23 Unforgettable Things to Do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica [2023]

Looking for the best, most exciting things to do in La Fortuna? I’ve got you covered – read on for our favorite activities and places to visit!

La Fortuna: the capital of adventure and outdoor activities in Costa Rica!

Many people come to Costa Rica (and La Fortuna specifically) for all of the fun activities to do! These range from white water rafting, to waterfall chasing, to even ziplining through the rainforest canopy.

I was expecting to have a good time, but MAN I really loved it. 

In addition to all the adventure activites, La Fortuna has friendly people, a lively town center, delicious food, the best smoothies, and gorgeous tropical flowers everywhere. If you’re considering if La Fortuna is worth visiting, I think it definitely lives up to the hype!

23 Best Things to Do in La Fortuna

Allright, let’s jump into the list of what to do in La Fortuna, but make sure you read to the end of the article for a lot more helpful information about Arenal, including where to stay, what to bring, when to go, how long to stay, and more!

This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

1. Ziplining

A woman in black ziplines on a cable through the rainforest.

Ziplining through and above the rainforest canopy is a super popular adventure activity in La Fortuna. And with good reason — the platforms where you launch and land are in the trees, but in the middle of the line you are zipping high above the canopy, and the views were incredible.

If you love views and an adrenaline rush, this is definitely a must do activity in La Fortuna.

The lines ranged from 100 to 400 meters. The guides are incredibly fun and playful (while of course making sure you’re perfectly safe!).

Editor’s Recommendation: We highly recommend this tour package that includes 10 regular cables, plus a Superman cable and the Tarzen swing – which were super fun as well! (More info on the Superman and Tarzan components next!)

This tour has only 5-star reviews – read all reviews here!

Superman Zip

The Superman Zip is one of the last zips you do in this zipline experience.

You put on a different harness entirely for the Superman zip (somehow all of our pictures doing the Superman disappeared, but there are good pictures in the link!) so that you are laying flat and face down as you launch – it TOTALLY feels like you are flying and was absolutely exhilarating.

It was probably my favorite part of the entire day. The only downside was that only one zip was Superman style – I wanted moooooore!

2. Tarzan Swing

The Tarzan swing is also a part of the zipline tour from #3 above, but it was different and unique enough to warrant its own mention here!

At first glance, the Tarzan swing looked really scary – like I honestly was pretty nervous at first, but it ended up being so fun, I did it twice. The guides took us up to a really high platform in a clearing in the forest and hooked us up to this giant rope tied up to a super high tree. You jump off the platform and then swing far out.

A woman in black, wearing a harness and a helmet, stands on a metal platform, hooked up to a rope.  She is in the middle of the jungle.
Getting hooked up to the rope…
A wider shot of a rainforest clearing, with a woman swinging out in the distance on a rope swing. This is one of the funnest things to do in La Fortuna.
…and swinging out!

The way the Tarzan swing is set up with this company is waaaaay better than some of the others in the area (my brother and sister-in-law did another zipline tour+Tarzan swing tour in a neighboring city before we met up with them and they confirmed the Tarzan swing in this tour in La Fortuna was much better!

I’m not a huge daredevil, and despite how freaky it looked at the beginning, we had THE BEST time swinging the Tarzan swing!

My Recommendation: Canopy Tour + Tarzan Swing Adventure Tour

3. White Water Rafting

6 people sit on a white water raft, wearing life jackets and yellow helmets and smiling at the camera. You can see the rainforest behind them and the river in the background. Whitewater rafting is one of the funnest things to do in La Fortuna.
White water rafting: FOR SURE one of the best things to do in La Fortuna!

White water rafting down the Balsa River (which incidentally means the “Raft River”) is another fun, high adrenaline activity in La Fortuna.  The route includes class 2 and class 3 rapids and lasts several hours. The rapids were really fun and very bouncy, but never got super scary, which I appreciated. 

If you haven’t been white water rafting before, there is a guide in the back of your raft that steers the boat and tells you when to paddle. They help keep everyone safe and make sure you’re just having a good time! He also pointed out a few sloths, a big iguana, and some interesting plants on the riverbanks, and we swam in the river during some calm sections of water.

This was just such a great experience and for many people in our group, one of the top activities we did in La Fortuna. 

My Recommendations: There are two options I recommend for white water rafting in La Fortuna: This morning rafting adventure, or this afternoon rafting experience! Both are great options for rafting the Balsa River – just at different times of the day!

4. Canyoning

A woman in black is wearing a white helmet and a black harness and is hooked up to a rope, backing up down a rock with water streaming down it.

