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The region of Arenal and La Fortuna, Costa Rica is one of the top destinations in the country. From 1968 until 2010, Arenal Volcano was one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes, erupting daily and offering an incredible view of the red lava pouring over the sides of its crater. The red lava days are now gone, and the volcano was officially declared dormant in December 2010.

Despite the lack of volcanic activities, tourists are still keen to visit Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica. Many travelers add a trip to Arenal Volcano to the top of their list for scenic hiking trails and access to natural hot springs.   

The sleepy town of La Fortuna, Costa Rica serves as the gateway to Arenal. Downtown La Fortuna is home to numerous hotels, restaurants, and activities in the area. 

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Arenal, Costa Rica
La Fortuna, Costa Rica

About Arenal and La Fortuna

Arenal is known for its 1,633 metres (5,358 ft) tall volcano of the same name. Years ago, Arenal Volcano was completely dormant. This all changed in 1968 when an unexpected eruption famously destroyed the small town of Tabacón. The eruptions continued daily for years, turning the La Fortuna area into a tourist hotspot

Up until 2010, Arenal was Costa Rica’s most active volcano. And although it has since been dormant, scientists believe it may one day return to its lava-flowing state. That being said, Arenal and La Fortuna are completely safe to visit and welcome thousands of travelers every year.

Arenal Volcano National Park is the second most popular park in Costa Rica. La Fortuna offers many tours to see the volcano and explore the nearby lake and hot springs. People consider Arenal one of Costa Rica’s best volcanoes to see because it’s so tall and symmetrical against the surrounding pastures.    

Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

How to Get to Arenal

Arenal Volcano is located about 80 km northwest of San Jose airport in the province of Alajuela. It’s nestled in Costa Rica’s northern lowlands where it stands tall amid low-lying forests and bubbling thermal pools.

Rent a Car

The best way to get to Arenal is by driving. Whether you want to visit La Fortuna or head straight to Arenal Volcano National Park, you’ll need to head to make your way to La Fortuna, Costa Rica.  If you are coming from one of the other popular tourist destinations, a trip to Arenal will take approximately 3-5 hours. 

If driving on windy roads in a foreign country makes you feel uneasy, consider alternative transportation options, like a shared of private shuttle or public transport. 

Getting friendly with pizotes on the side of the road in Arenal, Costa Rica
Getting friendly with pizotes on the side of the road in Arenal

READ NEXT: Renting a Car in Costa Rica: Tips, Advice, Warnings & More

Driving Distance to Arenal 

San Jose to Arenal: If you are coming from San Jose, it should take you no more than 3-4 hours to get to La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Traveling west on Route 1 will take you to San Ramon where you will then take Route 702 to La Fortuna. The total driving distance from La Fortuna/Arenal to San Jose is 139 km (86 miles). Although it doesn’t sound like a long distance, the winding roads will slow you down so be sure to plan accordingly.

Tamarindo to Arenal Volcano: To travel from Tamarindo to La Fortuna, head to Liberia. From Liberia, you will make your way around Lake Arenal to get to the entrance of the park. The distance from Arenal to Tamarindo is 205 km (127 miles) and is a 3.5-4 hour drive. 

Jaco to Arenal: Heading from Jaco to La Fortuna is a 157 km (97.5 miles) journey north. You will drive to San Ramon and follow the same winding roads as you would from San Jose. The drive from La Fortuna to Jaco takes about 4 hours.

Manuel Antonio to Arenal: Manuel Antonio is located about 5 hours away from Arenal area. The drive passes Jaco, Orotina and the outskirts of San Jose. It’s a windy but scenic drive. 

Monteverde to Arenal: Although the two look close on a map, the distance is deceiving. The drive from Arenal to Monteverde and vice versa takes 3-4 hours. It’s a 118 km (73 miles) trip that winds through mountainous terrain.  The first part of the trip from Monteverde to Tilarán follows a very bumpy unpaved road. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended, although you can make it in a regular car if you take your time. But, during the rainy season (October and November specifically), the road is impassable without 4×4 and we do not recommend taking your chances.  

If you do not have a vehicle and are looking for a transfer between Monteverde and Arenal, check out this scenic boat taxi transfer via Lake Arenal

Liberia to Arenal: Route 1 from Liberia will get you to the town of Cañas. From here, you’ll then make your way around Lake Arenal to get to La Fortuna, Costa Rica. This route is 132 km (82 miles) and takes about 2.5 hours.

