La Fortuna Costa Rica: Guide to This Jungle Adventure Town
La Fortuna, Costa Rica is a bustling jungle town that is perfect for adventure. You’ll never run out of fun things to do here.
The La Fortuna Costa Rica Vibes
La Fortuna Costa Rica is the perfect jungle town and home to the impressive Arenal Volcano. In fact, this area is often referred to as Arenal Costa Rica.
This area is 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 really touristy destinations like La Fortuna, but there is just so much to do for everyone and the scenery is amazing.
The downtown area is filled with hotels and restaurants on the main road. It doesn’t really have a distinct “vibe” to it like some other towns in Costa Rica do.
But, you most likely won’t be spending much time in the downtown area anyway besides eating. Instead, we suggest getting out of downtown and exploring all the cool things that this area has to offer.
In our opinion, this is a must-visit destination in Costa Rica.
Now on to the rest of the La Fortuna Costa Rica travel guide.
Background Info About La Fortuna Costa Rica
Nearest International Airport
Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose and Liberia Airport are semi-easy to get to
Popular Things to Do
zip lining, white water rafting, hot spring chilling, hiking
Best Way to Get Around
Rental car, tours with transportation included, walking in the downtown area
Best Time of Year to Visit
Dry season is from late December until mid-April but, it is hard to predict when the best weather will be here
Mega Super across from the La Fortuna city park or Super Cristian 4 (closer towards Arenal Volcano) are both decent
There is a Banco Nacional and a Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) located in the downtown area. Sometimes there are long lines to use the ATM
Gas Station La Fortuna is located in the downtown area
(keep in mind all gas stations here are full service. So stay in your car and an employee will fill your car up).
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Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).
We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and have called sunny Costa Rica home since 2016.
We are on a mission to help you plan the perfect Costa Rican vacation.
Map Of La Fortuna
La Fortuna is located in the Northern Mountain area of Costa Rica. It lies in the province of Alajuela, specifically in the canton of San Carlos.
On a map, it appears to be very close to the town of Monteverde, but due to Lake Arenal, it takes about 3 hours to drive between the two towns.
Flights to Costa Rica
Flying into Liberia International Airport 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.
Driving to La Fortuna
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 offices at both Liberia Airport and San Jose Airport, plus all around the country.
They have given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you.
You can book your car with discount here.
San Jose to La Fortuna Drive
The drive from San Jose to La Fortuna will take about 3:30h.
Leave San Jose International Airport and head northwest on the main airport road, following signs for Route 1 (also known as the Inter-American Highway or Pan-American Highway).
You will then merge onto Route 1, heading northwest towards San Ramon.
There are tolls on this first stretch. They do not accept credit cards but cash in dollars or colones is accepted.
This road can be a bit hectic, especially during rush hour.
After about 30 miles you will reach San Ramon.
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Take the exit onto Route 156, following the signs for La Fortuna and Arenal. You will then drive through downtown San Ramon. This can also be a bit chaotic.
After San Ramon, you will get on Route 702. 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.
Even though these routes seem easy, it is best to use a GPS app because sometimes it is hard to tell where the road actually goes while you’re driving.
You can download offline Google Maps if you won’t have a network connection.
We find that the free app Waze typically works best in Costa Rica.
Liberia to La Fortuna
Your drive from Liberia will start on the nicest highway in Costa Rica called Route 1.
Be careful on this highway because it is easy to want to speed here. It is just set up very weirdly and you’ll randomly come to spots where there are crosswalks (yes…. crosswalks on a highway)
After 22 miles you will come to the town of Canas.
In Canas, you will turn left onto a smaller (but well-maintained) road called Route 142. You will stay on this to 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 at 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.
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Private Shuttle to La Fortuna
From Liberia or San Jose (or actually anywhere in the country), 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 or won’t need a car while in the La Fortuna area.
You can ask for a quote from our go-to private shuttle company here.
Public Bus to La Fortuna
Public Bus from San Jose
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.
Public Bus from Liberia
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.
When planning your bus route we suggest looking at TheBusSchedule.
Domestic Flights to La Fortuna
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.
Transportation In La Fortuna
Once you arrive in La Fortuna you will need transportation to get around town and to fun activities.
Here is our opinion on that….
We always suggest renting a car because it gives you the most flexibility to do off-the-beaten-path activities and allows you to stay at a hotel that is not right downtown.
The downtown area is very condensed and walkable, but most activities are located within a twenty to thirty-minute drive of downtown.
If you opt to take the public bus, private shuttle, or domestic flight; you can always rent a car once in La Fortuna.
Our favorite rental car company Adobe has an office in La Fortuna and will deliver your car to your hotel for you within 12 miles of their La Fortuna office.
You won’t need a car if….
– You are staying at one of the hot springs resorts and don’t plan to leave much.
– You are staying right in the downtown area and plan on booking all activities with transportation included. There are plenty of restaurants in the downtown area that you can walk to.
So, all in all, we like the flexibility of having a car. However, we understand that it can be scary driving in a foreign country.
La Fortuna also has taxis if you need to get around for short drives.
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 driver’s and passenger side door.
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La Fortuna Costa Rica Weather
It’s hard to write about the climate in La Fortuna Costa Rica 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.
Things to Do in La Fortuna Costa Rica
Visit the Hanging Bridges
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.
Learn How Chocolate is Made
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 kayak fishing trip here.
Try SUP on Lake Arenal
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!
Go River Tubing
We did this activity with our whole family and everyone had a blast!
