If you are looking for some of the best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica we have you covered. La Fortuna is located in the northern part of Costa Rica and is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning landscapes, outdoor adventure activities, and the iconic Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna can be reached in about 2.5 hours from SJO airport or 3 hours from LIR airport. Come check out these 20 things to do in La Fortuna and make your trip planning easier. Jump to our favorite stay ideas in La Fortuna.

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Here are the Top 20 Things to Do in La Fortuna

#1 Arenal Volcano National Park

Hike the trails of Arenal Volcano National Park. The park offers trails of varying difficulty levels, providing opportunities for a quick visit or more challenging hikes. The El Ceibo Trail (Sendero El Ceibo) is a flat trail that takes you to a large 400-year-old Ceiba tree that survived Arenal Volcano’s massive 1968 eruption. To make park reservations and check hours learn more here. 

This national park differs from most because the best trails to experience the volcano are on private property. The main national park entrance is great to see the Ceiba tree but the two locations below are better options for hiking and experiencing Arenal Volcano up close.

Arenal 1968 Trails

This private reserve provides a great way to see the Arenal Volcano up close. Two different hiking trails get you up close to the volcano and are on the land covered with lava during the Arenal Volcano 1968 eruption. There is a cafeteria, bathrooms, and parking onsite. Check hours and ticket prices here.

Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa

This is the only stay option in the national park but even if you’re not staying at the lodge, consider a day pass for the incredible hikes and up-close views of Arenal Volcano. It also includes a restaurant and is a great place for birdwatching. This is a great option for families with young kids or the elderly as the trails are fairly short including Danta’s waterfall, a hanging bridge, and many trails are stroller-friendly. The volcano views from the restaurant are up close and keep everyone entertained during a meal. There is wildlife including, white-nosed coatimundi, and lots of birds throughout the property. Find more information here.

View of Arenal Volcano from the restaurant of Arenal Observatory Lodge

#2 La Fortuna Waterfall

Take a hike to the base of La Fortuna Waterfall, a 230-foot (70-meter) cascade surrounded by lush greenery and bright blue water. La Fortuna Waterfall is located in a biological reserve area of Arenal Volcano National Park but ticketing is handled separately from the national park. You can sometimes spot monkeys near the lookout point at the start of the trail and there are lots of fun bridges throughout the hike. You can swim in the natural pool at the bottom of the waterfall and climb on the rocks. Closed-toe water shoes like Keens are recommended as they’re great for the walk and water. Be prepared for a steep climb as it’s 530 steps each way. This is one not to miss when visiting La Fortuna. Check hours and ticket prices here.

#3 Hot Springs in La Fortuna

Relax in the natural hot springs that are heated by the Arenal Volcano. Many resorts and spas in the area offer hot spring experiences, often set against a backdrop of lush tropical vegetation and great views of the volcano. 

Here are some great options for experiencing the hot springs in La Fortuna. Many hot spring resorts and hotels also offer day passes to visit the hot springs. Note: if visiting the week of Christmas many resorts don’t offer day passes.

Ecotermales – six natural pools heated from the heart of the Arenal Volcano. There is a restaurant onsite and they limit the number of guests in two shifts so it doesn’t feel crowded.

Baldi Hot Springs includes 25 thermal pools and a hotel and restaurant on site.

Kalamba is a waterpark with water slides, a playground, a restaurant as well as hot springs.

Tabacon this hot springs offers a natural river and is within a luxury resort that includes a spa, restaurant, and luxury thermal experience. 

Ecotermales hot spring in La Fortuna
Ecotermales Hot Springs includes six different pool areas for relaxing

#4 Arenal Hanging Bridges

Explore the Arenal Hanging Bridges, a network of suspension bridges and trails that allow you to walk through the treetops of the rainforest. It’s a great way to observe the diverse flora and fauna. Check out the options below for visiting different hanging bridges in La Fortuna.

Místico Arenal Hanging Bridges

Sky Adventures Hanging Bridges

If you’ll be visiting Monteverde as well decide which location to do similar activities. Check out our Guide to Hanging Bridges in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Arenal Hanging Bridge in La Fortuna

#5 Adventure Activities in La Fortuna

La Fortuna is a hub for outdoor adventure activities. You can go ziplining through the treetops, take a canopy tour, rappel down a waterfall, go horseback riding, or try white-water rafting on the Balsa River.

Here are a few popular adventure activity providers in La Fortuna:

Pure Trek Canyoning waterfall rappelling with other tour options.

Arenal Mundo Aventura Park offers adventure, nature, and cultural tours. 

Arenal Ecoglide Park offers canopy tours with the Tarzan swing as well as night walks.

Arenal ATV Wheels is a unique way to see La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano.