Arenal, Costa Rica: La Fortuna town, getaway to Arenal Volcano
La Fortuna town, a getaway to Arenal Volcano

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Use Local Transport

If you are not renting a car in Costa Rica or prefer a greener alternative, you can get to Arenal by taking local buses. They are hassle-free, comfortable, and well-connected. 

There are a number of direct buses from San Jose leaving at 6:15a.m, 8:40 a.m and 11:30 a.m most days. As well as a number of later buses connecting through Ciudad Quesada. The Bus Schedule is a great resource for checking up-to-date bus schedules for destinations nationwide. However, tickets can only be purchased in person at the bus station. You can purchase them a few days ahead or on the day of. 

Take a Shuttle Bus

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

Arrive by Air

If you want to save time on transportation, consider flying. If booked ahead of time, a one-way domestic flight with local airlines Sansa can be as cheap as $50-60 USD/person. Sansa airlines have direct flights to La Fortuna on most Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The flight from San Jose is very scenic and takes only 30 minutes.

La Fortuna Costa Rica map
Map of La Fortuna and the surrounding area

Best Time to Visit Arenal Volcano

Arenal, Costa Rica is a great destination to visit any time of the year, but similar to the rest of the country, there are two distinct seasons in Arenal: dry season and green season. 

Dry Season (Dec-Apr) is generally the best time to visit Costa Rica, if you want to avoid the rain, however, that’s also the busiest time of the year, so expect higher prices and lots of other tourists. But, don’t be afraid to plan a trip to Arenal, Costa Rica during the Green Season (May-Nov).

We have visited Arenal a couple of times, in both the dry and rainy seasons and have enjoyed our stay both times. In the rainy season, it almost always rained in the afternoon, leaving mornings sunny and clear, perfect for a swim in the pool, or a hike in the national park. The clouds parted more than once a day, giving us a chance to admire the cone-shaped volcano in all of its beauty.

Rainy day in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Rainy day in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

 

1. Visit the Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

The national park offers anyone visiting Arenal Volcano a chance to admire the Arenal volcano from up close. Even though it’s not possible to hike to the top of the volcano, you can follow one of the paths and walk over the lava rocks to a mirador (viewpoint) that, on a clear day, offers a great view of the Arenal region.

Entrance Fees & Park Hours

Park entry 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. The park is open from 8 a.m to 4 p.m daily.

Hiking trails at Arenal Volcano National Park in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Hiking trails map at Arenal Volcano National Park in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Enjoy the Hiking Trails

There are 3 hiking trails in Arenal National Park, Costa Rica: Heliconias Trail, Las Coladas Trail and El Ceibo Trail.  They offer unique glimpses into the pathways of lava flows from the days of Arenal’s active volcano status. The trails form a 4 km (2.5 miles) loop that can usually be done in 2-3 hours. 

Las Coladas Trail (Sendero Las Coladas) is a flat and pleasant 1.7 km (1 mile) stretch that leads to the hardened lava streams that formed after an eruption in 1992.  Most of this trail is secondary growth because volcanic eruptions wiped out the majority of the primary trees years ago. Toward the end of the trail, you will leave the forest canopy and come to a lookout – a clearing that offers a stunning view of the Arenal Volcano on one side and an incredible view of Lake Arenal on the other. When it comes to views, La Coladas is the best Costa Rica volcano hike in the park.  

El Ceibo Trail: Once at the lookout, you can follow the El Ceibo trail back to the park entrance. While most old-growth here was destroyed in past volcano eruptions, there are a few mighty trees that managed to survive. This 2.3 km (1.5 miles) flat trail is named after its resident giant Ceiba tree that is over 400 years old! 

Heliconias Trail: This is a flat 610 m (2,000 ft) trail that winds through the secondary growth forest. It’s the least interesting of the 3 trails but is thus a bit quieter and offers a higher chance of spotting wildlife, like howler monkeys or a Bare-necked Umbrellabird.

Beautiful views of Arenal Volcano from the trail in Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Beautiful views of Arenal Volcano from the trail in Arenal Volcano National Park
View of Arenal Lake from the trail in Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
View of Arenal Lake from the trail in Arenal Volcano National Park

Other Things to do in Arenal

While the volcano itself is definitely the main attraction, there are lots of other things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, these activities and tours are sure to make your trip a memorable one.  

