If you are going to Costa Rica it is my guess you will make a visit to the adventure capital and want to find out all the top things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica! With an abundance of outdoor activities, not to mention amazing access and views to one of the most perfectly formed volcanoes in the country, it’s no surprise that La Fortuna and Arenal are at the top of most Costa Rica itineraries. Well known as an outdoor adventurers playground, there are so many things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica for all ages. As most visits to the area are short, it’s important to determine in advance just what you want to do while you are in town. To help guide your planning process here are the top activities in La Fortuna (and Arenal) we think all families should check out.
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How to Get to La Fortuna Costa Rica
For most visitors, you will be arriving to Costa Rica at the airports in either San Jose or Liberia. Both of these airports are about 2.5 hours drive away, making both excellent options for your trip. For us in Los Angeles, often we find the best fares going into Liberia, where there are a ton of great destinations within easy reach.
In our opinion, the best way to get around Costa Rica, is by rental car. The attractions around La Fortuna are fairly spread out and not all booked activities will offer pick up services. That said, if your trip is taking you to Monteverde as well, often booking a car service is easier than renting a car for your entire trip.
On the positive side, though, both roads to La Fortuna/Arenal are well-paved (so no need for a 4WD vehicle) and are stunningly scenic, making for an easy drive even with children.
Alternatively, if you’re not comfortable driving in Costa Rica, you can easily book transfers from San Jose to La Fortuna and from Liberia (as well as to Monteverde and other destinations).
While a much slower option is public transport, that is also an option. I haven’t done it myself though as we are usually short on time!
When is the Best Time to Visit La Fortuna Costa Rica
To be honest, any time is a great time to visit La Fortuna and Arenal Costa Rica. We have been in winter (November & Feb) and in summer (July) and both had positives and negatives. In summer we had slight rain showers for a bit each day and it was hotter than in the winter months. However, the winter months had a lot more crowds and we had to book our adventures much earlier than in the summer when we could be more relaxed.
The most popular time to visit La Fortuna and Costa Rica in general is from mid-December through April, when the weather is drier and cooler. Like I mentioned above though, sites will be a lot more crowded during this time. And even though the summer is the rainy season, the country is not green without a reason – it could rain even during your winter visit!
From May through November, you can expect an afternoon rain shower, but otherwise the rest of the day is typically clear.
Are you visiting Costa Rica with young kids? Check out our fun Costa Rica Kids Book List to get them excited!
Top 13 Things to Do in La Fortuna Costa Rica
Visiting Costa Rica is a bucket list trip for many families, especially those who have animal loving kiddos like mine! We have been to Costa Rica 5 times and have found our way to La Fortuna every single time as it’s really a goldmine of great activities that welcome you back over and over again. Read on for some of our favorite things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica (and Arenal too!).
Walk Among the Trees on a Hanging Bridge
Experiencing Costa Rica’s hanging bridges is a must do. It is one of the quintessential traveler photos of the country and for good reason. They are super cool! There are two main options for walking above the trees in the Arenal/La Fortuna area, Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park and Sky Walk.
The hanging bridges at Mistico are our top choice for visitors with a 2 mile trail taking in 6 hanging bridges. The Mistico Hanging Bridges trail is even more fabulous when paired with a naturalist guide. I promise your experience will be much greater with a guide than it would be on your own. The guide is able to point out sleeping sloths hidden high in the treetops, find the howler monkeys making a ruckus in the distance and so many hidden snakes and birds that you just wouldn’t see on your own. If you are short on time and want to take in several of the major La Fortuna sites in one day, we highly recommend this tour which takes in our top picks!
Search for Sloths with an Expert Guide
The reality is that all of us arrive to Costa Rica with one thing on our bucket list.. to see a sloth in action or inaction as it may be! We have had some really amazing experiences with sloths in Costa Rica and it is our number one thing we tell friends that they must do while in the country. Seek out a sloth! One of the best ways to do this in La Fortuna is to go with an expert guide who will take you into the forest in search of these adorable, fuzzy and sometimes mossy creatures.
