The 9 best tips for La Fortuna & the Arenal volcano

When you arrive in La Fortuna, you are greeted by the relaxed atmosphere in this tourist town. It has narrow streets, colorful houses, and local shops. It is the place where many vacationers, backpackers, and travelers make a stop to enjoy adventure with a laid-back vibe. Keep in mind that you'll see a lot of tourists. Fortunately, the area is very spacious, and you have plenty of room to enjoy nature on your own.

What is La Fortuna and what is Arenal?

Arenal and La Fortuna are often used together. La Fortuna is a town near the Arenal volcano. La Fortuna is an important hub for tourism in the region. Many tourists come to La Fortuna to explore the Arenal volcano and the Arenal Volcano National Park from here.

How to get to La Fortuna?

You can travel to La Fortuna from various places in Costa Rica. You'll probably travel from Uvita/Dominical, Monteverde, or San José.

From Uvita/Dominical to La Fortuna

By car: It takes about 4 to 5 hours by car from Uvita or Dominical to La Fortuna.

By bus/shuttle: There are no direct buses or shuttles from Uvita and Dominical to La Fortuna. It's best to take a local bus or shuttle to Quepos, which costs around 5 dollars. In Quepos, you can transfer to a shuttle that will take you to La Fortuna. Keep in mind that taking a shuttle can be quite expensive. The entire journey costs around 130 dollars per person. Unfortunately, from Quepos, there are no local buses to La Fortuna. The total journey takes about 6 hours. It's advisable to ask your accommodation about the departure times for the bus from Uvita and Dominical to Quepos, as these schedules change regularly.

Crocodile Bridge

When you're traveling from Uvita or Dominical via Quepos, the shortest route takes you past the Crocodile Bridge in Tarcoles. If you're taking a shuttle, you can ask the driver to make a stop here. It's highly recommended to take a look because from the bridge, you can see many American crocodiles on the sand and in the water. American crocodiles can grow up to seven meters long. You can usually spot several of them, which is quite amazing!

From Monteverde to La Fortuna

By car: If you go by car, it will take you about 3 hours. The route goes through the mountains and offers beautiful views. Take your time to enjoy the stunning surroundings.

By bus: From Monteverde, you can take a local bus to La Fortuna. The bus ride takes approximately 3 hours. Inquire about the current departure times at your accommodation, as they may change regularly.

By shuttle: From Monteverde, you can take a shuttle to La Fortuna, which takes about 3 to 4 hours, with prices starting from 35 dollars per person.

Another way to travel from Monteverde to La Fortuna is by combining a shuttle and a boat. We chose to do this, and it was definitely worth it. With the boat, you'll cross Arenal Lake and enjoy beautiful views of the Arenal volcano. It costs about 36 dollars, which is roughly the same as a shuttle, and it includes a lovely boat trip.

From San José to La Fortuna

By car: From San José to La Fortuna, it takes about 3 hours by car.

By bus: From the Terminal 7-10 bus station in San José, a bus departs daily towards San Carlos, the municipality where La Fortuna is located. The bus also stops in La Fortuna. You can check the current departure times here. You'll spend about 5 hours on the bus due to regular stops. The bus fare is around 8 dollars.

By shuttle: A shuttle from San José to La Fortuna takes around 4 hours, with prices starting from 39 dollars per person.

The best things to do in La Fortuna / Arenal

There is plenty to see and do in La Fortuna, from spotting wildlife to relaxing in hot springs. There is an abundance of activities, and there's something for everyone to enjoy. We've compiled the top 9 tips for you!

1. Visit the Arenal Volcano National Park

The Arenal volcano is the most famous volcano in Costa Rica and is located in the Arenal Volcano National Park. After nearly 400 years of inactivity, the volcano began to show eruptions in 1968, and eventually it exploded, burying more than 15 square kilometers (5.79 square miles) of land under rocks, lava, and ash. Until 2010, the volcano was active, and you could regularly hear rumbling and occasional spewing of lava, gas, and ash. Since 2010, the volcano has been in a resting phase for an indefinite period.

There is another volcano in the park, Cerro Chato, which is a dormant volcano, and its last eruption was approximately 3,500 years ago. It is expected that the volcano will not erupt again. A lake has formed in the crater of this volcano.

You'll pay about 15 dollars for adults and 5 dollars for children, with additional taxes. The visitor center of the national park is open daily from 8 AM to 4 PM.

Hiking in the national park

Unfortunately it is not possible to hike to the top of the Arenal volcano. There are plenty of other hiking options with beautiful views of the volcano and the lake. We recommend driving to the main visitor center entrance. There are signs with hiking trails within the national park, and the routes are well marked. Wear good shoes, as some routes may involve climbing over rocks.

