🌋 La Fortuna Travel Guide: 8 Great Things To Do, 5-Day Itinerary and Cost Breakdown

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

Offering hot springs, outdoor adventures and an active volcano hovering above a small town, La Fortuna was my favorite place to visit during my trip to Costa Rica and where I spent most of my time.

Here, I share practical tips on La Fortuna, including how to get around, what to do and eat, a 5-day itinerary, a map with all recommended places and my trip’s $1,185 cost breakdown.

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Quick Travel Facts for La Fortuna

🌋 Known for: The Arenal Volcano that looms over the La Fortuna town, quintessential Costa Rica adventure activities (e.g., white water rafting, zip lining, horseback riding), and hot springs.

🌳 Vibe: La Fortuna is a small, busy and pedestrian-friendly town that has a mix of locals and tourists visiting the various shops.

📍 Location: Located in the Northern Highlands of Costa Rica, La Fortuna is 2.5 hours away from the country’s two international airports: Juan Santamaria Airport in San José (70 miles south) and Guanacaste Airport in Liberia (90 miles west).

A map of Costa Rica with red pins highlighting key towns and an airplane showing the two international airports.
La Fortuna is located in between Costa Rica’s two international airports.

☀️ When to visit: The most popular times to visit La Fortuna are during Costa Rica’s dry season, which runs from December to April. I visited in March.

⏳ How long to visit: You’ll want to spend 3 days minimum in La Fortuna, so you can enjoy two tours, a hot spring and walking around the town. I stayed in La Fortuna for a week, which I was initially hesitant about, but it ended up being my favorite Costa Rica area.

This Costa Rica travel guide has more general tips and basics on the country.

A view from above of a Costa Rica lush, green rainforest.
A view of one of La Fortuna’s lush rainforests.

Top Costa Rica Destinations: La Fortuna vs. Monteverde

La Fortuna and Monteverde are often on lists of top destinations to visit in Costa Rica. I traveled to both locations and think they’re different enough to each warrant a visit. If you’re deciding between the two, here are some of their differences:

  • Weather: La Fortuna’s weather is what you would expect from Costa Rica: warm and humid. Sitting at 4,600+ feet above sea level, Monteverde has a colder and rainier climate.

Make sure to pack some warm layers if you’re visiting Monteverde. Monteverde can dip as low as 60°F even during the warmer months.

  • Town area: La Fortuna has a bigger and livelier town area that feels like a center. The very center of La Fortuna is a well-kept park, called Parque de La Fortuna, where locals and tourists walk through. Monteverde’s town is on a hill and is a long, winding road, so there’s not a clear center area.
Two maps comparing the town shape of La Fortuna's and Monteverde's.
The shape of La Fortuna’s vs. Monteverde’s town area differ.
  • Activities: While you’ll find some overlap in activities offered (e.g., zip lining, sloth sanctuary), the two towns offer different experiences for the same activities (i.e., zip lining over Monteverde’s cloud forest is different than zip lining over La Fortuna).

This Monteverde travel guide shows some of the differences between La Fortuna and Monteverde.

The blog author looking out at a lush green rainforest with a volcano in the background.
One of La Fortuna’s iconic features is the active Arenal Volcano.

La Fortuna Transportation

Getting to La Fortuna

After flying into one of Costa Rica’s international airports (Juan Santamaria Airport in San José or Guanacaste Airport in Liberia), you can get to La Fortuna in several ways:

  • Rental car. Both airports are ~2.5 hours away from La Fortuna by car. You don’t need a 4×4 rental to get to La Fortuna, but some areas around the town are unpaved and a 4×4 is recommended.
  • Shared/private shuttle. There are several companies that offer daily shared or private shuttles to get to La Fortuna. I visited La Fortuna from Monteverde and there are no direct roads connecting the two towns, so I took a shared van-boat-van (or shuttle-boat-shuttle) for ~$30.

For longer trips (1+ hour) in Costa Rica, it’s best to book a shuttle and you need to book these at least a day in advance. For shorter trips, you can take taxis or Uber.

  • Public bus. Taking the bus to La Fortuna is the budget option and will take the most time (3-6 hours from either airport).
  • Plane. La Fortuna has a small, local airport, that you can fly to. Flight time from and to Costa Rica’s two international airports are 15 and 50 minutes, for Liberia’s and San José’s airports, respectively.

Getting Around La Fortuna

When you’re in La Fortuna, you can get around by:

  • Rental car
  • Walking. La Fortuna is a very walkable town; you can walk most of it in a day.