In La Fortuna, you have the opportunity to do some canyoning, which is essentially rappelling down and through waterfalls.

This is super fun rappelling, but no experience is needed, and you can go as fast or as slow as you want – the guides are really accommodating.

I will say that the guides we had in all of our tours in La Fortuna were just excellent! They really made the day fun and would joke around with us, be playful and make jokes, and accommodating to any requests we had, but were also very professional and made sure we were safe.

👉My Recommedation: Canyoning in Arenal Tour This tour is offers 4 rappels, 2 zip lines, and 3 pool jumps, plus showers and transportation from La Fortuna.

5. The Ultimate Combo Tour of White Water Rafting, Canyoning, Ziplining, the Tarzan Swing, and the Superman Zip

This Ultimate Combo Tour is an unbeatable value for experiencing alllll the adventure activities listed above. You’ll start the day off going canyoning off a bridge and down through different canyons, going through waterfalls and beautiful ravines.

Then you’ll move onto an exciting 2 hours of white water rafting on class II/III rapids on the Balsa River, with a stop for fresh fruit along the way. Back at home base, tuck into a delicious lunch, and then head into the jungle canopy to experience exhilarating ziplining, the Tarzan swing, and finishing up your day with the Superman zip.

The guides are super helpful and friendly and willing to be flexible with requests. The whole day is very well-organized and you’ll have a personal driver picking you up and taking you from activity to activity!

6. Chocolate Tour with Don Olivio

On this chocolate tour, in addition to chocolate, you also get to try all sorts of interesting tropical fruits as well. Come hungry because you will get stuffed – this experience is so much more than just some basic tour!

This is a family run farm grown just for tours and teaching tourists, but you get a really intimate, authentic-feeling experience. The son gave the whole tour while the dad cut the fruit and passed it out during the tour.  Other family members were there to sell handmade goods and freshly made cocoa powder from their farm. 

The most fresh, delicious fruits are presented for you to try. The selection includes a huge variety, including mango, guanabana, pineapple, apple bananas, starfruit, papayas, and fresh squeezed oranges. You also get to try cocoa beans in all stages of their preparation from raw bean to chocolate. Plus, you get to make your own chocolate from the cocoa beans that you press! 

At another point, you use a press to extract sugar cane juice. The sugar cane went in a press and you crank the hand crank to crush the stalk and extract the juice, which you then get to drink.

The family also grows, picks, and offers you their fresh coffee, vanilla, and cinnamon.

In addition, the guides will point out any cool plants and animals that are around: We saw a really weird caterpillar/slug, hummingbird babies, a large iguana, a tattoo plant, and pink (non-edible) bananas.

Note that when you are arriving, the last 50-100 meters of the drive up is unpaved and looks like a random residential road. You’re on the right track! Just follow Google maps and you’ll end up in the right spot.

👉Book the Don Olivio chocolate tour here

7. Rio Celeste Waterfall

A woman in a flower dress stands on a stairway in the rainforest, looking at a bright blue waterfall, surrounded by thick green foliage.

👉Recommended Tour: Private Tour of the Rio Celeste This excursion transports you to the National Park and and gives you a guided tour along the trail – pointing out interesting plants, insects, and animals, and giving information and history about the area as you explore the Rio Celeste and then enjoy lunch together.

This tour has an average rating of 4.8/5 stars – read all reviews here!

👉Rather visit the Rio Celeste on your own? Hop down to the Practical Information heading at the end of this section for more information.

The goooooorgeous Rio Celeste waterfall was one of my top favorite places to visit in La Fortuna!

The Rio Celeste trail brings you to several points of interest: Catarata (the gorgeous blue waterfall), Mirador viewpoint, Laguna Azul, Borbollones, and Tenideros. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive from La Fortuna and absolutely worth the trip out. 

Catarata (Waterfall)

This is the main attraction! It takes about 30 minutes to hike through the rainforest to the waterfall. The hike has some incline areas and some flat spots, but we didn’t find it too challenging. To reach the waterfall, you leave the trail and head down a staircase hundreds of stairs long to reach the base of the falls. 

A wooden staircase descends through the rainforest in the fog, making it seem magical.

It looks like a staircase leading to a fantasy world, honestly.

There are lots of great views from the stairs, and at the base, there is a viewpoint for pictures and admiring the waterfall and the gorgeous color of the pool and river. 

Mirador + Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon)

After you climb back up the staircase, the trail continues for another 15 minutes to the Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon). Along this hike you will get a view of the Mirador volcano in the distance. As you approach the Laguna Azul, the trail gets very steep, with tall stone stairs cut into the hillside. 

