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If you’re looking for adventure in Costa Rica then you must visit La Fortuna, home of the magnificent Arenal volcano. This small town is packed with amazing things to do in the surrounding area. From hiking through lava fields, rappeling down waterfalls, or whitewater rafting through the river, there’s no shortage of adventurous things to do in La Fortuna.
I visited La Fortuna for the first time in 2015 while on a road trip through Costa Rica. I recently returned five years later and it was just as beautiful as I remembered. With the backdrop of Arenal Volcano, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica. Here is my list of the top 10 adventurous things to do in La Fortuna and the surrounding area. I’ve also included some example La Fortuna itineraries to help you plan your trip!
More information on La Fortuna:
- When to Visit La Fortuna
- Getting to La Fortuna
- Where to stay in La Fortuna
- Where to go after La Fortuna
Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
#1 – Gravity Falls Waterfall Jumping Tour with Desafio
If you’re looking to level up your next adventure, then the gravity falls waterfall jumping tour with Desafio is an absolute must! This combination tour has a bit of everything – rappelling over waterfalls, cliff jumping, hiking, and rock climbing. Needless to say, it was an absolute blast.
The tour starts with an early pick up at 6:30 am from your hotel in La Fortuna for an hour drive out to the countryside where the waterfalls are located. The guide offered to stop for coffee along the way, which I was so grateful for. Once at the site, the guides help everyone get geared up for the adventure (you can leave any belongings you don’t need in the truck). From there, it’s a short walk down to the top of the canyon for the first rappel.
If you haven’t woken up yet, you will soon as you start the first 140ft rappel down a rushing waterfall into a deep crystalline pool. Don’t worry, the guides are extremely knowledgeable and there to support you the entire way down. I was terrified when I first started the rappel, but once I got the hang of it I loved it.
The rest of the morning includes five cliff diving waterfall jumps ranging from five feet to 25 feet, a canyoning swim through a narrow passage, and a small rock climbing adventure. If you don’t want to do the cliff jumping, the guides can help you rappel down instead. The last jump, which is from a 39 ft platform, is completely optional so no worries if you’re afraid of heights.
I loved this tour! Not only was it so much adventure, but the tour takes place in an isolated rainforest canyon which was absolutely beautiful to walk through. If I only had time to do one adventure tour in La Fortuna, this would be an easy pick. They pack in so much adventure in just one morning, plus the Desafio staff were some of the kindest and professional I met in Costa Rica.
The tour is jam-packed with fun but uses a ton of energy. Thankfully, beers and pineapple are provided right after the tour ends. This is just a snack though, as the guides then drive you back into town for a delicious buffet-style meal at their new restaurant, Hunters & Gathers. The restaurant has an assortment of delicious Costa Rican cuisine, including rice, beans, chicken, yuca, plantains, and more. It was one of the best meals I ate in Costa Rica!
What to bring:
- You will get absolutely soaked during the tour, so wear something that you are comfortable getting wet like a swimsuit or athletic wear. Bring a change of dry clothes for afterward, there is a changing area.
- Sturdy shoes, preferably ones that are waterproof like these Chaco shoes.
- A waterproof camera like a GoPro. The guides also take photos and videos of you during the tour, which you can purchase after for $20 USD (per couple, so you can split the cost with a friend). They let you look at the photos before to decide if you want them!
Disclaimer: My participation on this tour was kindly sponsored by Desafio. All opinions are my own.
# 2 – Take a dip in La Fortuna Waterfall
If you love waterfalls, then you’ll love Costa Rica! There are so many amazing waterfalls to chase here, and La Fortuna waterfall is one of them. It is one of the more touristic waterfalls in Costa Rica, with an entry fee of $18. Although to be honest, most waterfalls in Costa Rica are monetized. On the flip side, this means the trails to this waterfall are very well-maintained. Once you enter the park, there are great views of La Fortuna waterfall from the staircase.
To reach the bottom of the La Fortuna waterfall, you have to descend a 500-step staircase. This is much worse coming back up, so make sure to bring water with you. You are allowed to swim in La Fortuna waterfall, but no one was doing it while I was there. I had to try, and jumped in for a short dip.
