Costa Rica is difficult to see in a short amount of time. There are just
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.
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.
Getting to La Fortuna
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.
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 five hours to get to La Fortuna. The public bus from Liberia to La Fortuna leaves almost every hour from 3:00am 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 to the bus station early before the departure time because once all the seats are taken you may be left standing for a long ride.
If you are coming from Liberia and would like a more comfortable and stress free ride, we suggest our favorite go-to shuttle company, Caribe Shuttle.
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 some of our favorite La Fortuna activities you will see that some are off the beaten path. 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.
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 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!
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.
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 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! Our fave budget-friendly sports are Termales Los Laureles and Termalitas del Arenal. For a fancier experience, we suggest Baldi Hot Springs.
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: We love the tour at Rainforest Chocolate Tours! 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.
Go white water rafting- Whitewater rafting is the perfect adventure activity. There are many companies in the town of La Fortuna which offer this service.
Try zip lining- There are plenty of zip lining companies in La Fortuna. We suggest asking at your hotel. Sometimes they partner with local companies and can get you a discount.
Visit the hanging bridges- The best hanging bridges in La Fortuna are at Mistico Park.
Take a day trip to Rio Celeste- 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 full guide here.
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.
Hotel Faro Arenal: 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 tens with bunk beds. This hotel is located in a somewhat remote area.
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
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