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La Fortuna, Costa Rica is one of the most iconic tourist destinations in all of Costa Rica. From the picture-perfect Volcan Arenal to great food to epic accommodations, travelers to La Fortuna will find everything they need to enjoy Costa Rica right in this small town.
La Fortuna is my favorite place in all of Costa Rica. It’s because travelers can experience small-town charm and epic adventure all in the same place. There’s something for every budget.
About La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna is a quaint small town at the base of the Arenal Volcano, also known as Volcan Arenal. The town itself of La Fortuna is made up of just a few square blocks, and the Catholic church is the focal point.
However, the Arenal area is expansive, spanning from the town of La Fortuna all the way to Lake Arenal. A slightly windy paved two-lane road leads about 12 kilometers between the two places, and the hotels and hot springs are strewn between the two.
La Fortuna Costa Rica Location
La Fortuna is located at the base of the Arenal Volcano, in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. It is unique in that it is about equidistant from both Costa Rica airports.
It is off of Highway 142, which winds around Lake Arenal to Highway 1 near Canas. From San Jose, the most popular route to Arenal is through the quaint town of San Ramon.
You can also go through Naranjo, stopping at the Espiritu Santo Coffee Farm, or through the sculpted gardens of Zarcero on the way there.
Getting To La Fortuna
Since La Fortuna is such a popular tourist destination, there are lots of ways to get there. You’ll find an abundance of shuttles and public buses that will take you to downtown Fortuna, or directly to your hotel.
The issue is that since the area is so spread out, if you take a bus or a shuttle, you’ll either need to pay for taxis to each of your destinations or make sure your tour company provides transport to and from your hotel as part of the tour.
For this reason, more than any other destination in Costa Rica besides Manuel Antonio, I highly recommend renting a car.
You’ll have more flexibility in heading to different places without having to rely on taxis. Plus, a lot of the places near the volcano don’t have cell service, so getting a taxi can be dicey.
Packing For La Fortuna
For a general packing list for Costa Rica, make sure to check out our post.
However, there are some special considerations when packing for La Fortuna. It rains almost every afternoon in La Fortuna, and so you will want to have really good shoes if you plan to do some hiking.
I also recommend having some sort of rain gear. However, we love the supermarket “Super Christian” in the area, and they sell ponchos for about a dollar. We usually keep those in our packs in case it rains, and leave them behind before we leave.
You’ll also want to have good waterproof sunscreen if you are heading to the hot springs during the day. The sun is strong because the altitude is a bit higher than the beach areas, and there is nothing worse than trying to get into hot springs with a sunburn. No, really.
Finally, you’ll want to have a lot of mosquito repellent. La Fortuna is in the jungle areas of Costa Rica, and there are so many mosquitos! We use the ParaKito natural bug repellent and it works great.
Where To Stay In La Fortuna
La Fortuna is dense with places to stay- although there are not many places right downtown where you can stay. Many of the hotels in La Fortuna also have hot springs on the property, making it important that you really do your research on places that you want to stay so you get a good fit.
Conversely, you can just check out our post on best places to stay in La Fortuna. A few of our very favorite places to stay include the following:
Hotel Lomas del Volcan
This quiet oasis at the bottom of the volcano is a hidden gem. The “rooms” are actually individual bungalows complete with mini-fridge, air conditioning, hot water and cable television. Each bungalow has a porch both in the front and the back, making viewing the volcano easy.
A traditional Costa Rican breakfast is included for each person with your stay. The restaurant and bar overlook the volcano, and I have to say that this is some of the best Costa Rican food I have had in the area. We ordered lunch and dinner while we stayed here because the prices were so incredible.
The drawback to the hotel is that you don’t have access to hot springs- there is a pool here but it’s pretty underwhelming. You’ll need to pay a daily fee at other hot springs if you want to enjoy them. I recommend either Baldi Hot Springs or, if you have the kids with you, definitely take them to Kalambu HOT SPRINGS.
Volcano Lodge and Springs
Volcano Lodge and Springs is one of our favorite places because it has both great hot springs and really nice rooms. While not all the rooms overlook the volcano, each one has a private terrace and some rooms (the junior suites) have their own hot tub in the shape of a volcano, which is super fun.
Each room includes a mini-fridge, air conditioning and hot water. A breakfast buffet is served each morning and included with each stay. The cafeteria here is family-owned and operated and the food is stellar. We had a lot of traditional Costa Rican food here because it was good and the prices were right. Plus, we didn’t have to leave the resort to eat, which was a plus.
Another thing we really liked about this hotel is that the pool is next to a playground, and both are near the bar/restaurant. This made it easy for us to enjoy a few drinks while the kids played nearby.
For a totally unique experience, consider staying at Rancho Margot– a fully working farm that’s great for families and young adults alike.
Expect soaring volcano views, yoga classes, night tours and a fun farm tour where the kids can feed the animals and learn about live compost.
My favorite part about Rancho Margot is that all meals are included, and the rooms are individual bungalows with hammocks on the front porch.
Looking for more unique farm stays? Check out our post: 15 Costa Rica Farm Stays You’ll Love
Tabacon Thermal Springs Hotel
This is probably the most well-known hotel in the area and for good reason. It’s the gold standard for luxury, and the hot springs on property are absolutely phenomenal.
Expect luxury when you stay here- and you should, because prices are high. We stayed here for a birthday and were amazed by how luxurious the rooms were. Our room was decorated for our daughter’s birthday, and she got presents and cake from the hotel. It was pretty cool.
There’s a hotel-only pool next to the restaurant, which gives guests the opportunity to swim with fewer people. The real draw to the hotel, though, is the unlimited access to the hot springs.
