Planning a trip to Costa Rica? You don’t want to miss out on La Fortuna and Arenal! From lush tropical jungles and vibrant wildlife, to stunning waterfalls and white-water rafting opportunities, this Central American paradise is truly full of wonders.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting Arenal and La Fortuna – from what activities are available, where to stay, and how to get around. So let’s get started – brush up on your Spanish and pack your bags for an adventure of a lifetime!
Named after the La Fortuna waterfall, La Fortuna is an ideal destination for all types of travellers.
In la Fortuna and Arenal you can find plenty of activities to choose from.
You can enjoy hot springs, horseback riding, rappelling, ziplining, swimming in the La Fortuna Waterfall, coffee or chocolate tours and hiking around the Arenal Volcano.
We took the Don Olivio Chocolate Tour. It was nice but it was more like fruit tasting than chocolate. I was amazed by how chocolate looks like!
La Fortuna is the perfect place to set off on an adventure, with a variety of trails that offer incredible views. From easy hikes, where you can casually observe the wildlife and nature around you, to more challenging 8-hour treks leading up to Arenal Volcano’s summit.
La Fortuna downtown
After a day of exploring and adventuring, take some time to relax in the downtown of La Fortuna.
The downtown area is filled with a variety of hotels, restaurants, and activities for you to enjoy.
The restaurants that we enjoyed the most where:
El Corral de Garra Pata
Blue Hibiscus Restaurant (maybe the best food we had in Costa Rica overall)
Where to Stay in La Fortuna
The best accommodations and campsites are just outside La Fortuna.
I would suggest you to consider staying in a hotel with hot springs.
Things to Avoid in La Fortuna
If you’re looking for a chance to see some sloths, avoid visiting the sloth park. The entrance fee is 20$, yet you are unlikely to spot a sloth. After spending two hours there, I could only see one sloth in a tree that was far too high to observe without binoculars.
You may want to consider a guided tour for 50 Euros if you’re set on seeing sloths, as the guides are more knowledgeable in locating the animals. Alternatively, visit Cahuita National Park for a chance to see many more animals – the entrance is free!
If you’re looking for souvenirs, la Fortuna is the place to buy them. Prices tend to be cheaper in comparison to other parts of Costa Rica.
The 1,633 metres (5,358 ft) tall and approximately 7.000 years old Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes, erupting daily and offering an incredible view of the red lava.
It was dormant for 400 years until 1968 when it suddenly erupted, tragically destroying the small town of Tabacón. 8 people were killed. The eruptions continued till 2010. Today visitors can marvel at the sight of its powerful eruptions.
Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s best volcanoes to see because it’s so tall and symmetrical against the surrounding pastures. It can be seen from most places around if it’s not cloudy. Unfortunately for us, we stayed 3 days in Arenal in the hotel Arenal Lodge that offers rooms with a great view to the volcano but it was too cloudy so we didn’t manage to see it.
Arenal Volcano National Park
Pay a visit to the Arenal Volcano National Park, the second most popular park in Costa Rica. Follow one of the paths and walk over the lava rocks to the mirador (viewpoint) for panoramic views of the Arenal region. On a clear day, you can even spot the symmetrical silhouette of the volcano against the surrounding pastures. Don’t miss out on this incredible experience!
Entrance Fees & Park Hours
The park entry fee is $15 USD for adults and $5 for children. As part of the country’s conservation efforts, 100% of park admission fees go directly to Costa Rica’s National Park Fund. Enjoy Arenal Volcano National Park during its opening hours from 8 a.m to 4 p.m daily.
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park.
Of the many, many tours and activities that Costa Rica has to offer, few are visited more than the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. It is located only 25-30 minutes away from la Fortuna.
Bring a waterproof jacket and be prepared for rain, even during the dry season – it rains often in the rainforest!
To me visiting the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park was the best experience overall in Costa Rica.