The Laguna Azul is a pretty spot where you can admire the calm, blue water. Beyond that, there’s not much here – on to the next spot!

Borbollones (Bubbling hot pot)

You’ll be able to smell borbollones before you see it — that sulfur smell is intense! This water here is hot and bubbling. 

Teñideros 

Five minutes farther down is a really cute bridge that cuts over gorgeous, deep blue water. There’s some good spots to take pictures, and then just another minute farther is Tenideros. 

A woman in a white flower dress stands on a wooden bridge over blue water in the rainforest.

At this spot you can actually see the chemical reaction occurs in the water to create the bright blue color. You can see “regular” white/gray river water and a small line of bluer water meet and mix, and then the deep rich blue water created from this reaction fans out and continues downstream. 

Tenideros in the Rio Celeste, where the water mixes and the color changes.
See how the brown and lighter blue water meet and mix and then the deeper blue water fans out from there? Amazing!

It’s honestly not that much farther to go all the way to Tenideros and I thought it was really cool to see that reaction! Plus, I loved all the adorable little spots!

We spent a total of 3 hours in the Rio Fortuna National Park. 

On the way out, stop at some of the fruit and food vendor stands outside the park for a snack – we got fresh mangoes, elote (grilled corn on the cob), and some kebabs. The food was fantastic and between 1000-2000 colones (~$1.50-3) per item. 

Practical Information

Entrance Fee

The entrance cost was $13.50 per person. I would try to get there as soon as possible in the morning because they only let in 1200 people per day and only 400 people at a time. The park closes at 4pm and you have to be inside by 2pm.

You can’t take any plastic, single use water bottles in the park (and they check and make you take them out) so be sure to bring a reusable water bottle. 

Parking/Boot Rentals

It costs 2000 colones (about $3) to park, and another 2000 if you want to rent rubber boots (don’t forget to bring socks!).

When we went, some of us rented the rubber boots – but they really weren’t necessary for the trail conditions we found at the end of June.

As you get deeper into the rainy season and it gets muddier and sloshier, the rubber boots will be more helpful. I would bring good hiking shoes/sandals with you, and ask at the front gate what trail conditions are like (not the guys renting the boots), and then decide on the galoshes from there. 

I will note that there is not arch support in the boots, so if you have any foot problems or need good supportive shoes, I would not wear the rubber boots.

Swimming 

You can’t swim in the national park section of the Rio Celeste, but just outside of the park is a  little pulloff spot where you can walk down and swim in the water. It’s not warm, but it’s still a pretty blue color. You’ll see this spot on the way to the park entrance. We spent about 20 minutes wading and swimming here after the official hike – it was nice!

👉Tubing on the Rio Celeste: Want more time on the milky blue Rio Celeste water? For this experience, you get to float on tubes down the Rio Celeste (outside the National Park). There are spots for cliff jumping and a guide who will help ensure safety and point out animals!

8. Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

A woman in a white dress and a hat walks down a hanging suspension bridge in the rainforest - one of the best things to do in La Fortuna.
What to do in La Fortuna if you want incredible, high up views!

Self-Guided Tour

👉You can book your tickets for a self-guided tour in advance here. Booking ahead of time is essential because they do enforce timed entry (and tickets can sell out)

Guided Tour

Alternatively, if you want the opportunity to really see and appreciate all the flora and fauna in the rainforest around Mistico, this personal guided tour will give you an in-depth tour through the bridges, pointing out lots of plants, birds, and animals as you walk through. Transportation is included.

Average Rating: 4.5/5 stars – Read all review here

I adored the Mistico Hanging Bridges! Like the Rio Celeste, this involved a walk on a rainforest trail, but that’s all they have in common. The feel of this hike is so different because of the bridges and made it one of my favorite things to do in La Fortuna!

While the overall bridge count is inflated with 12 small, “fixed” bridges, they are mostly for traversing small streams or ditches, and aren’t really part of the main attraction – the hanging bridges are where it’s at!

The Hanging Bridges

The real attraction are the hanging bridges! There are 6 of these suspension bridges that offer some fantastic views and a super fun experience. 

The hanging bridges were split up throughout the walk and keeps you excited waiting for the next one. But don’t sleep on the rest of the – more traditional – hike through the rainforest.

Most of the trail hugged the side of a ravine, with one side of the trail dropping out and looking over the side of the ravine. The setting is definitely a step up from just a rainforest hike.  It’s still very cool, and we saw lots of interesting plants and some fun animals. 

A woman in a white dress stands on a pathway, looking out over the jungle in Mistico Park in La Fortuna.

