Costa Rica has no shortage of adventure activities from bungee jumping, ziplining and rafting, and the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna town ranks as one of the top destinations in the country for embarking on exciting escapades. If you’re only in this area for a couple days, it can be a bit overwhelming at first when you see the list of things to do in La Fortuna, there are just so many!
So to help narrow it down, here is our list of the best things to do in La Fortuna and Arenal. With a huge lake, plenty of nature trails, waterfalls, rivers, the Arenal Volcano National Park and a vast countryside to explore, you’re guaranteed to have a blast discovering the northern lowlands of Costa Rica.
Whether you’re here for adventure or to relax, you can have it all!
Top Things to do in La Fortuna and Arenal
Jump down 200 foot waterfalls and tall cliffs deep into the rain forest on a canyoning adventure outside La Fortuna. Canyoning, or waterfall rappelling may seem a bit intimidating, but once you start your journey down surrounded by the sights and smells of a lush rain forest, you’ll leave all your fears behind.
This is an adventure for those who don’t mind getting down and dirty, as you’ll end up leaving a lot more wet than when you started. But it’s all worth it, as you experience the rain forest in a unique and exciting way.
Cerro Chato is the smaller dormant volcano with a crater and lake lying on the southeast side of Arenal Volcano. The two peaks have a lake in between which is what people hike to see.
Be warned, this hike isn’t a leisurely stroll through the forest. Without a clear trail going up a steep hill, you need to give yourself at the very least 4-5 hours for this hike and bring plenty of snacks and water. But the reward is great, on a clear day you’ll see the dazzling green water of the lake where you can take a dip to cool off.
We went on this hike a couple years ago in the middle of a giant thunder storm so we unfortunately didn’t see anything at the top. Despite the bad weather, it was a fun way to introduce my family and friends to the unpredictable weather of Costa Rica.
Hopefully when you go, the weather will be nice so you can see the crater and surrounding landscapes.
There are many zipline (canopy) tours in Arenal but our favorite is Skytrek. You get the most spectacular views of Lake Arenal and Arenal Volcano when you’re flying 2000 feet through the air, 600 feet high. You’ll never feel closer to being a bird than on this zipline tour, as you’re soaring over the rain forest with the lake in front of you and the volcano next to you.
If you’re not quite that ambitious, there are other canopy tours such as Athica and Ecoglide that aren’t as high or fast, perfect for those who have never ziplined before or are a bit nervous.
Rio Frio Safari
Soak in the splendid nature on this pure safari float down Rio Frio, a slow moving river in the Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve. This area is considered one of the best for wildlife watching as it’s home to an abundance of animals including toucans, three toed sloths, caimans, kingfishers and more.
You float down the river for about 2 hours on a raft, using only paddles to move along so you can get up close and personal with the creatures of the river. All you hear is the soft lap of the water as it brushes up against the raft and the sounds of a dozen birds gliding above your head. It is truly a pure nature experience.
No trip to Arenal and La Fortuna is complete without a visit to the hot springs. This area, famous for their hot springs due to the Tabacon river offers the best way to relax and wind down a busy day. Soak in the hot thermal pools to soothe your muscles while enjoying the fresh night time air.
Many hotels and resorts have their own hot springs which you can buy a day pass or enjoy if you’re staying there. Some of the most well known ones are Tabacon, Baldi, the Springs, Titoku, Kalambu, Ecotermales, Paradise and Nayara. Some resorts and hotels also have their own hot springs exclusively for their guests like the Kioro.
Explore the rain forests of Arenal in an eco-friendly way with the hanging bridges, which sits on 600 acres of private land by the lake. It is an easy 3.1 kilometer trail with 16 suspended and hanging bridges, so that visitors can get different perspectives of the rain forest.
Along the way it’s common to spot wildlife like bats, snakes and birds. Though the hanging bridges are one of the more popular activities in Arenal, you’ll still get a true sense of the forest when you’re that high up!