Sidewalks are not common outside of the main town area in La Fortuna, so if you stay slightly outside of the town (like I did for half of the time), you’ll want to take a taxi or risk walking on the road, which can be unpleasant when it’s busy.

A small town sidewalk with a volcano in the background.
A view from one of La Fortuna’s sidewalks.
  • Taxi. All official taxis in Costa Rica are red and have a yellow triangle on its side. Given that it’s a popular tourist town, taxis will be readily available around La Fortuna. I spent on average $4 per ride traveling a little over 1 mile to and from the town.
  • Ridesharing service. Uber (but not Lyft) is available in La Fortuna, but it’s technically illegal (it’s more in the gray area of Costa Rica’s law). I took Uber a few times and found it to be overall more affordable than taxis for longer rides, but not always readily available.

Almost all tours offered in La Fortuna will include pick-up and drop-off transportations, usually by taxi or shuttle.

8 Great Things To Do in La Fortuna

After spending an active, packed week in La Fortuna and doing over a dozen activities, below are the top 8 activities I recommend in rough priority order.

This Google Map has all the La Fortuna places mentioned in this list.

Costa Rica’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 ask your hotel, Airbnb host or a booking service to provide recommendations.

1. Raft in a whitewater river

Why: Costa Rica offers world-class whitewater rafting ranging from class I to IV; you can select a level you’re comfortable with while spotting wildlife along the way. Whitewater rafting is representative of the thrilling, outdoor activities you can do in Costa Rica.

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

Getting there: There are several whitewater rafting tour companies that will offer transportation to and from the river, equipment, rafting guides and a snack or meal. I did a class-III whitewater with this tour operator which I thought were extremely fun and professional.

Duration: Most whitewater rafting tour will last approximately 5 hours. My tour was from 11am-4pm.

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 don’t mind getting wet (I wore my Chacos and thought they worked well). Make sure to also wear sunscreen.

Cost: Expect to pay $70-$90 for a whitewater rafting tour. I paid $125 for a combo package that included zip lining in the morning and white water rafting in the afternoon.

My take: This was my favorite tour in Costa Rica; it was thrilling, fun and the guides were professional and energetic. Spotting wildlife (e.g., owls, iguanas, sloths) and feeding fruits to cows was an unexpected bonus of the tour.

2. Horseback ride around Arenal Volcano

Why: Arenal Volcano, the active volcano overlooking La Fortuna, is iconic. Since you’re not allowed to hike up the volcano, a way to enjoy it is by taking a horseback riding tour around it while you learn about the history of the volcano and the town.

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

Getting there: This is one of the rare 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 I cannot recommend them enough.

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

If you care about horses, it’s worth doing some research on 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 under-qualified and the horses didn’t seem to be in the best conditions.

Duration: Riding around Arenal Volcano will take 3-4 hours. My tour was from 1pm-4:30pm (3.5 hours).

Cost: Most horseback riding tours in La Fortuna will cost $60-$80. My tour cost $75 after tip and it included transportation and a meal.

My take: I’ve taken horseback riding tours in several countries and I thought this tour operator exceeded expectations. Don Tobias’s guides took generous time to match us with their horses based on experience level; the tour itself was breathtaking, fun and full of wildlife; and the guide himself was knowledgable 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 a lot of their horses “on break” while riding the “working” horses.

3. Relax at a volcano-heated hot spring

Why: The La Fortuna area has 10+ hot springs heated by Arenal Volcano. With a vast number of hot springs to choose from (e.g., from the luxurious Tabacon Hot Spring to the more budget-friendly Los Lagos one), you’ll likely be able to find a hot spring that fits your budget and vibe.

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

Getting there: You can take a taxi, Uber or walk to the hot spring of your choice.

Popular hot springs will require advanced reservation (e.g., Tabacon Hot Spring), especially during peak season. You can ask your hotel to check if a hot spring has availability.

Duration: 2-4 hours is an adequate amount of time to enjoy a hot spring. Some people like staying there all day since many hot springs will also have an attached or nearby cafe or bar.

Cost: I visited a mid-ranged and a budget hot spring. At the mid-ranged EcoTermales paid $72 for lunch and entrance fee (without lunch, it would have been $44). At Los Lagos, I paid $17 for the entrance fee.

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

My take: La Fortuna is known for hot springs and they provide a relaxing balance to the outdoor adventures offered. I highly recommend EcoTermales for the ambiance, despite the higher price point.

4. Go on a chocolate and coffee tour

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/or hands-on activity.

