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. It is its grass roots feel that 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.
For this very reason, La Fortuna/Arenal is an ideal place for any traveller 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 this 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 as grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, and restaurants are everywhere you look. 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 tranquillity and ‘pura vida-ness’ that most travellers long to find in Costa Rica.
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 worth a visit. Here’s why we love this town as much as we do.
LA FORTUNA HAS ONE OF THE BEST GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY
La Fortuna 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 (the Guanacaste area – home to popular beaches such as Papagayo, Hermosa, Coco, Flamingo, Conchal, and Tamarindo), the Nicoya Peninsula (home to playas Samara, 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 popular van-boat-van shuttle services) 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.
Read our related blog post Comparing Costa Rica’s SJO (San Jose) And LIR (Liberia) Airports
IT IS HOME TO THE ARENAL VOLCANO (AND SUBSEQUENTLY, THE ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK)
Year after year, volcano tours (run during the morning as well as in the evening) 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 (this tour brings you to a point where you can stand on rocks that had once been shot out of the mighty Arenal Volcano itself), as well as the Silencio Trail (a hiking trail offering a great view of the volcano on clear days). 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 few days. For this reason, volcano tours remain a much desired activity in the La Fortuna region despite the recent lack of red-hot lava sightings. 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.
Read our related blog posts A Walk In The Park: Arenal Volcano National Park and Silencio Trail (La Fortuna) Hike And Volcano-Viewing Experience for more information regarding the national park and great hiking spots from which to view the volcano!
IT IS HOME TO THE LA FORTUNA WATERFALL – AMONG MANY OTHER BEAUTIFUL WATERFALLS
The La Fortuna Waterfall is a great place to visit – not only for its breathtaking sight, but also because it is one activity that travellers can experience on their own (guides are available, although 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 visit the waterfall in an hour or two, depending on how much time is spent at the waterfall’s base relaxing, swimming, and/or passing the moment in “awe”. A small hike down a long set of stairs to the waterfall and back up to the entrance/exit is required although well worth the trip. Of course, visitors can stop along the way as they wish to rest (a few benches are available and spaced out along the trail), so most individuals and families who take their time making the hike do so without issue. Note: the visit 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 skips the steps and finds the waterfall via an alternative route (adventurous travellers can also try Arenal Mundo Aventura’s Canopy 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 from the La Fortuna area – Desafio Adventure Company runs an exhilarating waterfall rappel (canyoneering) tour not far from La Fortuna at the Lost Canyon, the hiking trail at the Arenal Hanging Bridges offers visitors a view of a waterfall along route, Sky Adventures’ new Sky Walk tour (La Fortuna’s second hanging bridges site) takes hikers passed two tall waterfalls, and trips to the Tenorio National Park offer travellers an opportunity to not only spot the brilliant-blue waters of rio celeste, but its gorgeous on-site waterfall as well.
Read our related blog post La Fortuna (Costa Rica) Waterfalls – Yes, There Are More Than Just One!
IT IS HOME TO COUNTLESS VOLCANO HOT SPRINGS
Located at the base of the Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna has no shortage of access to volcano hot springs (thermal waters naturally heated by the volcano). The four most popular in town are no doubt Baldi, Ecotermales, the Springs Resort, and Tabacon Resort, and each offers a different experience. Newer and/or less popular alternative hot spring options include the Paradise Hot Springs and Los Laureles Hot Springs. Baldi is a popular choice for families with younger children, backpackers, and/or travellers with a limited budget. For higher quality hot spring experiences, either of the other three are better choices. Both Ecotermales and Tabacon offer smaller and more intimate settings – 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 hot spring waterslide bonus feature) is often regarded as the better choice. Regardless of your preference, advance reservations are recommended and travellers can include lunch and/or dinner to the visit to complete the entire experience.
Read our related blog post The Best Hot Springs In La Fortuna / Arenal, Costa Rica: Baldi, Ecotermales, Tabacon, Or The Springs Resort?
IT IS HOME TO MORE TOURS AND ACTIVITIES THAN ANY OTHER TOWN IN COSTA RICA
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 only to save the remainder of their vacation for some much needed rest and relaxation.
IT IS HOME TO NEARLY 100 HOTELS, RESORTS, CABINS, HOSTELS, AND B&BS
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.
Read our related blog post Costa Rica Hotel Recommendation Series: Where To Stay In La Fortuna / Arenal?
*Discounts for Costa Rica tours/activities and hotels are available through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated at: http://www.puravidaeh.ca/
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to La Fortuna before and enjoyed your stay? What did you like best about the area?