La Fortuna, situated in northern province of Alajuela in Costa Rica, is a tropical paradise that is better known to most as Arenal. The name is derived from the nearby Arenal Volcano, which is considered one of the 20 most active volcanoes in the world and last erupted in 1968 for three days. Out of the ashes rose La Fortuna and the volcano remains a popular tourist attraction to this day.
Because La Fortuna resides on the windward side of the Arenal Volcano, the resulting rains have created a sprawling rainforest that is also home to dazzling Arenal Waterfall.
Visitors can traverse the forest on a series of hanging bridges that offer an up close view of the local wildlife.
The city itself is approximately four miles east of the volcano and 12 miles from the entrance to the Arenal Volcano National Park, which is located on the other side of the volcano. La Fortuna can easily be reached by car or bus from Costa Rica’s capital San Jose. The drive is extra special and will take you through the surrounding forests, coffee plantations, and past winding rivers.
While in La Fortuna, visitors can go whitewater rafting in the nearby rivers, or take a trip to a group of rejuvenating Eco Termales Hot Springs or stunning waterfalls.
The city also offers some of the most excellent and affordable accommodations in Costa Rica and a high-spirited, dance-centric nightlife. Here are all the things to see and do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica!
The hanging bridges of Arenal lie nestled deep within the surrounding forests. There are six hanging bridges that crisscross the forest’s canopy, while numerous others zigzag across the landscape below. Together, these bridges can take you on a magical journey deep into the unexplored, heart of the rainforest where nature is within arm’s reach. They were designed by engineers to have minimal effects on the surrounding rainforest.
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They are safe and reliable structures that are open throughout the year. Remember to bring water and wear comfortable clothing, since these hikes can take anywhere from an hour to two hours. Most of all, be sure to choose the tour that is right for you. While some tours in the early morning guarantee rare bird spotting, others may be nature tours that focus on the botanical life that surrounds you. The website below will allow you to make reservations online and give you a real sense of what you will be visiting.
La Fortuna Waterfall Tour
This staggering 70-meter high waterfall is only accessible by one route. Be prepared for a long, steep trek through the belly of the forest, but the prize is well worth it. The trail eventually ends at the foot of the falls, where the water cascades into a pond. Relax after your hike and soak in the stunning view. Make sure you bring your camera to capture the water catapulting down. Entrance to the La Fortuna Waterfall is $8, with all proceeds going to conservation efforts.
Eco Termales Hot Springs
Located near the Baldis Hotel, this family owned-and-operated hidden hot spring complex is the final word in relaxation and will make you fell like you are in a secluded sanctuary. The entrance to the springs has remained unmarked by the owner to ensure exclusivity and to be true to his intent — no large crowds. The owners would like their outdoor spa to remain “secret” and for guests to only be referred by hotels or by friends.
There are five tropical and serene pools in total and you will find only a handful of guests inside Eco Termales even during high season. Be sure to get proper directions from your hotel so that you do not miss out on this unique place. Four of the Eco Termales pools are truly thermal at about 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but the fifth pool is cold and is meant to refresh and rejuvenate all who enter. Vegetarian cuisine is available at the restaurant inside the center. We recommend that you leave the kids with a sitter when you come to Eco Termales. With all the heat and jungle around you, things could get a little steamier afterwards.
When in La Fortuna, it is impossible to the miss the 5,437-foot tall cone-like Arenal Volcano, which dominates the local skyline. But viewing the volcano up close is a completely different experience. There are multiple hiking trails that wind their way around the volcano and the bordering rainforest. Stop by Arenal Volcano National Park to also view the immense Lake Arenal, which provides hydropower for a large portion of Costa Rica and the other volcano in the area, Chato.
If you are worried that this massive mountain could explode, breathe easy because Arenal Volcano’s activity has declined significantly within the last three years. It is not uncommon, however, to catch glimpses of it smoking from the top and it is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes in the world. La Fortuna has a great deal of geothermal activity, which allows for the existence of its many hot springs and tropical landscapes. The volcano’s presence is just one sign of the heat this city is packing!
Bosque de Paz
Located in the junction between two rainforests, Bosque de Paz, or Forest of Peace, is a nature reservation that was designed to protect both forests and to inform the public about botanicals, animals, and the unparalleled beauty of Costa Rica’s nature. It is currently run by the González family who is just one group devoted to Costa Rica’s booming ecotourism and Pura Vida attitude.
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The original function of Bosque de Paz was to allow scientists from across the world to come study the local wildlife. Since then, it has flourished into a vast complex that houses many different birds species, orchids, and other plants, and allows for tours of all kinds. Bosque de Paz is literally a biological corridor that is meant to conserve nature for future generations and to teach visitors about this delicate environment.
In order to enjoy all the activities, stay a night at the beautiful Bosque de Paz Hotel. Early morning bird watching is one of the most popular tourist activities in Bosque de Paz. Be sure to wake up around 5:30 a.m. and you will find more than 360 different species of birds available for your viewing. To find the most birds, use an optical aid, like binoculars or a telescope. The 200-foot waterfall is another popular attraction and visitors can take an hour-long trail to the base of the falls. Bosque de Paz is a great way to enjoy the day with friends, family, or both.
Note from David
La Fortuna, or Arenal, is a quaint town tucked away in the northern central region of Costa Rica. The town’s main attraction is the breathtaking Arenal Volcano, whose sides are still etched with lava. To best enjoy your stay in the city, choose the Arenal Nayara Hotel, which offers high-class service and a central location to the suggestions made in this guide.
The rainforests located on the outskirts of the city are marked with some great trails that take visitors near the volcano. To truly explore the rainforest’s diverse ecosystem, take a trip on the Hanging Bridges and delve into Arenal’s wide variety of strange plants and animals. Visit the Arenal Volcano National Park and hike up to the stunning Arenal Waterfall.
Unfortunately, I did not bring my bathing suit that day, but I highly recommend you do since you can swim in the basin of the waterfalls. Eco Termales were almost deserted when I visited, so I had a great opportunity to explore the tranquil springs. They are known for their exclusivity and secrecy. They are quite romantic and a great place to visit for couples.
Though restaurants are abundant in La Fortuna, the one that absolutely cannot be missed is La Choza De Laurel. The open-air setting, and ritzy food make it a local and tourist favorite.
Unlike the rest of Costa Rica, with most attractions being beaches and surfing, La Fortuna gives those who visit it an interesting glimpse into the hidden heart of Costa Rica. The city lies on top of a very lively crust of Earth, which allows for all of La Fortuna’s natural diversity of flora and fauna. Most definitely bring your walking shoes when you come to La Fortuna because you can see most of the attractions by foot.
What are your recommendations for things to see and do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica? We would love to hear from you! Leave us a question or comment below.