Jungle adventure with volcano views
La Fortuna Costa Rica is home to Arenal Volcano (pictured above). In fact, this area is often referred to as Arenal Costa Rica.
This area is the perfect jungle destination complete with amazing waterfalls, hanging bridges, zip lining, great hiking spots, white water 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 Fortuna, but there is just so much to do for everyone and the scenery is amazing. We come up here pretty often and take every person who visits us to this unique area.
Now on to the rest of the La Fortuna Costa Rica travel guide.
La Fortuna is located about four hours north of San Jose by car. This area is dense with jungle, mountains, and waterfalls.
Both international airports are semi easy to get to
Rental car, walking in the downtown area
Dry season is from late December until mid-April
The Arenal 1968 trail, a day trip to Rio Celeste
Flying into the Liberia or San Jose airport are both good options for going to La Fortuna. From San Jose to La Fortuna will take you about three and a half hours to drive. 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 for you to fly there than San Jose.
For flight booking we suggest Skyscanner. They are our go-to flight booking site for great rates.
I need to preface this by saying I absolutely love the drive to La Fortuna coming from Liberia or San Jose.
Both drives are some of the nicest drives in the country.
However, if you are prone to car sickness, definitely stock up on those motion sickness pills.
Some of the roads are very curvy.
If you plan to rent a car we suggest renting from our favorite local company called Adobe Rent a Car. They have given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you. You can book your car with discount here.
Your drive from Liberia will start on the nicest highway in Costa Rica.
In the town of Canas you will turn on to a smaller (but well maintained) road and continue into the mountains, around Lake Arenal, and to La Fortuna.
For me, the road around Lake Arenal is where I get the worst motion sickness in all of Costa Rica. I always arrive to La Fortuna like a zombie and need to sleep it off. But, I’m prone to bad motion sickness.
We have done this route with other people and they have had no problems.
The drive from San Jose to La Fortuna will take about 3:30h.
The drive starts on a well-maintained and somewhat busy highway.
There are tolls on this first stretch. They do not accept credit cards but cash in dollars or colones is accepted.
You will then drive through downtown San Ramon. This can be a bit chaotic.
After San Ramon, things calm down and you can enjoy beautiful views as you make your way along well maintained (but sometimes curvy) roads to La Fortuna.
Just be aware that sometimes you might get stuck behind a slow truck and passing can be difficult.
From Liberia or San Jose, it is possible to take a private shuttle to your hotel in Fortuna.
We suggest this for families or groups who don’t feel comfortable driving.
You can ask for a quote from our go-to private shuttle company here.
From downtown San Jose you will take the bus to Ciudad Quesada and then from Ciudad Quesada to La Fortuna.
This is possible multiple times a day and will take about four hours.
Taking the bus from downtown Liberia to La Fortuna is somewhat complicated.
You will need to take the bus from Liberia to Cañas, from Canas to Tilaran, from Tilaran to Fortuna.
If you catch all the connections this will take about 4:30h.
Sansa is the main domestic airline in Costa Rica. They offer flights to La Fortuna from San Jose but not from Liberia.
This is definitely the fastest way to get to La Fortuna, but if you have a fear of small planes, this is not the option for you.
We suggest depending on a rental car while in La Fortuna.
The downtown area is very condensed and walkable, but most activities are located within a twenty to thirty minute drive of downtown.
This means that if you don’t rent a car you will have to book day tours which include transportation.
Fortunately, there are tons of tour options in La Fortuna that include transportation if you don’t have a car, but they can be expensive.
If you opt to take the bus or a shuttle to get here, 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.
Also, there are taxis in La Fortuna if you need them.
Just always make sure that you always take a registered Costa Rican taxi so you are not overcharged.
You can recognize a legal taxi because it is red with a yellow triangle on the drivers and passenger side door.
It’s hard to write about the climate in La Fortuna because this is a jungle. You never really know how the weather is going to be.
If you visit between December and mid-April you will almost without a doubt have dry and hot weather. This is the dry season in Costa Rica and you will have the best chance of having a clear view of the volcano.
The downside is that La Fortuna is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica and every other tourist will also be here at that time.
During the rest of the year, the weather is totally unpredictable. We have visited and had perfect weather every day. We have also visited and had a lot of rain and no views of the volcano.
Even during the rainy season, it tends to stay warm in La Fortuna. I always bring pants and a long sleeve shirt just in case, but usually, I don’t need them.
Tabacon Thermal Resort– A beautiful resort featuring hot springs, pools, a spa, multiple restaurants, and more!
Arenal Manoa– This hotel features hot springs, spa treatments, beautiful volcano views, and more!
The Royal Corin– Experience the amazing grounds which feature pools, spa services, a restaurant, a bar, and more!
The Springs Resort & Spa– This place is pure luxury! Enjoy the 28 hot spring pools, a spa, volcano views, and a fitness center.
Casona Rustica: Super cute cabins with a swimming pool and a really beautiful view of Arenal Volcano. This spot is great because it’s out of the downtown area and really nature-y.
Volcano Lodge– The perfect place to stay a bit out of the downtown area. The facilities include a nice pool with Arenal volcano views.
Arenal Observatory– Located outside of the downtown area, the volcano views here are great. There is an on-site restaurant, bird sanctuary, spa, walking trails, restaurant, and more!
