Costa Rica is well known as a top adventure destination and the La Fortuna area is famous for the best outdoor adventures. There are so many fun activities for all ages and travelers that it can be a bit overwhelming at first when you’re trying to decide what to do!
So to help narrow it down, here is our list of the best things to do in La Fortuna. With a lush rainforest, waterfalls, rivers, volcano and lake, you’re guaranteed to have a blast discovering the Arenal Volcano area.
You can also find a map, our hotel recommendations, sample itineraries and tour discounts below. This post has been updated December 27, 2019, ready for the 2020 travel season! PS. Don’t forget to get our La Fortuna tours discount (10-15%)!
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.
We went with a company called Pure Trek and they provide transportation. The tour costs $101 USD per person including lunch and transportation and is a half day tour.
You can see more pictures and watch a video of our Canyoning Arenal adventure.
Only 45 minutes from La Fortuna are the Venado Caves where you can take a tour to explore and go spelunking. You’ll see various stalactites, stalagmites, bats and other insects on the tour. You’ll climb and walk through various caves, passages and rock walls and learn about the history and importance of the caves. A different type of activity to your typical adventure tours but still very cool!
Rio Celeste Hike
See the magical blue river in Costa Rica on a day trip from La Fortuna. You’ll hike through the rainforest of Tenorio Volcano National Park along side the stunning Rio Celeste. There is a gorgeous waterfall, a hanging bridge and many view points.
At the end of the hike, you can see where the two rivers come together to create the spectacular sky blue color. It’s 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.
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, Arenal Canopy Tours and Ecoglide that aren’t as high or fast, perfect for those who have never ziplined before or little kids.
The canopy tour at Sky Adventures costs $80 for adults and $60 for kids. You can also book it with tour companies who provide transportation.
If you rented a car, you can drive to the adventure park entrance and pay for the tour there but make reservations. This place gets packed December – April and July.
Rio Frio Safari Float (Pure Nature)
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 as it’s home to animals like toucans, three toed sloths, caimans, kingfishers and more.
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. 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.
Find out more about the Rio Frio safari here.
Another option if you don’t have a full day for the safari float it is to do 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.
No trip to Arenal and La Fortuna is complete without a visit to the hot springs. It’s 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 with day passes available. Some of the most well known ones are Tabacon, Baldi, the Springs, Titoku, Kalambu, Ecotermales and Paradise. There are also a few hotels also have their own exclusive hot springs like the Kioro. One of the benefits of staying at a hotel with their own hot springs is that you can go anytime during your stay and enjoy the pools as much as possible!
You can read more about the different Arenal hot springs here.
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.
Mistico Hanging Bridges
Explore the rain forests of Arenal in an eco-friendly way with the hanging bridges, 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.
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!
The Mistico Hanging Bridges are near the bridge/dam and you can go by yourself if you have a car or book it with a tour company. I recommend booking it with a company so you will have a guide who can point out wildlife. It’s worth it!
Read more about the Arenal Hanging Bridges.
La Fortuna Waterfall
If you’re itching to visit waterfalls in Arenal, the best and biggest one is La Fortuna. This is one of the top things to do in La Fortuna as this waterfall is stunning. Dropping 75 feet, the emerald La Fortuna waterfall impresses visitors with its postcard perfect rainforest views.
The entrance fee is $18 USD per adult and it 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 and you can spend as much time as you like at the waterfall if you go on your own.
Read more about visiting La Fortuna waterfall here.
White Water Rafting
There are a couple of rivers for white water rafting in Arenal but our favorite is the Rio Pacuare. Raft your way through one of the best rivers in the world for white water rafting one Class 3 and 4 rapids. 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. It’s still a fun day trip from Arenal and La Fortuna that is fun for the whole family. In case you don’t want to be in the car that long, Sarapiqui also offers Class 2 and 3 and 3 and 4 rapids and it’s only about a 1.5 hour drive from La Fortuna.
One of the awesome things about the Rio Pacuare rafting is that you can make the rafting trip your transportation method to and from San Jose or Puerto Viejo. Many companies, like Rios Tropicales pick up at La Fortuna and can drop you off in San Jose or Puerto Viejo (2 passengers minimum) so instead of sitting in a bus or shuttle, you get to river raft your way over!
Want to book the Rio Pacuare white water rafting? We have an exclusive discount for you!
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! 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.
The biggest lake in Costa Rica is actually man made and 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, water ski, stand up paddle board, kayak, sail, windsurf or boat across to Monteverde.
If you don’t have time to do activities on the lake, you can drive around it for some beautiful views. There are also several hotels around Lake Arenal for those who want a nature experience.
