๐ŸŒ‹ย La Fortuna Guide: Top Things To Do + 3-5 Day Itinerary

Two people riding horses with a covered volcano in the background.

The small town of La Fortuna is known as the adventure capital of Costa Rica and is one of the country’s most popular destinations.

Three to five days is enough time to soak in a hot spring, horseback ride around a volcano, whitewater raft, zipline, and more.

I spent a memorable week in La Fortuna, and here, I share great things to do and tips to optimize your itinerary. This post covers:

  • โœจ Top things to do in La Fortuna
  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 3 to 5-day optimized itineraries
  • ๐Ÿ“ La Fortuna map with key places
  • ๐Ÿš™ How to get around

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Costa Rica.

Disclosure: Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. If you buy through an affiliate link on this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!

La Fortuna at a Glance

Before getting into the itinerary, hereโ€™s some general information on La Fortuna to help you plan your trip.

๐ŸŒ‹ What Is La Fortuna Known For?

The adventure capital of Costa Rica, La Fortuna is known as one of the best places to do quintessential Costa Rica activities like white water rafting, ziplining, and horseback riding.

It’s also known for the iconic Arenal Volcano that overlooks the small town and heats the dozen natural hot springs in the area.

The blog author looking out at a lush green rainforest with a volcano in the background.
Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ How Long To Spend in La Fortuna?

Youโ€™ll want to spend at least three days in La Fortuna to walk around the town, enjoy a hot spring, and do some thrilling outdoor activities.

I stayed in La Fortuna for a week. Although I was initially hesitant about staying for so long, La Fortuna became my favorite place in Costa Rica.

See how to spend ten days in Costa Rica.

๐Ÿ“ Where Is La Fortuna Located?

La Fortuna is located in Costa Rica’s northern highlands. Hereโ€™s how far the town is in relation to other major cities and landmarks:

LandmarkWhere is La Fortuna?
San Josรฉ City70 miles northwest
Guanacaste Airport in Liberia90 miles west
La Fortuna’s Location in Relation to Cities and Landmarks
A map of Costa Rica with red pins highlighting key towns and an airplane showing the two international airports.
La Fortuna’s location in Costa Rica.

โ˜€๏ธ Best Time To Visit La Fortuna

The best time to visit La Fortuna is during Costa Rica’s dry season, which runs from December to April. I visited in March and experienced some clouds but no rain.

La Fortuna’s rainy season runs from May to December. During these months, both rain and mosquitoes are more prevalent.

A view from above of a Costa Rica lush, green rainforest.
Lush rainforest in La Fortuna.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Is La Fortuna Expensive To Visit?

Being one of Costa Rica’s major tourist towns, La Fortuna is expensive to visit.

  • Mid-range budget travelers can expect to spend about $150 a day in La Fortuna.
  • Budget travelers can expect to spend about $85 a day in La Fortuna.

See my budget breakdown for my trip to La Fortuna.

4 Essential Tips for Visiting La Fortuna

Before getting into the itinerary, here are practical tips to know when traveling to La Fortuna.

๐Ÿ› 1. Eat casados at a “soda” for less than $5 USD.

A casado is a traditional Costa Rican meal with rice, black beans, plantains, salad, and protein of choice (usually chicken, beef, pork, or fish). Soda is what Costa Ricans call their small local restaurants.

Not only are casados served in sodas delicious, but they’re also extremely affordable, with some meals costing less than $5 USD. La Fortuna has several places like these within walking distance of each other:

  • Soda la Hormiga โ€“ This is my favorite restaurant in La Fortuna. Locals also highly recommend it. I had lunch here three times.
  • Soda 5 Tejas โ€“ This is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with solid, local food and tamales.
  • Soda Vรญquez โ€“ This is another local place that also serves traditional soups.
Two people with a plate of rice, beans, yuca and chicken in front of them.
Casados in Soda la Hormiga.

๐Ÿ  2. Stay at an accommodation within walking distance of the town.

All the happening places, restaurants, and tour meetup points are in the town center of La Fortuna.

Stay a bit outside of town. Many places don’t have sidewalks, making it difficult to conveniently get into town for a meal or activity.

While in La Fortuna, I stayed at two places: an Airbnb right outside of town and Cabaรฑas del Rรญo, a mile outside town. While the latter had a great hotel concierge who helped me book tours and call taxis, it was much harder to get around because of its location.

