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Want to know our pick for the MOST CONVENIENT WATERFALL TO VISIT in Costa Rica?
It is featured on DIY Costa Rica!
THE MAIN ATTRACTION: THE LA FORTUNA WATERFALL
Although there are more La Fortuna waterfalls worthy of a visit beyond the most popular in Costa Rica’s Arenal region, naturally the most obvious choice is the La Fortuna waterfall–a great sight and certainly the most visited waterfall in the La Fortuna area. It is breathtaking and one of those not-to-miss items that most travellers should include on their Costa Rica to-do list. Fortunately for individuals travelling on a tight budget, visits are a relatively inexpensive experience. Although La Fortuna waterfall tour guides are available and valuable (don’t miss our related blog post Guided Tours In Costa Rica: Are They Necessary, Valuable, And/Or Worthwhile? for our reasoning in support of hiring tour guides), they are not required in order to access the La Fortuna waterfall’s entrance, nor are they required to hike to the La Fortuna waterfall’s base. In addition, the La Fortuna waterfall entrance fee is affordable (approximately $10.00/person), as is getting to and from the attraction. Individuals with a rental car will find that the La Fortuna waterfall is located only a few minutes (an easy and gas-saving drive) outside of downtown La Fortuna, and individuals in the downtown core who are taxi-dependent will pay only $10.00 for the one-way trip. It is also worth noting that visits to the La Fortuna waterfall fit into most travellers’ trip itineraries flawlessly; the average La Fortuna waterfall visit duration is an hour or two, depending on how much time you wish to spend at the bottom of the waterfall relaxing, swimming in the river (if you wish to do so), and passing the moment in awe.
HOW DIFFICULT IS THE LA FORTUNA WATERFALL HIKE?
If you have researched La Fortuna waterfall visits to any degree, you have likely heard that the trek down to the base of the waterfall (and back up again) is a challenging one. We sit atop the fence on this topic, as we have had just as many child travellers claim that the hike wasn’t bad as we have had fit adults complain about the steps. Truly, the truth about the La Fortuna Waterfall’s difficulty is in the eye of the beholder, and the best way that travellers can prepare themselves for the experience is to learn the facts in advance to minimize surprises encountered along the way. Since we have visited the La Fortuna waterfall more times than we could ever count, here’s what you should know before making a decision whether a visit would be the best for you.
THE LA FORTUNA WATERFALL HIKE: WHAT TO EXPECT
During one of our first visits to the La Fortuna waterfall we counted the total number of hiking steps in order to let travellers (and our faithful blog readers) know exactly what they are in for. There are approximately five hundred and fifty steps to and from the waterfall (each way). Of the five hundred and fifty total, approximately three hundred and fifty of these steps are inclining or declining steps (envision stairs) which are not overly daunting when walking down to the waterfall but can be awfully tiring during the hike back up. Of course, it is possible to tackle the “stairway to heaven” at your own pace–stopping along the way as you wish to rest–so keep in mind that it is not necessary to make the hike back up in one swift marathon-winning-worthy swoop.
- Although bathrooms are located at the La Fortuna waterfall entrance (before the stairs that lead to the base of the waterfall), bathrooms are not available throughout the course of the hike, nor are there bathrooms at the end of the hike where the waterfall’s river is located. If you wish to swim in the river at the bottom of the La Fortuna waterfall, be sure to wear your bathing suit under your clothes or else change into it using the bathrooms located at the entrance.
- Upon your return to the La Fortuna waterfall’s entrance/exit, souvenirs marking your visit are available for purchase–that is, if you are looking for something beyond the incredible photos and the tender thigh muscles you will get out of the authentic rainforest experience.
In deciding whether a visit to the La Fortuna waterfall would be a good choice for you, realize that a hike down a long set of stairs to the waterfall’s base and back up to the entrance/exit is required, however the difficulty is well worth the trip for most travellers. Although physically challenging, our eight and ten year old niece and nephew made the trek without problem, so the experience is by no means an impossible one for the average traveller to accomplish. This being said, we do not recommend the La Fortuna waterfall hike to travellers who have difficulty walking up/down stairs, who have knee/leg problems (or other health problems worsened by physical activity), and/or anyone who is pregnant.
LA FORTUNA WATERFALL TOURS
As noted above, guided tours of the La Fortuna waterfall are available. In addition, a variety of combo tours (that include a tour of the La Fortuna Waterfall in addition to a second experience, such as a Canyoneering Tour, a Chocolate Tour, or a Hanging Bridges Tour) are a popular choice among travellers who wish to make the most of their time in the Arenal area.
If you have an interest in horseback riding, we love Arenal Mundo Aventura’s guided horseback riding to the waterfall tour; it includes a naturalist guide, transportation to/from La Fortuna hotels, the La Fortuna waterfall entrance fee, and a horseback ride.
- If you would prefer not to visit the La Fortuna waterfall with Arenal Mundo Aventura via a horseback ride, the tour may also be taken via a tractor ride.
