La Fortuna is a small city in Costa Rica with a very significant history due to one famous volcano, Arenal. 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 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 excellent 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 that town is now one of the most touristic destinations in Costa Rica with over a million visitors each year. Here our are travel tips to help you plan your trip and make the most of your visit.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica Guide
This post has been updated January 2018.
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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 at 7 AM and 12:30PM.
- By shuttle: You can book a private shuttle which is around $200 for 1-6 people from both San Jose and Liberia. For shared shuttles, they cost around $54 per person. We have a 10% Interbus shared shuttle discount you can get here.
- Air: There is a local airport which Sansa flies into. A flight is around 20 minutes from San Jose and cost around $50-80 one way.
- Driving: Driving to Fortuna from Liberia and San Jose takes around 3.5 hours. You can see the Liberia 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 10-20% Costa Rica car rental discount, 33% off GPS and more.
- Boat: If you are coming from Monteverde, you can take the taxi-boat across Lake Arenal. Costs around $25 per person.
How to Get Around
You can easily walk to get around since it’s 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 they are all spread out. Otherwise, you will have to taxi everywhere or book tours as all tours include transportation.
You can also find plenty of taxis downtown though. So you have an idea of prices, town to Fortuna waterfall is about $15 one way and at least $20 to the national park.
There is plenty of street parking but it can be tight on the weekends when it gets very busy. Be aware that there aren’t any parking meters, dedicated secure parking lots or parking guards so make sure you don’t leave valuables in your car. There is a gas station in downtown Fortuna.
You can also rent scooters, there are rentals for $30 per 24 hours.
You can find pretty much everything in Fortuna such as restaurants, sodas, supermarkets, souvenir stalls, bars, tour desks and info centers. It’s easy to spend a good couple hours checking out the souvenir stores, the different cafes and restaurants.
From wherever you are, 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 to it. In fact, majority of the businesses in Fortuna are owned by Ticos! That is a rare occurrence in the touristic areas of Costa Rica.
There is not much to do at night time except for the few bars like Lava Lounge or Fortuna Pub.
You can watch a short aerial video of Fortuna town below!
Something to be aware of when walking in town. Since it’s very touristic, you will be stopped on the streets by tour vendors many times. Tourism is highly competitive so our advice is to book tours through a reputable company (some are Jacamar Naturalist Tours, Desafio, Anywhere Costa Rica, Aventuras Arenal and Canoa Aventura) 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 are extremely busy. Make sure to book hotels and tours beforehand!
La Fortuna Weather
The weather experiences typical dry and rainy tropical seasons and gets pretty hot during dry season which is December to April. The temperature is fairly consistent, staying around mid 80’s for most of the year.
During rainy season, which is about May to November, the temperature stays in the 80’s and cools down at night to the high 70’s.
This area does rain a fair amount, receiving about 15 feet a year so if you are visiting during rainy season, come prepare for rain. The typical day in rainy season will be sunny in the morning and rainy at night/evening. The rainiest months are October and November.
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
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 that let you get high in the rain forest canopy for beautiful views and better wildlife watching opportunities.
This waterfall is a must! This emerald green waterfall is only 15 minutes from town where 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.
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:
- 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.
- La Choza Inn and Hostel: Excellent 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 and perfect for big groups or families.
Some hotels near the volcano:
- 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 hot spring!
- Los Lagos Hotel: Spacious rooms, on-site restaurants and their own hot springs and they have a special view point of Arenal Volcano on their property.
- Arenal History Inn: Nice budget to mid-range hotel. Has only 10 bungalows and a pool 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
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. Also has delicious coffee and cakes. Their coffee art is lovely!
- 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 as it’s fine dining.
- 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 I really like their fish casados. Next to Rainforest cafe.
- Soda Garra-Pata: Great place for barbecue and steak, a local favorite. They have huge portions and you can watch them barbecue outside.
- Organico Fortuna: Specializes in vegetarian and vegan food.
- Soda Nene: One of the best places for local food. Awesome ceviche and coconut flan. One of our favorites!
- Fortuna Pub: Enjoy craft beer with delicious food. Also has plenty of vegetarian options. Their food is amazing.
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 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.
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: Burbujas, Tuanis and Lava.
Why We Love 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 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.
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