The water was frigid, but refreshing after the hike. I only stayed in for a couple of minutes because the current was so strong. Nearby to La Fortuna waterfall, there is a calmer body of water where most people were swimming.
There are some other small trails you can explore in the park to an orchid garden and butterfly garden. There’s also a cafe on-site if you want to grab a bite afterward! If you love to chase waterfalls like me, then a visit here is one of the best things to do in La Fortuna.
# 3 – El Salto Rope Swing (free)!
El Salto Rope swing is one of the few free things to do in La Fortuna. This popular swimming spot is right outside of town, on the way to La Fortuna waterfall. It’s just 1.5km from the church in town, so you can also walk if don’t have a car. The rope swing also happens to be next to Desafio’s Hunter & Gather restaurant. If you want, you can simply stay there after the canyoning tour instead of going back to town. If you haven’t already gotten wet enough!
At El Salto, There is a Tarzan rope swing you can swing on to jump into the water, where there is also a small waterfall. If you aren’t feeling adventurous, you can simply watch the locals jump in and sunbathe by the water. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon in La Fortuna if you’re looking for something that won’t break the bank!
# 4 – Soak in Hot Springs (Paid & Free)
One of the best things to do in La Fortuna is to enjoy one of the town’s many beautiful hot springs, heated by nearby Arenal Volcano. There are over a dozen hot spring options in La Fortuna for any budget.
One of the most luxurious (and priciest) options is Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa. Inside there are beautiful gardens and pools landscaped around the Tabacon river, which is naturally heated by Arenal. If you aren’t staying at the resort, you can purchase a day pass for $94.
A free alternative is to visit Tabacon river across the street from the Tabacon building, about 100m down. These are beautiful all-natural hot springs you can visit for free! The only downside is that it’s a popular spot. We got here around 6pm and it was extremely busy, mostly with locals. Get here early if you want a good spot!
For a more mid-range option, check out Paradise Hot Springs. If you aren’t staying here, it’s only $28 for a day pass. The facilities are beautiful, with nice views of Arenal Volcano. They have several pools of varying temperatures, including a swim-up bar. There weren’t many other people here while I was visiting, which made it all the better!
Another popular mid-range option is Baldi Hot Springs. This spacious resort has over 25 pools and waterslides. It’s $35 for a day pass. I visited here during my first time in La Fortuna, but enjoyed Paradise hot springs more as there were fewer people. Baldi seems to be more family-oriented.
# 5 – Zip-line through the forest
If you love a good zip-line, then you must try it in Costa Rica! The country has gained a reputation for having some of the best zip-lines in the world, and they did not disappoint. There are zip-lines all over the country, and La Fortuna is one of the best places to give it a try, next to Monteverde Cloud Forest.
If you want to go zip-lining in La Fortuna, I recommend visiting the Sky Trek & Sky Tram Adventure park. At the time we visited (Jan 2020) the entry fee was $82 USD ($70 if you’re a student). They claim to have the longest and fastest lines in Costa Rica and it certainly felt like it! It was such an amazing feeling to go flying through the forest. I couldn’t help but scream! Plus, the surrounding views or Lake Arenal and Arenal Volcano are amazing.
The tour starts with a scenic gondola ride up the top of the zip-lining course. There are some fun photo ops at the top before you start. They have photographers there that will take photos of you which you can purchase after for $35. They also have helmet mounts for GoPro’s, and you can rent GoPro’s with photos for an additional $35.
The first zip-line is tiny, it’s just there to get the hang of how it works. After that, the fun begins as you descend back down to the starting point via six massive zip-lines through the forest. At each station, there are several guides there to strap you in and make sure everything is OK. This was only my second-time zip-lining and I thought it was going to be terrifying, but it was so much fun!
At the end, there is a restaurant that serves nice food and has awesome views of Arenal Volcano. There are also some hanging bridges and walking trails in the park you can explore.
# 6 – Take a Hike
Although you can see Arenal Volcano from town, you can get even better views by visiting either Arenal Volcano National Park or Arenal 1968 park. They are both near each other so you will get similar views of Arenal, but offer different hiking trails.