The hanging bridges themselves are SO FUN. They are all at different heights, and they go through the tops of the canopy and give gorgeous views out. If it’s a clear day, the very first hanging bridge gives a perfect view of the Arenal volcano.

Animal Encounters

We saw monkeys several times, and also saw a family of coati once (a coati looks like a cross between a raccoon and an anteater and very common in Costa Rica). We also saw a sloth sleeping up in a tree, and several lines of leaf-cutter ants!

Practical Information

The pathway is paved and isn’t rocky or gravelly. I went in a dress and sandals and didn’t have a problem. However, at the entrance gate I actually had to sign a waiver to wear my sandals on the trail, which I found very funny.

Mistico Hanging Bridges is 30 minutes from La Fortuna. The hike takes about 2-3 hours. We spent almost 3 hours here because we stopped and watched animals a lot! 

9. El Salto Costa Rica Rope Swing

things to do in La Fortuna rope swing

The El Salto Costa Rica rope swing is a fun, low-key thing to do in La Fortuna along the Fortuna River. There’s a pool-like area in the river with a rope swing from a cliff’s edge. We spent an hour or two here and it was really chill and relaxing! This is for sure one of the best free things to do in La Fortuna.

There’s a small pullout area on the side of the road where you can park – there’s room for maybe 6-7 cars. There was a parking attendant there watching the cars.

We had heard about these self-appointed parking attendants before we came to Costa Rica and were definitely giving the whole situation a bit of side eye, but it was actually really nice and helpful.

The parking area to the right, access to the rope swing on the left!

The parking area is right after a curve so there are some blind spots. The attendant watched and signaled when you were safe to pull out and in. He also made sure no one broke into your car AND he pointed out a sloth moving up in the trees above to my brother, Jonathan, who had gone back to the car for something. 

Actually, funny story about that: Jonathan came back to the rope swing where we were all at and said, “Hey there’s a sloth by the car, come look!”

This was our first real sloth encounter in Costa Rica and we were obviously very excited (although to be fair, I was just as excited about the last sloth we saw as the first. They’re just so cute!). We all started running to see the sloth and Jonathan was like “Guys, you don’t need to run – it’s a SLOTH. You have plenty of time.” Ha!

We tipped the parking attendant 2000 colones ($3) per car. 

👉Find exact directions to El Salto here!

10. Tabacon Public Hot Spring

This free hot spring in a public river is a favorite with locals. When we went, there were a lot of people there hanging out and enjoying the warm water, which I would estimate was about 95-100 degrees F. The water was the Goldilocks temperature for relaxing on a hot day (not too hot, not too cold).

Our group was divided in our feelings on this spot. Some of us loved it! Some of us (me) were a little more un-impressed. There were a lot of people, including a lot of people drinking beer and smoking. There was also some trash along the entrance and banks and graffiti under the bridge. The riverbanks and river itself were pretty rocky so for sure wear good water footwear, even in the river. 

There was street parking here but it was a little tricky to get in and out. There were parking attendants as well, so plan to tip a little when you leave. Here are directions to the public access spot.

Although it wasn’t one of my personal favorite things to do in La Fortuna, it was free, was clearly a very popular local activity, and maybe you’ll disagree with me and love it!

Note that there is a resort called the Tabacon as well, and if you google Tabacon hot springs you will see some incredible, cascading hot springs. The public river is not that spot! That is part of the Tabacon resort and the public, free area is different.

11. Soak in Resort Hot Springs

Honestly, I can’t believe that I’m hesitant to recommend the local spot and instead recommending the fancy resort location, but here we are.

There are a lot of hot spring resorts in La Fortuna that range from nice to absolutely luxurious. Most of the resorts offer both accommodations and hot spring day passes.

Visiting the hot springs resorts is one of the most relaxing things to do in La Fortuna – you should for sure plan to visit at least one during your visit to Arenal!

Some of the best options are:

Day passes to these spots are great options – especially if you want to hop around hot springs.

However, we loved staying the Los Lagos resort because we spent each and every evening soaking in all the springs after our day’s activities. It had over ten pools and springs surrounded by lush, tropical foliage and flowers, plus waterslides, a wet bar, trails and paths on the grounds to explore, and an amazing view of the volcano.

We were 10000% satisfied with our stay, the cost was very reasonable, and I would stay here again in a heartbeat.

>>Los Lagos is rated 9.2/10 stars – read review and check prices here!

12. ATV Tour 

By Kelsea of Out of Office Mindset

Costa Rica is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, and one of the best ways to explore the country’s stunning scenery is by ATV.

