La Fortuna, Costa Rica is a small city with a very significant history. After hundreds of years of dormancy, Arenal volcano unexpectedly erupted on July 29, 1968 destroying 3 towns.
However, one town called El Burio on the eastern side was incredibly lucky and didn’t get damaged. El Burio, which already felt very lucky due to its fertile farming soil changed its name to La Fortuna (the fortunate), further indicating how lucky they were to escape any harm.
Fast forward 50 years and La Fortuna is now one of the most touristic destinations in Costa Rica with over a million tourists each year. Nearly every single first time visitor puts La Fortuna on the itinerary because this area offers the ultimate rainforest and volcano experience. It’s easily accessible, very tourist friendly and is the perfect destination for every traveler.
Continue below to read our guide to La Fortuna.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica Guide
This post has been updated November 2019.
Click to skip to the section.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica Map
How to Get to La Fortuna
- By public bus: There is a bus from San Jose to La Fortuna at 6:15 AM, 8:40AM and 11:30 AM from Ave 7-9, calle 12 and takes 4 hours. From Liberia, you need to take the bus to Canas (one every thirty minutes from 8:30 AM to 3PM), then to Tilaran (one every hour from 5AM to 10AM, 11:30AM, 13:00,15:30 and 17:00) and then to Fortuna (one at 7 AM and 12:30PM).
- By shuttle: You can book a private shuttle to La Fortuna from San Jose and Liberia for around $200 USD one way. Shared shuttles from San Jose and Liberia to La Fortuna cost around $55 USD per adult one way.
- Air: La Fortuna has its own local airport. Airlines like Skyway (get 10% off) flies into this airport. A flight is around 20 minutes from San Jose and costs around $90 USD one way.
- Driving: Driving to Fortuna from Liberia and San Jose takes around 3.5 hours one way. You can read about the Guanacaste to Arenal drive and the San Jose to Fortuna drive in these posts. If you’re renting a car, make sure to take advantage of our Costa Rica car rental discount.
- Boat: If you are coming from Monteverde, you can take the taxi-boat across Lake Arenal. Costs around $40 USD per person.
- Adventure transfers: You can also take a rafting trip as an interconnection. Rios Tropicales offers one day white water rafting Pacuare tours where they can pick up and drop off in La Fortuna (get $10 off this tour here).
How to Get Around
You can easily walk around La Fortuna since the town is not big. The main bus station is in downtown next to the Mega Super and you buy bus tickets at the Red Lava stand next to it.
However, the best and easiest way to get around the area is by car since the points of interests all spread out. The public bus doesn’t go to any of the places of interests either. Therefore, you will have to taxi everywhere or book tours with transportation. Booking tours with transportation is completely doable if you don’t want to rent a car however.
You can find plenty of red taxis in La Fortuna. If you plan to taxi around, so you have an idea of prices, town center to Fortuna waterfall is about $15 USD one way and at least $20 USD to the national park.
There is plenty of street parking in the town center but it can be tight on the weekends. Be aware that there aren’t any parking meters or dedicated secure parking lots, it’s all street parking. There is a gas station in downtown.
You can also rent scooters, there are rentals for $30 per 24 hours. We saw a sign by the Hotel Regina that had scooters for rent.
What the Town is Like
You can find pretty much everything in town such as restaurants, supermarkets, souvenir stalls, medical clinics, dentists, bars and tour desks. Being one of the most touristic towns in Costa Rica, it has all the services and amenities for tourists.
From wherever you are in town, you can get a view of Arenal Volcano. The best spot is in the park where you can see the park, church and volcano. It is truly an impressive sight to see!
Although there are a lot of tourists, you still get a good local vibe in La Fortuna. One interesting fact about this town is that majority of the businesses in Fortuna are owned by Costa Rica which is a rare occurrence in the touristic areas of Costa Rica.
Something to be aware of when walking in town. Since it’s very touristic, you may be stopped on the street by tour vendors. Tourism is highly competitive so our advice is to book tours through a reputable company like Jacamar Naturalist Tours or Desafio because unfortunately, there are illegal operators. You can also book through your hotel as hotels only work with licensed and legal companies.