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ 3. Learn to cross the streets.

Like many other places in Costa Rica, cars in La Fortuna don’t necessarily stop for pedestrians, and there are few street lights. When crossing the streets, be careful and don’t expect cars to stop for you.

That said, I still think La Fortuna is pedestrian-friendly and small enough to explore on foot. It’s a bustling place with locals and tourists walking around.

A small town sidewalk with a volcano in the background.
La Fortuna’s sidewalk.

๐ŸŒณ 4. Visit Monteverde before or after.

La Fortuna and Monteverde are two of the best places in the Arenal area of Costa Rica. I traveled to both places and think theyโ€™re different enough to each warrant a visit.

Due to their proximity, it’s a good idea to pair visiting Monteverde with La Fortuna.

Monteverde is famous for its cloud forest and biodiversity. Sitting on a mountain, Monteverde also has a colder and rainier climate, making it a unique atmosphere in the country.

Check out Monteverde’s top things to do.

Getting Around La Fortuna

Hereโ€™s how to get to La Fortuna and get around once youโ€™re there.

โœˆ๏ธ How To Get to La Fortuna

After flying into one of Costa Ricaโ€™s international airports (the Liberia or San Jose airport), you can get to La Fortuna in four different ways.

  • Rental Car โ€“ A standard rental car in Costa Rica costs about $40 a day, not including gas. While you donโ€™t need a 4×4 rental car to get to La Fortuna, it’s sometimes recommended.
  • Shuttle โ€“ Several companies offer daily shared or private shuttles. I visited La Fortuna from Monteverde, and despite their proximity, no direct roads connect them. I took a shuttle-boat-shuttle across Lake Arenal.
  • Public Bus โ€“ Taking public buses to La Fortuna is the budget option and will take the most time (e.g., three to six hours from either airport).
  • Local Airline โ€“ La Fortuna has a tiny airport, Arenal Airport. If you don’t mind the higher cost, this is the most convenient and best way to get to La Fortuna.

๐Ÿš— How To Get Around La Fortuna

Once in La Fortuna, you can get around the town by renting a car, walking, taking a taxi, using ridesharing services, or using tour transportation.

  • Walking โ€“ La Fortuna is a small, very walkable town. You can walk most of it in one day, as I did.

Sidewalks are uncommon outside of the main town area in La Fortuna. If you stay slightly outside the town, youโ€™ll want to take a taxi or risk walking on the road, which can be unpleasant when busy.

  • Taxi โ€“ Taxis are readily available around La Fortuna as it’s a popular tourist destination. I spent, on average, $4 USD per ride traveling a little over one mile to and from the town.

All official taxis in Costa Rica are red and have a yellow triangle on the side.

  • Uber โ€“ Uber is available in La Fortuna but operates in a gray area of Costa Rican law. I have used Uber a few times and found it generally more affordable than taxis for longer rides, but it is not always readily available.
  • Tour Transport โ€“ Almost all guided tours offered in La Fortuna will include pick-up and drop-off transportation, usually by taxi or shuttle.

La Fortuna Itinerary Map

This map has all the recommended places in the La Fortuna travel itinerary below.

La Fortuna Itineraries

Below is a great way to spendย three to five packed daysย in La Fortuna, featuring the best things to do in the town and nearby attractions.

To help you plan efficiently, Iโ€™ve includedย suggested times for each activityย based on my firsthand experience.

3-Day Itinerary for La Fortuna

This three-day La Fortuna itinerary focuses on the townโ€™s best and most unique attractions.

Day 1 in La Fortuna
๐Ÿš—Arrive in La FortunaAfternoon
๐Ÿ’งVisit La Fortuna Waterfall1โ€“2:30 pm
๐ŸซGo on a coffee and chocolate tour3โ€“5:30 pm
๐Ÿฅ˜Have dinner in La Fortuna town6โ€“7 pm
โ™จ๏ธEnjoy a hot spring7โ€“9 pm
Day 2 in La Fortuna
๐ŸƒZip line over La Fortuna7:30โ€“10:30 am
๐ŸŒŠRaft in a whitewater river11 amโ€“4 pm
๐Ÿ›๏ธWalk around La Fortuna town5โ€“7 pm
Day 3 in La Fortuna
๐ŸŒณVisit Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges7:30โ€“11:30 am
๐ŸŒ‹Horseback ride around Arenal Volcano1โ€“4:30 pm
๐ŸšEnjoy a hot spring7โ€“9 pm

5-Day Itinerary for La Fortuna

This five-day La Fortuna itinerary focuses on the townโ€™s best attractions and incorporates other popular thrilling activities.

