Arguably the most visited waterfall in the whole country, La Fortuna waterfall is a must see in Costa Rica. Dropping 75 meters (246 feet) into a bright blue pool, this waterfall paints a perfect postcard of the Costa Rican jungle.
As it’s just 6 km (~4 miles) outside of the town of La Fortuna, the waterfall makes for a great half day trip. This guide will help you plan your visit.
La Fortuna waterfall map
How to Get to La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna waterfall park is about a 10 minute drive outside downtown, about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles). You can drive or take a red taxi to waterfall park. A taxi one way from downtown costs around $15 USD. To drive there, the road is completely paved, you do not need a 4×4/4wd to the waterfall park. Additionally, there is Uber in La Fortuna and you can check the app to call one.
Take the road south from town across a little bridge. Drive for about 4 kilometers and then turn right (you will see a big sign for the waterfall). Continue on this road for about 5 kilometers (3 miles) to reach the parking lot. You can find La Fortuna Waterfall on Google Maps and Waze.
There is no public bus directly to the waterfall park.
Entrance Fee and Hours
The Fortuna waterfall entrance fee is $18 USD for adult foreigners, $5 USD for children. Each guest needs to purchase a ticket to the waterfall park.
The Fortuna waterfall hours of operation are 7 AM to 5:00 PM, open every day. They have a big parking lot and there are bathrooms, a small cafe, garden trails and souvenir store at the entrance. The latest you can enter the park is 4 PM.
How Long Does it Take to Do La Fortuna Waterfall?
The trek down to the waterfall takes around 15 minutes from the main lookout point. There are around 400 steps down to the waterfall on a well built platform. You can spend about 45 minutes to an hour at the waterfall to swim, take photos and relax. The walk back up may take longer as you have to climb all the stairs to the top.
We would say that it takes around 2 hours to do La Fortuna waterfall.
La Fortuna Waterfall Steps
After you pay your ticket at the entrance office, walk across the bridge to get to the trail head. You’ll see a gift shop and bathrooms and beyond that is an observation platform with a great view of the waterfall.
Make sure to stop by there first to take some pictures before embarking on the epic walk down.
The beginning of the trail is over to the left so when you’re ready, start going down the many steps. They have built a brand new platform so it’s much easier and more comfortable.
The new platform is very nice with handrails. When we first visited in 2013, it was all dirt! Now there are bars and benches to make it easier to walk.
After about 10 minutes, you’re going to start wondering exactly how many steps down to La Fortuna waterfall there are. But trust me, it’ll be worth it when you get there!
Walk across another bridge to get to the waterfall base (don’t forget to look right to see another small waterfall). Hear the roaring sound of the water and see the white ribbon cascading down surrounded by a deep green rainforest.
As soon as you reach the bottom, you can enjoy the beautiful tropical rainforest nature sights and sounds.
Can you swim in La Fortuna waterfall?
Yes, you can swim in the La Fortuna waterfall. However, the water is cold! And the current is super strong where the water falls into the pool, so make sure to stay by the rocks (like the people in the photo). Do not swim further out into the pool closer to the cascade.
Some times of the year, like September, October or November when it has been raining very hard, the waterfall can be a brown color. The current may also be too strong to swim.
Down to the left, there is a lovely calm water pool area that is better for swimming and more suitable for little ones. If the current is too strong (when it has been raining a lot), they will close this as it’s not safe to swim.
When you’re all done and ready to go, be prepared to walk around 480 steps up!
Personal tip: This waterfall does get busy on weekends and holidays. For less people, go on a weekday morning. And make sure to be very careful on the rocks as they may be slippery.
Tips for Visiting the Waterfall Park
- There are facilities so you can bring a swimsuit/clothes to change into.
- There is a restaurant and souvenir shop at the trail head. You can get lunch, snacks, drinks, food.
- You can wear flip flops but it’s better with good shoes for the steps. If you plan to swim or go in the water, wear water shoes or hiking sandals.
- Make sure to bring drinking water (there are water dispensers in the gift shop too).
- The climb back up can be tough, so take it slow. Be advised that this hike doesn’t have a handicap trail. If you are not able to go up and down steep steps, then we do not advise going down. There is no alternate route up.
- No strollers allowed on the steps.
- If you don’t want to pay $18 USD for the waterfall or want something more local, head to El Salto. This is a free swimming hole at the Fortuna river that has a rope swing. You don’t see the waterfall but you can swim in the river.
Fortuna Waterfall Tours
You can perfectly visit the waterfall on your own. It’s easy to get to and you can do the walk down by yourself. A guide is not necessary to visit the waterfall.
But if you don’t have a car, you can take a tour. This waterfall is usually part of a combo tour such as the Arenal Hanging Bridges + La Fortuna Waterfall or the Arenal Combo Tour. Get 7% off this tour and other tours in the Arenal area!
We did the hanging bridges + waterfall tour which you can watch below. Skip to 2:26 to see the waterfall.
Here are some other ideas of things to do the same day you visit the waterfall:
- Canyoning (waterfall rappeling) in the morning, lunch, La Fortuna waterfall
- La Fortuna waterfall morning, lunch, safari float afternoon (or other way around)
- Kayak/SUP in Lake Arenal, lunch, La Fortuna waterfall
- Horseback riding morning, La Fortuna waterfall
Want to read about other waterfalls in Costa Rica? Check these out!