2. Go White Water Rafting

Arenal Volcano is conveniently located in close proximity to a couple of Grade 2-4 rivers in Costa Rica, including Rio Balsa and Rio Sarapiqui.

Rio Balsa is Class 2-3 and is located 40 min away from La Fortuna town. It’s perfect for beginners or those short on time. The river offers gentler rapids and is located a bit closer to La Fortuna town. Rafting on Rio Balsa was one of the highlights of our time in Arenal. It was an exhilarating 2-3 hours ride that offered just enough fun and adrenaline! The first part of the river adventure was rather full-on, while the second half was more laid back offering a chance to sit back and admire the beautiful natural setting around us. Rafting packages with Desafio Adventure Company start at $75 USD /person.

Rio Sarapiqui is Class 3-4 and is located 1 hour and 10 mins from la Fortuna town. The guides will tell you that they prefer rafting on Rio Sarapiqui because it allows for some wildlife viewing between the rapids. We haven’t had a chance to try Rio Sarapiqui ourselves yet but heard that this is a really fun adrenaline-filled adventure, especially if you visit. at the end of the green season in November, when the rivers are high. 

 There are a number of tour providers in town offering rafting on Rio Balsa and Rio Sarapiqui. We did our rafting tour with Desafio Adventure Company, a well-known activities provider that offers tours all around Costa Rica. They offer a number of rafting tours and other adventure tours in La Fortuna. 

  • Half-Day Rafting Tour on Rio Balsa: Desafio’s half-day rafting adventure tour includes all the rafting gear, 2-3 hours of rafting along the Grade 2-3 rapids, and a delicious lunch served at a local Finca (farm) following the ride. Snacks and lunch are included!
  • Rafting Class 3-4 “Jungle Run” on Río Sarapiquí: Join the team at Desafio on a whitewater rafting trip on the Sarapiquí River. The adventure includes 30 exciting rapids on the San Miguel Class 3-4 section through 10 kilometres of lush rainforest. Snacks and lunch are included!
Rio Balsa, Costa Rica
Rio Balsa, Costa Rica
White water rafting, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Whitewater Rafting on Rio Balsa near La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Other White Water Rafting Tours in Arenal

Another well-rated tour operator in Arenal is Arenal Rafting Company. They offer tours on Rio Balsa only at a slightly cheaper price. 

  • Arenal Rafting Balsa River Class 2 & 3 Rafting: A thrilling rafting trip down the class 2 and 3 rapids of the beautiful Balsa River. Navigate 10 km downstream, stopping along the way to rest, swim and enjoy some snacks. Includes transportation, equipment, snacks, beer and lunch.
  • Arenal Rafting Upper Balsa Class 3 and 4 Rapids: A similar trip to the one above but this tour takes you along the upper Balsa River and offers an opportunity to undertake slightly bigger rapids, classified as Class 3 and 4, depending on the season. 

White water rafting, Arenal, Costa Rica

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3. Soak in Arenal Hot Springs

Thanks to the geothermal activity surrounding Arenal Volcano, the town of La Fortuna is known as one of the best spots in Costa Rica to soak in some hot springs. It’s an activity in Arenal you do not want to miss!

There are 3 large hot springs resorts in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, with admission prices ranging from $34 USD to $105 USD/per day. Here are a few of the best hot springs in Arenal.

Best Hot Springs in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Tabacon Hot Springs, Costa Rica is the first, the most upscale hot spring resort in La Fortuna. Tabacon Resort, Costa Rica offers visitors access to dozens of hot spring pools in their lush Garden of Eden

Half-day passes start at $70 USD and include lunch or dinner, full-day passes with one meal are $85 USD and full-day passes with two meals are $105 USD. If you can afford to splurge, we highly recommend dedicating a whole day to soaking in Tabacon hot springs. It’s a beautiful place and definitely the most popular hot springs in Costa Rica, so take your time to explore and enjoy it to the fullest.

Baldi Hot Springs, Costa Rica is the second most popular choice for hot springs in town. The Baldi hot springs are known to attract a younger (more budget-conscious) crowd and offer a more upbeat setting. A daily pass costs only $34 or $57 with lunch or dinner, or $79 with both lunch and dinner.

