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Why You Should Visit La Fortuna (Arenal) During Your Trip To Costa Rica

Why You Should Visit La Fortuna (Arenal) During Your Trip To Costa Rica

NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on July 9th, 2017.

Most travellers who choose to visit Costa Rica do so with the intent to immerse themselves in a culture different than their own. With tourism booming in Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean, part of Costa Rica’s appeal is its rawness, evidenced by its many pristine beaches, untouched protected land areas, and authentic rural areas. Its grass roots feel keeps visitors coming back time and time again, as the country hosts countless opportunities for foreigners to learn a different (and addictive) way of life above and beyond simply escaping (or taking a vacation from) the lifestyle they are used to. This being said, tourism is widespread throughout Costa Rica and there is no shortage of urbanized centers located in areas where the country has a lot to offer to international visitors. Of course, some travellers are drawn to the commercialization of these urban centers and others are turned off by it. This is no surprise as each individual’s travel preferences are without a doubt unique.

Downtown La Fortuna
Downtown La Fortuna

For this very reason, La Fortuna/Arenal is an ideal place for travellers to visit during their trip. Given the varying likes and dislikes of every traveller, the town is arguably one of the most prepared areas of Costa Rica to handle such diversity as it offers enough to see and do that is sure to please both commercial-cravers and indie-anti-tourist-trap-travellers alike. Those looking for the security that developed towns offer will find it in La Fortuna; grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, and restaurants are everywhere one looks. Two gyms, a few bars, a mail office, churches, a police station, a fire station, and clinics (both public and private) are also available. Although the abundance of souvenir shops (and the unavoidable Burger King situated along the main road) expose La Fortuna’s marketable side, do not let these sites fool (or disappoint) you. Just outside the heart of the downtown core are some of the country’s most beautiful sites full of natural flora and fauna, not to mention the feel of tranquility and ‘pura vida-ness’ that most travellers long to find in Costa Rica.

Update: There is no longer a “cheesy” (pun intended) Burger King in La Fortuna. Hurrah!

Given everything that La Fortuna has to offer–a nice mix of adrenaline-inducing adventure activities, cultural experiences, relaxation services, and wildlife-spotting opportunities–the town should be added to every traveller’s “not-to-miss” list of destinations. Here’s why we love the town as much as we do.

Looking for other Costa Rica info? Consider reading our other post:  Is Costa Rica Safe? Yes, If You Travel Consciously, Cleverly, And With Common Sense. Here's How.


Costa Rica Map
Costa Rica Map

La Fortuna (displayed on the above map under its nickname, “Arenal”) is perfectly located between the country’s two international airports (LIR Liberia and SJO San Jose). It is also only a few hours from the northern pacific coast (i.e., the Guanacaste area, home to popular beaches such as Papagayo, Hermosa, Coco, Flamingo, Conchal, and Tamarindo), the Nicoya Peninsula (home to playas Samara, Carillo, Santa Teresa, Mal Pais, Tambor, and Montezuma), as well as the central pacific coast (Herradura, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, and Dominical). To the south, La Fortuna is within easy access (via the popular van-boat-van shuttle service) to Monteverde. the heart of the Costa Rican rainforest/cloud forest, Lake Arenal to the west, and the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge to the north. Given its excellent placement, getting to and from La Fortuna and other popular locations throughout the country is easy. Public shuttle services run to/from La Fortuna multiple times daily, as do local buses. Private transportation services can be arranged to/from town, and domestic flights can be taken to/from the La Fortuna area via the nearby El Tanque airport.

Planning on using shared shuttle services throughout your Costa Rica trip? Don’t miss our exclusive free promotion code that awards travellers with a 20% discount off all of Interbus’s Costa Rica shared shuttle services! Click here to obtain the promotion code and additional discount information.

Don’t miss our related blog post:

Comparing Costa Rica’s SJO (San Jose) And LIR (Liberia) Airports


A Clear Arenal Volcano - La Fortuna
A Clear Arenal Volcano – La Fortuna

Year after year, volcano tours (which run in the morning as well as the afternoon) prove to be one of the most popular tours offerings in La Fortuna. The most visited volcano tour sites include the Arenal Volcano National Park, the 1968 Trail, and the Silencio Trail. Although the Arenal Volcano has not erupted within the past few years, the volcano remains active (or at least it is classified by volcanologists as such). It continues to have its “ups” and “downs” (or should I say, “ins” and “outs”, if judging by the amount of gas emulsion?) and visitors can still trace strains of smoke emitting from the top every so often For this reason, volcano tours remain a much desired activity in the La Fortuna region despite Arenal’s lack of red-hot lava offerings. They are rich in educational value and present a great opportunity for travellers to obtain up close and personal shots of the volcano beyond those the images that can be captured from the main street in downtown La Fortuna and/or from surrounding hotels.