Arenal 1968 Park
Arenal Volcano was dormant for over 500 years until a massive explosion set it off in 1968, destroying three towns near its base. The volcano continued to be active until 2010, spewing lava from the top.
Arenal 1968 is a park in La Fortuna where you can see the remains of the volcanic explosion. It was so cool to walk through giant lava rocks!
There are two trails in the park that connect with each other. The full loop, which takes about three hours, goes through the lava trails as well as a small lake. If you only take the lava trail, it takes about an hour and a half total round trip.
If you enter the park after 3 pm they will only let you do the smaller lava trail as there isn’t enough time to do the full loop before the park closes. Unfortunately, you still have to pay the same entrance fee ($17) even if you are only doing the smaller trail.
Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano National Park has mostly-flat trails, so this is a good option if you’re looking for an easy hike. There are many hiking trails within the park. Sendero Colada 1968 (3.4km) and Tucanes (2km) are the shortest, which take you through secondary forest and lava field. There are also hanging bridges in the park.
There’s another volcano in the park that’s less known, Cerro Chato, which has a small crater lake that you can hike too. It’s beautiful, but the hike is extremely steep and challenging. I did it in 2015 and have never sweat so much! Since 2017, this trail has been closed to visitors until further notice.
# 7 – Whitewater Rafting
Rafting is another popular adventure activity to do in La Fortuna. I didn’t do whitewater rafting here, but I have done it in other parts of Costa Rica and it’s a blast!
There are two different options for rafting in La Fortuna. Rafting on the Balsa River, which has class 2 and 3 rapids, is a good option if it’s your first time. For a more adrenaline-pumping experience, check out the Toro river which has class 3 and 4 rapids. If you join the gravity falls tour with Desafio, you can add a rafting tour for the same day!
# 8 – Explore the Hanging Bridges
A great way to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area is to go on a hanging bridges tour. Check out Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, which is known for its wildlife. Mistico has a 3.2km trail that takes you above a rain forest. The entrance fee is $26 or $65 with a guide. I highly recommend getting a guide if you are trying to find wildlife in Costa Rica, it makes a world of difference.
You can also see hanging bridges in the Sky Trek Adventure Park. It’s separate from the zip-lining and is an additional $28 to enter that area of the park. However, the staff let us walk to one of the hanging for no extra charge while we were waiting for our zip-lining tour. It never hurts to ask!
# 9 – Day trip to Rio Celeste
Rio Celeste is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I encountered in Costa Rica. The blue color looks even better in person then it does in pictures. It’s well worth a day trip from La Fortuna! Rio Celeste is inside Tenorio Volcano National Park, which is about an hour drive from La Fortuna. The best way to visit is with a rental car, but there are also Rio Celeste day tours from La Fortuna.
I spent about three hours hiking around Tenorio Volcano National Park, so plan for a full day if you want to visit Rio Celeste from La Fortuna. It’s important to note that the park only lets 1000 people per day (500 at a time) and closes at 2 pm, so it’s best to get there as early as possible.
We actually spent the night in Rio Celeste and got to the waterfall as soon as it opened at 8 am. We had it all to ourselves for about 20 minutes, which was well worth it. Parking at Rio Celeste cost 1000 CRC ($2 USD) and the entrance to Tenorio Volcano National Park is $12 USD for foreigners.
# 10 – Discover Costa Rica’s Wildlife
La Fortuna is a great place to see Costa Rica’s amazing wildlife. Driving back to our hostel one night we saw a sloth, toucans, and hawk just off the side of the road.
If you want to increase your chances of seeing wildlife while in La Fortuna, visit the Cano Negro wildlife reserve. Inside the reserve, you can take a safari float down Rio Frio, a slow-moving river. From the float, you can spot many animals including toucans, sloths, caymans, and more. If you love wildlife, this is one of the best things to do in La Fortuna!
Sample Itineraries for La Fortuna
There’s so many things to do in La Fortuna so I recommend spending at least two full days here. We spent two and a half days (three nights), and felt it was perfect for experiencing the best adventures that La Fortuna has to offer. Here’s a sample itinerary for a two-day trip.
