La Fortuna is one of the most popular travel destinations in Costa Rica, and with good reason. With its proximity to Arenal volcano, this Costa Rican town is abundant in hot springs, hiking, waterfalls, and so much more. There is no shortage of fun and memorable things to do in La Fortuna.
During our stay in La Fortuna, we found that in spite of its popularity, the town maintains a local feel without all of the pricey tourist traps. There is a visible integration of passing visitors with resident Ticos going about their everyday life. We loved this “no-pressure” casual vibe.
Whether you want a luxurious vacation with resort-style thermal springs or an “off-the-beaten-path” vacation filled with budget-friendly activities, both options are viable. If you are still wondering what to do in La Fortuna, check out our list of recommended activities and create an itinerary to meet your preferences.
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- Best Things to do in La Fortuna
- Hike one of the Volcanos in La Fortuna
- Venture across the Mistico Hanging Bridges
- Discover the Iguana Bridge
- Explore Arenal and La Fortuna by scooter
- Experience the Thrill of White Water Rafting
- Take a Safari by Boat
- Take a traditional Costa Rican cooking class
- Search for sloths
- Indulge in a coffee and/or chocolate tour
- Relax in Costa Rica’s Famous hot springs
- Take a dip in the Free Public hot springs
- Swim in the La Fortuna Waterfall
- Explore the Venado Caves
- Take up a new water sport on Lake Arenal
- Where to Stay in La Fortuna Costa Rica
- How To Get To La Fortuna
- Frequently Asked Questions about La Fortuna
Best Things to do in La Fortuna
Hike one of the Volcanos in La Fortuna
Arenal is the most popular volcano in Costa Rica.
While visiting La Fortuna, we had the opportunity to join a guided tour of the dormant volcano and learn about its history.
According to our guide, Arenal unexpectedly erupted in 1968 spewing lava, rocks, and dust for 15 days. The devastating eruption killed 73 people and buried three communities including the original towns of Arenal and Tronadora.
Until recently, it was the country’s most active volcano with an average of 41 eruptions a day. Although dormant since 2010, Arenal volcano is still considered one of the 20 most active volcanoes in the world. Our guide told us “If this volcano erupts while you are here, the escape route is to run.”
While you can visit Arenal on your own, I highly suggest visiting as part of a larger tour. Tours offer a substantial discount when compared to booking each activity independently. I personally booked the Arenal and Hot Springs tour package. After hiking around a volcano, relaxing at the hot springs was the perfect way to end the day
We were sitting at breakfast one morning when we struck up a conversation with a couple sitting next to us. They told us about Cerro Chato, the “other” volcano in La Fortuna. Sitting at around 3,740 feet tall, they told us of the extremely challenging nature of this hike. Naturally, we were intrigued and decided to experience it for ourselves.
The trails on Cerro Chato are overgrown and at times barely visible. The climb is steep requiring you to pull yourself up by grabbing onto exposed tree roots and limbs. Continuing for about 3 hours along an incredibly steep ascent, the trail opens up to the crater with views of a green lagoon below. You can cool off by taking a quick dip into the lagoon.
Update: There are no longer guided tours of Cerro Chato, however many adventure seekers continue to hike the trails on their own.
Related Content: “Hunting For Ghosts In Costa Rica, The Fica Sanatorio Durán”
Venture across the Mistico Hanging Bridges
Hanging bridge tours are one of the most popular attractions in Costa Rica. Though there are several places where you can experience the thrill of walking through the clouds on a suspension bridge, Mistico Hanging Bridges and the nearby Arenal Hanging Bridges, are favorites among locals and tourists alike.
These parks are filled with rich biodiversity. Visitors can expect to traverse over a dozen bridges while taking in breathtaking views of the rainforest flora and fauna.
If you are unable to make it to Mistico, the Cloud Forest in Monteverde is another popular destination for hanging bridges.
Discover the Iguana Bridge
Iguana Bridge is a hidden gem near La Fortuna. It is not part of a tour and it is not even considered a tourist attraction. It is just an incredible occurrence hidden away in plain sight.
Located in Muelle, just 20 minutes from La Fortuna, is a small bridge that is home to more than 200 iguanas. These are not the iguanas that you are used to finding in the pet store. These are massive and brightly colored creatures sprawled out along the ground and sunbathing in the trees.
You can get surprisingly close to the iguanas providing a unique opportunity to marvel at these amazing creatures in their own element. There is no one monitoring you, so explore freely but please keep a respectful distance.
Explore Arenal and La Fortuna by scooter
It is easy to rent a taxi, however, we highly recommend renting a scooter. There are so many hidden gems to explore in and around La Fortuna. To name a few, there are the “El Salto” Rope Swing on the side of Ruta Nacional Treciaria, Iguana Bridge in Muelle, and the free hot springs known as Tabaconcito.