Thought it receives many visitors, it never feels too busy since the park limits the number of visitors each day. You’ll never have to worry about it being too crowded. We didn’t buy our tickets in advance so we had to come back after 2 hours but we were lucky because we had really good lunch in an amazing hotel nearby, the Lost Iguana Resort and Spa.
Take a leisurely stroll along the long suspension bridges that dangle over the depths of the rainforest, stopping to admire the gentle waterfall and the abundance of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for plenty of opportunities to spot exotic animals, birds and plants.
With four different trail options, there’s something for everyone here. From the Main Trail, to the Waterfall Trail, the Accessible Trail, and the Bird-Watching Trail, you’ll have the unique opportunity to see a variety of wildlife and landscapes. It was so fun trying to spot resting wildlife. We saw enough birds and insects but unfortunately we didn’t manage to see any sloth.
The Main Trail is approximately 3 km (1.86 mi) long and takes around 90 minutes to complete. You’ll cross 10 regular bridges and 6 adrenaline-pumping hanging ones, with the highest one reaching 75 m (246 ft) and the longest one reaching 368 ft (97 m)
Loved the hanging bridges, even thought it was a bit scary crossing them from a height of 45 meters.
The first hanging bridge is the highest one, 75m (246 feet) , while the last is the longest at 368 feet (97m). From the middle of the bridge you can enjoy the view of the Arenal Volcano.
The entrance fee is just 20$ and there is no line . The trails are easy to navigate and full of informational signs, so you don’t need a guide; however, guided tours are also available for 50$.
You can park your car at the big parking lot at the entrance. There is a restaurant with a nice view and a small gift shop.
While driving be prepared to meet the friendly coati!
Where to stay in Arenal
- Luxury: Nayara, The Springs,Tabacon and Kioro.
- Other very nice, less expensive hotels:Hotel Magic Mountain, Moñtana de Fuego, Volcano Lodge & Springs, Lost Iguana Resort and Spa
- Budget/Mid Range:Arenal History Inn, Hotel El Secreto, Selina La Fortuna
- Eco/nature lodges: Arenal Observatory Lodge, Princesa de la Luna Eco Lodge and Catarata Eco Lodge
Best time to Travel
Costa Rica is a country that can be enjoyed year-round, however, December to April is the best time to visit Costa Rica, during the dry season.
In Arenal you should expect cold weather and rain even during the dry season.
The currency in Costa Rica is Colones but they accept dollars everywhere too.
Distance and transportation times from SJO and LIR airport
The best way to get to Arenal is by driving. The distance from San Jose is is 139 km (86 miles). Although it doesn’t sound like a long distance, the winding roads and the countless trucks will slow you down so expect it to last 3-5 hours, from both San Jose Airport and Liberia International Airport. It doesn’t require a 4X4.
$50-60/person (If booked ahead of time) for one-way domestic flight from San Jose to La Fortuna Airport with local airlines Sansa. In about 20 minutes you will be in La Fortuna!
By public bus:
There are direct buses from San Jose to La Fortuna for 2,600 colones (approximately $5) per person.
Shared shuttle for about $59 per adult with Interbus. Private shuttle service for $200 for 1-8 people total one way from SJO and LIR airport.
A number of shuttle buses also operate along the San Jose-Arenal route, Liberia – Arenal route, and Tamarindo -Arenal route with one-way ticket costs starting at $54/person.
Interbus, Gray Line and a few others offer private and shared shuttles that offer a more comfortable ride than a public bus. To find the best price and book a seat online, head to Bookaway.
From Monteverde by boating across Lake Arenal. $50.
How long you should stay in La Fortuna and Arenal.
If you are planning to visit Costa Rica for 2 weeks, 3 days are enough to explore la Fortuna and Arenal.
Is it safe in La Fortuna and Arenal?
Yes both La Fortuna and Arenal are very safe places for tourists. Even at night it’s safe to walk around in downtown La Fortuna.