La Fortuna is home to Arenal Volcano (pictured above). This area is the perfect jungle destination complete with amazing waterfalls, hanging bridges, ziplining, great hiking spots, whitewater rafting, hot springs and more.
If you are looking for adventure, this is our top pick for you. We usually aren’t into the really touristy destinations like La Fortune, but there is just so much to do for everyone and the scenery is amazing. We come up here pretty often and bring every person who visits us.
Unfortunately, most of these adventure activities don’t run cheap, but it is possible to do this area on a budget while still embracing your adventurous side. We’ll show you how we do it!
Now on to the rest of the La Fortuna budget travel guide!
GETTING TO LA FORTUNA
Flying into the Liberia or San Jose airport are both good options for going to La Fortuna. From San Jose airport it will take you about three and a half hours to drive to La Fortuna. From Liberia it will take about two and a half hours. More and more airlines are starting service to Liberia so check out the rates. It may be cheaper you to fly there than San Jose.
The best option to get to La Fortuna is to rent a car. If coming from San Jose or from Liberia you can rent a car from close to the airport (but free transportation to the rental car office is provided from the airport).
We suggest using Adobe because they are the most trustworthy rental car company in this country (in our opinion) and we have a 10% discount for you. You can read more about renting a car here.
The drive from both San Jose or Liberia is pretty nice and easy. In fact, The second half of the drive from San Jose is my favorite drive in the whole country. On a sunny day it is absolutely breathtaking. You will not need a 4×4 to get to La Fortuna from Liberia or San Jose, but something with decent power would be helpful. You will be going up and down lots of hills.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving to La Fortuna on your own, the cheapest option is to take the public bus. The bus leaves from San Jose every day at 6:15am, 8:40am, and 11:30am. It will take you about four hours to get to La Fortuna. The public bus from Liberia to La Fortuna leaves almost every hour from 3:o0am until 8:00pm.
It’s not the most comfortable ride, but it’s cheap (under $10 per person). I wouldn’t suggest the bus if you get car sick, though. The roads are really curvy in spots and as someone with major car sickness I find that I’m an absolute mess on the bus. Definitely get there early before the departure time because once all the seats are taken you may be left standing for a long ride.
Pro tip: Download the free app Off the Grid Traveler to see bus connections and schedules to and from everywhere in Costa Rica. It’s seriously a lifesaver. La Fortuna is called “Fortuna” on the app, just so you know.
GETTING AROUND IN LA FORTUNA
We suggest depending on a rental car while in La Fortuna. Most of the activities you will want to do in La Fortuna are not in the actual downtown area.
This means that if you don’t rent a car you will have to book day tours which include transportation. This can be really expensive.
Also, when you look at our favorite budget La Fortuna activities you will see that most are off the beaten path activities. Day tours usually do not go to these locations.
If you opt to take the bus up, you can rent a car from Adobe and input La Fortuna as your pick-up location. They have an office directly in the downtown area of La Fortuna.
In the comments section of the rental car reservation, you can specify that you need the car delivered to you at your hotel in La Fortuna. Adobe will deliver it to you free of charge if you are within 12 miles of their location.
Pro Tip: Rent a car with Adobe through our site and you will get a 10% discount! Score! You can find out more about it here.
If you decide not to rent a car, use Uber to get around. It is always about half the price of taxis and as of now, it is legal in Costa Rica (although the taxi drivers aren’t too happy about that).
THINGS TO DO
Go kayaking: There are many tour companies who will offer to take you kayaking on Lake Arenal, but these tend to be expensive. Instead, just drive to the lake and see if you can find some locals renting kayaks. They are not always there, but when they are they will give you a much more reasonable rate and you can paddle around for an hour or so.
Go hiking: There are a few hiking spots in La Fortuna, but we’ve only done the Arenal 1968 trail. It costs about $12 for entry and will take you a few hours. It’s somewhat strenuous in places, but doable. I wasn’t overly impressed with this hike because you are never rewarded with great views, but if you just want to get some hiking in, go for it!
Visit a butterfly sanctuary: The Butterfly Conservatory near Lake Arenal is a really nice place to spend a couple of hours. You’ll see some really cool butterflies and reptiles, take a nice nature walk and meet some very knowledgeable people who work there. You could combine this with a hike on the Arenal 1968 trail or a kayak trip around the lake. They are all located close together.
Swim under a waterfall: Check out La Fortuna waterfall if you want a nice half day trip that is not too expensive. It costs $15 for entry. This waterfall is seriously impressive and if there hasn’t been too much rain recently you can swim under it. If not, there is a nice stream you can swim in next to the waterfall. Just as a warning, be prepared to walk down over 400 steps to get there, which means walking back up 400 steps after. 😉 There is free parking, a bathroom with changing rooms, and a cafe on site.
Go caving: About 45 minutes from downtown La Fortuna there is a place called Venado Caves. It’s $25 per person for a tour of the caves which lasts about 1.5 hours. It’s seriously intense and if you don’t do well with tight spaces this is not an activity for you. I thought I would freak out, but once the adrenaline kicked in I was good to go.
Relax in a hot spring: There are tons of hot springs in La Fortuna, but most are expensive and really touristy. We like to go to the places the locals go to. Our faves are Termales Los Laureles and Termalitas del Arenal.
If you want a free hot springs experience drive to the bridge near Tabacon resort. You can pull your car over to the side of the road and walk to the river below the bridge. It’s crazy warm and a fun experience.
Learn how chocolate is made: I did a chocolate tour with my mom at Rainforest Chocolate Tours and we both loved it! Plus it includes all the chocolate you can eat! ) This is something you should book ahead of time because the tours tend to fill up. You can just email them and they’ll reserve a spot for you. This place is located down the street from La Fortuna and you could easily combine both activities for a fun day.
There are countless other fun activities to do in La Fortuna, but most are expensive. As budget travelers, we tend to stick to these activities but if you are interested in more adventure there is also whitewater rafting, ATV riding, horseback riding, and lots more!
PLACES TO EAT
Perfect afternoon snack or dessert spot. For about $7 you can get a HUGE crepe. As in, it’s almost impossible to finish these big guys. They are seriously good though. If you are not extremely hungry I strongly suggest sharing one with your dining buddy.
These guys know coffee. If you’re looking for a good cup, this is the place to go. They also have a good selection of food. It’s a good breakfast spot, but just note they don’t open until 8 am.
The food here is not amazing. It’s definitely good, we’ve never had a bad meal, but it’s not the kind of place you rave about. However, we like the atmosphere here a lot. Also, it is located right on the main road in La Fortuna and is a great spot to do some serious people watching.
Go here for lunch! you won’t be disappointed. They serve up super fresh organic food which tastes amazing! They also have plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.
Good food at reasonable prices. This is a good spot for a large lunch or dinner.
The vibe here is the best. We look this spot because the food is consistently excellent and they are open from 6am until 10 pm.
ARTICLES ABOUT LA FORTUNA
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