenal Observatory Lodge from La Fortuna?

The Arenal Observatory Lodge is a 40-minute drive from La Fortuna.  It is accessible with a regular vehicle during the dry season; a 4×4 vehicle may be necessary during the wet season.  Visit their official website for a full list of route options, and call +506-2479-1070 for updated road conditions.

Prices

  • Entrance Pass: $18/person. Includes, access to walking trails, ‘the nest’ observation tower, Danta waterfall, and hanging bridges.
  • Day Pass: $35/person, requires prior reservation.  Includes everything with the Entrance Pass along with lunch at El Jilguero

21. River Safari Float

What better way to see the wildlife of Costa Rica than by taking a safari float through the jungle?  Unlike white water rafting, this calmer float is a great opportunity to spot birds and appreciate the jungle scenery.

Best river safari float tour companies

  • Costa Rica Descents
    • Tour Highlights: safari float along a river near Arenal.  Includes a short hike to an organic farm.
    • Price: $65/adult
    • Tour duration: 3h
  • Jacamar Naturalist Tours
    • Tour Highlights: Float on the Corobici River to spot Costa Rican wildlife.  Includes lunch afterward with a local family.
    • Price: $83.62/adult
    • Tour duration: 3h
  • Caribbean Winds Costa Rica
    • Tour Highlights: slightly longer tour along the Peñas Blancas River
    • Price: $70/adult
    • Tour duration: 4h

La Fortuna Itinerary (3-day and 5-day)

3-Day Itinerary La Fortuna

We recommend spending at least 2-3 days in La Fortuna as there is so much to experience.  If you’re here for three days, we would do the following activities in the following order (this keeps your drive time to a minimum)

Day 1

  • Arenal Volcano National Park (hiking, horseback riding, or ATV)
  • Hot springs in the afternoon (paid or free)

Day 2

After a long first day of hiking, spend your second day doing a little more sitting and tasting as you learn about the coffee and chocolate production processes in Costa Rica.

  • Coffee or chocolate tour in the morning
  • La Fortuna Waterfall and El Salto rope swing

Day 3

Rio Celeste waterfall day tour. We would forgo the Mistico Hanging Bridges Park if you are also planning on stopping in Monteverde.

5-Day Itinerary La Fortuna

If you’ve got five days in La Fortuna, awesome!  There is so much to see and do.  We recommend doing all of the ‘three-day itinerary’ things, plus the following.

Day 4

  • Mistico Hanging Bridges in the morning
  • Arenal Night Tour

Day 5

Go out with a bang on your last day with a whitewater tour or safari float (depending on your desired adrenaline level).

La Fortuna Costa Rica FAQ

Is La Fortuna Worth visiting?

Absolutely!  Especially if you are spending at least 7 days in Costa Rica.  The Arenal Volcano and surrounding park are so iconic that we consider this a must-see part of Costa Rica.  Also, except for our three days at Drake Bay, La Fortuna was the least crowded of all the places we visited.

What to Do in La Fortuna When it Rains?

Even during the dry season, you’re likely to experience rain at some point during your trip.  Be sure to pack a rain poncho or light jacket, and still head out!  Most activities are open rain or shine.

Can you Climb Arenal?

No, you cannot.  Climbing up the mountain itself is illegal and dangerous (there are very venomous snakes in the canopy; we always recommend staying on the trails).

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