Two kids ziplining in La Fortuna

#6 Wildlife Viewing Tours near La Fortuna

There are many great options for viewing the amazing wildlife of Costa Rica. We don’t recommend for-profit animal exhibits or those that 100% guarantee animal sightings. The best way to see wildlife is by hiring a guide in the national parks or preserves. Also look for wildlife sanctuaries that provide care for animals that otherwise would not be sustained in the wild. Below are a couple of options that meet this criteria but additional guided options can be found through the parks.

Asis Wildlife Rescue Center – is a nonprofit created to preserve the natural environment and habitat of wild animals. They give tours and have volunteer opportunities.

Bogarin – is a sloth and bird-watching trail with tours. The area was preserved by a local guide and no animal is enclosed, all wildlife can move freely and undisturbed. Trails are stroller and wheelchair accessible and they are inclusive of all abilities. They give back to rainforest reforestation projects.

Sloth in tree on wildlife tour

#7 Safari Float River Tours in La Fortuna

River float tours are a great way to see a lot of wildlife in a short amount of time and without a lot of strenuous activity. On these tours, often they can spot monkeys, sloths, iguanas, crocodiles, and tropical birds.

If you’re looking for a tour consider that the Peñas Blancas River floats are about 20 minutes from La Fortuna while the Caño Negro Refuge tours are about two hours from La Fortuna and on a boat.
Canoa Aventura
Seven Tours Safari Float 
Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge – this is an all-day trip on a boat down the Rio Frio which is part of the Caño Negro wildlife refuge near the Nicaraguan border.

safari float tour in La Fortuna

#8 & 9 Visit a Chocolate or Coffee Tour in La Fortuna

Don’t miss the experience of learning about chocolate and coffee production in Costa Rica. It’s educational yet fun and engaging. The La Fortuna area has some of the best tours and many include both chocolate and coffee.

Here are a few to check out:

Don Juan 
North Fields Coffee and Chocolate Tours
Rainforest Chocolate Tour 

#10 Water sports on Lake Arenal

Visit Lake Arenal, the largest human-made lake in Costa Rica. It was created in 1979 for hydroelectric and irrigation purposes and took one year to fill. You can enjoy activities such as paddleboarding, windsurfing, fishing, water bike tours, and sunset boat tours. The lake also offers beautiful, not-to-miss mirror views of Arenal Volcano.

#11 Arenal Botanical Gardens

Beautifully designed gardens that can easily be grouped with a Lake Arenal visit. These gardens feature more than 2,200 different kinds of plants and over 400 unique orchid varieties. Can be found 15-miles (25km) north of the Arenal Lake dam.

#12 Biking Arenal

Another fun way to experience Arenal Volcano is by biking within the private 1968 preserve single and double-track trails. The 10-mile (16km) trail encounters lots of different terrain along the way. There can also be lots of wildlife spotting if you go in the morning. If you’re a mountain biker make sure to check this out. Learn more

Biking near Arenal in La Fortuna

#13 Night Tours in La Fortuna

Come see the nocturnal wildlife of Costa Rica that only comes out at night. These walks are a great way to see more with a knowledgeable guide. The best part is because the sunsets between 5-6 pm year-round in Costa Rica, the tours often start at a time that works for kids too.

Night Tour La Fortuna

Arenal Oasis Night Tour

#14 Rio Celeste Day Trip

This is a day trip not to miss. The bright turquoise blue color of the Rio Celeste with the lush forest backdrop is unbelievably beautiful. Rio Celeste waterfall is found within Tenorio Volcano National Park and is an hour and 25-minute drive from La Fortuna. We highly recommend the hike down to the waterfall as well as tubing. Check out our Guide to visiting Rio Celeste.

#15 Horseback Riding in La Fortuna

Costa Rica provides the perfect landscape to venture into the lush rainforest and catch views of the Arenal Volcano all while exploring on horseback. These guided tours are great for all ages and abilities.

Arenal Horseback Riding to La Fortuna Waterfall
Horseback ride through Mistico Park
Don Tobias horseback riding 

#16 Take a Cooking Class

Learn Costa Rican cooking from the best with organic ingredients right from the farm. Experience Costa Rican culture while sharing a cooking experience with locals. Learn more

The El Fogon de Chela cooking class gets amazing reviews from families with kids. Find it here

Free things to do in La Fortuna

Costa Rice can be expensive when compared to other South American countries. La Fortuna is known to be a tourist area so prices will be higher. Here are a few free activities when looking for things to do in La Fortuna. Another consideration is seeing if where you’re planning to stay has nature trails or access to other activities onsite as sometimes this can save. Staying in a vacation rental with a kitchen can also help to save on the cost of food.

#17 El Salto Rope Swing 

This free swimming stop can be found about 1 mile (1.6 km) south of La Fortuna’s downtown area along Road 702 under a bridge. There’s room on either side of the bridge for parking with unofficial parking attendants. 

