La Fortuna, Costa Rica is a small town famous for its fantastic outdoor adventures, beautiful scenery, natural hot springs and stunning Arenal Volcano views. For these reasons, La Fortuna is one of the best destinations in Costa Rica for first time visitors and even repeat visitors.
If you are visiting La Fortuna, here is our guide to help you plan your visit to this adventure capital of Costa Rica!
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La Fortuna Know Before You Go
- Location: In the Alajuela province.
- Distance from international airport: ~3 hours from Guanacaste Airport (Liberia Airport) and San Jose International Airport
- How to get there: Direct public bus from San Jose, domestic flight from San Jose Airport, private or shared shuttle, driving or a taxi-boat-taxi from Monteverde. Also can arrive as an interconnection from a Pacuare whitewater rafting tour from San Jose or Puerto Viejo.
- Airport: La Fortuna has its own domestic airport, 10 minutes outside downtown
- 4×4 Required? No.
- Currency: Credit cards and USD readily accepted as well as CRC.
- Main attractions: La Fortuna waterfall, Arenal Volcano National Park, Arenal Hanging Bridges, Lake Arenal, natural hot springs, swimming holes
- Best things to do: Hiking, canopy tours, canyoning waterfall rappelling, safari floats, cooking classes, chocolate tours, wildlife and bird watching
- Weather: Hot (average 70-85 F or 21 to 29 C) and humid all year long. As tropical rainforest, it can rain any time of the year, even during the dry season (December through April). Rainy season is May through November.
- Tourists normally spend 2-4 nights in La Fortuna thanks to its excellent tourist infrastructure, beautiful rainforests, fun outdoor adventures and family friendly atmosphere. You can also visit as a day trip from San Jose or as a day trip from Guanacaste. La Fortuna is a safe destination in Costa Rica, especially for families and solo travelers.
Things to Do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna is an excellent home base to explore the surrounding natural attractions of the Arenal area. Here are some of our recommended activities in La Fortuna.
Canyoning is one of our favorite adventures in this area. Rappel down waterfalls in the lush rainforest. This activity is 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.
La Fortuna waterfall
This emerald green waterfall is only 15 minutes from downtown and you can swim in the refreshing water. Read our guide to visiting La Fortuna waterfall here. You can also visit El Salto, which is the local spot downriver of the Fortuna River.
A visit to one of the naturally heated hot springs in La Fortuna is a must! The Tabacon river supplies water to the many popular hot spring resorts in the Arenal area. Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa is one of the most popular hot springs. Other fantastic ones are the Springs Resort & Spa, Baldi Hot Springs Hotel, Ecotermales and Paradise. If you’re on a budget, head to the free natural river.
The Arenal area is home to many sloths but the best way to see them is to book a sloth tour with an experienced guide.
Get gorgeous views of the Arenal Volcano 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!
Volcano Hike (Arenal Volcano National Park or Private Reserves)
You can hike in the Arenal Volcano National Park or at the several private reserves nearby such as Arenal 1968 for great views of the Lake Arenal and volcano.
Other amazing activities in La Fortuna are canopy tours, whitewater rafting iii rapids or iv rapids, a day visit to Tenorio Volcano National Park to see Rio Celeste and chocolate tours. Read our other top picks for things to do in Fortuna and get our tours discount here! Our recommendation: Rio Celeste is one of the best day trips from Fortuna that you can’t miss!
La Fortuna Resorts and Hotels
There are tons of places to stay in the La Fortuna area and Arenal Volcano area at every single price point. You can find cheap hostels from $20 USD a night per bed in a dorm to $850 USD a night luxury resort. Here are some recommended places to stay and you can read more details in our where to stay in La Fortuna post.
Best hotels on a budget
- Hotel Las Colinas: Charming family run hotel conveniently located in downtown.
- Selina Fortuna: Great location. Is a popular hostel chain in Costa Rica for digital nomads and backpackers.
- Hotel El Secreto: Cute family run hotel, 10 minute walk to downtown. Hot breakfast included. They have their own free parking lot.
- Arenal Poshpaker: A hostel right in town with a pool
- La Choza Inn and Hostel: Dorms and private rooms. Good hostel atmosphere
Mid to high range/luxury
- Hotel Magic Mountain – Great breakfast, nice pool area and comfortable/spacious rooms.
- Arenal History Inn: Mid range hotel with individual bungalows close to town center.
- Volcano Lodge and Springs: Cozy and comfortable hotel with their own hot spring pools
- Arenal Kioro: Luxury hotel with spa, exclusive hot springs and restaurant.
- San Bosco Inn: Small hotel in downtown, cozy family run wallet friendly
- Hotel Montana de Fuego: Hotel with villas and bungalows with their own on-site hot springs, restaurant and hiking trails
- Arenal Observatory Lodge – The closest to the volcano. Huge property with tons of trail, hanging bridges and waterfalls.
