If you plan to visit La Fortuna and are not sure what to do, this post will help! As the La Fortuna area is surrounded by rivers, waterfalls, tropical rainforest and is near the Arenal Volcano National Park, there are a ton of fun activities in La Fortuna for everyone. It’s no wonder why La Fortuna is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica!
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Quick Information About Visiting La Fortuna, Costa Rica
- La Fortuna is in the Alajuela province. It is around 3 hours from San Jose Airport and Guanacaste Airport (Liberia Airport).
- You can drive there via rental car (no 4×4 required), take a public bus directly from San Jose (or San Jose – San Ramon – La Fortuna), book a shared shuttle (2 routes a day with Interbus, ~$59 USD per adult), book a private shuttle (~$200 USD from Liberia/San Jose) or fly there on a domestic flight. You can also take a taxi-boat-taxi from Monteverde.
- The La Fortuna area is famous for its natural hot springs, exotic wild animals, great hiking trails, lush rainforests, and amazing volcano views.
- The best way to get around La Fortuna is via rental car as attractions are spread out. However, you can visit without a car by booking a guided tour that includes roundtrip transportation as long as your hotel is in La Fortuna town and the nearby neighborhoods. Get our La Fortuna tours discount to save money on your guided tour!
- You can easily visit multiple attractions in one day due do their close proximity. A popular Arenal 1 day tour is Arenal Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal Volcano Hike and natural hot springs.
What is the difference between Arenal and La Fortuna?
A lot of tourists get Arenal and La Fortuna mixed up, thinking it’s the same place. Technically, it is not. La Fortuna is the name of the small town, located about 20 minutes away from Arenal Volcano.
Best Things to Do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna is best for nature lovers, adventurers, couples, solo travelers and families. Here is our list of the best things to do in La Fortuna including day trips from La Fortuna.
Canyoning (Waterfall Rapelling)
Jump down 200 foot waterfalls and tall cliffs deep into the rain forest on a adventure canyoning in 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.
You can see more pictures and watch a video of our Canyoning Arenal adventure.
Rio Celeste Waterfall Hike
Nature lovers, you can’t miss seeing Rio Celeste, a sky blue river on a day trip from La Fortuna. You’ll hike through the rainforests inside the Tenorio Volcano National Park along side the stunning Rio Celeste. During the 7 kilometer roundtrip hike, you will see the beautiful Rio Celeste waterfall, cross a few bridges, see the blue lagoon and the joining of the two rivers.
At the end of the Rio Celeste hike, you can see where the two rivers come together to create the spectacular sky blue color. Tenorio Volcano National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica and well worth a day trip from La Fortuna! It is a 1 hour and 45 minute drive from La Fortuna to Rio Celeste so this is an entire day trip with a delicious lunch included.
Pro planning tip: you can also visit Rio Celeste if you plan to drive from La Fortuna to Guanacaste or vice versa as a stopover.
SkyTrek Ziplining (For Extreme Ziplining)
Ziplining is one of the best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica since there are so many canopy tours. 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 Lake Arenal in front of you and Arenal Volcano next to you.
If you have a rental car, we highly recommend you to make reservations for your tour and you can drive yourself. A high clearance car is recommended to get to the park.
Arenal Canopy Adventure for Families and First Timers
If you’re not quite that ambitious, there are milder canopy tours such as Arenal Canopy Tours and Ecoglide that aren’t as high or fast. However, these are stil perfect for first timers and young families visiting Costa Rica.
la Fortuna is one of our favorite places for ziplining. You can see what the Arenal Canopy Adventure zipline is like in the video below.
This ziplining tour also has a tarzan swing so you can add some extra excitement to your day!
Wildlife Safari Float
One of our favorite things to do in La Fortuna is a wildlife watching safari float. You float down the river for about 2 hours on a raft, using paddles to move along. This also allows you to get up close with the wildlife for a pure nature experience.