Hotel Los Lagos– A nice hotel with an on-site restaurant and hot springs. Located outside of the downtown area.
Casa Luna Hotel & Spa– A small hotel with pool, spa, and restaurant.
Hotel Secreto La Fortuna-Simple rooms, but all rooms are clean and modern. There is a pool for guests to use.
Hotel Roco Negra del Arenal: Located close enough to the action of downtown but still has a natural peaceful feel to it. Also, all the rooms have a fridge! There is a pool and a hot tub on the property as well.
Arenal Xilopalo– Located outside of downtown La Fortuna. The rooms are simple, but have everything you need and are very affordable.
La Tigra Rainforest Lodge– Unique elevated tents with bunk beds. This hotel is located in a somewhat remote area.
The best hanging bridges in La Fortuna are at Mistico Park.
If you would like a guided tour with transportation from your hotel, you can book that here.
On Lake Arenal, it is possible to go kayak fishing or go out in a small boat.
Along the way, you might catch rainbow bass, tilapia, and more!
We suggest booking your trip with Captain Marc on his 19’ Sea Pro boat. He’s the best and I guarantee you’ll have a great time.
Or if you prefer kayaking, you can book your trip here.
There are a few hiking spots in La Fortuna, but we like the Arenal 1968 trail in Arenal Volcano National Park.
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!
Another option is to do this hike with a guide, transportation, and picnic included. This would be good for you if you would like to learn a lot about history and nature.
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.
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.
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.
There is a small park with a church in the center of La Fortuna that is really cute.
We like to park here and people watch for a bit before getting dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.
On Lake Arenal, it is possible to take a half-day stand-up paddle tour with transportation from your hotel. This is a peaceful experience and a great workout!
About 45 minutes from downtown La Fortuna there is a place called Venado Caves.
It’s 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.
If you would prefer a trip here with transportation from your La Fortuna area hotel included, we suggest this tour.
This is the perfect family activity. Float down the Peñas Blancas River in a raft with an experienced guide and learn all about the wildlife. I highly recommend booking this tour.
There are tons of hot springs in La Fortuna!
Note: neither of these bookings includes transportation. You will need to find your own transportation to get there. However, there is plenty of free and secure parking.
You can also check out our guide to the La Fortuna hot springs for more info.
We love the tour at Rainforest Chocolate Tours! Plus it includes all the chocolate you can eat! This is one of those activities that people of any age will enjoy and be able to participate in.
Another great option is this tour which combines learning about chocolate and visiting a coffee plantation.
Whitewater rafting is the perfect adventure activity. In La Fortuna it is possible to take a trip on class II/III or class III/IV rapids.
You can book your II/III trip here.
You can book your class III/IV trips here.
We love La Fortuna for ATV tours because you get great views of the Arenal volcano.
We suggest this tour which includes the chance to cover yourself with volcanic mud with healing properties.
There are plenty of zip-lining companies in La Fortuna. We don’t have a favorite company to suggest because each one offers different things.
A few of the most reputable are: SkyTrek which offers zip lining and a tram with amazing views. Ecoglide which has great volcano views and a Tarzan swing. And Arenal Mundo which has nice views of the La Fortuna waterfall to zip over.
Rio Celeste is a bright blue river located about 1.5 hours north of La Fortuna. It is a must-see in Costa Rica. We have a Rio Celeste guidepost here.
This can be done on your own if you have a rental car or you can take a tour with transportation from your hotel in La Fortuna.
Another popular way to enjoy the Arenal area is with a combo tour. This is a great way to pack a few different activities in one day for maximum fun and adventure. A few great options are:
Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, Typical lunch & Arenal Volcano Hike – This tour is a full day. You will depart from your hotel with pickup around 7:00am and return in the afternoon. Lunch is included and the guides are amazing.
Waterfall Rappelling and White Water Rafting – This is a great combo for those of you looking for some serious thrill-seeking. This combo tour includes transportation from and to your hotel as well as lunch.
Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, Volcano Hike, & Hot Springs – This is a true full day tour with transportation. It is pricey, but actually, I think it is a really good value when you add it all up because the tour includes lunch and ends at Baldi hot springs with dinner.
Amor Loco Restaurant– Beautiful restaurant located in Nayara Spring Hotel. The service, atmosphere, and food are all excellent.
Restaurante Emperador– Delicious restaurant with amazing volcano views located in the Royal Corin hotel.
Organico Fortuna- 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.
Restaurante Tierra Mia– Great Costa Rican food located in downtown La Fortuna. The perfect place for a traditional dinner.
Restaurante Cafe Mediterraneo– Located just outside of downtown La Fortuna, this relaxed place serves up some tasty wood fired pizza and pasta.
Marisqueria Snapper House– Ths is our go-to place in La Fortuna for delicious seafood. It’s located right in downtown La Fortuna and we highly recommend it!
Red Frog Coffee Roasters: 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.
Soda Viquez– Good traditional Costa Rican food at a very reasonable price. This is a good spot for a large lunch or dinner.
Yellow Bark– We like this place for lunch. They have great sandwiches, wraps, burgers. etc.
– Our only advice is to definitely visit La Fortuna. It definitely has something for everyone and is the perfect jungle experience
Costa Rica is often considered the most expensive country in Central America, and for good reason. It is expensive here compared to other countries! However,