Getting there: There are several chocolate and coffee tours offered in La Fortuna. I took a chocolate and coffee tour with North Fields Cafe due to their positive reviews and recommend them.

Duration: Coffee and chocolate tours will generally last 2-3 hours. My tour was from 10am-12:30pm (2.5 hours).

Cost: Most coffee and chocolate tours will cost $30-$50. My tour was $45 after tip and included transportation.

My take: While I’m not a frequent coffee-drinker, this was one of the more informative and honest coffee tours I’ve taken. The tour guide I had was excellent (he’s actually the guide featured on North Fields’s website) and the sampling of coffee and chocolate was tasty.

5. Swim or take photos at La Fortuna Waterfall

Why: La Fortuna Waterfall is located within a rainforest and is one of La Fortuna’s top attractions. It’s an impressive 230-feet high waterfall that you can swim in.

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

Getting there: La Fortuna Waterfall is 3 miles away from the town, so you’ll need to drive there. From the parking lot, the waterfall is located 500-steps down a set of stairs which should take 10 minutes or less to walk down.

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.

Duration: Spending 1-2 hours at La Fortuna Waterfall will give you enough time to walk down the stairs, swim in and/or take photos by the waterfall, and hike back up to the parking lot. When I went with a guide, we were given 1 hour at the waterfall.

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

Cost: La Fortuna Waterfall has an $18 entrance fee. The tour I took to get there was $65 and included the entrance fee. You can get tickets online and skip the line.

My take: La Fortuna Waterfall is nested in a beautiful forest and is a nice stop if you’re looking for an activity that’s near the town and requires less of a time commitment.

6. Walk through the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

Why: Costa Rica is known for its rainforest and the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges is representative of that, while also featuring 15 man-made “hanging” bridges to walk across.

A close-up shot of a green and orange bird hiding in the rainforest.
One of the several birds my Hanging Bridges guide pointed out.

Getting there: The park is ~12 miles away from La Fortuna town and there’s 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 rainforest. While visiting the park by yourself is a good option, I wouldn’t have spotted most of the animals without a guide, so that’s something to consider.

Duration: Expect to spend 3-4 hours walking through the Hanging Bridges park, depending on how fast you walk it. When I visited with a tour guide, we went from 7:30-11:30am (4 hours), including transportation.

Cost: The Hanging Bridge Park has a $27 entrance fee. Booking a tour guide was $65 and included the entrance fee.

A lot of Costa Rica tours will include the park’s or attraction’s entrance fee as well as transportation, so those are important factors to consider when paying for a tour.

My take: You should visit a rainforest while you’re in Costa Rica, so if you haven’t done that, I recommend checking out the Hanging Bridges. However, if you’re also visiting other areas (e.g., Monteverde), the cloud forests can be more impressive and awe-inspiring.

7. Ride the sky tram to see the volcano from high above

Why: The open-air sky tram at Sky Adventures gives you the opportunity to see La Fortuna from high up, and if the sky is clear, a great view of the volcano.

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

Getting there: In La Fortuna, Sky Adventures Arenal Park is only the operator that offers a sky tram. Sky Adventures is located 13 miles from the town, and they offer a shuttle transportation as part of its package.

Duration: Budget 2-3 hours for a ride in the sky tram. I visited from 2-4pm (2 hours).

Cost: The sky tram ride and shuttle transportation package was $65.

My take: Riding the sky tram in La Fortuna is a good chill activity if you want to do something less active in Costa Rica, while still enjoying the outdoor sceneries.

8. Shop and walk around La Fortuna’s town

Why: La Fortuna’s town is charming and mixes local with tourist shops. It’s a small enough town that you can walk everywhere in a day, but big enough that it doesn’t get boring after a day.

The blog author standing in a park with a silhouette of a volcano in the background.
Standing in Parque de La Fortuna with Arenal Volcano in the background.

Where to visit: I spent enough time in La Fortuna that I could 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.
A pitaya bowl from Jungle Bowls.

Where To Eat in La Fortuna

Here are delicious places I personally ate at and can recommend:

  • Soda la Hormiga: This is my favorite La Fortuna restaurant that locals highly recommend. I had lunch here 3 times and ordered their ~$5 casados every time.

A casado is a typical Costa Rican meal with rice, black beans, plantains, salad and a protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish).

Soda” is what Costa Ricans call their local restaurants; they’re usually small, mom and pop restaurants serving traditional food.