The Costa Rica trip planner below has part of this itinerary prefilled.

Day 1 in La Fortuna
๐Ÿš—Arrive in La FortunaAfternoon
โ™จ๏ธSettle down and enjoy a hot spring4โ€“9 pm
Day 2 in La Fortuna
๐ŸซGo on a coffee and chocolate tour10 amโ€“12:30 pm
๐ŸŒ‹Horseback ride around Arenal Volcano1โ€“4:30 pm
Day 3 in La Fortuna
๐ŸŒณ Visit Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges7:30โ€“11:30 am
๐ŸšHave lunch and enjoy a hot spring12โ€“4 pm
๐Ÿ›๏ธWalk around La Fortuna town5โ€“7 pm
Day 4 in La Fortuna
๐Ÿƒ Zip line over La Fortuna7:30โ€“10:30 am
๐ŸŒŠRaft in a whitewater river11โ€“4 pm
๐Ÿ›๏ธWalk around La Fortuna town5โ€“7 pm
Day 5 in La Fortuna
๐Ÿ’งVisit La Fortuna Waterfall10 amโ€“12 pm
๐ŸšกGo up the sky tram2โ€“4 pm

11 Great Things To Do in La Fortuna

Having spent seven packed days in La Fortuna, I share my recommendations and honest opinions on the top attractions and activities below, listed in rough order of priority.

Costa Ricaโ€™s main source of income is tourism, so almost everything can be or must be done through a tour operator. I write about the tour operators I used here, but you can also ask your hotel, Airbnb host, or a booking service for recommendations.

All prices mentioned in this post are in USD ๐Ÿ’ต .

1. Raft in a Whitewater River

๐Ÿค” Why: Costa Rica offers world-class whitewater rafting classes ranging from I to IV. Whitewater rafting is representative of the thrilling outdoor activities typical of Costa Rica. You’ll also get to spot wildlife along the river.

Four tourists on a raft paddling through rough whitewater river.
Rafting in a class-III whitewater river.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: Several whitewater rafting tour companies offer transportation to and from the river. I did a class-III whitewater with WAVE and found them entertaining and professional.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: $70 to $90. I paid $125 for a combination package that included zip lining in the morning and white water rafting in the afternoon.

โฐ Duration: 5 hours. My tour lasted five hours, from 11 am to 4 pm.

Here’s what to wear for whitewater rafting: swimsuit (you will get soaked), quick-dry top and bottom to protect you from the sun and chafing against the raft, and shoes you donโ€™t mind getting wet (I wore my Chacos and thought they worked well). Make sure to also wear sunscreen.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: Whitewater rafting was my favorite tour in Costa Rica. It was thrilling and fun, and the guides were professional and energetic. Spotting wildlife (e.g., owls, iguanas, sloths, and howler monkeys) and feeding fruits to cows was an unexpected bonus.

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2. Horseback Ride Around Arenal Volcano

๐Ÿค” Why: The iconic Arenal Volcano towers above the town of La Fortuna, located inside Arenal Volcano National Park. Hiking is prohibited, but you can enjoy the volcano by taking a horseback riding tour. You’ll see beautiful scenery, spot wildlife, and learn about the volcanos and the town’s history.

Arenal Volcano is active, and its last volcanic activity was in 2012.

Two people riding horses with a covered volcano in the background.
Horseback riding tour with Don Tobias.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: This is one of the rare guided tours where I highly recommend a specific tour operator (I am not paid to say this; I just thought they were great). I did my tour with Don Tobias and cannot recommend them enough.

Remember that a tour booking serviceโ€™s primary goal is to sell tours, so they may not always book the best or most honest operators.

If you care about animal welfare, itโ€™s worth researching tour operators. I made the mistake of trusting a booking service without doing any research and took a second, different horseback riding tour where I thought the guide was underqualified and the horses didnโ€™t seem to be in the best conditions.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: $60 to $80. My tour with Don Tobias cost $75 after tip, including transportation and a meal.