Callidryas Sloth Tours are led by expert guides who are have a serious passion for wildlife and helping guests see and learn about them too. The guides are will share all about the local flora and fauna as you seek out your fuzzy oso perezosos (direct translation in Spanish is lazy bear)!
While you might balk at the $60 per person price tag, I promise it will be worth it. The price of the tour includes transportation to and from the rainforest, the guide, and even some post tour snacks.
This tour is a must-do for anyone looking to spot wildlife here in the La Fortuna area.
Soak in Thermal Hot Springs
One of the best things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica (and Arenal) after a long day out (or as its own all day adventure) is to spend some time at one of the many local hot springs. There are small springs more suited for couples as well as large all inclusive springs perfect for the entire family. Some hot springs in La Fortuna consist of hot thermal water being pumped in from underground into man made pools with concrete floors while others provide a more eco-friendly natural setting with free flowing springs and dirt/rock floors.
Some of our favorites and the best places to get your thermal spa on include the family friendly Baldi Resort Hotel and Spa ($39 entrance fee for an all day pass for adults at the time of writing). Ecotermales Hot Springs is a little more expensive at around $44 a day, but so great. And finally still on the budget friendly relm is the Volcano Lodge Hotel & Thermal Spa.
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After visiting a few different hot springs, my pick would be to make a big splurge on Tabacon Hot Springs if it’s in your budget and you have a full day or at least a good half day to spend at the springs. This luxurious property will spoil you with tons of natural hot springs pools of varying temperatures (the hottest ones we found in Arenal) set in a beautiful natural setting. To be honest if you can make it to any of the ones above you will have a great experience. It is such a wonderful way to experience the Pura Vida of Costa Rica.
Zipline Through the Forest Canopy
One of the other main activities that people associate with Costa Rica is zip lining. On our first few trips we were too scared to try it, but as my son got older we also got more adventurous! One of the most highly recommended companies in the La Fortuna area is Sky Adventures. They were great with our super scared selves and helped my son really have a blast.
If zip lining is not your thing, you can still head over to take a ride in the gondola up to the top of the rain forest and walk along their hanging bridges. We also really enjoyed their nature hike with a tour guide. Note that kids must be a minimum of 47 inches to participate in the zip lining. Parents need stomachs of steel!
Go White Water River Rafting
La Fortuna is known as the outdoor lovers destination and the place for adrenaline sports. It makes sense that La Fortuna is also the hub for river rafting trips in the country. While most rivers to raft are actually a few hours away from the city, this is the place that most tours leave from. There are tours from the city going to the Arenal River to the Rio Balsa, both offering varying levels of difficulty.
For adventure seeking families, this is one the top things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica! During high season, we recommend booking in advance, but during the shoulder seasons you can often book when you get to town.
TOP TIP: If you are short on time while visiting La Fortuna and Arenal, but have a lot on your wishlist, consider combining a few activities in a single day tour. Often the amount of money you save by combining activities saves you in the long run of having to add a day on to your trip! To make the most of your few days in La Fortuna, check out these tours:
Visit Arenal Volcano on Horseback or Foot
The main attraction that originally put La Fortuna on the tourist circuit is the Arenal Volcano, which is located 30 minutes from La Fortuna proper. Until around 2010, this volcano was continually smoking, however it now lays quiet. However, this bio-rich area is well worth exploring either on foot or on horseback and is why there are so many cool features in La Fortuna to investigate.
We have explored the Arenal Volcano National Park both on horseback and doing an Arenal volcano hike with a guide. Crossing cool streams or rocky lava fields by horseback means you can take in the scenery easily, all while making the journey one of the most memorable parts of the adventure. By foot, you will be sure to spot all the various wildlife that calls the Arenal area home. One place of particular interest is the Arenal 1968 trail which is where you can see forests and lava fields.
Exploring Arenal Volcano National Park is a wonderful way to get a more in depth look at the landscape. For those interested in a guided hike, we highly recommend this tour. Otherwise, The Springs Resort and Arenal Observatory Lodge both offer horseback riding on their property if you want a short ride with experienced guides.
