16 Awesome Things to Do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

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 adventure activities, La Fortuna has friendly people, a lively town center, delicious food, the best smoothies, and gorgeous tropical flowers everywhere. It’s definitely on the tourist path, and I think it lives up the hype. 

We did a ton of fun activities and had some really awesome, unique experiences in La Fortuna. Here are 16 epic things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica:

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1. Rio Celeste Waterfall

If I had to choose just one thing, this was probably my top favorite activity in La Fortuna (but please don’t make me choose!)

The Rio Celeste National Park 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. 

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. 

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. 

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!

2. Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

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!

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. 

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!

My favorite experience on the hike was when a monkey came right up to us. We were on the very last suspension bridges and watching all the monkeys climbing and playing in the trees. When it seemed like the monkeys had all left, we got ready to leave, too, but decided to keep watching for another minute or two – and boy were we rewarded. One monkey came back and perched riiiiight next to the bridge on a tree.

He climbed up that tree, and then up and onto the cables of the bridge. Then, he walked down the cables right by us, like literally he was right above me at one point, and stopped right by my dad. He just sat there, watched my dad, hung by his tail, stretched out, and in general just showed off and put on a little show for us.

It was a crazy wild animal encounter and both us and the other group on the bridge could hardly believe what was happening (the guide near us said a monkey encounter like that was rare). 

Arenal Volcano Views

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!

There are two other hanging bridge parks in the La Fortuna area, and their bridges are longer than the ones at Mistico. However, only Mistico has the view of the volcano, which I personally loved. 

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.

The hike takes about 2-3 hours. We spent almost 3 hours here because we stopped and watched animals a lot! 

You can book your tickets in advance here. Booking ahead of time is a good idea because they do enforce timed entry (and tickets can sell out)

You can choose to do a self-guided tour or do a guided tour. If you want the opportunity to see even more obscure plants and animals, this personal guided tour will point out lots of plants, birds, and animals in the rainforest as you walk through.

Check availability for a Mistico guided tour here

Mistico Hanging Bridges is 30 minutes from La Fortuna.

3. Ziplining

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.

The lines ranged from 100 to 400 meters. The guides are incredibly fun and playful (while of course making sure you’re perfectly safe!). This particular tour offers a package that includes the regular ziplining, plus the Superman Zip and the Tarzan swing, which were super fun as well!

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 above!) 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!

4. Tarzan Swing

The Tarzan swing is also a part of the zipline tour from #3, but it was different 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.

Getting hooked up to the rope…
…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!

Check availability for the Canopy Tour + Tarzan swing here

5. White Water Rafting

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. 

You can book your white water rafting experience here. Or, if you’d rather do an afternoon tour, this is another great option!

6. Canyoning

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

It was fun, but fairly tame rappelling. 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.

You can do this excellent canyoning tour from La Fortuna, or there are a lot of options to do canyoning as part of a larger tour, such as these:

Additional Options for Combination Ziplining/Rafting/Canyoning Tours:

There are some excellent tours that offer some combinatinon of ziplining, rafting, canyoning, and other activities:

7. Chocolate Tour with Don Olivio

While marketed as a “chocolate tour,” this experience is so much more than just some basic tour!

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 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.

Check availability for this chocolate tour here

8. El Salto Costa Rica 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! 

things to do in La Fortuna rope swing

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 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 directions to El Salto here!

9. 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.

10. Resort Hot Springs

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

While the Tabacon public springs weren’t my favorite, you can’t not hit up some of the hot springs in La Fortuna. (While “touristy” spots can get a bad rap, sometimes it really does make a difference having someone who cares about keeping an area nice).

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.

You should for sure plan to visit at least one resort hot spring!

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.

11. ATV Tour 

ATV tours are so fun! This popular ATV tour will take you through their “secret” trail to experience a variety of terrains and viewpoints! You’ll ATV through the rainforest, traverse streams and cruise under the shadow of the volcano, learning about animals, local people, and the environment in the region.

The guides are super fun and playful, and you’ll see some great vista of Arenal while exploring the jungle!

Check availability for this ATV tour here

12. 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.

things to do in La Fortuna 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!

Get your skip the line tickets for the La Fortuna waterfall here

As we were enjoying the waterfall we noticed people ziplining far above the falls, which looked pretty epic! This is the ziplining tour that takes you above and across the waterfall – if you don’t do the zipline tour I mentioned above or want to stay closer to the city, I would 100% do this course.

Check availability for the zipline course over the La Fortuna waterfall here

13. Arenal Volcano Viewpoint

I really wanted to find a great viewpoint of the Arenal volcano – like what you see online if you google “arenal volcano.” Mistico Hanging Bridges was the best I found (as I discussed at length in the Mistico section above!)

Things to do in La Fortuna Arenal volcano
Viewpoint from Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Even if you don’t go to Misitico, 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.

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 almost always clear. Otherwise, pray for a clear day and take advantage of any clear skies you get! 

14. Drink Smoothies

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!

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.

things to do in La Fortuna smoothies
Heaven in a cup

Click here to read all of my recommendations for where to eat in La Fortuna!

15. Horseback Riding

We regularly saw horseback riding tours as we were going through La Fortuna. I love this horseback riding tour at Mistico Park – you ride through the private nature reserve overlooking the volcano!

16. Arenal Volcano Hike

There are a variety of hikes in the Arenal Volcano National Park, which go around the base of the volcano (you aren’t allowed to actually climb up to the top).

Generally speaking, if you have the option, it’s better to do hikes on a clear day when you can actually see the volcano. If it’s overcast, you might want to consider skipping or postponing a hike, as the views are significantly less nice.

Check out the hikes around the Arenal Volcano here!

Practical Information for Visiting La Fortuna

Where to Stay

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 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. Check current prices here

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. Check current prices here.

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 sure head over and read my Driving in Costa Rica post – it has all the info 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 current rates for car rental 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!

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!

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. 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 Costa here in my How Much To Budget for Costa Rica post.

Final Thoughts

No matter where your interests lie, there is something for you in La Fortuna! And don’t forget – eat lots of delicious food, enjoy the beautiful vegetation, chat with the locals, and keep your eyes peeled for sloths!

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This post last updated April 2022

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