We hiked the Arenal 1968 trail, and we highly recommend it. During the hike, you walk through the beautiful rainforest, which changes from green to black volcanic terrain along the way. You'll come across a beautiful viewpoint during the hike, where you can see the Arenal volcano and Arenal Lake. Take a moment to put down your phone or camera and truly appreciate the surroundings. The hike is 4.7 kilometers and can be done without a guide.

Previously, it was possible to hike to the Cerro Chato volcano. At the top of the volcano's crater rim, there was a beautiful view of a lake that formed inside the volcano. Those who climbed the volcano described it as a challenging hike with uneven and slippery paths. However, the government closed the trail due to safety concerns. Despite the closure, some people continued to hike the trail clandestinely.

How to get there? It's about a 30-minute drive from La Fortuna to the Arenal Volcano National Park Visitor Center. From this point, you can access various hikes in the park. We recommend going by car, taking a taxi, or using an Uber, which costs between 10 and 25 dollars. There are no local buses from La Fortuna to the national park.

2. La Fortuna Waterfall

Costa Rica is known for its waterfalls, and you can also find one in La Fortuna. The La Fortuna Waterfall is located in the Arenal Volcano National Park. The waterfall is 70 meters (230 feet) tall, and to reach it, you follow a staircase with 530 steps through the rainforest. The hike to the waterfall takes about 30 minutes, and there are resting points along the way to catch your breath. We recommend wearing proper shoes for the walk, as the steps can be slippery.

Once you arrive at the waterfall, you can cool off in the clear waters of the Fortuna River. There is also a viewpoint where you can get a good look at the waterfall and take beautiful photos.

The waterfall is open daily from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with the last entry at 4:00 PM.

Admission to the waterfall is free for children aged 8 and under. For children over 8 years and adults, an entrance ticket costs 18 dollars.

How to get there?
The La Fortuna Waterfall is easily accessible from La Fortuna via two routes by car. It's about a 10-minute drive. There is no local bus service to the waterfall. If you don't have a car, we recommend taking a taxi or Uber, which costs approximately 11 dollars.

3. Mistico: Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

The Mistico Hanging Bridges are a must-visit when you're in La Fortuna. We found this to be one of the most beautiful parks in Costa Rica, thanks to the stunning views of the tropical rainforest and the Arenal volcano. You can also spot beautiful plants, and if you're lucky, you might see snakes, colorful frogs, spiders, and birds.

The park features 16 hanging bridges, and the route through the park is about 3.2 kilometers (2 miles). There is also a shorter version of 1.9 kilometers (1.2 miles).

An entrance ticket for adults costs around 32 dollars and for children aged 11 to 18, it's 20 dollars. The park is free for children under 11 years old.

You can explore the park on your own or with a guide. The park offers various tours. The benefit of having a guide is that they can point out animals you might not spot on your own. If you want a guide, it's advisable to book in advance to ensure one is available.

How to get there?
The park is about a half-hour drive from La Fortuna. We recommend going by car, taxi, or Uber. The park is at a higher elevation, and you'll need to drive uphill to reach the park entrance. We took an Uber there and were dropped off at the lower part, so we had to walk up. Perhaps you can kindly ask your driver to drop you off at the upper entrance. There is ample parking at the park.

4. Hot springs

Near La Fortuna, you can find many hot springs. These hot water springs have formed due to the volcanic activity in the area. The volcanoes heat the groundwater, creating hot springs.

Many hot springs are located at a hotel or resort, where you need to pay to access them. You can enjoy a relaxing day at these locations. Fortunately, there are also two free hot springs in the area.

El Choyin

This free hot spring is located along the side of the road near the Tabacon resort. You can park your car on the side of the road or have a taxi or Uber drop you off there. It's about a 15-minute drive from La Fortuna. From the road, you can follow a path through the bushes to reach the hot spring.

If you prefer not to share this place with too many other people, it's best to go early in the morning. It can get pleasantly crowded with tourists and locals in the afternoon. You won't find toilets or comfortable chairs at the hot spring, but you'll be in harmony with nature.

We went in the late afternoon, just before it got dark. This is highly recommended. Going in the evening allows you to see fireflies, and people place candles on the rocks, creating a romantic atmosphere in the warm water. Afterward, it's a bit of an adventure to get out of the water, dry off, and return to the road, but it's definitely worth it!

El Salto

This is another free hot spring that's easily accessible. We found the water slightly less warm than at the El Choyin hot spring, but this won't matter when the weather is hot. Here, too, you can park your car on the side of the road or have a taxi or Uber drop you off there. The hot spring is close to La Fortuna, only a 2-minute drive away. You can also walk the short distance, which takes about 20 minutes.