On an ATV tour, you’ll first be outfitted with boots, a helmet, and a bandana and taught how to drive the ATV. Once you’ve mastered driving, you’ll be taken onto private land and trails to explore La Fortuna’s beauty up close!

Driving the ATV itself is a thrilling experience – the rolling hills of La Fortuna make for an exhilarating course. It is not exactly a clean activity and the fantastic guides might take you through a few mud pits along the way. If you’re willing to get a bit dirty, commanding your ATV through the mud and hills is an electrifying experience!

The experience of navigating Costa Rica’s rough terrain is only eclipsed by the great wildlife and the views you get to see up close. Costa Rica is home to an incredible variety of animals, and you’re likely to see plenty of them while on an ATV excursion.

We came across plenty of horses and even a frog unique to the area. The guides go out of their way to point out wildlife and will even snap a photo for you!  

Depending on the tour you book, you’ll see waterfalls, rivers, and/or caves along the way. The beauty in these remote destinations is unmatched! While this particular excursion is sure to get your heart rate up, the guides go out of their way to make sure you always feel safe and in control!

👉Recommended Tour: Private Customized ATV Ride and Hot Springs
This tour is incredible – it’s just your group and a really friendly, kind, and helpful guide. You get the chance to ride through a variety of terrain, including fields, back roads, and muddy areas, stopping to see wild animals and great views as you go along. Bonus – you stop at a secluded natural hot spring to enjoy!

This tour has ONLY 5-star reviews – read all reviews here

13. Biking Around La Fortuna

By Abi of I’m Going On An Adventure Travel Blog

If you are looking for a less extreme activity, doing a more relaxing bike ride around Arenal might be a good choice for you. That being said, even the most relaxing of bike rides can turn into a more exhilarating activity should you wish!

There are many cycle routes and options from full-day bike adventures where you can explore rainforests, cattle ranches and rivers to independent excursions where you can cycle around the town by yourself. 

If you’re feeling more adventurous there is the option to cycle to La Fortuna Waterfall. Visiting the waterfall is one of the top things to do in La Fortuna (it is beautiful) so why not head there on a bike; be ready for some uphill battles but the trip will be worth it and (talking from personal experience) the ride back will be a whole load of fun! 

La Fortuna town is well established to receive tourism and there are numerous rental shops dotted along the streets.

Alquiler de Motonetas La Fortuna (La Fortuna Rentals) is one of the best, with exceptional reviews and great customer service. Enjoying the beautiful scenery makes La Fortuna one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica for first-timers.

14. La Fortuna Waterfall

Like the Rio Celeste, the La Fortuna waterfall requires a long walk down 500 stairs to see the waterfall. It’s a short walk from the parking lot to the top of the stairs, and everything is paved – I actually did the hike in flip flops. At the top of the stairs, there is a viewpoint above the trees and includes the top of the waterfall.

When you get to the bottom, there are several angles and spots to relax and enjoy the falls.  You can even walk on the boulders to get closer to the falls, but you are not allowed to go in the water (and there is a lifeguard to call you back if you go too far out).

We were told we could swim in the river just to the side of the waterfall, but it was unfortunately closed the day we were there.

This is a beautiful and easy waterfall to visit, costs $18, and is within 10 minutes of downtown La Fortuna. There is a restaurant on-site and a butterfly garden and orchid garden to walk through. The orchids weren’t in bloom, but we did see monkeys!

This is a stunning and dramatic waterfall in the rainforest, and with it’s close proximity to town, the La Fortuna waterfall is definitely worth visiting!

You can buy tickets at the entrance, or you can grab skip the line tickets for the La Fortuna waterfall here

15. Discover the Sloths on a Sloth Watching Tour

By Bailey from Costa Rica Travel Life

One activity that should be on your Costa Rica bucket list is seeing a sloth! I mean, when it comes to wildlife in Costa Rica, it doesn’t get more iconic than a sloth – am I right? Luckily, one of the best things to do in La Fortuna is going on a sloth-watching tour!

The thing about sloths is that they are almost impossible to see on your own in the wild. These guys are camouflage experts – did you know their fur even grows green moss on it so they blend in better?!

That, combined with the fact that they roll up into a small ball on tree branches high above your head, make them nearly impossible to spot for the untrained eye. 

On a sloth watching tour, an expert guide will take you on a walk through the jungle in search of wild sloths. Your guide knows what trees to look in, and oftentimes, will be helped by other guides in the area to spot them. The good thing about sloths is that they don’t move very fast, so a sloth from the morning will likely be in a similar spot. 

On top of all of that, your guide will also have a special scope to make it easier to see the sloths up close. Sometimes they are too far away to see with the naked eye, so this special equipment in necessary. 

