🌋 La Fortuna Guide: Itinerary + 10 Great Things To Do

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

La Fortuna, one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations, is known for hot springs, outdoor adventures and the Arenal Volcano that towers over the town. With an endless number of activities, this small town was my favorite place during my Costa Rica trip.

I spent a week in La Fortuna and here, I share practical tips on taking a trip there. This post covers:

  • 🌋 La Fortuna overview
  • ⭐️ Great things to see and do
  • 🗓️ 2 different optimized itineraries
  • 📍 Map with key attractions pinned
  • 🚙 How to get around

Planning a trip to Costa Rica? This Costa Rica guide covers things to know before getting there, including tipping etiquette, common scams, cultural differences and what to pack.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!

La Fortuna at a Glance

Below is some general information on La Fortuna to help you plan your trip.

🌋 Known For

Sometimes referred to as the adventure capital of Costa Rica, La Fortuna is known for its numerous quintessential Costa Rica activities (e.g., white water rafting, zip-lining, horseback riding), natural hot springs and the Arenal Volcano that overlooks the small town.

🌳 Vibe

La Fortuna is a small, busy, and pedestrian-friendly town that has a mix of locals and tourists visiting the various shops. It has a contained atmosphere that’s also bustling.

📍 Location

Located in the Northern Highlands of Costa Rica, La Fortuna is two-and-a-half 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 between Costa Rica’s two international airports.

☀️ Best Time To Visit

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

🗓️ How Long To Visit

You’ll want to spend at least three days in La Fortuna, so you can enjoy at least two activities, a hot spring and its small town area. I stayed in La Fortuna for a week, which I was initially hesitant about, but it ended up being my favorite Costa Rica location.

This Costa Rica travel guide has more general tips 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 two of the most popular towns in the Arenal area. I traveled to both locations and think they’re different enough to each warrant a visit.

If you’re deciding which town to visit, here are some of their key differences:

  • Known for: Monteverde is famous for its cloud forest and biodiversity, while La Fortuna is known for being right next to Arenal Volcano, which heats the town’s more than a dozen hot springs
  • 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 center: La Fortuna has a bigger and livelier town center compared to Monteverde. Monteverde’s town is on a hill and on a long, winding main road, so there’s no 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 areas differs.
  • Activities: While you’ll find some overlap in activities offered (e.g., ziplining, sloth sanctuary, coffee tours), the two towns have different experiences for the same activities (i.e., ziplining over Monteverde’s cloud forest is different than ziplining over La Fortuna).

This Monteverde travel guide highlights 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.

Getting Around La Fortuna

After flying into one of Costa Rica’s international airports (Liberia or San Jose International Airport), you can get to La Fortuna in four different ways: by taking a rental car, booking a shared or private shuttle, taking the public bus or flying on a local airline.

Once you’re in La Fortuna, you can get around the town by rental car, walking, taxi, ridesharing services or tour transportation.

🚗 Rental Car

Both Costa Rica’s international airports are about two-and-a-half hours away from La Fortuna by car. You don’t need a 4×4 rental car to get to La Fortuna, but some areas around the town are unpaved and a 4×4 is recommended.

🚐 Shared or Private Shuttle

Several companies offer daily shared or private shuttles to get to La Fortuna. I visited La Fortuna from Monteverde and despite their proximity, there are no direct roads connecting them, so I took a shared shuttle-boat-shuttle across Lake Arenal for ~$30 USD.

For longer trips (one or more hours) 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 Buses

Taking the bus to La Fortuna is the budget option and will take the most time (e.g. three to six hours from either airport).

✈️ Local Airlines

La Fortuna has a small, local airport, Arenal, Fortuna Airport (FON) that you can fly into.

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.

👟 Walking

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

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.

🚕 Taxis

Given that it’s a popular tourist town, taxis will be readily available around La Fortuna. 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.

🚙 Ridesharing Services

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

La Fortuna Map With Recommended Places

This Costa Rica map has all the recommended places in La Fortuna pinned.

10 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 ten activities I recommend in rough priority order.

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 other recommendations.

1. Raft in a whitewater river

🤔 Why: Costa Rica offers world-class whitewater rafting ranging from class I to IV. You can select the level you’re comfortable with while getting to spot wildlife along the way. Whitewater rafting is also representative of the thrilling, outdoor activities typical of Costa Rica.