Alternatively, if you plan to zipline while in La Fortuna, consider Arenal Mundo Aventura’s canopy ziplining tour. Not only does the tour pass by the Pino Blanco waterfall, but also offers a zipline cable that runs directly over the top of the La Fortuna waterfall
- Arenal Mundo Aventura‘s canopy ziplining tour can also be combined with their guided horseback riding tour to the La Fortuna Waterfall for those travellers looking to double their waterfall experience!
Don’t miss our La Fortuna waterfall discounts:
OTHER ARENAL WATERFALLS WORTH A VISIT
Did you know that there are more La Fortuna waterfalls worthy of a visit beyond the most popular in Costa Rica’s Arenal region? When in La Fortuna, consider experiencing the following Arenal waterfalls too.
The Rio Celeste waterfall (a.k.a the Tenorio National Park waterfall)
Tours to Rio Celeste (located inside the Tenorio National Park) run daily from La Fortuna/Arenal and offer travellers the opportunity to not only spot the brilliant blue waters of Rio Celeste, but also its gorgeous waterfall.
Rio Celeste is beautiful enough to deserve its own article, however its waterfall is so stunning that it is worth a mention. Once at Rio Celeste, there are two ways travellers can explore the area; for one, you can take the longer of the two routes which includes a visit to the waterfall, or else an easier route that excludes it. Upon our first visit to Rio Celeste many years ago, our time was slightly limited and we opted for the shorter route. Loving every inch of the hike from start to the finish (we will argue any day that Rio Celeste is the goldilocks of La Fortuna/Arenal hikes, as it is not too easy, not too difficult, but juuuust right), we decided halfway through our visit to change course (literally) and take the longer route. Since we had made this decision well into the hike, we could no longer follow the map we had been given at the park’s entrance which would have led us around in a circle to the waterfall. Instead, we ended up backtracking a bit, only to find ourselves clinging to the side of a rock face with minimal solid footing, braving boiling fumaroles in our faces until we made it to the waterfall. Was the end result worth the death-defying journey? One hundred and ten percent.
Ok, truth be told, the experience was not as dramatic as we have made it out to be. It was actually a lot of fun, and regardless of how we ended up at the Rio Celeste waterfall, we bore witness to its breathtaking sight. Our advice to potential Rio Celeste travellers, however, is to visit Rio Celeste with intent to see the waterfall; plan for this attraction from the start and take the appropriate hiking route. Otherwise, if you are at all indecisive and fearless as we are, you’re in for quite an adventure!
Don’t miss our Rio Celeste tour discounts:
Sky Adventures Arenal’s Sky Walk hanging bridges waterfalls
A number of years ago, Ricky and I stumbled upon two waterfalls in La Fortuna that neither of us knew existed. We were invited by our friends and business partners at Sky Adventures Arenal to try their new Sky Walk hanging bridges tour that had only recently opened. Although this post is not meant to be a review of the Sky Walk tour, Sky Adventures Arenal‘s tour site, or our experience overall (another post, another day), the new Sky Walk hanging bridges tour is worth mentioning in this post for its two hidden waterfalls that travellers pass along the way. Since the Sky Walk hanging bridges tour can be conducted together with the Sky Tram aerial tram ride and/or the Sky Trek canopy ziplining tour, the waterfall sightings are an added bonus to an already great rainforest experience.
Don’t miss our Sky Adventures Arenal Park’s Sky Walk hanging bridges tour savings:
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park’s waterfall
For those of you who do not plan on visiting Sky Adventures Arenal‘s Sky Walk hanging bridges while in La Fortuna, you can also catch a waterfall at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park (La Fortuna’s other hanging bridges attraction). For more information about hiking the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, including the option to catch a side trail (off the main trail) that leads down to a waterfall, and capturing a view of the cascade from above via the park’s waterfall bridge, you may be interested in reading our related post A Step By Step Guide (Literally) To Costa Rica’s Arenal Hanging Bridges.
Don’t miss our Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park’s hanging bridges tour discounts:
Lost Canyon waterfall
For a complete account of our experience with the Lost Canyon waterfall in Costa Rica, don’t miss our related blog post Canyoneering In Costa Rica: Adrenaline And Assurance Found At The Lost Canyon. Since canyoneering (or canyoning, as the activity is commonly referred to as), is essentially a waterfall rappelling exercise, waterfalls are inherent in tour participation. Fortunately, a number of tour operators in the La Fortuna region offer waterfall rappelling tours, including Desafio Adventure Company, Pure Trek, Arenal Mundo Aventura, and Sky Adventures Arenal, so opportunities to experience additional La Fortuna waterfalls are abundant. If you’re looking for an extreme waterfall-related activity, don’t miss the Gravity Falls Waterfall Jumping Tour!
Don’t miss our waterfall rappelling (i.e., canyoneering and/or canyoning) tour discounts:
Pacuare River waterfalls
Ok, this last one is a bit of a cheat. Although the Pacuare River is not located in the La Fortuna region, Pacuare River rafting tours run to/from La Fortuna, which makes the river’s multiple waterfalls (set in the heart of the Costa Rican jungle) accessible to visitors who opt to visit Arenal region.
Don’t miss our Pacuare River rafting tour discounts:
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: How high does a visit to a waterfall rank on your trip “to-do” list?
Are you a visual learner? Take a moment to view our gallery photos below from some of our waterfall experiences.