This area is busy all year round since it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica but the months of December – April and July and August are extremely busy. We highly recommend to pre-book your hotels and activities for those months. May, June, September, October and November are much more laid back.
Video of the Town
Here is a short aerial video of the town.
La Fortuna Weather
The weather experiences typical dry and rainy tropical seasons. During dry season (December to April), the temperature is around mid 80s F (30 C) during the day and cools off at night.
During rainy season (May to November), the temperature stays in the high 70s and low 80s F (25-28 C). This area does rain a fair amount in rainy season, receiving about 15 feet (4.5 meters) a year. The typical day in rainy season will be sunny in the morning and rainy at night/evening. The rainiest months are September and October and it can rain quite a bit in May, June, August and November too.
What to Pack
Whether you’re visiting in dry or rainy season, it is ideal to pack clothes that dry fast and are moisture wicking.
Clothes: You can bring shorts, short sleeve shirts and tank tops. You don’t need long sleeve shirts or sweaters.
Shoes: A pair of flip flops, hiking sandals/shoes and casual shoes will be enough. If you plan on doing activities like ziplining, hiking or white water rafting, make sure to bring the appropriate shoes like closed toed hiking sandals or hiking shoes.
Mosquito repellent: This area doesn’t get a lot of mosquitoes but it is still good to have some on hand.
If you’re visiting in rainy season, you will also need a waterproof rain jacket and a waterproof backpack or rain cover. Read our guide to packing for rainy season in Costa Rica to be prepared. You can also check our Costa Rica packing list for more tips.
Things to Do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Fortuna is an excellent home base to explore the surrounding natural attractions and is known as the adventure capital of Costa Rica. Here are some of our recommended activities.
Canyoning is our favorite adventure activity in this area. We went with Pure Trek, rappelling down 4 waterfalls deep in the rain forest. Perfect for adventure seekers! Read about canyoning in Arenal.
Hanging bridges hike
There is a very nice private reserve called Mistico Hanging Bridges near Lake Arenal that has several hanging bridges. The bridges let you get high in the rain forest canopy for beautiful views and better wildlife watching opportunities.
This emerald green waterfall is only 15 minutes from town and you can swim and lay in the refreshing water. Read our guide to visiting Fortuna waterfall here.
You have to go to at least one hot spring in Arenal. The Tabacon river, which got very hot due to the 1968 eruption supplies water to the many hot spring facilities in the area. Tabacon, the Springs, Baldi, Ecotermales and Paradise are just a few. You can read more about Arenal hot springs.
This easy 2 kilometer Bogarin trail is the best place to see sloths in La Fortuna. It’s right in town and used to be a cattle farm until a local decided to grow it back into rainforest. In one hour, we saw 6 sloths! Highly recommended to go with a guide.
Get gorgeous views of the Arenal Volcano and surrounding mountains on an Arenal horseback riding tour. This is one of our favorite places in Costa Rica to go horseback riding because of the unbeatable views and spirited horses!
Read our other top picks for things to do in Fortuna!
We have 10-15% discounts for Arenal tours. Click below to check it out!
La Fortuna Hotel Recommendations
If you like to be close to services and amenities or are on a budget, stay in town. If you have a car and want to stay in nature, choose a hotel near the volcano.
Recommended hotels and hostels in town (cheap/budget):
- Hotel Las Colinas: Charming family run hotel. Great location, comfortable rooms, okay breakfast.
- Hotel Fortuna: Has their own secure parking lot and has good breakfast. Clean, basic and small rooms.
- Selina Fortuna: Popular hostel chain in Costa Rica.
- Arenal Container Hostel: This hostel made of 2 shipping containers offers dorms and private rooms, each with their own private bathroom and air conditioning. Super cheap.
- Hotel El Secreto: Cute family run hotel a little outside La Fortuna.
- La Choza Inn and Hostel: Cheap hotel with dorms and private rooms. They offer a Arenal shuttle pass for $15 that goes from the hotel to the waterfall, free hot spring river, Lake Arenal, jungle trail, national park and rock pools.
