la fortuna waterfall

The La Fortuna Waterfall – Visitors Guide

The La Fortuna waterfall in the Arenal area of Costa Rica is the perfect image of the Costa Rican jungle. With a 245-foot drop into the blue volcanic pool below, it is truly stunning. This site is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, and for good reason!

We created this guide to help you plan the perfect visit to the falls.

Important Info about the La Fortuna Waterfall

la fortuna waterfall

Hours

The La Fortuna waterfall is open every day from 7am until 4pm. We suggest getting there by 2pm if you want to have enough time to fully enjoy the waterfall. If you go early in the morning you will likely have the whole place mostly to yourself. It usually starts filling up around mid-morning.

Parking

There is a large paved parking lot on site which you are welcome to park in for free. As always, please don’t leave anything of value in your car. We have not heard of anything bad happening in this parking lot, but we also have never noticed any parking attendants actively keeping an eye on vehicles.

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Cost

The cost for foreigners is $18 per adult. The entrance for children is $5. The entrance price is $8 for Cosa Rica nationals.

The profits from the waterfall entrance fee go to supporting ADIFORT (the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de La Fortuna). This organization works to maintain local schools, the cute park in the center of town, and other things around the La Fortuna area.

If you would like, you can buy your ticket online ahead of time to skip the line once there.

To Bring

-A bottle of water

-swimsuit (there is a bathroom with changing stations at the top of the trail)

-towel (we like microfiber towels because in a country where nothing ever dries, these dry fast and roll up small for your backpack)

– Your camera (if you want to take pics in the water GoPro is the way to go)

– strong sunscreen

– bug spray

To Wear

I usually opt for shorts, a t-shirt, hiking sandals which I can wear in the water (like Chacos), and a backpack. If visiting during the rainy season you may want to bring a rain jacket and a rainproof cover for your backpack.

Physical Level

This is not a simple hike. To get to the base of the falls you will need to walk down more than 500 steps. We do not suggest this walk for anyone with breathing problems, problems with their knees, or any other physical issues that may hinder walking up and down 500 steps.

However, if you would like to visit the falls and do have some physical limitations, you can access the first viewpoint and a nice orchid garden without going down too many steps. You will still need to purchase an entry ticket, but if you just want to capture the view of the falls it may be worth it.

Amount of Time You Need

We usually spend about 2 hours here. You could definitely spend a lot longer if you want to hang out in the water for a while or just sit an enjoy the view.

Directions

We suggest driving to the waterfall. We think renting a car is the best way of getting around La Fortuna. You can read more about that in our complete La Fortuna guide here (as well as get a 10% discount on your rental car). 

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The reason I say this is because without fail, every time we go to the La Fortuna waterfall we see tourists walking from town to the waterfall. It may look like a short distance on a map, but it’s not!

Just to give you an idea, from the park in downtown La Fortuna it is a 3-mile walk to where the waterfall is located. That might not sound too bad but then when you factor in the 500 steps down to the waterfall and back up again, it’s a lot of walking! Plus, in the sun it is a killer.

If you do not have a rental car, you can always get a taxi to the falls.

Also, if you are driving and feel like being nice and trusting, we always stop and offer a ride to some people who look like they are about to pass out.

From the town of La Fortuna, it will take you about 10 minutes to drive here. There are plenty of signs so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it.

Facilities

– There is a bathroom on-site near the ticket window. The bathrooms have been very clean and well maintained every time we have visited. There are changing rooms and showers here if you would like to change into your bathing suit, or out of it after swimming.

This is the only bathroom on the property. Definitely change into your bathing suit before defending to the falls because there is no bathroom at the bottom.

– There is a small restaurant at the top of the staircase to the falls called Rio Lounge which sells basic meal items like sandwiches, burgers, etc. We have not eaten here but I just checked the reviews on TripAdvisor and it has excellent reviews.

– There is also a nice gift shop on the property if you would like to buy souvenirs. Most of the items are pricey for what they are, but if you need a few gifts, you may be able to find some good things.

Check out our guide to buying souvenirs in Costa Rica if you need some other ideas.

– If you need, there are lockers for rent next to the ticket office. The lockers are $2 to rent, but you will need to put down a $10 deposit which will be returned to you after you return the key.

Our La Fortuna Waterfall Tips

la fortuna waterfall

Here are a few suggestions for making the most out of your trip to the falls.