Our tour partner in La Fortuna runs an exclusive safari float down the Rio Frio river, making it a truly natural and memorable experience as they are the only company who runs tours on this part of the river in the Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve. This area is considered one of the best for wildlife as it’s home to animals like toucans, three toed sloths, caimans, kingfishers and more.
Find out more about the Pure nature Rio Frio safari here.
However, this safari float is about a 1.5 hour drive from downtown La Fortuna. If you don’t have a full day, then the next best wildlife safari float is the Penas Blancas Safari Float since it’s only 30 minutes from La Fortuna.
The safari float rides are one of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids since it’s a very easy going, laid back way to see wildlife and nature. You don’t need to do any strenuous exercise as your guide does all the paddling on a slow moving river. Just sit back, enjoy the beautiful river views and listen to the sounds of the rainforest.
If you visit La Fortuna, then you have to visit a hot spring. Thanks to the naturally hot Tabacon river, you can visit any of the beautiful hot spring resorts to relax in their warm thermal pools surrounded by a lush garden.
Many hotels have their own hot springs with day passes available to non hotel guests. Popular hot springs resorts are The Springs Resort and Spa, Baldi Hot Springs Hotel, Titoku, Kalambu, Ecotermales and Paradise. There are also a few hotels also have their own exclusive hot springs like Arenal Kioro that do not allow non hotel guests.
You can read more about the different La Fortuna hot springs here. The hot springs day pass entrance fee ranges from $50-80 USD and you can include lunch or dinner. If you really want to visit the Tabacon hot springs, we highly recommend booking your stay at the Tabacon resort because hotel guests get extra time at the hot springs and have exclusive access to one of the gardens that outside guests don’t have. Otherwise, make sure you book your passes at least 2 months out because this resort is incredibly popular.
Free Hot Spring River
One of the cheap things to do in La Fortuna is to visit the public entrance of Tabacon river where all the locals go. This is the free hot spring in La Fortuna and it’s across from Tabacon Resort.
There is a small parking lot and you can walk down the river from there. Read more about the free hot spring in La Fortuna here. Traveling on a budget in Costa Rica? Check out other free things to do in Costa Rica!
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges
Explore the rain forests of Arenal in an eco-friendly way at the Mistico Hanging Bridges Park, which sits on 600 acres (243 hectares) of private land by the lake. It is an easy 3.1 kilometer (1.9 miles) trail with 16 suspended and hanging bridges, so that visitors can get different perspectives of the rain forest.
As you walk on the hanging bridge, 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! To see just how high up in the rainforest canopy you are, look down as you walk on the hanging bridge to see the lush forestry below.
The Mistico Hanging Bridges Park is near Lake Arenal and you can go by yourself if you have a car or book it with a tour company. Either way, we definitely recommend hiring a naturalist guide for the park. If you drive yourself to the park, purchase your tickets beforehand on their website.
Read more about the Arenal Hanging Bridges.
Nature and wildlife lovers can’t miss a day trip to the rural small town of El Castillo. Home to one of Costa Rica’s premiere butterfly gardens, the Butterfly Conservatory has an incredibly knowledgeable staff who will guide you through their perfectly maintained rainforest trails to see the butterflies, frogs and other animals.
Must have a 4wd, 30 minutes drive.
Another option is the Danaus Eco-Center. It’s a private reserve with a 1 kilometer trail to see butterflies, birds, mammals, reptiles and birds. Only a 5 minute drive from town center, no 4×4 required.
La Fortuna Waterfall
The best waterfall to visit in La Fortuna is the La Fortuna waterfall. This is one of the top things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica as this waterfall is stunning. Dropping 75 feet in the jungle, the emerald La Fortuna waterfall impresses visitors with its postcard perfect rainforest views.
The entrance fee is $18 USD per adult. The La Fortuna waterfall park is only a few kilometers from La Fortuna town. You can take a taxi which will cost about $20 USD one way or go as part of a tour. This is one of the cheap things to do in La Fortuna. You can spend as much time as you like at the waterfall if you go on your own as they have a cafeteria and an observation area.