Don’t miss our related blog posts:

A Walk In The Park: Arenal Volcano National Park

Silencio Trail (La Fortuna) Hike And Volcano-Viewing Experience


La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

The La Fortuna Waterfall is a great place to visit not only for its breathtaking sight, but also because it is a site that permits travellers to explore on their own (i.e., guided tours are available but they are not necessary). The entrance fee is relatively inexpensive at approximately $10 per person, and a taxi ride from downtown La Fortuna to or from most hotels within the region is about the same. The trip can be made quickly; most travellers require only an hour or two for the complete experience, depending on how much time is spent at the waterfall’s base relaxing, swimming, and/or passing the moment in awe. A small but hefty hike down a long set of rainforest stairs to the waterfall’s base (and back up to the entrance/exit upon departure) is required, however it is well worth the trip. Fortunately, visitors can stop along the way as they wish to rest (a few benches are available and scattered throughout along the trail), and most individuals and families who take their time making the hike accomplish it without issue (note: the hike is not recommended for those who have difficulty walking up/down stairs and/or have knee/leg problems). Another way to experience the La Fortuna Waterfall is to take Arenal Mundo Aventura’s Horseback Riding to the Waterfall Tour which avoids the hike steps and instead accesses the waterfall via an alternative route (adventurous travellers can also try Arenal Mundo Aventura’s Big 12 Canopy Ziplining Tour which offers a zipline cable over the La Fortuna Waterfall and a bird’s eye view of the stunning attraction below). Of course, additional waterfalls can be accessed in and around the La Fortuna area; Desafio Adventure Company runs an exhilarating waterfall rappelling tour (the Lost Canyon Adventures Canyoneering Tour) not far from La Fortuna at the Lost Canyon, Pure Trek offers a waterfall Canyoning Tour just outside of La Fortuna as well, the hiking trail at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park offers visitors a view of a waterfall along route, Sky Adventures Arenal’s Sky Walk Hanging Bridges takes hikers passed two tall waterfalls, and trips to Rio Celeste (i.e., the Tenorio Volcano National Park) offer travellers an opportunity to not only spot the brilliant-blue waters of the namesake river, but its gorgeous onsite waterfall as well.

Don’t miss our related blog post:

La Fortuna (Costa Rica) Waterfalls – Yes, There Are More Than Just One!


Springs Resort Hot Springs
Springs Resort Hot Springs

Located at the base of the Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna has no shortage of access to volcano hot springs (i.e., thermal waters naturally heated by the volcano). The four most popular in town are no doubt Baldi, Ecotermales, the Springs Resort, and Tabacon, however other additions including Los Laureles, Paradise, Los Lagos, and Kalambu have begin making a name for themselves. Baldi is a popular choice for families with younger children, backpackers, and/or travellers with a limited budget. For higher quality hot spring experiences, Ecotermales, the Springs Resort, and Tabacon are better choices. Both Ecotermales and Tabacon offer smaller properties, most often recommended to honeymooners and/or couples. During Costa Rica’s high season (dry/summer season), these two smaller hot spring properties can reach their capacity limits, in which case the much larger hot spring property offered by the Springs Resort (complete with a hot spring waterslide) is often regarded as the better choice. Regardless of your preference, advance reservations are recommended and travellers can include lunch and/or dinner with the visit to complete the experience.

Don’t miss our related blog post:

The Best Hot Springs In La Fortuna / Arenal, Costa Rica: Baldi, Ecotermales, Tabacon, Or The Springs Resort?

Costa Rica’s Springs Resort Series – Part 2: The Springs Resort Hot Springs 


Canopy Tour (Ziplining) - Arenal Mundo Aventura
Canopy Tour (Ziplining) – Arenal Mundo Aventura

La Fortuna is the epicenter of adventure in Costa Rica. Hands down, the area offers more things to do than any other location in the country. From wildlife excursions and high-adrenaline activities such as canyoneering, rafting, and ziplining, to volcano tours, relaxation hot springs, and spas, to volunteer opportunities, environmental sustainability projects, and cultural immersion activities, the region simply offers it all. For this reason, we recommend visitors come to La Fortuna with a plan to do and see a lot; packing their days with numerous tours and activities in La Fortuna is best, so the remainder of the vacation can be saved for rest and relaxation.

Looking for other Costa Rica info? Consider reading our other post:  San Jose Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Robledal; An Alajuela (SJO Airport) Hotel That Offers The Most Bang For Your Buck
Looking for other Costa Rica info? Consider reading our other post:  Arenal Hotel Recommendation: Arenal Observatory Lodge; Part 2: Nature Trails And Things To Do


Arenal Springs Resort & Spa

Since La Fortuna is such a popular place to visit, there is no shortage of accommodation options in the region. From high-rise hotels and resort-quality accommodations to low-rise hotels, bungalows, and chalet-type accommodations, to economy hotels and hostels, the town offers a bed for every traveller. For those who seek accommodations in the middle of it all, there are plenty of places to stay at directly in the heart of downtown La Fortuna (ideal for those travellers who would prefer to be close to restaurants, bars, banks, supermarkets, the central park, and anything else one would need in a home away from home). For those who prefer the outskirts (as well as those looking for spectacular volcano views), countless accommodation options are available along (or just off of) the primary road that runs around the volcano between the town of La Fortuna and Lake Arenal. Alternatively, for those looking to position themselves in nearby towns, accommodations can be found in the El Castillo and Nuevo Arenal areas; both of which are situated around the western side of the volcano on the way out of the region.

