El Salto Costa Rica: Free Tarzan Rope Swing And Swimming Holes In La Fortuna / Arenal
Last updated on May 10th, 2022 at 10:58 am EST
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- Free Tarzan rope swing and swimming holes in La Fortuna
- El Salto Costa Rica disclaimer
- What is El Salto Costa Rica?
- El Salto Costa Rica’s main swimming hole and Tarzan rope swing
- El Salto Costa Rica’s lesser-known swimming hole
- Where to find the free Tarzan rope swing and swimming holes in La Fortuna
- El Salto Costa Rica visit tips and things to know before you go
- Map of El Salto Costa Rica
Free Tarzan rope swing and swimming holes in La Fortuna
Traveling around Costa Rica on a tight budget? If so, don’t miss the free Tarzan rope swing and swimming holes in La Fortuna that the locals (us included) call El Salto Costa Rica. This hidden spot is a great place to relax where you can cool off in brisk river water on a hot day in Arenal.
El Salto Costa Rica disclaimer
El Salto Costa Rica is neither a popular tourist attraction nor a particularly safe place. It’s merely a roadside swimming hole tucked under a bridge. If you’re in search of privacy, romance, or a place where young children can wade in calm and shallow waters, skip the free Tarzan rope swing and swimming holes described in this article in favor of visiting one of La Fortuna’s many hot springs attractions. For suggestions and details, don’t miss our related blog post: Best Hot Springs In Arenal: We Compare All 12 La Fortuna Hot Springs.
What is El Salto Costa Rica?
With the above disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about what El Salto Costa Rica is and why you might want to visit.
First and foremost, El Salto Costa Rica is a free hangout place frequented by both Costa Ricans and foreigners. People visit the spot to swim (in Rio Fortuna), give the Tarzan rope swing a go, enjoy a picnic, and/or relax.
As locals who have resided in La Fortuna for many years, we’ve visited El Salto Costa Rica numerous times and we keep going back. It’s a fun and carefree place to be, though it’s a lot more popular these days than it used to be. Back in the mid-to-late-2000s, we’d have the place all to ourselves. We’d sunbathe along the riverbed unbothered, use the rope swing without waiting in a line, and even kayak over the El Salto Waterfall into an unoccupied river pool below. Here are some old videos I dug up of Ricky using the rope swing and kayaking over the El Salto Waterfall. Pardon the poor resolution; these videos were shot when digital cameras were “new advanced technology.” 😉
El Salto Costa Rica’s main swimming hole and Tarzan rope swing
The Tarzan rope swing you’ll find at El Salto Costa Rica is the site’s main attraction. Look for the rope hanging from a tree near the rocky cliff on the northeast side of the waterfall. Daredevils who opt to make the jump (El Salto translates to “The Jump” in Spanish) launch themselves off the cliff into the swimming pool below. If you’d prefer a more relaxing swim and less excitement, don’t miss El Salto Costa Rica’s second swimming hole (continue reading below).
El Salto Costa Rica’s lesser-known swimming hole
You may have heard about El Salto Costa Rica’s primary swimming hole (where you’ll find the El Salto Waterfall, the rope swing, and most visitors), but you may be surprised to learn that there’s a second (free) swimming spot slightly downriver.
To reach the second swimming spot, follow El Salto Costa Rica’s main trail where it travels east of the Tarzan rope swing. After an approximate 5-minute downhill hike, the trail connects with a lower section of Rio Fortuna (the Fortuna River) where you can wade in the river’s flow. Be sure to keep young children within arm’s reach; the river’s current here is swift and steady. Bask in the sunshine while you perch yourself on river rocks or enjoy a picnic lunch at the tranquil spot. Ricky and I usually pack fresh fruit, nacho chips, refried beans, costillas (pastries), and cookies whenever we’re bound for El Salto Costa Rica.
Where to find the free Tarzan rope swing and swimming holes in La Fortuna
El Salto Costa Rica is located an approximate 3-minute drive south of downtown La Fortuna. The route is sometimes walked or biked by energetic and fearless visitors, but we don’t recommend this. The road doesn’t have a sidewalk and cars drive particularly fast along this section of road that sits just outside of town. Use a taxi to get to and from El Salto Costa Rica if you don’t have access to a rental car or you don’t want to drive yourself.
Visiting El Salto Costa Rica via taxi
If you take a taxi to El Salto Costa Rica, the driver will drop you off at the side of the road just before or after a small bridge. There is no formal or official entrance. You should hear water rushing nearby. Once at the bridge, carefully climb down the rocky terrain on the east side of the road (the side opposite the Arenal Volcano). The climb takes roughly 30 seconds. At the base of El Salto Costa Rica, you’ll see the primary swimming hole. If you prefer not to swim, you can sit on the area’s surrounding rocks and sunbathe or watch other people give the rope a go. Enjoy!
Visiting El Salto Costa Rica via rental car
If you plan to drive yourself to and from El Salto Costa Rica, take the road that leads out of downtown La Fortuna to the south in the direction of San Ramon (Road #702). Continue driving on this road for 2-3 minutes. Along the way, you’ll pass a road to your right that is marked for the La Fortuna Waterfall (Diagonal #301 as seen on Google Maps). Approximately 50 meters after you pass that road you’ll approach a small bridge signed as Rio Fortuna. El Salto Costa Rica lies beneath the bridge. If you pass the large entrance for the tour operator Arenal Mundo Aventura on your right, you’ve just missed the bridge and will need to turn around.