Read more about visiting La Fortuna waterfall here.
El Salto Rope Swing
For a fun day out with the locals, head to the El Salto rope swing! Swim and bathe in the refreshing La Fortuna river or dare yourself to hop on the swing and throw yourself into the water!
This is a free swimming hole just a 2 minute drive from La Fortuna town. It’s a super fun place to mingle with locals. It does get very busy on weekends so if you can, walk there.
Get more information about El Salto here.
White Water Rafting
There are a couple of rivers for white water rafting in Arenal but our favorite is the Pacuare River whitewater rafting Class ii and Class iv rapids tour. Raft your way through one of the best rivers in the world for white water rafting! Paddle under waterfalls, swim in the calm pools and see toucans on this exciting rafting adventure.
If that sounds a bit too exciting for you, there are other rivers with Class 2 and 3 rapids such as the Balsa River rafting. The Balsa River is a fantastic river for first time rafters and families. Additionally, it is only about a 30 minute drive from La Fortuna town. You can combine the Balsa River Rafting tour with ziplining for a full day of adventure.
Something really nice about the Pacuare rafting is that you can make it your transportation method to and from La Fortuna, San Jose or Puerto Viejo (Caribbean coast). Many companies can pick up at La Fortuna and can drop you off in San Jose or Puerto Viejo. Instead of sitting in a bus or shuttle, you get to river raft your way over!
Want to book the Pacuare white water rafting tour? Get our Pacuare rafting discount!
Venture into the country side of La Fortuna 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! This is a half day activity but you can also combine it with something else like ziplining or ATV.
See more photos and read what it’s like to go horseback riding in Arenal.
Lake Arenal is the biggest lake in Costa Rica. Though it’s man made, it initially created to produce hydro electric power. However, it’s is also a place for recreation. Take a sunset boat ride, go fishing, jet ski, stand up paddle board, kayak, sail, windsurf or boat across to Monteverde.
The lake offers spectacular views of Arenal Volcano and is a great place to enjoy the water and rainforest.
Club Rio Outdoor Center
The Springs Resort and Spa has their own on-site adventure park open to outside guests and it’s a wonderful place for families. They offer hot spring day passes and a multi adventure package.
The multi adventure package includes transportation, lunch, hot springs (2 day pass) and 2 of the following activities: horseback riding, tubing, kayaking, rock wall and guided nature walk. Enjoy their amazing hot springs, go on an adventure and visit one of the most beautiful properties in La Fortuna!
We have a partnership with Club Rio to give discounts to our readers. Read our review and get $10 USD off the Club Rio multi adventure package here! They also offer hot springs day passes without activities – just indicate in the booking form if you’d like to book just the hot springs pass.
Arenal Volcano Hike
Arenal Volcano erupted in 1968 and you can visit the national park or a private reserve to hike around the base of the volcano and see the lava rocks. One of the best places to see the lasting effects of the eruption is Arenal Volcano National Park. The national park has trails to see the original lava rocks with viewpoints of the volcano and Lake Arenal.
The national park entrance fee is $15 USD for adults and you can hike it on your own or go with a guide.
You can also hike in the private reserves near the national park such as Arenal 1968 for equally impressive views. The reserve opens until 6 PM and is open everyday.
Sloth Watching Tours
If you really want to see sloths in La Fortuna, then you have to take a guided sloth watching tour. Although sloths do readily live in La Fortuna, they can be very difficult to see due to their excellent camouflage in the high treetop canopy.
One easy option are the sloth tours right in town. You can’t miss it, there are huge signs that say sloth walks.
Our tour partner runs a sloth watching tour that goes to private reserves and natural forests. You’ll be with a trained professional naturalist guide with equipment to maximize your possibilities to see these cute creatures! Get a discount for this tour here (called Slothies and Birdies).