El Salto Rope Swing free thing to do
El Salto Rope Swing and Swimming Hole

#18 Rio Chollin Hot Spring River

Or “El Choyin” on Google Maps is a free natural hot springs river. Parking is located up above and water shoes are recommended. You will find guys trying to sell parking for 5,000 colones but if you continue past just a few minutes there’s free parking along the side.

#19 Costa Rica Dog Rescue 

Stray dogs are a big problem throughout Costa Rica including La Fortuna. This is a non-profit group that takes volunteers to walk, play, and care for the animals. Can be found here.

#20 Murals and Art Galleries

For some free fun in La Fortuna check out the the Arenal sign right outside Arenal Coffee as well as the Pura Vida Vibes mural outside Mercadito Arenal. Many art and sculpture galleries in the area are also free.

Arenal outdoor sign
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Frequently Asked Questions on La Fortuna

What is the closest airport to La Fortuna?

The two main airports in Costa Rica are both a similar distance to La Fortuna.

3 hours from Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia
2 hours and 40 min from Juan Santamaría International Airport, (SJO) in San José, the capital of Costa Rica

Where to stay near La Fortuna?

La Fortuna has many great lodges and smaller resorts that are nestled in the jungle and offer hot springs on-site. If you’re looking for more space there are lots of great Airbnb’s (our stay is below) and many of the hot springs offer day passes.

The Springs Resort and Spa – luxury hotel with hot springs and lots of activities onsite for families.

Sangregado Lodge – this lodge offers beautiful villas with Arenal views. No pool but surrounded by nature and very close to lots of adventure activities.

Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa – is located within the Arenal conservation area with up-close views, great hiking paths, and a restaurant on site. 

Hotel Los Lagos – a mid-range hotel with a great view of the Arenal volcano and spacious rooms.

Arenal Manoa Resort and Hotsprings the pool and restaurant have Arenal views, offer suites and have a hot springs.

Hotel Roca Negra del Arenal this small mid-range hotel is set on a beautiful property with gardens and wildlife. 

Hotel Campo Verde budget stay option with great views of the volcano in Arenal.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a bit more space, we stayed at this Airb&b that is about 15 minutes outside of La Fortuna it has 3 bedrooms and great outdoor space, and is in a safe gated neighborhood. 

When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?

The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and April when the weather is at its driest and brightest. Costa Rica has two distinct seasons: dry season and rainy season. The dry season, Verano ( summer), spans from early December to April. The other season is Invierno (winter), and it lasts from May to November. The rainiest months tend to be September and October.

What is the best food in Costa Rica?

The local Costa Rican cuisine is known for being mild, emphasizing rice, beans, and local fruit and vegetables. The Casado is probably the most traditional dish in Costa Rica and includes a plate of foods such as rice, black beans, salad, tortilla, fried plantain, and chicken or another protein. These foods can be found in traditional Costa Rican restaurants called sodas. La Fortuna has a variety of restaurants offering traditional dishes like gallo pinto, casado, and ceviche.

Great restaurants in La Fortuna

La Vid Steakhouse and Pizza in La Fortuna
Pollo Fortunero 
Chipotles is a family-owned Mexican restaurant
Mercadito Arenal is a food hall with a fun mural outside
Don Rufino: traditional Costa Rican food

Do I need to rent a car in Costa Rica?

We do recommend renting a car in Costa Rica to see the most as easily as possible. When renting a car you need to be careful the price you’re quoted online includes all the required insurance. Liability insurance is mandatory. Many third-party providers like Expedia don’t include this in the online price. We used the local company Tico Trips to reserve our Alamo car rental as ultimately it was less than booking direct and they were knowledgeable on the insurance needed. If you don’t want to rent a car it is possible to coordinate through private transfers as well as looking for tours that provide transportation. Combo tours that include transportation are a great option if you still want to see a lot without a car. Here are two great options:

La Fortuna Combo 3 in 1 Tour: hanging bridges, waterfall, and volcano hike

2-in-1 Combo Tour: hanging bridges and waterfall hike

How long should I stay in La Fortuna?

Tourists often stay 3-4 nights in La Fortuna but there is so much to do if you have additional time it always makes for a more relaxing trip.

Lastly, La Fortuna offers so many unique things to do that appeal to all ages we hope you’ve found some new ideas here. You’ll find adventure, wildlife, and relaxing intertwined amidst the stunning backdrop of the Arenal Volcano. From zip-lining through the rainforest canopy to soaking in a natural hot spring. If you visited La Fortuna let us know what were your favorite things to do. Check out our saved story highlight on Instagram that includes La Fortuna. Don’t miss our Ultimate Guide for Visiting Rio Celeste Waterfall and A Guide to Hanging Bridges in Monteverde, Costa Rica

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