La Fortuna is a small city in Alajuela with a very special 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 hit. This town, which already felt very lucky due to the rich and fertile soil from the volcano was renamed 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 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 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.
- Air: Both Sansa and Nature Air have local flights to La Fortuna which has its own domestic airport. 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 and the drive from San Jose to La Fortuna is like.. 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.
We also have a shared shuttle discount, click here to get 10% off your shuttle.
How to get around La Fortuna
La Fortuna is a small town so you can easily walk especially since all the hostels and many hotels are located in or near town. The main bus station is in La Fortuna downtown and you can also find plenty of taxis. Make sure the taxi driver turns his meter on! Unfortunately there are some drivers who will try to scam tourists so first thing first – turn on the meter and try to research approximately how much a trip will cost. For example, from La Fortuna town to La Fortuna waterfall is about $15 and at least $20 to the national park.
The best way to get around La Fortuna is by car since you’ll have the most flexibility and freedom. Since some hotels are quite far away from town such as Arenal Observatory Lodge and Lost Iguana Resort, it will be very convenient to have a car to go to town, grocery shopping, out to eat, etc.
There are buses that go from La Fortuna to Tilaran constantly but you can only get off on the main road, they don’t turn into the hotels or the national park. This is why it is recommended to book tours since they include transportation to and from hotels.
La Fortuna Town
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 few 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!
When you are driving in La Fortuna, be aware that there are a few one-way streets. There is plenty of street parking but it can be tight on the weekends when it gets very busy. No parking meters or parking guards so make sure you don’t leave valuables in your car but for the most part, La Fortuna is a fairly safe town.
Something to be aware of when walking in La Fortuna town. Since this town is very touristic, you will be stopped on the streets by tour vendors many times. Tourism is highly competitive in La Fortuna so our best advice is to always book tours through a reputable company (Jacamar Naturalist Tours, Desafio, Anywhere Costa Rica, Aventuras Arenal and Canoa Aventura are a few) because unfortunately, there will be illegal operators. You can also book through your hotel as hotels only work with licensed and legal companies.
La Fortuna 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 beforehand!
La Fortuna Weather
The weather in La Fortuna experiences typical dry and rainy tropical seasons and gets pretty hot during dry season which is roughly December to April. The temperature is fairly consistent, staying around mid 80’s and 90’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 of rain a year so if you are visiting during rainy season, do expect and come prepared for rain. It gets humid as well in rainy season, it can be anywhere from 50-80% humidity.
We’ve always visited this area in July and it has rained every time we have visited. We have also visited in November where we had incredibly sunny mornings and blue skies and a little bit of rain at night. The typical day in rainy season will be sunny in the morning and rainy at night/evening but it can also rain all day long.
What to Pack for La Fortuna
Whether you’re visiting in dry or rainy season, it is ideal to pack clothes that dry fast and are moisture wicking due to the humidity.
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 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 to be prepared! You can also check our ultimate packing list to Costa Rica for more tips.
Things to do in La Fortuna
La Fortuna is an excellent home base to explore the surrounding natural attractions. Here are some of our recommended activities.
Canyoning is our favorite adventure activity in La Fortuna. We went with Pure Trek, rappelling down 4 waterfalls deep in the rain forest. Perfect for adventure seekers! Read about canyoning in La Fortuna here.
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.
La Fortuna waterfall
The La Fortuna waterfall is a must! This emerald green waterfall is only 15 minutes from La Fortuna town where you can swim and lay in the refreshing water. Read our guide to visiting La Fortuna waterfall here.
Hot springs are an absolute must in La Fortuna! 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 the hot springs in La Fortuna here.
Get gorgeous views of the Arenal Volcano and surrounding mountains by horseback. This is one of our favorite places in Costa Rica to go horseback riding because of the unbeatable views and spirited horses!
We also have 10-15% discounts for activities in La Fortuna/Arena!
La Fortuna Hotel Recommendations
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 or are on a budget, stay in La Fortuna so you’re in a convenient location. If you have your own transportation and want to stay in nature and not in town, choose a hotel around Arenal.
Some of our favorite hotels in La Fortuna town:
- 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. 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.
- Selina Fortuna: This new hostel chain in Costa Rica has a new site in La Fortuna as of 2018. Great hostel atmosphere.
- Airbnb: You can read about the Arenal Airbnb here. We stayed an awesome Airbnb only 5 minutes from town but felt like a world’s away! Perfect for big groups or families.
Some hotels and hostels outside of La Fortuna:
- 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!
- 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 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!
La Fortuna Restaurants
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.
- Soda Garra-Pata: Great place for barbecue and steak, a local favorite.
- Organico Fortuna: Specializes in vegetarian and vegan food.
- Orchid cafe: Delicious coffee and healthy options.
- Soda Nene: One of the best places for local food and prices.
- La Fortuna pub: Enjoy craft beer with delicious food. Also has plenty of vegetarian options.
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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