Recommended Tour: The Sloth Watching Trail This is the most popular place to see sloths in La Fortuna. Here, there is a high concentration of sloths on this privately owned property which makes it easier to see these wild sloths. 

Average rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars – read all reviews here

16. Arenal Volcano Hikes

By Erin of Wanderlust With Kids

Arenal Volcano is one of the most well-known volcanoes in Costa Rica. And while it’s not possible to hike right up to the crater, there are plenty of hiking opportunities around the volcano.

One of the popular trails around the volcano is the Arenal 1968 trail. This is a private trail that gets its name from the year that the Arenal Volcano erupted. The trail passes through some of the areas that were affected by the eruption and is right beside the entrance to the National Park. The lookoff on this trail offers one of the best views of the Arenal Volcano.

Nearby, the Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal offers some of the best spots to go hiking. There are several different trails to choose from, each with different levels of difficulty. 

Starting at the main gate, the first trail, Sendero Los Heliconias, passes by the site of the 1968 lava flow and another path, Las Coladas, branches off and leads to a lookoff, where it’s possible to walk on the lava fields. From here, there’s a loop that leads to El Ceibo, a 400 year old Ceiba tree, before continuing back to the start of the trail.

Two kilometres down the road from the main gate, there are two other trails. Los Miradores leads to the shores of a volcanic lake, where you’ll have a great view of the volcano. 

If you’re short on time, park at the Main Gate and hike the trails from there. With volcano views, lava fields and a giant ceiba tree, you’ll see the best that Arenal Volcano offers.

17. Horseback Riding

This horsebacking excursion takes you through pastures and the rainforest and up through the hilltops near the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal, giving fantastic views of both.

The horses are very well-trained and gentle, and the guides are playful and friendly, and very committed to the safety of everyone and the care of the horses.

You’ll have the chance to observe any wild animals that may be nearby, and the guides are good at taking plenty of pictures for you. This is a great activity to do in La Fortuna!

Recommended Tour: Arenal Volcano Horseback Riding
Reviews give 4.9 of 5 stars – read all reviews here

18. Catarata del Toro Waterfall

By Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

Conveniently located between San Jose and La Fortuna, Catarata del Toro is one of the best hidden gems in the Central Valley.  This ecological reserve is home to lush rainforests; several waterfalls, including one of the tallest ones in Costa Rica; and stunning pools to cool off in. 

To reach the park, you’ll need to drive 1.5 hours southeast from La Fortuna. The road leading to the park is full of potholes so be sure to drive there slowly and carefully.

But once you make it to the park, your efforts will be well worth it. You can hike approximately 2 miles down to the base of the eponymous waterfall, which dramatically pours out of an ancient volcanic crater and cascades 300 feet below to a plunge pool.

The cliff surrounding the falls is streaked with vibrant colors of red and orange, due to the waterfall’s volcanic beginnings. Between the eye-popping colors of the cliffside and the lush ferns surrounding the bowl that the falls cascade into, the scene looks something straight out of Jurassic Park.

While Catarata del Toro is the main attraction in the park, there’s so much more to see, including the Blue Falls, a waterfall of robin’s egg blue water or Catarata Poza Azul, a brilliant blue pool with refreshing water you can swim in.

The park is full of breathtaking gems and is not to be missed while you’re visiting La Fortuna.

19. Tour a Coffee Plantation

From Catherine of Postcard Narrative

One of the best ways to connect with locals and learn what “Pura Vida” is all about is to take an agricultural tour, most notably, a Coffee Tour.   Pura Vida: Enjoy the simple things in life, slow down and smell the richness of a coffee bean. 

Costa Rica is blessed with nutrient rich, volcanic soil and Ticas (Costa Ricans) wholly trust the terrain to provide for them.  When you step foot on a coffee farm, you’ll quickly understand their immense connection to the land and learn from an artisan what it takes to produce Costa Rica’s world famous Arabica beans.   

A popular and loved coffee tour is North Fields Coffee Tour.  Their staff is incredibly knowledgeable about the history of coffee in Costa Rica and the art of coffee farming and roasting.  Your coffee will be poured through a brewer called a chorreador, a coffee sock.  Their passion for their product is undeniable and you’ll leave excited to bring home beans for your friends and family, or perhaps a chorreador for your own kitchen. 

You’ll learn from crops to cup exactly how coffee is made and produced, and then how an artisan cup of coffee is prepared. You’ll also get the chance to enjoy lots of samples of the coffee, as well as other crops like chocolate and sugar cane.

Book this coffee tour at North Fields here!