Renting a scooter gives you the freedom to explore the area on your own schedule. Sometimes the best adventures come from unplanned spontaneity.
There are several scooter rental companies in La Fortuna that rent by the hour.
Experience the Thrill of White Water Rafting
La Fortuna is surrounded by several rivers offering some of the best whitewater rafting rivers in the country.
The most popular river for white water rafting in La Fortuna is the Río Balsa. Featuring Class II – III rapids, this location is ideal for families and beginners. More advanced rafters will want to check out the Río Toro which has Class III – IV rapids.
The Arenal Rafting Company provides all you need including safety gear to ensure that you have a safe adventure.
Take a Safari by Boat
Looking for something a bit calmer than the rapids? La Fortuna provides the unique opportunity to enjoy the riverside wildlife by raft. The Wildlife Safari Float takes you for a leisurely tour drifting down the Peñas Blancas River. A guide will point out local plants and animals including howler monkeys, iguanas, sloths, and maybe even a crocodile.
Prior to our safari float with Costa Rica Descents, José (Bollo), showed us around their in-house gardens. We were impressed by his deep knowledge of the plants, their history, and uses. His uncle was a shaman in one of the villages, and having grown up under his guidance, Bollo has an incredible respect for and understanding of the cultural use of specific plants.
We headed out to Peñas Blancas River for our safari. Despite the cold and rainy weather, Bollo was able to track down iguanas, monkeys, birds, AND sloths. He has a howler monkey call, like nothing I’ve ever heard. It is amazing and no doubt was the reason we got to see the monkeys. Definitely book with CR Descents, ask for José (Bollo), and don’t forget to tip your guide!
Take a traditional Costa Rican cooking class
Food is a centerpiece of culture. From street food and traditional dishes to coffee and chocolate, there is so much that can be learned about Costa Rican culture based on their cuisine.
Desafio Adventure Company offers a 3-hour Costa Rican Cooking class with dinner.
During the class, you will fully immerse yourself in local culture with this authentic cooking experience. Learn about traditional dishes and ingredients such as yucca, tiquisque, and mamón chino. The lesson is followed by a hearty sit-down meal and a post-dinner cup of Costa Rican coffee.
Search for sloths
When considering what to do in Costa Rica, having a sloth encounter typically makes it onto every traveler’s bucket list. Spotting sloths, however, can be difficult for the untrained eye. Trust me. We tried for days on numerous hikes in multiple parks, and nothing.
Sloths may not be easy to find, but they are there. If you want to guarantee a sloth sighting, we recommend joining a local guide for a wildlife tour, like the Guided Twilight Wildlife Safari with Flow Trips.
If you want to see sloths for free then head to the Rio Danta Corredor Biologico Sendero. This free reserve allows you to walk freely through a sloth habitat, increasing your chances of a sloth sighting.
There is, however, no substitute for a good guide who will likely spot a sloth far faster than a tourist ever could.
Indulge in a coffee and/or chocolate tour
With soil rich in organic volcanic material, La Fortuna is a haven for agriculture and crops. It is the ideal place to experience the traditional method of planting, growing, and harvesting crops like coffee and cocoa.
The Rainforest Chocolate Tour is one of the most popular tours in La Fortuna. A guide takes you through a 1.5-hour hands-on program where you can learn about the origin and history of Costa Rican chocolate, while participating in the production process and sampling the divine organic sweet.
The best part of this tour? You can eat all the chocolate that you want!
Relax in Costa Rica’s Famous hot springs
Seeking out natural hot springs is one of the most popular activities in Costa Rica.
With its close proximity to Arenal, the largest volcano in the country, La Fortuna is a prime destination for Costa Rican hot springs. The mineral-rich waters are naturally heated by Arenal volcano’s thermal energy and have been used as therapeutic baths for more than 2 hundred years.
The highly photographed Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort does not use any pumps or re-heating systems but relies on the completely natural hot spring that already exists within the property. The Springs Resort and Spa and Baldi Hot Springs are two other private properties where you can relax with a more luxurious vibe.
EcoTermales is a family-operated property and not part of a large resort. Because there is a limit to the number of guests permitted entry, you may be able to find a bit more peace and privacy in this atmosphere.
Related Content: Where to See Sloths in Costa Rica
Take a dip in the Free Public hot springs
If you are looking for free things to do in La Fortuna, there are at least two off-the-beaten-path hot springs that are free to the public.
Rio Agua Caliente is located near the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Just stop in the Observatory and the staff will point you in the right direction.