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

🚗 Getting there: Several whitewater rafting tour companies offer transportation to and from the river, equipment, rafting guides and a snack or meal. I did a class-III whitewater with WAVE tour operator and I thought they were extremely fun and professional.

Suggested duration: Most whitewater rafting tours will last approximately five hours. My whitewater rafting guided tour with WAVE 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 don’t mind getting wet (I wore my Chacos and thought they worked well). Make sure to also wear sunscreen.

💰 Expected cost: Expect to pay $70 to $90 USD for a whitewater rafting tour in La Fortuna. I paid $125 USD for a combo package that included zip lining in the morning and white water rafting in the afternoon.

🍀 My take: Whitewater rafting 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, howler monkeys) and feeding fruits to cows was an unexpected bonus of the tour.

2. Horseback ride around Arenal Volcano

🤔 Why: Located inside Arenal Volcano National Park, the iconic Arenal Volcano towers above the town of La Fortuna. You’re not allowed to hike up the volcano, so one way to enjoy it is by taking a horseback riding tour around it while learning about the volcano’s and town’s history.

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 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 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 underqualified and the horses didn’t seem to be in the best conditions.

Suggested duration: Riding around Arenal Volcano will take three to four hours. My tour lasted three hours and a half, from 1 pm to 4:30 pm.

💰 Expected cost: Most horseback riding tours in La Fortuna will cost $60 to $80 USD. My tour with Don Tobias cost $75 USD 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 was breathtaking, fun and full of wildlife; and the guide was 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 a lot of their horses “on a break” while riding the “working” horses.

3. Relax at a volcano-heated hot spring

🤔 Why: The La Fortuna area has over 10 natural hot springs heated by Arenal Volcano. With a vast number of hot springs to choose from (e.g., from the luxurious Tabacon Hot Springs to the more budget-friendly Los Lagos), you’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.
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.

Some of the most popular and best hot springs, like Tabacon Hot Springs, will require advanced reservations, especially during peak season. You can ask your hotel to check if a hot spring has availabilities.

Suggested duration: Two to four hours is an adequate amount of time to enjoy a hot spring in La Fortuna. Some people like staying there all day since many hot springs will also have an attached or nearby cafe or bar.

💰 Expected cost: 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.

When you’re 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 ~$5 USD if not included as part of the package, so the extra $28 USD I paid as part of the package was not worth it.

🍀 My take: Taking a relaxing dip in a La Fortuna hot spring is a great way to balance all the outdoor activities. 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 a hands-on activity.

A woman holding and pointing at a cocoa bean.
On a chocolate and coffee tour in La Fortuna.

🚗 Getting there: There are several chocolate and coffee tours offered in La Fortuna. I chose to do my tour with North Fields Cafe due to their positive reviews and they were great.

Suggested duration: Coffee and chocolate tours will generally last two to three hours. My tour was two-and-a-half hours long, from 10 am to 12:30 pm.

💰 Expected cost: Most coffee and chocolate tours cost $30 to $50 USD. My tour was $45 USD after tip and it included transportation.

🍀 My take: This was one of the more informative and honest coffee tours I’ve taken. The tour guide was excellent (he’s the guide featured on North Fields’s website) and the samplings of coffee and chocolate were 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 most popular attractions. It’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.
The view of La Fortuna Waterfall from further away.

🚗 Getting there: La Fortuna Waterfall is three 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, an easy hike that should take 10 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.

Suggested duration: Spending one to two hours at La Fortuna Waterfall will give you enough time to walk down the stairs, swim in the waterfall, take photos and hike back up to the parking lot. When I went with a guide, we were given one 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.

💰 Expected cost: La Fortuna Waterfall has an $18 USD entrance fee. The guided tour I took to get there was $65 USD 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 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.
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 tropical 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.

Suggested duration: Expect to spend three to four hours walking through the Hanging Bridges Park, depending on how fast you walk it. When I visited with a tour guide, we visited from 7:30 am to 11:30 am, including transportation time.

💰 Expected cost: The Hanging Bridge Park has a $27 USD entrance fee. The tour I booked was $65 and it 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 account for 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.

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

🤔 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.
At the Sky Tram station on a cloudy day.

