La Fortuna is one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations. Given the city’s surrounding natural attributes, it’s hardly any wonder why: Arenal Volcano looms in the background, billowing smoke from its jagged peak, while lush jungles, raging rivers, and serene waterfalls are just a stone’s throw away.
While there is little to do in La Fortuna’s city center itself, you’ll have no shortage of adventure activities to choose from in the Arenal area. If you’re like me and tend to get overwhelmed by FOMO (fear of missing out), then use this guide to help you narrow down your options and select the adventure that’s right for you.
‘Cerro’ translates into hill, but the burn in your thighs on the way up will make it feel much more like a mountain. Yes, the hiking is a bit difficult—my legs were shaky and sore the following day—but the stunning scenery makes the effort worthwhile. After passing through dense, primary forest, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views and a crystal-clear, turquoise lagoon to cool off in. It takes about 7 hours to hike Cerro Chato if beginning and ending in the center of La Fortuna. The hike is easier if you start at the trailhead, the GreenLagoon Falls Park and Lodge. At $8 a person to enter the trail (without a guide), this is a very economical choice for the La Fortuna area.
White Water Rafting
If you’re looking to get your heart rate up, then look no further than a white water rafting expedition down the Bolsa River. The first half of the rafting consists of raging rapids—just enough to have your adrenaline steadily spiked without ever actually fearing for your life. After a quick break for fruit at the halfway point, the rapids slow and you can enjoy the jungle scenery that surrounds the river. Sunbathing iguanas, white and black cormorants, and sleeping sloths are just a few of the memorable creatures typically spotted. If you’re keen on white water rafting but unsure of whom to trust your life with, I always recommend Jacamar Naturalist Tours. The company aims to cause the least impact to wildlife and the environment, hires and promotes local services, and has signed The Code, taking their stance against child exploitation in the travel industry.
La Fortuna Waterfall
There are plenty of waterfalls in Costa Rica, but La Fortuna Waterfall remains a crowd favorite. After a $10 entrance fee and a journey down a few hundred steps, you’ll arrive at a spectacular waterfall cascading into a vibrant blue swimming hole. To add to the experience, consider taking a horseback riding adventure to arrive at the waterfall (though you’ll still have to climb down—and subsequently back up—all those steps).
Arenal Hanging Bridges
The Arenal Hanging Bridges are a 2-mile complex of 16 hanging bridges—including 6 suspension bridges. It’s an easy walk through the rainforest, and there are some impressive views and occasional wildlife, like toucans, spiders, snakes and monkeys. If you’re keen on actually spotting any wildlife at all, be sure to go to the Arenal Hanging Bridges with a guide. If not, the bird’s eye views from the suspension bridges are easily enjoyed on your own.
La Fortuna boasts quite a few different hot spring options. However, most of them are private, with very hefty fees to enjoy the luxurious settings. I simply could not justify spending $80 on a dip in hot water, no matter how fancy the attached resort. Luckily, there is another option. Located just under a bridge outside of La Fortuna is a free, public hot spring. It’s the same water at the private hot spring resorts, but without all the fuss and in the form of a gentle flowing river. Go at night, bring a few beers, watch the fireflies and let all the tension from the adventures dissolve.
If you’re an avid adventurer, you might also consider canyoning, hiking Arenal Volcano, kayaking, ziplining… the options are virtually endless. Just don’t forget that you don’t have to participate in every adventure to experience La Fortuna and the Arenal area to its fullest.
Have you visited La Fortuna?