Is Manuel Antonio on your family’s Costa Rica itinerary?  Here are 10 things to do on your drive between La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio

20. Relax at Lake Arenal

From Brodi Cole of Our Offbeat Life

Lake Arenal in Costa Rica is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the warm weather and water. What is there to do on Lake Arenal? There are many activities to do on the lake, including sailing, windsurfing, paddleboarding, fishing, and swimming. The safari flotilla is a relaxing way to see the lake and all it has to offer. 

The lake offers great sailing and windsurfing conditions with steady winds blowing across the water. You can rent a sailboat, take a sailing lessons, or go windsurfing to enjoy the scenery and fresh air. 

There are also a lot of powerboat tours that will drive you around the lake to see more of the sights. You can even take a water taxi across the lake from La Fortuna towards Monteverde, to cut your transit time between the two areas in half. 

Fishing is a popular activity on Lake Arenal. You can catch bass, which put up a fight when you reel them in. There are many guides available who can show you the best spots for fishing. They can also teach you how to properly reel in your catch. 

The lake’s water is warm and fine for swimming. However, there are not many beaches around the lake where you can swim. Most of the shoreline is rocky or has thick vegetation. You can find some beaches on the north side of the lake near Tilaran. 

Recommended Activity: Paddleboarding on Lake Arenal A 2 hour paddleboarding excursion with a helpful guide on Lake Arenal. This tour has 4.9 out of 5 stars – read review here.

21. Enjoy the Local Cuisine

La Fortuna has a LOT of really delicious foods to eat, and plenty of unique cuisine choices. We ate extremely well here in the Arenal region. Besides drinking smoothies non-stop (see #22, next), we ate a ton of casado, picadillo de papas, and patacones.

If you’re trying to figure out what to do in La Fortuna for food, read all of my food and restaurants recommendations (with pictures) here!

22. Drink Smoothies

things to do in La Fortuna smoothies
Heaven in a cup

We basically went crazy over the smoothies (batidos) in Costa Rica! They were all so smooth and creamy and bursting with fresh flavor. I drank 1-2 smoothies every day (it clearly was one of my favorite things to do in La Fortuna 😉).

My top favorite spot for smoothies in La Fortuna was at Frutas Y Verduras Hnos Lazo, a little fruit and vegetable stand in the downtown area of La Fortuna, right by Soda La Hormiga. I loved the mango pineapple smoothie – get it with milk! – and that it was only 1000 colones ($1.67) for a pretty large smoothie.

This was a crazy cheap price for smoothies, even for Costa Rica! They use frozen fruit, but it’s fruit that they purchase fresh from the market, and then cut and freeze it themselves a couple days ahead of time.

Every restaurant serves smoothies and I ordered another one every night.

23. Admire the Arenal Volcano Viewpoint

I really wanted to find a great viewpoint of the Arenal volcano – that money shot of the volcano rising dramatically up out of the valley. Although the best view I found was at Mistico Hanging Bridges, which is already on the list above, I wanted to specifically call out the viewpoint here, since it was amazing! (I’ll note a couple other spots I liked as well below.)

There are two spots to see the Arenal Volcano at Mistico: from the entrance area, and on the first hanging bridge (aptly named Arenal Viewpoint Bridge). 

From the entrance area, there is a clear view of the volcano and they’ve set up an “official” viewpoint next to the parking lot.

There is, however, an even better spot right behind the building with the ticket booth and restrooms. If you continue past the bathrooms, there are some picnic tables, with a fence right along a ridge.

This is a pretty good spot, but if you head to the left side of the fence, there are a few stairs that lead down to a grassy spot with no fence and the most gorgeous, uninhibited view of the volcano. This spot is right at the exit from the trail and you will come out here right after the final hanging bridge. 

This location is very obvious to find and not a bad photo spot!
But go down the stairs to the left for a shot without the fence – even better!

Views from Mistico Park to the Arenal Volcano - a wide valley with the volcano rising dramatically up in the distance. This is one of the best things to see in La Fortuna.
Money shot!

Even if you don’t go to Mistico, there are a lot of locations that give you a good volcano view. We often got a beautiful view of the volcano early in the morning at Los Lagos resort, and anywhere between Los Lagos and downtown La Fortuna will also give you a beautiful view. You also get a great view of the volcano at Lake Arenal!

Tip: No matter how good your location is, if it is a cloudy, overcast, or rainy day, the volcano will be almost completely obscured. During the rainy season, the first hour after sunrise is often clear. Otherwise, pray for a clear day and take advantage of any clear skies you get! 

