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El Salto Costa Rica: Free Tarzan Rope Swing And Swimming Holes In La Fortuna / Arenal

El Salto Costa Rica: Free Tarzan Rope Swing And Swimming Holes In La Fortuna / Arenal

Last updated on June 9th, 2021 at 10:17 am EST

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 at 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. 15 years ago 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, re-fried 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!

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 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 you 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:

Best Hot Springs In Arenal: We Compare All 12 La Fortuna Hot Springs

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:

What To Pack For Costa Rica (And What Not To Pack)

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 to 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?

Pura vida!

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El Salto Costa Rica: Free Tarzan Rope Swing And Swimming Holes In La Fortuna / Arenal
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El Salto Costa Rica: Free Tarzan Rope Swing And Swimming Holes In La Fortuna / Arenal
Description
Heading to El Salto Costa Rica? We outline everything you need to know about the free tarzan rope swing and swimming holes in La Fortuna!
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The Official Costa Rica Travel Blog
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6 thoughts on “El Salto Costa Rica: Free Tarzan Rope Swing And Swimming Holes In La Fortuna / Arenal”

  • Hi Nikki! After reading your post, it sounds like taxi is the best option to arrive. However we’re staying out of the downtown area, but we’re planning to have lunch at Restaurante Tiquicia by taking our rental car. Which do you think is better- walking from the restaurant or trying to find parking along the road at El Salto? Thank you!

    • AM –
      Restaurante Tiquicia is super close to El Salto, so I’d recommend walking, assuming that the restaurant will allow you to keep your vehicle in one of their parking spots for a little while. I’d ask the restaurant staff this before you order your meal; they may be more inclined to let you park on their property for an extra hour or two if they know you’ll be paying customers. 🙂
      Pura vida!

    • Light Project Stories –
      Great question! There is no “official” parking in the form of a parking lot or secured spaces, so parking is tricky. There is a stretch of land (south of the bridge) which can fit a few cars, so if you don’t plan to go on a weekend (when El Salto tends to receive more visitors) you may get lucky and capture a spot. If attempting to do so, and assuming you are driving south (from downtown La Fortuna out to El Salto), just after you pass the road/signs on your right that lead to the waterfall, the road you are travelling on will curve to the right and dip down a bit (this is where the bridge exists and El Salto is on your left). There is not much in the way of parking on either side of the road before the bridge, but if you pass the bridge, turn around, and come back, you may be able to locate space on a flat, grassy area on the right-hand side of the road. For turning around, you can do this at the entrance of Arenal Mundo Aventura’s Ecological Park (which will be on your right shortly after driving over the bridge; the entrance is wide enough to allow you to make a u-turn on the road). As a heads up, be careful! The road around El Salto is not overly wide and drivers speed along the route. We don’t typically recommend driving to/from El Salto since parking is unreliable (and not overly safe), but if you plan to make the stop, just be extra cautious getting into and out of your vehicle, and remember to lock the doors. 🙂
      Pura vida!

    • Kara –
      Great question! There is no taxi stop directly at El Salto, so taxi’s won’t know to visit the location specifically unless you make prior arrangements with the driver (we recommend setting up a plan with a hired driver ahead of time so he/she knows to return to El Salto for you). Otherwise, taxis often drive along the road that El Salto is located close to, so you could take your chances waiting alongside the road and hailing one (although you may be waiting a while). If worse comes to worse and you cannot prearrange a ride back to town or hail a taxi on the spot, you could always walk back to town (although this walk would take about 20 minutes). 🙂
      Pura vida!

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