There are many tourists and locals at this hot spring, so it's best to go early to have the hot spring more to yourself. There's a Tarzan rope at the hot spring that allows you to jump into the water from a rock.

5. Chocolate tour

Around La Fortuna, you can go on chocolate tours. Cocoa has been cultivated in Costa Rica for centuries and is one of the country's most important export products. Cocoa is also used in Costa Rica to make traditional beverages like "Agua Dulce" and hot chocolate. During a cocoa tour, you'll learn how cocoa grows and how the beans are eventually processed into various products.

6. Rio Celeste

In Tenorio Volcano National Park, there's a beautiful river named Rio Celeste. "Celeste" means heavenly blue, and the river gets its name from the clear turquoise water. The river's color is a result of two rivers merging, causing minerals to mix and create a chemical reaction that turns the water a vivid blue. Unfortunately, swimming in the water is not allowed.

There's a hiking trail in the park that's about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long, and it takes around three hours to complete. During the hike, you'll have views of the river and pass by the stunning Rio Celeste waterfall.

From La Fortuna, you can easily take a day trip to the national park and the river. If you're interested in learning more about the park, the river, and the wildlife that inhabits it, it's recommended to book a guide or an organized tour.

How to get there?
It's best to drive to Rio Celeste as there are no local buses or shuttles that go there. If you don't have a car, joining a tour is the most convenient option.

7. Adrenaline rush

La Fortuna offers plenty of opportunities for those who love adventure and enjoy being active.


Canyoning involves making your way through a river canyon in a spectacular manner, using a combination of activities such as walking, swimming, climbing, sliding, and rappelling. There are different levels of difficulty for these excursions. Thanks to its abundant natural beauty, the La Fortuna area provides great opportunities for canyoning tours.


Near La Fortuna, there are several zipline options. It's advisable to take a close look at what you enjoy and how much you want to spend. The Sky Adventures Park offers various zipline options and includes a sky tram and hanging bridges. The advantage of a park is that you can combine many adventurous activities, but it can also be touristy and feel more artificial. Arenal Canopy also provides zipline opportunities through the beautiful rainforest of Costa Rica, and you can choose from different tours.

The Sky Adventures Park is a 30-minute drive away, and Arenal Canopy is 15 minutes from La Fortuna. We recommend using a car, taxi, or Uber to get there, as there are no local buses or shuttles. You can also opt for an organized tour where you'll be picked up from your accommodation.


Near La Fortuna, you can find many rivers with various levels of rapids, such as the Pacuare and Balsa rivers. These rivers flow through beautiful rainforests, offering great scenery. There are rafting tours available in different difficulty levels, ranging from mild to challenging, making it a fun adventure activity suitable for beginners as well.

8. Safari float

A "safari float" is a calm and relaxing way to enjoy the beautiful nature and wildlife from the water. During a safari float, you navigate gentle rivers, allowing you to take in the surroundings. Additionally, a guide accompanies you to point out the wildlife in the area.

9. Sloth park

In the La Fortuna area, there's a good chance you'll occasionally see people gathered around a tree, looking up. This is often because they've spotted a sloth in the tree. It's fun to stop and observe from a distance if you come across this. If you're lucky, your taxi driver might stop too if they spot a sloth.

We also stopped with our taxi driver on the side of the road to spot a sloth. We later visited a sloth park as well, which is located close to La Fortuna, just a 3-minute drive or about a 20-minute walk away.

The sloth park is open every day from 7:00 to 17:30. We wanted to see more sloths, so we purchased an entrance ticket for 20 dollars without a guide. Unfortunately, it started raining heavily, so we had to leave the park after just five minutes without seeing any animals. If you haven't seen sloths yet and want to, the park provides a good opportunity to spot them. To ensure you see sloths, it's best to take a guided tour. This costs around 50 dollars per person. You can also combine a sloth tour with a coffee tour. We recommend a sloth tour if you haven't seen sloths yet and want to be sure to spot them.

How to get around?

In the La Fortuna area, it's best to have a car as it allows you to get around quickly and freely. If you don't have your own car, we recommend taking a taxi or using Uber. There are many Ubers available in the La Fortuna area. You can also book organized tours to reach the attractions. Local buses or shuttles to the nearby attractions are often limited.

Do you want to read more about Costa Rica?

See all our articles with the best tips to discover all beautiful places in Costa Rica.

Do you want to read more about Costa Rica?

See all our articles with the best tips to discover all beautiful places in Costa Rica.

About the authors

How nice that you are on our website and that you have read this article! We are Mirte and Matthew, two Dutch adventurers with a passion for traveling, discovering cultures, and gaining new experiences. We've translated our love for the world into this website. We hope our articles inspire you to go on adventures! You can learn more about us through the button below.
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