The Springs Resort also offers day passes to their Club Rio which includes the opportunity for tubing down the river, rappelling, horseback riding, lounging in hot springs and more. This is a great way to experience the resort without staying there!
|Which one is best for your visit – Monteverde or La Fortuna/Arenal? Read our Recommendations Here!|
Hike and Swim at La Fortuna Waterfall
Guided hikes through the lush rainforests surrounding the Arenal Volcano National Park are a highlight, but for families looking for a little less of a hike, and a little more fun, a visit to the La Fortuna Waterfall is a wonderful adventure. Hiking down the 500 steps is pretty easy, except all the while you know you have to climb back up later! It’s made easier with benches every so often to rest. Take your swim gear and a packed lunch to spend a good deal of time playing in the waterfall pool and river along the side.
While many people do this on their own, if you want to learn more about the waterfall and the surrounding area, you can also take a guide tour. The waterfall is usually included on many day tours of the town.
Entrance fee and operating hours: La Fortuna Waterfall is open from 7 AM to 5 PM everyday and costs $18 per person (at the time of writing). Even though it feels quite expensive for a waterfall, the area is beautiful and it’s well worth it.
Bonus Waterfall Worth Checking Out: Rio Celeste
In the Tenorio Volcano National Park is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country and is super Instagram famous for good reason. Rio Celeste waterfall is a sight to see. Located about 1.5 hours from La Fortuna, it is an all day trip. If you happen to be flying in Liberia, it’s a great stop over on your way
Get out on Lake Arenal: Kayak or SUP
One of the best things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica is get out on the water. The most popular activities on Lake Arenal are kayaking and SUPing. You can also find a few boat tours to get out and see the beautiful views from the water. There are various options for private paddle board experiences, kayaking tours and boat rides.
Tour a Coffee Farm
If you have had enough of the adrenaline activities and are looking for more cultural type activities, one of the best things to do in La Fortuna and the surrounding areas is to tour a coffee farm. We actually visited the Doka Estate en route to La Fortuna from San Jose airport and loved it. Here my son was able to rake coffee beans on the coffee tour, test out the different types, see the entire process from tree to package and of course try some too. We highly recommend it if you have time between your flight and your arrival in La Fortuna. From town itself, you could check out this great coffee farm tour.
Rainforest Night Walks
One of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica is to go on a night walk looking for the creepy crawlies of the night. Our favorite place to do this is in Monteverde, but if you are not going there, then make sure to do a walk here in La Fortuna. For families, don’t worry about needing to stay up too late, these tours tend to run from 6-8 p.m. making it great even for the smallest in the family!
A highly rated tour in La Fortuna worth exploring is this Evening frog tour, that takes in all sorts of cool creatures of the night. This is a top thing to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica.
Learn all about the Production of Chocolate
One of the best things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica with kids is learning all about their favorite sweet! Something we have experienced now in a few countries, but never get tired of checking out is a chocolate tour. Bananas and coffee are Costa Rica’s primary crops, however, cacao was once the main crop and was even used as currency! We have been to a great
The Don Olivio Chocolate Tour ($25/person) is a locally-owned and operated farm where you’ll get to see (and, more importantly, taste!) the tropical fruits, chocolate, and coffee the family grows on their stunning property. And extra bonus- this is usually a great place to spot sloths!
Another option to consider is the more chocolate centered tour at the Rainforest Chocolate Tour ($30/person), where you’ll actually get to make your own chocolate creation at the end!
Volunteer with Animals
If you have serious animal lovers and like to help out in places when you travel, consider a volunteer package at the Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center. They offer both short term (for the day) or longer term volunteer opportunities. Volunteers help with the care and feeding of the animals that are rescued in the wild due to injury or other problems. You can see spider monkeys, sloths, raccoons and more. We found this to be a great way to get to know the animals of Costa Rica more personally as well as get to spend a day with locals chatting and learning more about their country and culture. If your kids aren’t that interested in ‘working’ while on holiday, but you haven’t gotten your fill of the wildlife, stop into the wildlife refuge at The Springs Resort.