Practical Information for Visiting La Fortuna

Where to Stay

One of the many hot springs at Los Lagos

We truly adored our stay at Los Lagos, a gorgeous hot springs resort. It was an incredible value for the high quality stay we got! There are extensive, gorgeously landscaped grounds, a large, hot breakfast buffet (put the salsa Lizano on your eggs – trust me!), a couple of regular pools with seriously fast waterslides, 8+ hot springs, a wet bar, a perfect view of the volcano, and really nice rooms.

We loved starting off our day with a hearty breakfast and ending it hopping between the all the hot springs on the resort.

Check current rates and read reviews for Los Lagos Resort here!

My other picks for where to stay in La Fortuna:

Baldi Hot Springs Resort: This resort has 25 hot pools, with some fun features like waterslides and waterfalls, plus beautiful landscaping, and a breakfast buffet included. You can also enjoy the on-site spa, restaurants, and swim-up bars.

Tabacon Hot Springs Resort and Spa: This is an absolutely drop dead gorgeous location, with 5 pools, hot springs, waterfalls galore, and absolutely stunning grounds. The staff here are incredibly helpful, and the open-air spa is set among the foliage.

Note: In any hotel in Costa Rica it’s important to always lock your valuables in the hotel room safe. House cleaning staff are known to steal valuables, particularly phones or electronics. In general, don’t ever leave your personal items unattended in public.

Car Rental and Driving Tips

Renting a car is far and away the best way to get around Costa Rica. We leveled up and rented a 4-wheel drive vehicle from Avis, which was absolutely the right choice.

For everything you need to know about driving, navigating, rental car insurance, and parking in Costa Rica, plus a huge tip for bringing the rental cost down, check out our driving in Costa Rica post here.

👉Pro Tip: We like booking our rental cars with RentalCars.com – we find that they have the best prices and availability for our vacations!

Browse prices and availabilty on RentalCars.com in Costa Rica here!

Costa Rica Travel Insurance

Securing some travel insurance is an important part of prepping for any international trip – you never know when something might happen, and your regular insurance generally won’t cover you overseas. Costs for a medical emergency on vacation can add up extremely fast, so it’s just better to be safe than sorry. 

I like booking insurance at Insure My Trip, as they offer a variety of plans with different coverages to choose from, so you can find the right option for you. Plus, they have great customer support if you need help before, during, or after your trip.

👉Check rates at Insure My Trip here👈

How Many Days Do You Need in La Fortuna?

I would plan for around 4-6 days in La Fortuna to experience everything the region has to offer. There are plenty of things to do in La Fortuna to keep you busy for the better part of a week!

La Fortuna Travel Essentials

These are some favorite things I brought and used in Costa Rica!

I love this light, airy, tropical dress – it comes in a whole variety of prints and colors and is perfect for a tropical destination.

This straw hat is waterproof, totally compressible (you don’t have to baby it in your luggage, just smoosh it flat), and it looks great in photos.

I also love these rattan tassel earrings! They come in a two pack and work great as a beach accessory

This cover up is floral and lightweight and works great as a kimono over an outfit or a coverup on the beach.

Sunscreen of course is important at the beach – I always wear this facial sunscreen for acne-prone skin (it’s the best!), but Matthew, with his non-sensitive skin, always just uses this very convenient sunscreen stick.

At a lot of places, pool towels are not provided (and of course you’ll need your own towels for the hot springs river and rope swing), and we used these microfiber towels! I’ve brought them on all sorts of trips. They pack down really small but are somehow super absorbant and also dry extremely fast. Highly recommend

These are my favorite travel sandals! They are super cushy and have great arch support and keep my feet very happy, even after a long day of walking around

Finally, I love these packing cubes – they are great for keeping clothes and gear organized, not getting all messed up in my suitcase. They really do make traveling so much easier!

Read More: 35+ Favorite Travel Essentials for Women in 2023: Outfits, Accessories, and Gear

What to Eat in La Fortuna

Besides drinking smoothies non-stop (see #14 above!), we ate incredibly delicious food in La Fortuna! For sure get yourself a casado, picadillo de papas, and patacones. If you’re trying to figure out what to do in La Fortuna for food, read all of my food and restaurants recommendations (with pictures) here.

Costa Rica Budget

If you’re trying to figure out how much to budget for your Costa Rica trip, I break down exactly how much I spent in my How Much To Budget for Costa Rica post.

Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in La Fortuna

No matter where your interests lie, there is something for you in La Fortuna! If you like beautiful scenery, adventure activities, and delicious food, then La Fortuna is definitely worth visiting. Keep your eyes peeled for sloths and drink a smoothie for me!

Check Out My Other Costa Rica Articles:

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