🚗 Getting there: Sky Adventures Arenal Park is only the 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.

Suggested duration: Budget two to three hours for a ride in the sky tram. I spent two hours there, from 2 pm to 4 pm.

💰 Expected cost: The sky tram ride and shuttle transportation package cost $65 USD.

🍀 My take: Riding the sky tram in La Fortuna is a great option 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 within 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.

9. Take a trip to the enchanting Rio Celeste

🤔 Why: Rio Celeste is a beautiful river in Tenorio Volcano National Park that’s unique due to its bright turquoise water. Visitors need to hike about a mile each way to visit the famous waterfall at the end.

🚗 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.

Suggested duration: On top of budgeting three hours for transportation, expect to spend about four to five hours at Rio Celeste and the surrounding park area.

💰 Expected cost: Rio Celeste has a $12 USD entrance fee and a $2 per vehicle parking fee.

🍀 My 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.

10. Rope swing into a river at El Salto

🤔 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.

🚗 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.

Suggested duration: You can spend anywhere from an hour to three hours enjoying the swimming hole.

💰 Expected cost: El Salto Rope Swing is popular with budget travelers because it’s completely free.

🍀 My take: If you’re looking for a free activity where you can mix 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.

Where To Eat in La Fortuna

Having eaten in La Fortuna every day for a week, here are some of the most local and best restaurants I discovered 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 USD 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.

La Fortuna Itineraries

Below are two La Fortuna itineraries that you can incorporate into your Costa Rica itinerary.

Both itineraries incorporate lessons from my one-week trip to La Fortuna. 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.

🗓️ 3-Day Itinerary for La Fortuna

Below is a great way to spend three days in La Fortuna while incorporating the best things and activities mentioned above.

Day 1🚗 Arrive at La Fortuna (morning)
💧Visit La Fortuna Waterfall (1–2:30 pm)
🍫 Go on a coffee and chocolate tour (3–5:30 pm)
🛍️ Dinner in La Fortuna town (6–7 pm)
♨️ Enjoy a hot spring (7–9 pm)
Day 2🍃 Zip line over La Fortuna (7:30–10:30 am)
🌊 Raft in a whitewater river (11 am–4 pm)
🛍️ Explore La Fortuna town (5–7 pm)
Day 3🌳 Walk through Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges (7:30–11:30 am)
♨️ Have lunch and enjoy a hot spring (12–4 pm)
🛍️ Explore La Fortuna town (5–7 pm)

🗓️ 5-Day Itinerary for La Fortuna

Below is a great way to spend five days in La Fortuna while incorporating most of the activities mentioned above. For more downtime, you can do everything in six to seven days.

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

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

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

Accommodations in La Fortuna

Here are things to consider when choosing where to stay in La Fortuna and where I stayed.

🏠 What To Consider

When choosing accommodation in La Fortuna, here are some things 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

During my trip to La Fortuna, I stayed at a hotel and Airbnb. Here are my honest thoughts on the accommodations:

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

  • 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 accommodation is located a 30-min walk outside the town, which meant I had to take a 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 USD per night.

  • 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.

La Fortuna Trip Cost

My one-week trip in La Fortuna cost a total of $1,173 USD, so I averaged $168 per day.

Below are my travel expenses by category for La Fortuna. My entire trip’s cost breakdown and budget tips are in this Costa Rica trip cost guide.

La Fortuna is one of Costa Rica’s best destinations and despite all the tourists, the town still has a lot of locals. La Fortuna tours will not be cheap, but you can save money by staying at nearby Airbnbs and eating at local restaurants.

Total CostCost per Day
🏠 Accommodation$303$43
🍛 Food$101$14
🚗 Transportation$51$7
⭐ Activities & Misc.$717$102

Costa Rica Trip Planner

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

The template is built on Notion, which is what I use for all my travel planning (I’m not paid to say this; I just like the 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 the Costa Rica trip planning template (built on Notion).
A Notion template screenshots is shown giving more details to the itinerary.
Preview of the Costa Rica trip planning template (built on Notion).

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

🧋 This site is run entirely by me, Lukiih. I spend hours writing each article to ensure its accuracy and conciseness. If you find my site helpful, you can say thanks by buying me bubble tea!

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