Day 1: Go on a gravity falls waterfall jumping tour with Desafio in the morning, and enjoy a hot buffet lunch afterward. Opt to add in rafting for a full day of adventure. If you’re feeling energetic after lunch, check out El Salto rope swing which is next to the restaurant where the tour ends. If you feel like relaxing, head to one of La Fortuna’s hot spring spas (most are open until 9 pm).
Day 2: Take an early morning hike in either La Fortuna or 1968 Park (3-4 hours), then enjoy lunch afterward. In the afternoon, head over to the zip-line park (it’s open till 4). Book in advance so you don’t have to wait! If zip-lining isn’t your thing, head to La Fortuna waterfall for an afternoon dip.
When to Visit La Fortuna
The most popular time to visit La Fortuna is during the dry season from December to April. During this time the weather is warm with temperatures averaging around 28-30 degrees Celcius. These are the months you’ll see the most sun, but it can still be rainy and cloudy. This was the case for us in my most recent visit in January!
If you visit during the wet season you’ll be rewarded with fewer tourists and cheaper prices, but some of the outdoor activities may not be accessible due to heavy rainfall. Unfortunately when it’s rainy Arenal volcano is hard to see, so plan for a few days to give yourself the best chance of a clear day.
Getting to La Fortuna
Renting a car is by far the best way to get around Costa Rica, but there are alternatives if you can’t.
From Liberia: If you have a car it’s about a 3-hour drive to La Fortuna from the Liberia airport. This is a relatively straight forward drive on well-maintained roads. If you don’t have a car, there are many shuttle companies. The cost of a one-way ticket per person is around $54. There are also private transfers available.
Getting to La Fortuna from Liberia via public bus is possible, but it involves several transfers. You need to first take a bus to Canas, then Tilaran and then to La Fortuna.
From San Jose: It’s about a three and a half-hour drive from San Jose to La Fortuna, and the drive is beautiful! If you don’t have a car, there are many shared shuttles available which should cost around $54, or you can hire a private shuttle.
Public transport from San Jose is easier then Liberia. There are direct public buses which should cost around $5 and take about five to six hours.
Flying: La Fortuna also has its own airport with daily flights from the capital city, San José, as well as from Quepos. Search on SkyScanner to find the best flight deals.
Where to stay in La Fortuna
Since La Fortuna is a popular spot for tourists, there’s no shortage of places to stay for any budget. Many of the hotels and resorts even have their own hot springs as part of the facilities!
Budget: Selina is a popular chain of hostels across Costa Rica geared towards digital nomads (they all have co-working spaces)! The Selina in La Fortuna is in a great location, right in the center of town minutes away from many restaurants and shops. I recommend Soda Viquez which is just around the corner, they sell delicious and affordable food!
Selina also has its own on-site restaurant and bar next to a tranquil river, which is perfect for relaxing. Plus a pool! They have a range of accommodation options including dorms, privates, and these unique tee pees.
Another great hostel that I stayed in during my first time in La Fortuna was Arenal Backpackers Resort. They have a large pool and social atmosphere where it’s easy to meet other backpackers.
Mid-range: Hotel Monte Real is a great option for couples or friends looking for something more quiet than a hostel. This hotel borders a river and has its own forest and frog garden, along with an outdoor swimming pool.
Luxury: If you stay at Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa, one of the most luxurious hot springs in La Fortuna, you’ll have access to the pools anytime you want. With some of the highest-rated reviews of any hotel in La Fortuna, you won’t be disappointed with a stay at Tabacon.
Where to go after La Fortuna
If you’re looking for more adventure and hiking, then head over to the cloud forest of Monteverde. It’s relatively close to La Fortuna, and you can get there quickly via a boat taxi. If you’re craving more sun and ocean, then to Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Tamarindo (on the Nicoya Peninsula) is about four hours away, while Manual Antonio will take five to six hours.
For more information on planning your trip to Costa Rica, check out my ultimate guide to backpacking Costa Rica.
I hope you found this post helpful in planning your trip to La Fortuna. If you have any questions about things to do in La Fortuna or Costa Rica in general, let me know in the comments below!
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