If you’re feeling risky, you can park along the side of the road either before or after the bridge. This is the only parking nearby, however, spots are neither marked, official, or secure. Theft from vehicles has occurred in the area. A local police officer makes occasional rounds at El Salto Costa Rica to warn visitors of the dangers of leaving cars unattended in the area (Ricky is pictured above speaking to one). If you’re worried about parking your car at El Salto Costa Rica, take a taxi to and from the site instead. This will avoid the problem of theft and will also limit opportunities for vehicle vandalism, getting a parking ticket, or being stuck without a place to park if all spots are taken when you arrive.
Once you’ve parked your vehicle, carefully climb down the rocky terrain on the east side of the road (the side opposite the Arenal Volcano). The climb takes roughly 30 seconds. At the base of El Salto Costa Rica, you’ll see the primary swimming hole. If you prefer not to swim, you can sit on the area’s surrounding rocks and sunbathe or watch other people give the rope a go. Enjoy!
Visiting El Salto Costa Rica with Desafio Adventure Company
Shortly before the pandemic, Desafio Adventure Company—one of La Fortuna’s most popular tour operators—moved part of its operations from downtown La Fortuna to a riverside property beside El Salto. A short trail leads from Desafio Adventure Company‘s new property to the swimming hole and Tarzan rope swing, which participants of Desafio Adventure Company‘s tours are welcome to access for free. Though El Salto Costa Rica is a public space that everyone is welcome to use, one advantage to visiting the site as a guest of Desafio Adventure Company is you can leave your rental car in their private parking lot. So, if you’re thinking about participating in one or more of Desafio Adventure Company‘s tours, and you’d also like to visit El Salto during your time in La Fortuna, consider coupling the experiences on the same day. If you’re looking to save money on Desafio Adventure Company‘s tours while you plan your trip, don’t miss the discounts we provide on our sister site, Pura Vida! eh? Inc.
El Salto Costa Rica visit tips and things to know before you go
El Salto Costa Rica is not particularly safe.
The free swimming holes and Tarzan swing in La Fortuna hide among the forest. There are no lifeguards on duty to monitor water activities, there are no staff members around to monitor conduct (though a police officer sometimes keeps watch of the spot), and there are no public phones in the area to call for help if or when it is needed. In addition, the river can be rough at times and river rocks can be slippery. Visits to El Salto Costa Rica aren’t recommended if you’re the type of traveler who prioritizes safety over monetary savings.
Do not visit El Salto Costa Rica after dark.
As we touch on in our related blog post Is Costa Rica Safe? Yes, If You Do This., several places in Costa Rica (including the beach and ATMs, to name a few) should be avoided after dark. The free Tarzan rope swing and swimming holes in La Fortuna are no exception. In fact, the site’s off-road positioning down an unlit path tucked under a road is one of the most dangerous places we could envision a traveler being late at night. If you absolutely must visit El Salto Costa Rica, do so in the middle of the day when there are likely to be other people around, and daylight to guide your way. If you’re looking for a place where you can swim at night, consider visiting one of La Fortuna’s many hot springs attractions instead.
Want to swim after dark? Head to the hot springs instead. To learn more about La Fortuna’s hot springs, see our related blog post:
Bring/leave personal items at your own risk
Since you probably don’t want to bring personal belongings such as clothes and shoes into the water with you, you’ll need to leave these items on rocks alongside the river. Don’t bring any valuables with you to El Salto Costa Rica because there’s no secure place to leave them. If you absolutely must bring important items with you to the swimming holes and Tarzan rope swing in La Fortuna, such as car keys or hotel keys, store the items in a waterproof container that can be safely tied to your body so the items can accompany you while you swim. Don’t miss our related blog post What To Pack For Costa Rica (And What Not To Pack) for tips on other items you may want to bring to Costa Rica.
For more information about what to bring to Costa Rica and our item recommendations, don’t miss our related blog post:
Be aware that there are no bathrooms on-site.
This point goes without saying: when you gotta go, you gotta go. Unfortunately, El Salto Costa Rica is not equipped to handle such emergencies.
Change into your bathing suit before leaving your hotel.
El Salto Costa Rica doesn’t provide a change room or a bathroom, so make sure you’re wearing your bathing suit when you arrive. Realize that when you’re finished swimming or enjoying the Tarzan rope swing, you’ll need to wear your wet bathing suit wherever you’re headed next. There’s nowhere to change out of your suit upon departure, so be sure to bring a towel to best dry yourself off.
Do not plan to visit El Salto Costa Rica immediately after participating in another excursion.
Some travelers opt to visit El Salto Costa Rica immediately after participating in an adventure tour, after wrapping up a shopping trip in downtown La Fortuna, or after finishing some other experience. We don’t recommend doing this. If you visit the swimming holes and Tarzan rope swing following another activity, you’re likely to have important items with you, such as high-quality apparel or footwear used during an excursion or souvenirs purchased during a shopping spree. Each item you bring to El Salto Costa Rica is an item at risk of getting lost, broken, or stolen. To help minimize those risks, keep visits to La Fortuna’s swimming holes and Tarzan rope swing coordinated to and from your hotel.
Map of El Salto Costa Rica
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to El Salto Costa Rica? What did you think?