- Royal Corin: Luxury hotel with their own hot springs and pools. Adults only.
- Nayara Springs: Ultra luxury rainforest adult only rainforest resort. Each bungalow has their own private plunge pool!
- Nayara Hotel: Beautiful family rainforest resort.They also have the Nayara Tent Camps for glamping.
- 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.
- Tabacon: A very well known luxury rainforest resort.
- Amor Arenal: A new-ish luxury adults only (13 and up) with a spa, restaurant, gym, gorgeous rooms and a close view of Arenal Volcano. Highly recommended for couples!
- 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.
There are also many Airbnbs, vacation rentals and VRBO’s in the Arenal area all the way to Lake Arenal.
Recommended La Fortuna, Costa Rica Restaurants
- El Coloso Arenal: Cheap local food. Big portions!
- Rainforest cafe: Across from Hotel Las Colinas, delicious empanadas, cake and coffee.
- Snappers Marisqueria: Great place for seafood.
- Marisqueria Del Carajo: Very reasonably priced and good seafood restaurant
- La Parada Restaurante and Pizzeria: Right in downtown, good local food and decent pizza
- Don Rufino: Great place for steak and seafood and for a nice dinner out.
- 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.
- Chocolate Fusion: Cute cafe and bakery with coffee, chocolate, ice cream and pastries.
- Santa Paletta Granizados: Ice cream and shaved ice treats
- Zacate Fast Food: Cheap fast food stand with burgers, sandwich, etc.
- Piura: Amazing Peruvian restaurant. Great place for meat, seafood, ceviche, etc.
- Restaurante Pollos Fortuenos: Delicious chicken, burgers, nachos and sandwiches.
- Mercadito Arenal: Nice food court with pizza, tacos, burgers, sushi and a bar.
- Soda Viquez: Another decent local restaurant next to Rainforest Cafe.
- Spectacolar Cantina: Mexican food and beer
- Soda Garra-Pata: Great place for barbecue and steak, a local favorite and one of ours for meat and traditional Costa Rican casados.
- Organico Fortuna: Vegetarian and vegan food. Great coffee, smoothies, desserts and fresh breakfasts
- Soda Nene: One of the best places for local food. Awesome ceviche and coconut flan.
- Fortuna Pub: Enjoy craft beer with delicious food and fun games. Also has plenty of vegetarian options.
- Urbano: Cheap but yummy sandwich truck in town.
La Fortuna Town
La Fortuna is a cute Costa Rican town. It used to primarily be a farming community but thanks to its proximity to many natural attractions including the active Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal and La Fortuna waterfall, it became the main tourism hub of the Arenal area after the 1968 eruption.
From wherever you are in La Fortuna, you can get a view of Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna downtown is one of our favorite local parks in Costa Rica because of how picturesque it is. When the volcano is clear, it is truly an impressive sight to see!
Although Fortuna is a popular tourist destination, you still get a good local vibe. One interesting fact about this town is that majority of the businesses are owned by local Costa Ricans which is a rare occurrence in the touristic areas of Costa Rica.
As one of the more popular destinations in Costa Rica, the months of December – April and July and August are extremely busy. You will need to pre-book your tours and hotels for these dates. May, June, September, October and November are in the low season with less tourists.
Video of the Town
Here is a walking video of downtown (no editing, ambient sound at night).
Location of La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna is located in the Alajuela province, 140 (87 miles) kilometers from San Jose International Airport and 143 kilometers (89.1 miles) from Liberia International Airport.
How to Get to La Fortuna
By public bus
There is a bus from San Jose to La Fortuna at 8:40AM from Terminal 7-10, Ave 7-9, calle 12 and takes 4 hours. From SJO Airport, if you can’t make the direct bus, you can take a bus from San Jose – San Ramon – La Fortuna or Ciudad Quesada – La Fortuna.
From Guanacaste (like Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playas del Coco), you need to get to Liberia first. Then 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).
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 $59 USD per adult one way with Interbus, Ride CR, Easy Ride and Caribe Shuttle.
Want to book a private transfer? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help you schedule yours!
La Fortuna has its own local airport just 5 minutes away from town. A domestic flight with Sansa Air is around 20 minutes from San Jose and costs around $90 USD one way.
Driving to Fortuna from Liberia and San Jose takes around 3.5 hours one way in a rental car. You can read about the Guanacaste to Arenal drive and the driving San Jose to Arenal in these posts. If you’re coming from Guanacaste, you can stop by Rio Celeste on the way to see the sky blue river. Make sure to take advantage of our Costa Rica car rental discount.
If you are coming from Monteverde, you can take the taxi-boat-taxi across Lake Arenal. Costs from $50 USD per person.