La Fortuna Cooking Class and Farm Tour
Enlighten your taste buds on this interactive and fun cooking class and farm tour. You’ll learn about the farm to table concept, traditional food of Costa Rica, staple foods and ingredients of Costa Rican cuisine and how to cook certain dishes.
This is one of our favorite cooking classes in Costa Rica, it’s a wonderful experience for foodies and families.
Cacao is incredibly important to the indigenous communities in Costa Rica and it grows incredibly well in La Fortuna. Learn how to grow cacao, how to process the beans and how to create the sweet delicious desserts we love on a chocolate tour.
Many chocolate tours also offer sugar cane and coffee so you can spend a full day learning about three extremely important crops of Costa Rica.
How many days should you spend in La Fortuna?
Since there are SO many awesome things to do in La Fortuna, we highly recommend a minimum of 3 nights. That way, you have 2 full days in the beautiful La Fortuna area to enjoy and experience the rainforest, volcano and nature.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica Sample Itineraries
If you’re not sure what activities to do or when to schedule them, here are some ideas. For the tours, get our discount here!
2 full days in La Fortuna, Costa Rica: hiking, nature, wildlife, relaxation
Day 1: For a entire day, Arenal hanging bridges in the morning, La Fortuna waterfall, lunch and then Arenal Volcano hike. End the day at the hot springs resorts. If you do not book this as a guided tour and go on your own, we recommend Soda La Hormiga or Restaurante Nene’s for for a Costa Rican lunch.
Day 2: Sleep in and then go on a wildlife watching river safari float in the afternoon to see animals. Afterwards, relax at the local central park in the evening and have dinner. or you can go back to the hot springs and have dinner there.
If you plan to eat dinner out in town, check out Mercadito or La Fortuna Pub for craft beer and a fun night out. Don’t forget to get an ice cream at the Chocolate Fusion sweet shop in downtown for dessert.
2 full days in La Fortuna, Costa Rica: adventure, hiking
Day 1: Enjoy a full fun day of ziplining and white water rafting Class 2 and 3. It includes lunch and afterwards, shower, rest, nap and relax. Visit the hot springs at night to relax.
Day 2: Sleep in, rest and visit either Arenal Volcano National Park or one of the private reserves like Arenal 1968, El Silencio or Arenal Observatory Lodge to hike the trails for close views of the volcano. This will take around 3-4 hours if you hike a couple of the trails. If you don’t want to hike, go for a fun horseback riding tour!
If you have a third full day in La Fortuna
Costa Rica is known for its adventure so don’t waste any time! Book a canyoning tour or an ATV tour for more exciting rainforest adventures!
If you want something more chill, we recommend a coffee and chocolate tour or a cooking class instead.
What You Have to Pack for La Fortuna
A Few Recommended La Fortuna, Costa Rica Hotels
You can check our detailed guide on where to stay in La Fortuna for more information.
- Arenal History Inn – Nice mid-range/budget hotel a little outside downtown La Fortuna. Bungalows with a volcano view and pool.
- Selina – Hostel for digital nomads and backpackers in town.
- Arenal Observatory Lodge – The only hotel actually in the national park with the closest view of the volcano from their hotel room. This lodge has a huge property with their own trails.
- Arenal Kioro: This high end hotel has a spa, their own private hot springs, a Jacuzzi in every room and a stunning view of the volcano with floor to ceiling windows.
Costa Rica Vacation Checklist
- First time to Costa Rica? Read our First Time in Costa Rica guide.
- Not sure how to move around Costa Rica? Read our How to Get Around Costa Rica guide to find the best transportation method for you.
- Click the link to get our detailed Costa Rica Packing List so you know what essential items to bring.
- Do not forget to purchase Travel Insurance for your trip to Costa Rica.
- Stay connected by purchasing a prepaid SIM Card in Costa Rica.
- Save money with Mytanfeet Deals for tours and hotels. Save more money with our Costa Rica Car Rental Discount.