Arguably Costa Rica’s most frequented tourist destination, La Fortuna (translated to mean ‘the fortunate’) boasts the famous Arenal volcano. The town received it’s name after being spared from one of Arenal’s volcanic eruptions while other towns in the area were not so lucky. Not only is this town home to the picturesque Arenal volcano but it is also to many of Costa Rica’s native animals in the surrounding rainforests. Driving along the roads of La Fortuna, if you have a good eye, you can often spot sloths sleeping or moving slowly in the trees above.

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View from La Fortuna town

Things to do in La Fortuna?

There are many activities to occupy your time in La Fortuna. The issue is that they are not always the most budget friendly. If you are a budget traveler, you may want to determine which activities interest you the most and prioritise these. Activities that are available in La Fortuna include:

La Fortuna Waterfall
This waterfall is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Costa Rica and not without good reason! The steep 500 steep climb up & down is completely worth it to view the cascading waterfall at the bottom of the rainforest. It is possible to take a dip in the refreshing water at the bottom so remember your bathers! The cost of this attraction is around 6612 Colones ($12 USD) pp. For the super budget conscious traveler, we noticed quite a few backpackers walking to this attraction from the La Fortuna town (but note it is quite a hike & it rains frequently in Costa Rica!) We were fortunate enough to have hired a car so we made a leisurely 10 minute drive to the waterfall.
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La Fortuna Waterfall

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La Fortuna Waterfall

Visit one of La Fortuna’s Hot Springs
La Fortuna is particular popular for its many hot springs in the area. There are numerous commercialised hot springs that you can visit on a trip to La Fortuna which filter the hot spring water into luxurious swimming pools including Baldi, Paradise & Los Argos (Around $35 – $40 USD entry). For the budget conscious traveler, try the free hot springs in La Fortuna for a more natural experience in the rainforest. These are located near the Tabicon Marriott Hotel. To find the hot springs, follow the yellow gates down a path on the right side of the road. You are able to park your car for free just before the yellow gates. If you don’t have a car, the cost of a taxi is around $30 USD return to La Fortuna town or you catch a bus headed to Tilaran (ask if you can be dropped off near the Tabicon). The bus costs around $2 pp each way.

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La Fortuna Free Hot Springs

Hike in the Arenal National Park
It is possible to hike through the 5,437 feet high volcano in the Arenal National Park at a daily entrance cost of $15 USD pp entry. Along the trails it is possible to see volcanic rocks and wildlife. The main trek in the National Park leads you to views of lava flows from the last major eruption in 1992. An alternative to hiking in the area is to visit the nearby Arenal 1968 trails which provides a more budget option at an entrance cost of $10 USD pp entry. A tip would be to hike the National Park on a clear day for the best views of the Volcano.

Visit Arenal’s Hanging Bridges
For a walk in the rainforest treetops, visit Arenal’s Hanging Bridges. If you are lucky you can spot wildlife in the canopy below. The 2 mile walk costs around $20 USD pp entry. A tip would be to visit the hanging bridges in the morning where the wildlife including the howler monkeys are the most active.

Take the Night Frog tour

If you stay on premises at the Arenal Oasis Wildlife Refuge the cost of the Night Tour is $25 USD pp. Alternatively, if you stay off premises, the price is $40 USD pp. However, they will lower the cost to $35 USD if you book direct and ask. At $40 USD it is substantially higher than the price of other night walks especially if you are travelling to the Monteverde area (See Monteverde). However, Arenal Oasis Wildlife Refuge has great reviews and is particularly useful if your main focus is viewing frogs (as they are not as prevalent in Monteverde).

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Sloth viewed on Night Walk

Where to stay?

The average cost of accomodation in this area is as follows:

Dorm room – $12 – $15 USD per night per person

Budget double – $35 – $50 USD per night

A bit more of a splurge – $50 USD – $350 USD per night

Budget – For the budget conscious traveler, La Fortuna has many decent accommodation options to choose from. If you are travelling with a car, Hotel Tangara Arenal B&B is great option. The rooms are beautifully decorated, wifi is high speed & the breakfast is great. If you want a more central location, Hotel Central Loft is a solid choice. However, the internet can be intermittent & you need to pay in cash. For the very budget conscious, Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna is a good option which provides clean air-conditioned rooms, a good ‘chill out’ area and free welcome drinks.

A bit of a splurge – If you are looking to have a splurge, there are numerous quality luxury options where you receive good value including Hotel Arenal Kioro Suites (a 5 star luxury hotel priced around $200 USD per night) & The Springs Resort and Spa (a 5 star luxury hotel priced around $350 USD per night).

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Welcome drinks at Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna
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Hotel Tangara Rooms
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Traditional Gallo Pinto Breakfast served at Hotel Tangara

Cost of food La Fortuna?

Despite Costa Rica being located in Central America, the cost of food is not as cheap as one would imagine. Aside from decent price accommodation, everything else in Costa Rica is on par or only slightly cheaper than prices in the United States. A big shock if you are travelling from a country such as Mexico or Nicaragua. The average cost of a meal in a restaurant in La Fortuna is around $10 USD pp.
To keep costs low, keep eating to restaurants to a minimum. There is a MegaSuper supermarket centrally located in La Fortuna. Alternatively, if you wish to eat out, look for the restaurants called ‘Sodas’ which are locally run establishments with cheaper prices or fast food restaurants in the area. We particularly enjoyed the fast food joint called Tacos Serrano where you can pick up a delicious & cheap chicken burrito for 1000 Colones ($1.8 USD). For lunch, Musmanni provides a good option for a reasonably priced treat.If you are looking for good coffee in La Fortuna, I can highly recommend My Coffee Lounge which serves fantastic coffee! This shop is located on the main street of La Fortuna.
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Chicken Taco at Tacos Serrano
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Musmanni Bakery
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My Coffee Lounge

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Latte at My Coffee Lounge

How to reach La Fortuna?

From San Jose

By car – Arguably the easiest way to reach La Fortuna and to see all the attractions is by car. It takes around 3 hours from San Jose. You can find some really good deals on car hire (as low as $20 USD per day). This can put you on par with the price of cabs to reach tourist attractions. Be careful when booking a car, there can be HUGE insurance excesses in Costa Rica (up to a $4000 USD hold on your credit card). We recently partnered with Adobe Car Rental & are pleased to announce that readers of our blog are entitled to up to a 25% discount automatically when booking through our website. See here for details on how to apply the discount.

By bus – Alternatively, you can reach La Fortuna by public bus leaving at 6:30, 8:30 and 11:30am from the Atlántico del Norte bus station at Avenida 9 and Calle 12. The journey is a bit longer (around 4 hours) but the fare only costs $5 USD per person.

From Monteverde

By car – We traveled between La Fortuna & Monteverde by car (approximately 3 – 3.5 hours). People will tell you that you require a 4 wheel drive to make the journey due to unpaved roads and (while this may be easier) it is not strictly necessary as we had no troubles driving there in our hired Sedan. The last 25 km from La Fortuna to Monteverde is unpaved roads so it will have you going at a snail pace though! See here for details on how to get a good car hire discount in Costa Rica.

By bus – The alternative is the jeep-boat-jeep between Monteverde and La Fortuna (and vice versa). This will set you back $25 pp and takes about 3 hours.

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