Don’t miss our related blog post:

Costa Rica Hotel Recommendation Series: Where To Stay In La Fortuna / Arenal?

Choosing A Costa Rica Hotel: Are You A Knowledgeable Traveller Or An Informed One?

Costa Rica Hotel Tip: Can You Name Your Arenal Or Monteverde Hotel?

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to La Fortuna before and enjoyed your stay? What did you like best about the area?

Pura vida!

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35 thoughts on “Why You Should Visit La Fortuna (Arenal) During Your Trip To Costa Rica”

  • Great post! I stayed and surfed in Nosara for 4 weeks then drove to Monteverde and then to La Fortuna. I loved it there. The drive around Lake Arenal was one of the coolest drives I have ever done. Everything was so awesome! I really miss it.

    • Mr. E –

      So glad to hear that you loved your time in Nosara, Monteverde, and Arenal! Costa Rica would love to have you back someday. I just read your recent post and am glad that your trip to Costa Rica made your accomplishments list for 2012 – there’s nothing like the adventure that this country offers to bring about the “change” and “feelings” that you write about.

      Pura vida!

    • Jean Alphin –
      Thanks for the comment and the visit! I love short stories and yours caught my eye. Are you writing your story day by day? Or is it already written but you prefer to post it piece by piece?
      Pura vida!

    • sojournwithstacey –
      Thank you for the re-blog! I caught on your “Stacey’s Stuff” post/page that you plan vacations for others. Do you do so via your blog or through a travel agency? If you ever have readers/clients who need advice on and/or assistance with a trip to Costa Rica, we’d be happy to help!
      Pura vida!

    • The Harrises of Chicago –
      Thank you for your comment! We hope you are able to visit soon – Costa Rica would love to have you! 🙂 If/when you are able to plan a trip, just let us know if you have any questions as we would be happy to answer them for you.
      Pura vida!

    • restlessjo –
      I wish you could make it to Costa Rica too, however you have been to so many places that I would love to know myself, so we are even. 🙂 Maybe one day we will make it to Portugal…
      Pura vida!

    • Carlene –
      Small world! We were likely down the road from you when you visited. 🙂 So glad to meet another Costa Rica visitor – all the best to you throughout 2013!
      Pura vida!

    • cyleodonnell –
      As do we! 🙂 Have you been to La Fortuna before? I know your preference is southeast Asia, but I got a sense that you have been to Costa Rica. 😉
      Pura vida!

  • Great post. I would love to visit here.
    Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate the time you took to stop by. May your day be filled with joy and peace.

    • fgassette –
      Thank you for the well-wishes and blog visit as well! I just caught your recent post re: the return of hockey. Can’t wait for what’s left of the season to begin! 🙂
      Pura vida!

  • Thanks for liking “cross-country.” I never drove across the U.S., but once hitchhiked across and saw plenty of those gas station restrooms. I’m betting nothing like them exist in Costa Rica. Thanks for the great pictures of La Fortuna and the volcano.

    • iammymission –
      Whereabouts are you living in CR? We’re so happy to hear that you enjoyed your time in Arenal. Should you decide to make another weekend trip and are in need of assistance (or have any questions you need answered) do not hesitate to send us a note ( Wishing you all the best on your mission!
      Pura vida!

  • I loooooved La Fortuna and we did almost all the things you have suggested.
    Our trip to the waterfall was done on mountain bikes – a tough gig going up those hills, but that decline was so much fun – albeit a little muddy for us that day – but that just added to the adventure ! At the waterfall we saw many toucans and a surprise guest – a sloth ! Gorgeous.
    We saw the volcano at night, and visited the hot springs. It was one of my favourite stops on our travels. Such a memorable time 🙂

    • A tale or two to tell…..
      We’re SO glad! I caught that your trip was 6-weeks across Central America. So many would think that this is a lot of time, whereas others can understand that it is hardly any time at all. We’re happy you enjoyed the time that you did have in CR, especially in La Fortuna. There’s so much more to see – perhaps you’ll make it back one day! 🙂
      Pura vida!

    • reocochran –
      We would love to hear about your travels to Costa Rica one day! 🙂 Our thanks goes out to you for your recent post “My kick the bucket list”. It brought a tear to my eye, but an inspiring smile to my face. We’re all about humility, so I have no doubt you will do as you say and humbly make a difference.
      Pura vida!

    • st sahm –
      Thanks so much! We try to provide readers/travellers with as much information as possible to help them make informed Costa Rica trip-planning decisions. We are all for the “know before you go” mentality and love helping others as best we can! 🙂
      Pura vida!

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