You can also take a white water rafting trip as an interconnection. Some rafting companies offers the one day white water rafting Pacuare tours where they can pick up in either San Jose or Puerto Viejo and drop off in La Fortuna (get $5 off this tour here). They can also go vice versa to pick up in La Fortuna and drop off in San Jose/Puerto Viejo.
Video of Driving from Guanacaste to La Fortuna (from Tamarindo/Playas del Coco)
We made a video of us driving from Tamarindo to La Fortuna including places to stop for food, coffee, drinks and bathroom.
How to Get Around La Fortuna, Costa Rica
You can easily walk around La Fortuna downtown. 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, unless you are staying in downtown La Fortuna, renting a car is the best way to access all the attractions of the Arenal area, since they are all spread out without a direct bus or shuttle. If you want to visit the popular tourist sites, you can check EasyHop who offers shared shuttles in La Fortuna starting at $3 per ride going to Tabacon hot springs resort, Arenal Volcano, Mistico Park and La Fortuna Waterfall. La Choza Inn Hostel also offers an unlimited daily pass for $15 USD going to their 6 different sites.
You can find plenty of red taxis in La Fortuna. Estimated prices are from town center to Fortuna waterfall, at least $15 USD one way and at least $20 USD to the national park one way.
There is Uber in La Fortuna and you can find Ubers in downtown La Fortuna.
Renting a Car
If you have a rental car, there is plenty of street parking in the town center. There is also a public parking lot right in town as well. The gas station is in town, a couple blocks from the park. Get our Costa Rica car rental discount here!
You can also rent scooters, there are rentals for ~$45 USD per 24 hours by Hotel Regina.
La Fortuna Weather
The weather experiences typical dry and rainy tropical seasons. During dry season (December to April), the temperature is around low 80s F (26 C) during the day and cools off at night.
Since it is the tropical rainforest, this area is very humid and it can rain during dry season. Once, we visited mid-March, normally the driest and hottest month and it rained for about 30 minutes around 5-6 PM. It was completely dry and super sunny during the day and the rain came all of a sudden!
During rainy season (May to November), the temperature stays in the high 70s F 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, off and on rains during the day and rainy at night/evening.
The rainiest months are September and October in the Arenal Volcano area and La Fortuna.
What to Pack for La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna is hot and humid all year round. Whether you’re visiting for one night or a few days, you have to bring a lightweight rain jacket, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, fitness/workout clothes (dry fast, lightweight, moisture wicking, odor resistant) and hat.
Shoes: We recommend a good pair of running/walking shoes if you are hiking and water shoes if you are going to go rafting/tubing/water activities. Should have completely closed shoes.
If you’re visiting in rainy season, you will also need 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.
There are several souvenir stores in town such as Green Forest Souvenir, Cianikal Galeria, Souvenir Leo, Wood & Art Gallery and the Galeria Estudio Art. There is also a handmade art shop next to Hotel Las Colinas. I like the store Bambamboo for eco-friendly clothing.
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, Super Market Arenal, Maxi Pali and a Super Rovi.
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.
Two places called Tuanis and Burbajas in downtown.
Sample La Fortuna Itineraries
We recommend to spend at least 3 nights in La Fortuna so you can have 2 full days to enjoy the area. Here are some sample itineraries for your full days. Remember, you can perfectly visit La Fortuna without a car and book tours with roundtrip transportation.
Nature and wildlife lovers
Day 1: Full day of hiking and wildlife at the Arenal Hanging bridges, La Fortuna waterfall and Arenal Volcano National Park hike to see the highlights of the area. Then hot springs at night. Best done as a tour or you can go on your own if you have a car.
Day 2: Do a sloth walk tour in the morning and safari float in the afternoon
Day 1: Canopy tours in the morning and whitewater rafting Class iii rapids for a full day of adventure. (If you do not want to zipline, do a full day whitewater rafting Class iv rapids instead).
Day 2: Stand up paddle board at Lake Arenal in the morning. Afternoon relax and go to the natural hot springs in the evening. If you want to see animals, take a night walk.
Day 1: Spend the day at the Club Rio center along the Arenal River to river tube/kayak/horseback ride/rock wall or visit their animal sanctuary. Lunch is included as well as a two day hot spring pass! Get $10 USD off the Club Rio multi adventure package here!
Day 2: Go for a safari float in the morning to see wildlife. Then visit the Springs hot springs again that afternoon for the rest of the day.
Why We Love Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna has the perfect balance of touristic and local. With reasonably priced restaurants, souvenir stores, hotels and hostels, visitors will have everything they need within walking distance.
La Fortuna is one of our favorite places in all of Costa Rica. Anyone can find something they will love about Fortuna! There is so much to do and see and you get a wonderful experience of the lush rainforests, volcano and pura vida lifestyle of the Costa Ricans.
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.
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