The second free hot spring is known as Tabaconcito. Across from the main entrance to Tabacon Grand Spa is a small parking area. Follow the small path by the road which leads down under the bridge where route 142 crosses the Río Tabacón. This is where you will find a small natural swimming pool warmed by the area’s thermal springs. Tell any taxi driver “Tabaconcito” and they should know where it is, given its popularity with the locals.
Swim in the La Fortuna Waterfall
Catarata La Fortuna or La Fortuna Waterfall is a majestic 200 ft waterfall and is often considered a “must see” in Costa Rica.
Upon entering La Fortuna Waterfall Ecological Reserve, you will cross a bridge that gives the perfect vantage point for viewing the surrounding lush landscape. A 480-step hike awaits you in order to journey down to the waterfall where you can take a dip in the refreshing blue water.
The $15 entrance fee goes to support local infrastructure projects and community activities. If you still have some time, take a stroll across the street to view Cerro Chato, the sister volcano to Arenal.
Explore the Venado Caves
Spelunking in Venado Caves is a hidden jewel among Costa Rican visitors. Explore an underground world of limestone channels nearly 20 million years old.
This adventure tour brings you 8,850 feet into the earth where you will wade through an underground river, and crawl through rock formations to awe at the stalactites, stalagmites, and a kingdom of subterranean animals. You will definitely get muddy.
Take up a new water sport on Lake Arenal
Lake Arenal is the largest landlocked body of water in the country, covering nearly 33 square miles and reaching as far as 200 feet (60m) in depth. Naturally, it has now become a prime destination for water sports including stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, kayaking, and sunset cruises.
Where to Stay in La Fortuna Costa Rica
Because La Fortuna has become such a hub for tourism, there is a wide range of accommodation options to suit various budgets and preferences. Here are our top recommendations for places to stay in La Fortuna.
Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa
Experience pure relaxation at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa. This luxury resort offers high-end amenities, services, lodging, and dining options. While there are a handful of La Fortuna resorts to choose from, Tabacón stands apart having received numerous awards year after year. These include TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Hotels in Costa Rica and Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 15 Resorts in Central America.
If you have limited time in La Fortuna, we recommend booking a stay at Tabacón to take advantage of not only the luxury lodging but the world-famous hot springs.
For a truly unique and memorable stay, we recommend Arenal Glamping. This family-owned boutique hotel incorporates elements of sustainability and adventure into a unique overnight experience.
Guests stay in a luxury air-conditioned safari tent outfitted with plush linens, an en-suite bathroom, and a private viewing deck. A pool and sunbathing terrace are available in addition to on-site spa services. Its central location provides quick access to all of the best things to do in La Fortuna.
Arenal Glamping is one of the highest-rated hotels in the area.
How To Get To La Fortuna
La Fortuna is fairly accessible with several transportation options depending on your starting point and travel preferences. With its relatively central location, it is an easy road trip from Rio Celeste in the northeast or the coastal beaches of Playa Flamingo and Tamarindo. The most common starting point is Costa Rica’s capital city, San José.
By air: The closest airport to La Fortuna is Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San José. From there you can take a domestic flight to Arenal Airport (FON) near La Fortuna, or choose one of the other options below.
By Bus: We personally chose this option when traveling from San José to La Fortuna. Buses depart from Terminal 7-10 or Terminal Coca-Cola bus stations in San José. The journey takes around 4 to 5 hours.
By Rental Car: Rental cars are abundant in San José. From there you would drive north along Route 1 and then connect to Route 702. It takes around 3-4 hours to drive from San José to La Fortuna.
Frequently Asked Questions about La Fortuna
Is La Fortuna, Costa Rica worth visiting?
Absolutely! La Fortuna is home to some of the best things to do in Costa Rica.
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a cultural explorer, or simply seeking a romantic and relaxing getaway, La Fortuna has something for everyone. With its temperate weather, diverse activities, and stunning natural beauty it is no wonder that La Fortuna has become one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica. Furthermore, it is a safe and family-friendly destination.
What is the best time of year to visit La Fortuna?
La Fortuna, Costa Rica has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: dry season (December – April) and wet season (May – November).
The dry season is often considered the better time to visit because you do not have to worry about planning around rainfall. This is also the peak season for tourists, so although the weather may be better, you can expect to see higher prices and more crowds.
Alternatively, visiting La Fortuna during the wet season means that you will be treated to lush greenery and vibrant waterfalls. We personally visited La Fortuna during the wet season and found the rain manageable. Although it rained almost every day, it was only for a few hours at a time. This allowed us to still enjoy the outdoors but without all the crowds.
Is it safe to walk around La Fortuna at night?
La Fortuna is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. However, as with any destination, it’s always important to practice safe behavior. With a little common sense, you should be just fine exploring La Fortuna by day or night.
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