โฐ Duration: 3 to 4 hours. My tour lasted three and a half hours, from 1 pm to 4:30 pm.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: Iโ€™ve taken horseback riding tours in several countries and thought this tour operator exceeded expectations. The guides took generous time to match us with their horses based on experience level and were knowledgeable and passionate about horses.

The farm lets their horses take one-week breaks at a time where they roam free and saddle-less; we met many of their horses โ€œon a breakโ€ while riding the โ€œworkingโ€ horses.

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3. Relax at a Volcano-Heated Hot Spring

๐Ÿค” Why: The La Fortuna area has over ten natural hot springs heated by Arenal Volcano. With so many hot springs to choose from (e.g., the luxurious Tabacon Hot Springs and the more budget-friendly Los Lagos), youโ€™ll be able to find one that fits your budget and vibe.

The blog author leaning in a quiet pool with a bridge and lush trees in the background.
EcoTermale’s hot spring.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: You can take a taxi, Uber, or walk to the hot spring of your choice.

Some of the best hot springs, like Tabacon Hot Springs, require advanced reservations, especially during peak season. You can ask your hotel to check if a hot spring is available.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: $10 to $150. I visited a mid-range and a budget hot spring. At the mid-range budget EcoTermales, I paid $72 for lunch and the entrance fee (without lunch, it would have been $44). At Los Lagos, I paid $17 for the entrance fee.

โฐ Suggested Duration: 2 to 4 hours. Some visitors like staying in a hot spring all day since many hot springs will also have an attached or nearby cafe or bar.

When deciding whether to book lunch as part of the hot spring package, check Google reviews or the hot spring websites to see how much lunch costs. A simpler but equally delicious lunch at EcoTermales was about $5 if not included as part of the package, so the extra $28 I paid was not worth it.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: Taking a relaxing dip in a La Fortuna hot spring is an amazing way to relax after many other outdoor activities. Despite the higher price point, I thought EcoTermales was a great place for the ambiance.

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4. Go on a Chocolate and Coffee Tour

๐Ÿค” Why: Costa Rica is known to produce one of the highest-quality coffees in the world. Most chocolate and coffee tours also include a tasting and a hands-on activity.

A woman holding and pointing at a cocoa bean.
Chocolate and coffee tour in nearby La Fortuna.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: La Fortuna offers several chocolate and coffee tours. I chose to do my tour with North Fields Cafe due to their positive reviews, and they were great.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: $30 to $50. My tour was $45 after tip and included transportation.

โฐ Duration: 2 to 3 hours. My tour was two-and-a-half hours long, from 10 am to 12:30 pm.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: This was one of the more informative and honest coffee tours Iโ€™ve taken. The tour guide was excellent (heโ€™s the guide featured on North Fieldsโ€™s website), and the samplings of coffee and chocolate were tasty.

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5. Swim and Take Photos at La Fortuna Waterfall

๐Ÿค” Why: La Fortuna Waterfall is located within a rainforest and is one of La Fortunaโ€™s most popular attractions. Itโ€™s an impressive 230-foot-high waterfall that you can swim in.

A lush, green forest surrounded with a waterfall falling out of a mountain from far away.
La Fortuna Waterfall.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: La Fortuna Waterfall is a short drive from the town. From the parking lot, the waterfall is located 500 steps down a set of stairs. It’s an easy hike that should take ten minutes or less.

You can visit La Fortuna Waterfall on your own or with a tour operator. I did both, and I think visiting on your own is sufficient.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: The entrance fee to La Fortuna Waterfall is $ 18. The guided tour I took to get there cost $65, including the entrance fee. You can skip the line by buying tickets online.

โฐ Suggested Duration: 1 to 2 hours.

The rocks around the La Fortuna Waterfall are very wet and slippery, so if you plan to climb them, wear shoes with decent traction or go barefoot.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: La Fortuna Waterfall is nestled in a beautiful forest and is a nice stop if youโ€™re looking for a low-time-commitment activity near the town.

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6. Walk Through the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

๐Ÿค” Why: Costa Rica is known for its rainforests, and the Mistico Hanging Bridges is representative of that while also featuring 15 suspension bridges to walk across.

A close-up shot of a green and orange bird hiding in the rainforest.
Bird in Hanging Bridges.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: The park is about 12 miles from La Fortuna town and has a large parking lot.