TAKE IT SLOW

As I mentioned, to get to the very bottom of the waterfall consists of going down about 500 steps. It’s not so bad going down, but on the trip back up your legs will be hurting for sure. You can definitely skip you leg workouts for the next week after this!

The path down to the waterfall is pretty nice. They have been fixing it up over the past few years and it is now almost fully paved with stable railings.

STOP AT THE VIEWPOINTS

la fortuna waterfall

There are some great spots along the way to stop and get a nice picture. It’s a good excuse to take a break from all the steps. 🙂

SWIM UNDER THE WATERFALL

la fortuna waterfall swim

We have been twice where we were allowed to swim under the waterfall and once where we were not. It all depends on the water level at that particular time. Just ask when you buy your ticket if you are able to swim that day or not. 

Just a warning it is freaking freezing! Also, be careful here. The push from the waterfall can be really strong and the rocks are slippery.

SWIM IN THE STREAM NEXT TO THE WATERFALL

la fortuna waterfall stream

If you cannot swim under the waterfall that day you can always go to the stream next to the river and swim. The water is equally as freezing, but it can be refreshing after all those steps. This area is much calmer and fun to wade through.

CHECK OUT THE ORCHID GARDEN

la fortuna waterfall flowers

There is small loop trail at the top of the path with some lovely orchids which are almost all labeled. It’s a nice way to catch your breath after all the stairs while looking at pretty plants.

GO ON A COMBO TOUR

It is possible to visit the waterfall as part of a combo tour with ziplining or traveling. This is a great option for experiencing many activities within one day. It is also an excellent choice if you don’t have your own transportation. Here are a few tours that could be a great option…

What to do after visiting the La Fortuna Waterfall

chocolate

If you are looking for something fun to do after or before the waterfall check out Rainforest Chocolate Tour. This business is located on the same road as the La Fortuna waterfall. We love this tour and highly recommend it for people of all ages. It’s best to book a spot ahead of time though because they fill up fast.

We also have tons of other ideas of fun things to do, great restaurants, and more on our La Fortuna Destination page.

Have any questions about the La Fortuna waterfall? Leave them in the comment section below and we’ll help you out! Also, if you have any tips for fellow travelers we would love if you would pass them on!

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About Us

We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica. It was a spontaneous decision to move here, but it was the best decision!

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4 Responses

  1. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for this great information! We are going to CR in January. My husband and I love to travel with our two very grown kids. This will be our holiday get-together since they live in different states. We will be renting a car and love local food and cool spots. We are staying in Arenal at the lodge for three nights, a guesthouse the last two nights in La Fortuna. We are trying to avoid driving long distances because of the short time we all have. Biking, waterfall rappeling, walks/hikes and nature are in our interest. I’m going to be combing your blog for info and if you have anything/vendors/providers, please pass them along!
    Thanks, Stacy

    1. Hi Stacy!
      If you get a chance, definitely check out Rio Celeste. It’s about 1.5 hours from La Fortuna, but in January it will be the absolute perfect time to visit. We have a guide to that here. https://www.costaricavibes.com/rio-celeste/
      We recently went tubing in La Fortuna with all of our family and friends and everybody loved it. We used this company if you want to check that out. http://arenalrivertubingandhiking.com/
      The 1968 trail at Arenal is very nice for a good hike.
      For waterfall repelling, I’ve heard really good things about this one from Desafio. https://www.desafiocostarica.com/tours-details/costa-rica-canyoning-lost-canyon-adventures
      Also, January can be really busy here so definitely try to book any tours a few months in advance.
      Um, that’s all I can think of right now. Let me know if you think of any other questions!

  2. Hiii! Thrilled that I came across your blog. It’s been very informative so far, so thanks a lot! We’re looking to make a trip to Costa Rica in March, and would love to make our way to the waterfall. Do you think this would be a difficult and/ or dangerous activity to do with a 4 year old? He loves hiking and is pretty good for the most part, aside from the typical clumsiness of a small child. Thanks!

    1. Hi Danielle,
      It won’t be dangerous it’s just a lot of steps. I don’t know if he will make it all the way down/ back up. However, you can still see the falls from all the lookout points even if you don’t make it all the way to the bottom with him. Also, if you do make it to the bottom, you could let him get in the water at the stream next to the falls. There are always a lot of kids swimming there. Swimming under the falls themselves may be allowed but the push from the water can be really strong. Hope this helps and let me know if you have more questions!

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