Nauyaca Waterfalls (Dominical area)
Catarata Llanos de Cortes (Guanacaste)
Catarata del Toro (Central Valley)
Poza Azul (Sarapiqui)
This post has Amazon affiliate links.
Will I be able to catch a taxi from hanging bridges to the water fall?
Maybe but I wouldn’t count on it 100%, there may be some red taxis hanging out around or Ubers but not a ton
Lynne Oldham says
We are going to La Fortuna falls next month. We are going to do it self-guided without a tour. I saw your info about pricing–do you book the tickets in advance or when you arrive?
You can buy tickets at the park
Hi Lori, you probably can if you and your husband are fairly fit and strong because it is quite steep and there are a lot of steps (over 400). There are places to rest along the way on the platform and there are handrails so you can take it super slow but I would say you and your husband would need to be in decent shape to be able to carry both up and down. You can go into the reserve and take a peek to check how it is before you go down though and decide since I can’t really say that yes you can or no you can’t as it’ll depend on the parents’ fitness level but that is my recommendation.
We have three small kids- ages 5, 3, 6m and would like to go to La Fortuna Waterfall. DO you think it is possible? Our 6m and 3 year old will be in a baby carrier. Is it too steep?
I would love any all all itinerary suggestion for travel with small kids in Costa Rica.
Do you have to pay the fee if you just want to view the waterfall from the top and not take the steps down?
Yes, you have to pay the fee to go inside the park, you can’t see the waterfall or any of the viewpoints from outside the park.
How deep is the water; do we need life jackets for people who cannot swim?
For swimming, they don’t recommend it for people who cannot swim because the pull of the waterfall can be very strong, the pool does get a bit deep and is dangerous for those who can’t swim.
Hi The waterfall is located around 5 Kilometers from the park, I have read that a taxi charges around $20 one way to the waterfall from Arenal so it will be a bit less from La Fortuna Park, make sure they use a meter
Thanks for the article. The waterfall’s website says it is $15 for adults, $8 for nationals, kids are free (up to age 8).
I was wondering about the parking lot… is it safe, is there a parking fee? I will be traveling with my luggage since we will be coming back from the beach to Grecia.
There is no parking fee but it’s not exactly secure (no guard/gate) but it is pretty busy cause it’s a popular waterfall so there are always a lot of cars and tourism vans going in and out. I’d put everything in the trunk and don’t leave anything in the car, take all your valuables with you.
We are going here next month. Wanted to know if we should just go ourselves or book a tour to see this? Also are we able to go inside the water near the waterfall? I v seen lots of pictures where people are in the water but dont see any mention of it .
You don’t necessarily need to go on a tour, if you have a rental car you can drive yourself or take a taxi if you don’t. It’s a pretty straightforward walk down to the waterfall. It is possible to swim in it but we didn’t because the water was too strong. In rainy season the fall is really full and strong and it’s dangerous if you swim too far in the pool. During dry season it’s not as full but we preferred not to go in, but you can swim in the pool if you want. Just be careful because there are a lot of rocks.
allison scow says
How much can we expect to pay for a taxi one way from town?
Andrea Hoke says
Hi! Can we bring our dog on leash?
I don’t believe so – I have never seen any dogs there and it’s on a private property.
Luke Robinson-Grant says
taxi’s cost 3500 colones each way if you go with just a local driver guy. a bit more 7 or 8 dollars if you go with a taxi driver in the red cabs. there is a phone at the entrance to call taxis when your done if you need.
Thanks for the info!
They have raised the price and it is now $14.00 for foreigners. The waterfall was beautiful but I thought the price was a bit steep, especially just having been to Llanos De Cortez. The water was to rough to swim by the waterfall so people were swimming in the small pool.
Hi Delilah! Thanks for the update. I totally agree, the price is quite a bit especially compared to some other awesome waterfalls in Costa Rica. It’s not even a long hike either, the waterfall is beautiful but unfortunately it seems because it’s so touristy they’ve raised the prices.
Do the arenal/mistico hanging bridges automatically lead to the La Fortuna waterfall? Is that a long hike? In that case, would you park at the entrance to the bridge park and hike there and back? Thanks for the great summary!
Hi Kelli, no the Mistico hanging bridges are near where the lake are and the waterfall is about a 20 minute drive away so you need to visit them separately.
Rick C says
Thank you for this write up! I’m headed there next week and looking forward to it. I was wondering too how much time the hike took.
It depends on how long you want to stay there, the walk down is short, 400+ steps sounds like a lot but it’s really not. It takes around 15 minutes to go down, maybe a bit longer depending on how many people there are and if you stop to take pictures. You can stay as long as you want at the waterfall if you want to swim, just relax, chill. The walk up takes bit longer since it’s a lot of steps up – it took us around 10 minutes to run up the entire way (we did it for fun). The waterfall is great for a half day trip, most people just stay for about an hour or so.
How much time does it take approximately to visit the waterfall? Is it the walk to the fall really long?
Hi Alice, you can stay for an hour or two, depending how long you want to swim and relax. And yes, the walk is really 400+ steps down so I suggest taking your time coming back up since it’s a lot of steps.
Looking to visit Saturday with a group of 5. Looking for the cheapest option to get us there and back.
If you don’t rent a car, you’ll have to taxi or shuttle it. You can also go with a tour company who will take you on a guided hike. I recommend asking your hotel how much a shuttle or taxi would be.