- Airbnb: You can read about the Arenal Airbnb we stayed at here. One of my favorite Airbnb’s we’ve stayed at in Costa Rica. Perfect for big groups or families.
Some hotels near Arenal volcano (mid to high range):
- Hotel Magic Mountain – Great breakfast, super nice pool area and comfortable/spacious rooms. Mid-range prices.
- Arenal Kioro – Luxury hotel with spa, exclusive hot springs and restaurant. Also has one of the best and closest view of the volcano!
- Hotel Montana de Fuego: Nice hotel with villas and bungalows, has their own hot springs and hiking trails on the property.
- Arenal Observatory Lodge – Only lodge actually in the national park and the closest to the volcano. Huge property with tons of trail, hanging bridges and waterfalls.
- Nayara Springs: If you’re on a romantic getaway or looking to splurge, head to the adult only Nayara Springs. Each bungalow has their own private plung pool! The Nayara Hotel is not adult only and is great for families.
- Los Lagos Hotel: Spacious rooms, on-site restaurants and their own hot springs. They have a special view point of Arenal Volcano on their property.
- Arenal History Inn: Nice budget to mid-range hotel. Has 10 bungalows and a pool just a little outside downtown so it’s nice and quiet.
- The Springs Resort & Spa: Luxury hotel with on-site restaurants, their own outdoor center, two separate hot springs sections and beautiful rooms with a stunning volcano view. Great high end hotel for families and couples alike.
La Fortuna Restaurants
- Soda Coloso #2: Cheap local food.
- Rainforest cafe: Across from Hotel Las Colinas, delicious empanadas and coffee.
- Parada de Bus: Yummy and cheap typical eats.
- Snappers Marisqueria: Great place for seafood.
- Kappa Sushi: Not a bad place for simple sushi.
- Don Rufino: Great place for steak and seafood. On the more expensive side.
- Lava Lounge: Fun place for craft beer, bar food and night life.
- La Casa de la Hormiga soda: Cheap local restaurant behind Arenal Hostel Resort.
- Soda Viquez: Another decent local restaurant next to Rainforest Cafe.
- Soda Garra-Pata: Great place for barbecue and steak, a local favorite.
- Organico Fortuna: Vegetarian and vegan food.
- Soda Nene: One of the best places for local food. Awesome ceviche and coconut flan.
- Fortuna Pub: Enjoy craft beer with delicious food. Also has plenty of vegetarian options.
- Plan B: Cheap sandwich truck by the gas station.
There are several souvenir stores in town. I don’t recommend the one that has the “100% original duplicate pottery” but there are some nice ones around. We like Green Forest Souvenir next to Arenal Hostel Resort, Souvenir Volcanik, Souvenir Quetzal Art and the Galeria Esudio Art. There is also a handmade art shop next to Hotel Las Colinas.
You can get pre-paid SIM cards at the Kolbi office or the Tecnocell store.
There is a fruit and veggie stand called Sarchisenos and there are several supermarkets called Super Christian #1 and #2. There is also a Mega Super and a Super Rovil grocery store all in town. Each of these supermarkets carry basic items: food, over the counter medicine, snacks, beer, wine and liquor and home and health (read more about grocery shopping in Costa Rica).
There are plenty of banks with 24 hour ATMs. There is a Bac San Jose and Banco Nacional by the gas station.
There are a few laundry places in town: Burbujas, Tuanis and Lava.
Why We Love Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna has the perfect balance of touristic and local. With reasonably priced sodas, souvenir stores, hotels and hostels, visitors will have everything they need within walking distance.
Yes it is touristic but like we mentioned earlier, majority of the business owners are Costa Ricans. You can see plenty of local families at the park and around town.
This is one of our favorite places in all of Costa Rica and no matter how many times we’ve visited, we always find something new to fall in love with. There is so much to do and see and you get a wonderful experience of the rainforest and volcano.
Read More Costa Rica city guides here!
There are affiliate links in this post