La Fortuna Waterfall
If you’re itching to visit waterfalls in Arenal, the best and biggest one is La Fortuna. Dropping 75 feet into an emerald pool, the La Fortuna waterfall and encompassing rain forest rewards visitors as they complete the 400+ step hike to the base of the fall.
And yes that means 400+ steps back up but it’s absolutely worth it!
White Water Rafting
Ride through class 2 and 3 rapids at the Balsa River on this exciting day of white water rafting. As Costa Rica is blessed with long rivers of various rapids, white water rafting is one of the more thrilling things to do in La Fortuna.
Twist and turn while paddling through the rapids on this rafting adventure and you may even pass underneath some waterfalls! Class 2 and 3 rapids are perfect for those who have never rafted before or anyone wants something a bit mild. It’s still a wild adventure, as you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Venture into the country side of Arenal by way of horseback, one of the best to discover the intricate corners of the land. You’ll ride through rivers, under trees and up to stunning viewpoints of the valley and surrounding hills, places you can’t reach by car and foot.
On a clear day, you can horseback ride with Arenal Volcano as your backdrop. Not a bad view while sauntering though the open country!
The biggest lake in Costa Rica is actually man made and initially created to produce hydro electric power but now, it’s is also a place for recreation. Take a sunset boat ride, go fishing, jet ski, water ski, stand up paddle board, sail, windsurf or boat across to get to Monteverde.
If you don’t have time to do activities on the lake, you can drive around it for some beautiful views.
National Park Hike
Go on your own or take a guided hike through the Arenal Volcano National Park. There are several trails such as Los Tucanes or Colada 1968 to see the original lava rocks and lava trails from the big eruption. The trails aren’t too long, but it gives you a nice opportunity to see the wildlife and the lasting effects of the volcano eruption.
Plus you get a nice view of the volcano and lake on a clear day!
There are a ton more things to do in La Fortuna, Arenal and the surrounding area but these are our top picks. No wonder it’s one of the most visited destinations in Costa Rica!
If you’re looking for a day trip, Rio Celeste is the best.
Map of Things to Do in La Fortuna and Arenal
Where to Stay in La Fortuna and Arenal
- Hotel Las Colinas – Cute hotel in the middle of town across from the park. They have a terrace where you get a great view of Arenal volcano and it’s a nice place to relax. Rooms are basic but comfortable. They have a garden with blue jean frogs too! If you are the type of traveler who likes to be close to all the services and town, this is one of the best. Rooms start at $60
- Arenal Backpackers Resort – This is truly a hostel resort. They have a large outdoor pool, hammocks and a garden. The fun thing about this hostel is the tents which is a fun alternative to the standard hostel room. Very close to La Fortuna and the best hostel in our opinion for the area. Tents start at $40, a bed starts at $30
- Arenal Observatory Lodge – The only hotel actually in the national park, this lodge has a huge property with tons of trails, rivers and waterfalls to explore. You get a close view of the volcano from everywhere you go! The rustic rooms are comfortable and quiet and you can center your whole time in Arenal at this lodge since they have horseback riding on the property, their own private Cerro Chato trail and hanging bridges. Our favorite place to take friends so they can get a pure Costa Rica nature experience. Rooms start at $120
- Arenal Kioro: Looking for luxury and to be pampered? The Arenal Kioro is one of the best luxury hotels with a spa, their own private hot springs, a Jacuzzi in every room and a stunning view of the volcano with floor to ceiling windows. They also have an awesome breakfast buffet and every room gets a free mini facial! Rooms start at $250
Looking for luxury accommodation in Arenal? Check out our list of luxury hotels in Arenal.
Tips for Visiting La Fortuna and Arenal
- If you’re staying around Arenal, note that you’re not close to town or amenities like supermarkets. You’ll need to taxi or arrange transportation with your hotel to get to town if you don’t rent a car.
- The weather is pretty hot so even though it’s the rain forest, bring shorts. If you’re coming in rainy season, make sure you come prepared because it rains a lot there! Read our rainy season packing list here.
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