The main drawback to Tabacon is that food is not included, and the restaurants on the property are pretty expensive. Tabacon is also the last resort on the long road between La Fortuna and Lake Arenal. This means that relatively inexpensive restaurants are a long way away.
You can book Tabacon on airline points since it’s owned by Marriott, but it does fill up fast. You’ll want to book Tabacon well in advance if you plan to stay.
Where To Eat In La Fortuna
I’ve got an epic post on all the places to eat in La Fortuna, but my very favorite places are the following:
Soda La Parada
If you want authentic Costa Rican food at a great price, then Soda La Parada is the place for you. It’s located right downtown and named La Parada because it’s right in front of the public bust stop.
They have an extensive menu of over 100 dishes, a bakery, and a liquor license so they sell beer. If there is anything not on the menu that you want, they can modify it (they do vegan and gluten-free especially well.)
The prices are right, and it’s fun to be right downtown to people-watch and enjoy the church and views of the volcano. The only drawback to this restaurant is that since it is right downtown, you may have to park a few blocks away.
This pizza joint is a favorite of ours because they will do individual pizzas, and they have a nice wine list. Located on the road heading out of La Fortuna towards San Ramon, the views of the volcano are phenomenal on a clear day. The service is also fast and efficient.
Parents of younger kids will appreciate the indoor playground at the back of the restaurant. Kids can play while parents enjoy an extra glass of wine.
Restaurante Don Rufino
This restaurant is fairly fancy. It’s got elevated Costa Rican cuisine. You’ll see fresh seafood, farm-to-table ingredients, and a great cocktail menu.
Located downtown, this is the finest dining in the area, and it has the prices to match. There’s no kids’ menu, so this is a better place for a date night or adult celebration. Reservations are highly recommended.
CHECK OUT OUR POST ON THE BEST COSTA RICA GUIDEBOOKS
Things To Do In La Fortuna, Costa Rica
There is no shortage of things to do in the La Fortuna/Arenal area. Most hotels offer tours, and there are several tour operators in the area that also offer tours. Since there is such a saturation of activities and tours, you can almost always book a last-minute tour (the day before). Here are some of my favorite activities in La Fortuna. For more activities, read this post on top La Fortuna Activities.
The majestic Arenal volcano is over 5,000 feet tall, and is a majestic cone shape. It’s the centerpiece of every activity in the area, and absolutely gorgeous. While it has since gone dormant in the past years, you can still see smoke coming out occasionally.
Many people want to hike the volcano to the top- this is illegal. But you can hike through Arenal Volcano National Park. There is also the Arenal 1968 Trail. Finally, you can experience the volcano with simple and accessible hikes from the Arenal Observatory Lodge and Trails.
The natural hot springs are the star of this area- and there are a myriad to choose from. The hot water stems from the majestic Arenal volcano, and its mineral properties are great for the skin.
Soaking the hot springs at any time is amazing, but we especially like to go at night when it’s cooler. Our favorite hot springs are Baldi Hot Springs, Kalambu Hot Springs, and the reservation-only Eco Termales.
Many hotels have their own hot springs too, and the entrance fees are generally included with your room stay. Some of our favorites are Tabacon Thermal Hotel, Volcano Lodge and Springs, and Los Lagos.
I happen to think that the best zip-lining in Costa Rica is right in La Fortuna. This is because it is epic to ride the cables while looking at the volcano.
For zip lining, expect to ride through the trees at a high speed and altitude for a thrilling ride. When you arrive at the platforms, you can enjoy volcano views.
Kids as young as 4 years old can zip line, but you’ll need to call ahead and see if they offer zip lining in tandem. We love Eco Glide Arenal because they take great care of our kids and their zip lines are very safe because they keep their equipment updated.
If zipping through the trees at a high velocity isn’t your thing, you may want to consider the hanging bridges. They are high suspension bridges that tower over the trees, offering unique views of the forest below. There are two types-fixed and swinging.
People often ask me if they are afraid of heights is the hanging bridge a good idea, and I say probably not. The bridges do sway a bit, and they are super high off the ground (some as high as 300 feet.) There are two main hanging bridges in La Fortuna- Sky Adventures and Arenal Mistico. We love Arenal Mistico Hanging Bridges because they are wheelchair accessible, and self-guided, and they even rent strollers for families with young children.
If you are looking for a thrill, look no further than canyoneering in the Arenal area. You’ll rappel through waterfalls, and ford rivers, and enjoy zip line cables- all while enjoying volcano and waterfall views. My favorite company for this is Maquique Adventures.
If you want to get on the water, you can do that in the La Fortuna area as well. From whitewater rafting to the river safari floats, there is something for everyone.
Rafting is a bit more of a thrill, and definitely, the best rafting happens during the rainy season- from May-November. The river floats are perfect for families with young children and for avid bird watchers.
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The Arenal Venado caves offer a unique insight into life under the earth. Prepare to get wet as you splash through the river on your way down to the caves. You’ll see an underground waterfall, several gorgeous caverns, and even see seashells that are millions of years old.
It’s incredible to experience the jungle at night, and there is no better wat to do so than with a night tour. You’ll see reptiles you’ve never seen before, plants that come alive and night and more. Kids especially love a night tour because, well, it’s just fun to walk around with a flashlight or a headlamp. Right? I love the night tours at Eco Centro Denaus.
La Fortuna Waterfall
I include this on the list because the La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the most iconic waterfalls in the country. The hike to the falls is short but steep, and once you arrive you can bathe in the laguna at the base of the falls.
I personally think the falls have become quite overcrowded over the years, and the admission price is steep. If you are traveling elsewhere in the country where there are waterfalls then I’d skip the La Fortuna Waterfall. the iconic Blue Waterfall is only about an hour away, and a much better waterfall to view.
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Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!