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 the 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 Costa Rica multi adventure package here!
Arenal Volcano Hike
Go on your own or take a guided hike to see Arenal Volcano. You can hike in the national park 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 lasting effects of the volcano eruption.
There is also a nice viewpoint where you can see both the volcano and lake. Since the trails aren’t too difficult, this is a great hike for families. The national park is $15 USD for adults and you can hike it on your own or go with a guide. This is a great cheap activity in La Fortuna and you get beautiful views of the volcano.
Read our Arenal Volcano National Park guide.
You can also hike in the private reserves near the national park such as Arenal 1968 for equally as impressive views. The reserve opens until 6 PM and is open everyday.
Bogarin Trail (La Fortuna Sloth Trail)
If you really want to see sloths in La Fortuna, then you have to walk the Bogarin Trail. It’s right in La Fortuna and an easy walk for all ages to see sloths and birds. We saw 6 sloths, toucans, hummingbirds and frogs!
The trail used to be all farmland many years ago. The man who currently runs the trail is a local Costa Rican who worked with the owner to restore the land and he has been working on it since 2000!
If you’re not sure what activities to do or when to schedule them, here are some ideas. For the tours, make sure to scroll down to the end of the post to get our discount!
2 full days in La Fortuna: hiking, nature, wildlife, relaxation
Day 1: Arenal hanging bridges in the morning, La Fortuna waterfall, lunch and then Arenal Volcano hike. End the day at the hot springs at night with dinner. You can book this as a tour or go on your own (but we recommend to book as a tour so you can have guided walks and they provide lunch, transportation and arrange dinner for you).
Day 2: Go stand up paddle boarding on Lake Arenal in the morning, have lunch and then visit the Bogarin Trail in the afternoon for an easy guided walk to see sloths and wildlife. Relax at the park in the evening or head back to the hot springs.
If you plan to eat dinner out in town, check out Soda Nenes for local food 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: adventure, relaxation, wildlife for families
Day 1: Go canyoning in the morning with Pure Trek or go ziplining. For families, Ecoglide, Athica and Arenal Canopy Adventure are great zipline options. Then go back to hotel, shower, rest, go to the hot springs and get dinner at the hot spring resort. Another option is to visit Club Rio for the day which includes hot springs and two adventures.
Day 2: Sleep in, rest and get ready for the safari float in the afternoon. You can go to Peñas Blancas for a shorter drive or the Pure Nature (Rio Frio) for a more exclusive experience. You’ll return around 5-6 PM and when you get back, shower, rest and then go out for dinner in town or at your hotel. If you go to Club Rio on day 1, you can go back to their hot springs on day 2 for free.
If your kids can get up early on day 2, you can go for a wildlife watching walk at Bogarin in the morning. Or you can do the safari float in the morning and do a chocolate/coffee/sugar cane tour in the afternoon.
3 full days in La Fortuna: a little of everything
Day 1: Today is an adventure day! Go white water rafting and for the ultimate rafting trip, book the Pacuare River rafting tour. Families can go if kids are older than 14. If not, there is a Class 2 and 3 rafting for kids over 8. To do more adventure in one day, you can do the Class 2 and 3 rafting and ziplining/canyoning in one day.
Day 2: Today is a hiking day! Visit the hanging bridges in the morning, have lunch and then go to the Arenal Volcano National Park for more hiking. End the day at the hot springs. For those on a budget, you can visit the free hot springs at Tabacon river. If you don’t want to hike that much, you can do a horseback riding or ATV tour in the morning instead.
Day 3: Today is an easy day to see wildlife. Go for a safari float in the morning, rest in the afternoon (or visit the Bogarin Trail) and at night, go for a night walk to learn about the jungle when the sun goes down.
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. Basic, comfortable rooms. Rooms start at $60 USD
- Arenal History Inn – Nice mid-range hotel a little outside downtown La Fortuna. Bungalows with a volcano view and pool. Rooms start at $65 USD.
- Arenal Backpackers Resort – They have a large outdoor pool, hammocks and a garden. Choose between standard rooms, dorms or tents. Very close to La Fortuna. Tents start at $40 USD, a bed starts at $30 USD. Selina is another great hostel.
- Arenal Observatory Lodge – The only hotel actually in the national park with the closest view of the volcano. This lodge has a huge property with their own trails. Rooms start at $120 USD
- 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. Rooms start at $250 USD
- Airbnb: We’ve stayed at an Airbnb in Arenal before. It’s a huge house perfect for families, only 5 minutes from Fortuna town. Read our review here.
Arenal Tour Discount
We have a partnership with Jacamar Naturalist Tours to give 10% – 15% off tours in Arenal. Check it out!
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