When we visited Costa Rica with Intrepid Travel, we also had a great opportunity to volunteer with a sloth rehabilitation program, which made our entire trip! We find these are some of the best things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica.
Eat Local Food
With so many things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica, it’s easy to overlook one of the best things to do.. EAT! Costa Rica is an easy place to eat for families as long as you like beans and rice! The staple foods here tend to be quite plain and simple, which is pleasing to most of the littles. Take time to eat at the local sodas, which are essentially family-owned restaurants similar to what the 50s diners are to Americans. Most sodas serve up traditional Costa Rican food like marinated beef, fried chicken, grilled fish with a plate of caramelized plantains and rice and beans. Apart from these traditional meals, make sure to stop into a Costa Rican favorite POPS for dessert. The cas flavored ice cream here is a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
Where to Stay in La Fortuna
There are so many places to stay in La Fortuna, I couldn’t even begin to list them all. I will share the few places we have stayed on our various trips as well as a few other wishlist places I still hope to stay at some day! If you don’t have a car, you might want to try to stay more near the center of town. Check out this interactive map that will show everything that is currently available for your travel dates.
Some of our favorites on our trips include:
- Arenal Hostel Resort: This hostel is located in the middle of downtown La Fortuna making it convenient whether you have a car or not. The hostel has both dorm and private rooms making it perfect for solo budget travelers as well as small families or couples.
- San Bosco Inn: This is where we stayed on our Costa Rica Intrepid Tour and we loved it. It was clean and super convenient to walking around town.
- The Springs: One of the most family friendly resorts in the La Fortuna area is the Springs Resort. The property has views of the volcano- so get ready to have incredible views while you’re swimming, soaking in hot spring… and pretty much everywhere else on the property. With a myriad of activities on site you could easily spend several days here taking in the sights without even leaving the property!
- Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa: My dream hotel in La Fortuna is the Tabacon. We have spent time at the hot springs, and have longed to stay in a room too! This is 5 star luxury at its best.
Packing for La Fortuna Costa Rica
One of the hardest parts of travel for many people is figuring out what to pack when you don’t know a country or destination well. In general I have found that our packing list for Southeast Asia is pretty similar to what we would take to Central America too. Although these days both my son and I wear almost all wool, which has really changed the way we travel and what we take. Wool really is the best travel fabric, but if you aren’t on that wagon yet, here are some of our must pack items for Costa Rica and La Fortuna in particular.
- Rain Gear: Regardless of what time of year you visit, you will probably need a light rain jacket or poncho and shoes that can get wet
- Shoes: Hiking sandals are extremely useful in Costa Rica rather than hiking boots or running shoes. While many will prefer to bring both, we have found that these hiking sandals work really well.
- Camera Gear: If you are like us, you will want to take a million photos of the various wildlife in the country. We suggest a great lens for low light (night walks) as well as a zoom to get closer to the wildlife than you can in person.
- Mosquitos: We highly recommend you spray your clothes with this before you leave home. You will also like having these mosquito bracelets and spray.
- Quick Dry Towel: You will love having this at the hot springs and for any beach time. This is my favorite!
- Phone Protection: If you are going to the hot springs, this will be a must have!
- Light waterproof backpack: This bag has literally been with us from sea to summit and withstood a rainstorm on the beach in Costa Rica keeping all my camera gear dry. It packs TINY and is worth the price.
- Water Bottle: We do not travel anywhere without out Hydro Flask Water bottles. Saves the planet from excess plastic and keeps us hydrated with cold water all day long.
- Water Purifier: If you want to make sure water is safe to drink, you can take this super lightweight and very fast water filter. We use it for backpacking and travel.
- Battery Pack: I never leave home without this battery pack. It is tiny, but charges my phone 3+ times which means I always have the ability to keep taking photos or mapping out our day while on the road.
Have you been ? What were your favorite things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica?
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