Two people with a plate of rice, beans, yuca and chicken in front of them.
Eating casados in Soda la Hormiga.
  • Soda 5 Tejas: This hole in the wall restaurant has solid, local food and is the only place I found in La Fortuna that serves tamales.
  • Soda Víquez: This place also serves delicious, affordable casados and is the only place I could find that served traditional soups.
  • Travesía: Slightly north of La Fortuna’s center, this restaurant has a nice local, open-air vibe with good food, but it’s slightly pricier.
Five people hanging around a dinner table at an open-air restaurant.
Met new friends in Costa Rica and grabbing dinner at Travesía.

5-Day Itinerary for La Fortuna

Below is how to spend 5 packed days in La Fortuna while doing all the activities mentioned above. For more downtime, you can do everything in 6-7 days.

This itinerary resembles how I spent my week in La Fortuna while incorporating improvements. I’ve included some of my actual timestamps to give you an idea of how long you might need for each activity and how to efficiently sequence things.

Day 1🚗 Arrive at La Fortuna
♨️ Settle down and enjoy a hot spring (4pm-9pm)
Day 2🍫 Go on a coffee and chocolate tour (10am-12:30pm)
🌋 Horseback ride around Arenal Volcano (1pm-4:30pm)
Day 3🌳 Walk through Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges (7:30am-11:30am)
🍚 Have lunch and enjoy a hot spring (12pm-4pm)
🛍️ Explore La Fortuna town (5pm-7pm)
Day 4🍃 Zip line over La Fortuna (7:30am-10:30am)
🌊 Raft in a whitewater river (11am-4pm)
🛍️ Explore La Fortuna town (5pm-7pm)
Day 5💧Visit La Fortuna Waterfall (10am-12pm)
🚡 Go up the sky tram (2pm-4pm)

For other Costa Rica itineraries: here’s a 2-day itinerary for Monteverde, a nearby town known for its cloud forests, and a 4-day itinerary for Nosara, one of Costa Rica’s top beach towns.

Where I Stayed in La Fortuna

Here are the hotels and Airbnbs I stayed at and my thoughts on them.

Factors to consider:

  • Whether you want to stay within walking distance of La Fortuna’s town. If you’re mostly doing tours and don’t mind eating at your hotel most of the time, you can save some money by staying a bit outside of La Fortuna’s town area. Otherwise, you’ll want to stay inside La Fortuna’s town area since the roads outside of it don’t have great sidewalks.
  • Whether you want a hotel concierge or not. A hotel concierge will call taxis for you, book tours and recommend things to do. An Airbnb host might recommend some things, but you’ll have to book everything yourself.

Where I stayed:

Hotel: I stayed at Cabañas del Río, which was a mile outside of town, and paid ~$50/night/person.

  • Pros: The hotel had a super nice, friendly staff that did everything to make sure I had a nice stay (e.g., scheduled taxis for me, recommended hot springs, etc).
  • Cons: The rooms had an odd layout and were not the nicest. It’s also located a 30-min walk outside the town, which meant I had to take the taxi most of the time since there are no sidewalks going into town.

Airbnb: I also stayed at an Airbnb inside the town and paid ~$40/night/person.

  • Pros: The place was within walking distance of the town, but far enough that it was quiet and residential in the immediate vicinity. The room was clean and well-kept, and the host was very responsive.
  • Cons: The bathroom didn’t have the best ventilation and smelled slightly of mold.

My La Fortuna Trip’s Cost Breakdown

I stayed in La Fortuna for 1 week and spent $1,185 ($169/day).

I split expenses with one other person on most things. All expenses are in USD, converted from Costa Rican Colón ($1 USD = 631₡ at the time of writing).

Cost Breakdown

🏠 Lodging: $300 ($43/night)

🚗 Transportation: $52 ($7/day)

  • Shared shuttle to from Monteverde to La Fortuna: $33
  • Taxis to get around La Fortuna: $19

🐠 Food: $110 ($16/day)

⭐ Activities (Tours, Entrance Fees, Massages): $723 ($103/day)

  • White water rafting and zip lining combo package: $125
  • White water rafting photo package: $9
  • Horseback riding around Arenal Volcano: $75
  • Chocolate and coffee tour: $45
  • EcoTermales hot spring entrance fee: $72
  • Los Lagos hot spring entrance fee: $17
  • Horseback riding tour to La Fortuna Waterfall: $65
  • La Fortuna Waterfall entrance fee: $18
  • Hanging Bridges entrance fee: $27
  • Hanging Bridges tour: $65
  • Sky tram ride: $65
  • Massages: $140

All my Costa Rica travel expenses are broken down by location and category in this Costa Rica cost breakdown.

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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