I visited the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges twice, once on my own and once with a tour guide, to learn more about the tropical rainforest. While visiting the park by yourself is a good option, I wouldnโ€™t have spotted most animals without a guide.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: The Hanging Bridge Park charges a $27 entrance fee. The $65 tour I booked included this fee.

Many Costa Rica tours will include the parkโ€™s or attractionโ€™s entrance fee and transportation, so those are important factors to account for when paying for a tour.

โฐ Suggested Duration: 3 to 4 hours. When I visited with a tour guide, we visited from 7:30 am to 11:30 am, including transportation time.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: If you haven’t visited a rainforest in Costa Rica, I recommend the Hanging Bridges. However, the cloud forests are more impressive if you’re visiting areas like Monteverde.

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7. Ride the Sky Tram

๐Ÿค” Why: The open-air sky tram at Sky Adventures allows you to see La Fortuna from high up. On a clear day, you’ll have some of the best views of Arenal Volcano.

The blog author on a giant hand statue overlooking a foggy sky.
Sky Tram station on a cloudy day.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: Sky Adventures Arenal Park is the only operator in La Fortuna that offers a sky tram. It’s located 13 miles from the town, and they offer shuttle transportation as part of their package.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: The sky tram ride and shuttle transportation package cost $65.

โฐ Suggested Duration: 2 to 3 hours. I spent two hours there, from 2 pm to 4 pm.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: Riding the sky tram in La Fortuna is a great option to do something less active in Costa Rica while still enjoying the outdoor sceneries.

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8. Shop and Walk Around La Fortunaโ€™s Town

๐Ÿค” Why: La Fortunaโ€™s town is charming and has several interesting shops. Itโ€™s small enough to walk everywhere in a day but big enough to not get boring afterward.

The blog author standing in a park with a silhouette of a volcano in the background.
La Fortuna town.

๐Ÿซ Places To Visit: I spent enough time in La Fortuna to navigate the town and get to places without a map. Some things worth visiting include:

A bowl of acai-like smoothie topped with cocoa leaves, strawberries and mango.
Pitaya bowl from Jungle Bowls.

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9. See the Enchanting Rio Celeste

๐Ÿค” Why: Rio Celeste is a beautiful, unique river in Tenorio Volcano National Park due to its bright turquoise water. Visitors need to hike about a mile to visit the famous waterfall at the end.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: Rio Celeste is an hour-and-a-half drive northwest of La Fortuna. You can drive, take a taxi there, or book a highly-rated tour that includes transportation.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: Rio Celeste has a $12 entrance fee and a $2 per vehicle parking fee.

โฐ Suggested Duration: 4 to 5 hours; budget additional 3 hours for transportation

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: Rio Celeste sounds stunning, and I would have loved to make it out had I not already been so motion-sick from traveling all over Costa Rica by car by the time I reached La Fortuna. Visitors say the water is as blue as the photos appear.

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10. Zip Line Through a Forest

๐Ÿค” Why: One of the quintessential things to do in Costa Rica is zip-lining through a forest.

The blog author hanging on a zipline overlooking a misty rainforest.
Ziplining in Monteverde.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: La Fortuna has several companies offering zip lining in several locations (here’s a very highly-rated ziplining experience). I did my ziplining as part of my whitewater rafting package.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: $50 to $100, depending on location and length of zipline

โฐ Suggested Duration: 1 to 3 hours

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: I ziplined in La Fortuna and Monteverde and thought the latter was significantly superior. If you’re going to Monteverde, I would zipline there, as flying through the air over a cloud forest is truly unique.

Learn more about ziplining in Monteverde.

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11. Rope Swing at El Salto

๐Ÿค” Why: El Salto is a local swimming hole where you can Tarzan rope swing and swim in the town’s river. It’s an attraction that’s popular with both tourists and locals.

๐Ÿš— Getting There: El Salto Rope Swing is a 15-minute walk or two-minute drive south of La Fortuna’s main town area. The swimming hole is located on the side of the road near a bridge.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: El Salto Rope Swing is popular with budget travelers because it’s completely free.

โฐ Suggested Duration: 1 to 3 hours

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: If you’re looking for a free activity where you can interact with the locals, El Salto is a great option. I passed by El Salto a few times on my way into town, and while it looked really fun, it was also extremely crowded at almost all hours, so I skipped it.

Costa Rica Trip Planner

To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.

The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Costa Rica trip planner.

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