Find out more with our Guide to River Tubing
Go Whitewater Rafting
Spend the day going down a nearby river on a whitewater rafting adventure.
Take a Day Trip to Rio Celeste
Rio Celeste is a bright blue river that almost looks like somehow went a little crazy with the Photoshop Saturation filter. We suggest this during the dry season. During the rainy season the effect usually isn’t as great.
If rappelling down the side of a waterfall sounds like an activity you would enjoy, check out our guide to canyoning in Costa Rica. There is even a company that allows you to rappel down the side of the La Fortuna waterfall.
Take an ATV Adventure
Ready to enjoy the thrill of zooming through the jungle on an ATV with a view of the La Fortuna waterfall? An ATV tour might be the perfect things to do in La Fortuna for you!
Walk the Downtown Area
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.
For more ideas, check out our guide to the 30 Best Things to Do in La Fortuna Costa Rica
The La Fortuna 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.
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.
We have a complete guide to visiting the La Fortuna Waterfall for more info which includes what to wear, how to swim here, tours here, and more!
The La Fortuna Hot Springs
There are tons of hot springs in La Fortuna!
For a nicer experience, with lunch or dinner, we suggest Baldi Hot Springs or Tabacon Hot Springs.
Check out our guide to La Fortuna hot springs for more info.
Arenal Costa Rica zip Lining
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.
Check out our guide to La Fortuna zip lining for more ideas
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The Arenal Volcano is an impressive stratovolcano and is one of the few volcanoes in Costa Rica that you can easily visit. It was once highly active, but it entered a resting phase in 2010.
This volcano serves as a backdrop for the town of La Fortuna, but on a cloudy days you might not even know it is there.
There are a few ways to really enjoy the volcano from zip lining by it, relaxing in hot springs under it, or walking on hanging bridges nearby.
If you would like to hike at Arenal Volcano, that is possible as well.
We created a full guide to visiting Arenal Volcano for all the details you’ll need.
La Fortuna Combo Tours
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.
La Fortuna Restaurants
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 the town of La Fortuna. The perfect place for a traditional dinner.
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.
La Fortuna Costa Rica Hotels
Tabacon Thermal Resort– A beautiful resort featuring natural hot springs, pools, a spa, multiple restaurants, and more!
Arenal Manoa– This hotel features hot springs, spa treatments, beautiful volcano views, 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.
Check out our guide to jungle resorts for more ideas.
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.
Looking for a budget hotel or hostel in La Fortuna?
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. If glamping like this sounds fun to you, check out our guide to glamping in Costa Rica.
Vacation Rentals in La Fortuna
We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation in La Fortuna Costa Rica. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals.
Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double-check before booking.
The Majestic Lodge – An 8 bedroom/ 10 bath home that can sleep 20 guests. This is a great place for a large family or friends group. The property is really nice with a pool and large deck area. Just note that this is not located in the downtown part of La Fortuna but actually next to Lake Arenal.
Castle in The Clouds – A modern 2 bedroom/ 2 bath house with insane Arenal Volcano views. This home is located next to Lake Arenal.
The Ranch Villa – Six bedroom home that sleeps 11. The home is very nice, but the property is just amazing! There is a pool, hot tub, and nice yard.
Birdsong Villa – A two bedroom/ two bath home with views of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal.
Costa Rica Itineraries to La Fortuna
We have four itinerary ideas that go to La Fortuna. These are:
Multi-Day Tours to La Fortuna Costa Rica
Take the planning, stress, and guess work out of traveling by booking a multi-day tour with an experienced guide.
For more tour ideas check out Tour Radar.
Costa Rica Adventure
A 16 day tour around the country that is jam-packed with fun adventure! Visit Quepos, Monteverde, La Fortuna, Tortuguero, and more!
Essential Costa Rica
A 10 day tour that combines Manuel Antonio National Park, Tortuguero National Park, and La Fortuna’s Arenal Volcano National Park.
Cycle Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama
This tour is so cool! Explore three countries by bicycle. Some highlights include; Island Ometepe in Nicaragua, Arenal Volcano, Bocas del Toro in Panama, and the Panama Canal.
La Fortuna Travel Tips
– We have noticed that sometimes tourists get frustrated in La Fortuna because tours don’t begin on time and things aren’t always organized as you might be used to.
Keep in mind that Costa Rica is the land of Pura Vida. People take everything in stride and relaxed. You might need to adopt a bit of that attitude while here.
– Don’t forget travel insurance! Heymondo travel insurance was designed with ease and flexibility in mind.
Their comprehensive plans offer 24/7 assistance, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, lost baggage coverage, assistance in case of medical issues, as well as the option to add-on adventure activity coverage.
Packing for La Fortuna Costa Rica
Despite being in the mountains, the weather is usually decent and fairly warm here.
We suggest a bathing suit for hot springs, sporty clothes for hiking, zip lining, etc. and plenty of UV protection.
Check out our La Fortuna Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials.
La Fortuna Costa Rica FAQ
Is La Fortuna worth visiting?
Yes, La Fortuna is a great jungle destination in Costa Rica. There is so much to do here and the scenery with the Arenal Volcano
Is La Fortuna Costa Rica safe?
Yes, generally La Fortuna is a safe town. However, petty theft does sometimes happen. Always use caution and keep an eye on your belongings.
Is La Fortuna too touristy?
It is a popular touristy destination, but it is also possible to avoid the crowds by staying just outside of the downtown area and by planning off-the-beaten-path activities.
Is 2 nights in La Fortuna enough?
I think three or four nights is better in order to enjoy all that this area has to offer.