La Fortuna is a small city in Alajuela with a very special history due to one famous volcano. After hundreds of years of dormancy, Arenal volcano unexpectedly erupted on July 29, 1968 killing over 70 people and destroying 3 towns.
However, one town on the eastern side was incredibly lucky and didn’t get hit. The town was renamed to La Fortuna, meaning “the fortunate” to indicate how lucky they were to escape any harm.
Fast foward 50 years and La Fortuna is now one of the most touristic destinations with over a million visitors each year. Here our are La Fortuna travel tips so you can get the most out of this popular town in Costa Rica!
La Fortuna Travel Tips
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How to get to La Fortuna
- By public bus: There is a bus from San José departing at 6:15 AM, 8:40AM and 11:30 AM from Ave 7-9, calle 12 and takes 4 hours. If you’re coming from Liberia, it is a bit more complicated. You will first need to take a bus from Liberia 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 La Fortuna (7 AM and 12:30PM).
- By shuttle: You can also book a shuttle which is around $200 from both San Jose and Liberia.
- Air: Both Sansa and Nature Air have local flights to La Fortuna. A flight is around 20 minutes and cost around $50-80 one way.
- Driving: The drive takes about 3.5 hours from Liberia and San Jose. You can read what the drive is like from Liberia to Arenal here. Both routes from San Jose and Liberia are on windy roads with beautiful views so leave your camera out!
If you’re renting a car, make sure to take advantage of our 10-25% car rental discount, 33% off GPS and more. Click here to get it).
You can find pretty much everything in La Fortuna such as restaurants, sodas, markets, souvenir stalls, bars, tourist centers and info centers. The town is not that big but you can spend a good couple hours checking out the souvenir stores, the different cafes and sodas and exploring the town.
Although La Fortuna does indeed have a lot of tourists, you still get a good local vibe to it. In fact, majority of the businesses in the town are owned by Ticos! That is a rare occurrence in the touristic areas of Costa Rica.
From wherever you are in town, you can get a view of Arenal Volcano. It is truly an impressive sight to see!
There is not much to do in La Fortuna at night time except for the bars. Some restaurants are open late and you’ll see a lot of locals hanging out at the park.
You can watch a short aerial video of La Fortuna here!
The weather in La Fortuna is quite nice. We’ve always visited in July during green season and we get rained on every single time, but it feels so fresh! Make sure to pack appropriately if you’re visiting in rainy season though, we lost a brand new camera when we hiked Cerro Chato in a rainstorm. Read our guide to packing for rainy season to be prepared!
During dry season, La Fortuna gets pretty hot and I wore shorts and tank tops like I was at the beach. It’s not as fresh as it seems unless you go up towards Nuevo Arenal where it’s more windy and cooler temperatures.
Read more about the weather in Costa Rica.
Things to do in La Fortuna
La Fortuna is an excellent home base to explore the surrounding natural attractions.
There are many things to do in and around the town such as hiking, horseback riding, hanging bridges, hot springs, canyoning, ziplining, Arenal Volcano national park and more. For those short on time, consider a combination tour where you can visit several attractions in one day.
You can even take a day trip to see the amazing Rio Celeste or Monteverde!
Where to Stay
You can choose to stay in La Fortuna or around Arenal as there are so many hotels to choose from. If you like to be close to services and amenities, stay in or near La Fortuna so you’re in a convenient location. If you don’t mind to be further away and want to stay in nature and not in town, choose a hotel around Arenal.
These are our top picks in La Fortuna:
- Hotel Las Colinas: charming family run hotel right in the middle of town. Great location, comfortable rooms, okay breakfast. The best part is the terrace, where you can sit and relax with a view of the volcano. They also have a little garden with the blue jean frogs!
- Hotel La Fortuna: Comfortable hotel in town, just a couple blocks from the park. Has their own secure parking lot and has good breakfast. Try to get a room facing the volcano for beautiful views
- Arenal Hostel Resort: Hostel in the middle of town, great atmosphere and common area. The garden has lots of hammocks and even though the pool is small, it’s nice. No volcano view and can get noisy at night. Expensive for a private room but affordable as a hostel
- Hostel Backpackers Fortuna: Sister hostel to Arenal Hostel Resort, in center of town and near the park. Quieter and a bit smaller.
- Airbnb: You can read about the Airbnb here.We stayed an Airbnb only 5 minutes from town. It was a great experience.
Top picks for hotels and hostels in Arenal:
- Hotel Magic Mountain – Great breakfast, super nice pool area and comfortable/spacious rooms. Not too far from town, about a 5 minute drive. Mid-range prices.
- Arenal Kioro – this hotel is further away from town but it is a beautiful luxury hotel. Hot springs are exclusively for guests and they have Jacuzzis in all the rooms. One of the best and closest view of the volcano!
- Arenal Observatory Lodge – Only lodge actually in the national park and the closest to the volcano. Huge property with tons of trails (including their own private Cerro Chato trail), hanging bridges and waterfalls. Rooms have a rustic touch, excellent breakfast and on site restaurant. Our favorite hotel to get as close to nature as possible!
- Arenal Backpackers Resort – one of the highest rated hostels in La Fortuna but not right in center of town. Has a great view of the volcano from the common garden area. Quieter and more private.
Where to Eat
There are plenty of restaurants in La Fortuna. There’s not the biggest variety but you can find some decent eats. These are our favorites:
- Soda Coloso #2: Across from super Christian market, serves typical food. You can get breakfast for $4
- Rainforest cafe: Across from Hotel Las Colinas, they have the best empanadas we’ve ever eaten. Also has delicious coffee and cakes
- Parada de Bus: Yummy olla de carne and fairly cheap typical eats. You can also get pizza
- Don Rufino: Great place for steak and seafood
- La Casa de la Hormiga soda: cheap soda popular with locals, behind Arenal Hostel Resort
- Soda Viquez: Another decent soda, I really like their fish casados. Next to Rainforest cafe
Come Visit La Fortuna
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 you can still find sodas that are frequented by only Ticos and like we mentioned earlier, majority of the business owners are Costa Ricans who want visitors to have a fun and authentic experience.
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. We hope our travel tips helped you plan your trip to get the most out of the La Fortuna and Arenal area.
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