Eco-Thermales is the third hot springs option available in town. This resort is much smaller in size than Tabacon and Baldi and offers another alternative for a budget-conscious traveler. A day pass costs $40 or $62 with lunch or dinner.

Paradise Hot Springs, Costa Rica is another popular spot, located not far from Baldi Hot Springs. There are five thermal pools and one cold pool to plunge into and refresh. They’re the best option for travelers on a budget with day passes costing only $28 or $45 with a meal.  

Free Hot Springs Options in Arenal 

If you’re looking for FREE Hot Springs in La Fortuna, you need to check out Rio Chollin. Coined as “Mini-Tabacon,” these La Fortuna, Costa Rica, hot springs are a favourite for locals and backpackers. 

They’re located just upstream from the hot springs at Tabacon, La Fortuna where you’ll see a gravel path to the river. Follow the path down and enjoy a soak in the natural thermal pools heated by Arenal volcano. This is where the locals hang out! Just remember that these hot springs aren’t monitored like a hotel or spa so be careful climbing the slippery rocks. This is one of the only free hot springs Costa Rica has to offer, so enjoy them to the fullest! 

Aside from hot springs resorts in La Fortuna, a number of hotels in the area have smaller private hot springs on-site, allowing you to have the hot springs experience not too far away from your room. We’ll share more info on these resorts in the accommodation section below. 

Travel Tip: If you are planning to spend a few days in Arenal, we usually recommend spending one full day at Tabacon, Baldi or Eco-Thermales as well as opt to stay at a hotel that offers private hot springs on site. While it is nice to spend an entire day soaking in the pools, it’s also nice to have the option to jump in for 30 minutes at the end of every day during your stay. It’s a particularly great reprieve after a day of hiking or white water rafting!

4. Admire the Views at Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal sits at the base of the Arenal Volcano and offers a number of activities to the curious visitor. It’s the largest lake in Costa Rica and one of the best for fishing and water sports. The lake is a beautiful sight in its own right, especially, on a clear day when the Arenal Volcano reflects in the glassy waters of the lake below. The lake is also a destination for some adventure activities in La Fortuna. 

Things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica: Explore Lake Arenal

5. Go Stand-up Paddleboarding on Lake Arenal

This 2.5 hour Stand Up Paddleboarding Tour by Desafio Adventure Company is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Arenal Lake up close. The tour starts with a boat ride to the middle of the lake, where you’ll hop on a SUP board, get ready,  find your balance, stand up and begin crossing the calm waters on the lake. About halfway through the trip, you’ll make a short stop on an island for amazing scenic views.  

SUP on Lake Arenal. Photo via Desafio Adventure Company
SUP on Lake Arenal. Photo via Desafio Adventure Company

6. Go Kayaking on Lake Arenal

Run by Desafio Adventure Company, this kayaking tour on Lake Arenal allows you to not only experience the beauty of the lake, but also enjoy the abundant birds that can be spotted on the lake. Observe different species of birds such as flycatchers, kingfishers, great blue herons, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and toucans. This tour is ideal for any amateur or experienced birdwatcher. 

Things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica: Explore Lake Arenal
Kayaking on Lake Arenal. Photo via Desafio Adventure Company

7. Take a Kitesurfing Lesson on Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal is one of the few places in Costa Rica where you can try kitesurfing or windsurfing. It’s important to note that kitesurfing and windsurfing are only available in the windy season (Jan-Mar) and lessons are only offered by Tico Wind, the only operator in Costa Rica offering kite surfing and windsurfing activities. They offer one-off kitesurfing lessons, (3 hours for $245) and a complete beginner kitesurfing course (9 hours) for $650. They also offer equipment rental to those with existing certifications. 

8. Go for a Swim in Lake Arenal

Since most people focus on water activities, many wonder, is it safe to swim in Lake Arenal Costa Rica? And the answer is YES! Absolutely! The water is nice and clean and makes for the perfect cool dip after a day of hiking.  Even if you’re not interested in any of the above activities, a drive to the lake is still worth the trip. As the lake offers a unique perspective on the area surrounding Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica and the volcano itself. Plus, a visit to the lake is one of the best free things to do in La Fortuna.

9. Visit  La Fortuna Waterfall

Located just 6 km (3.7 miles) outside of downtown La Fortuna, La Fortuna Waterfall is a popular attraction in La Fortuna town. La Fortuna waterfall hike runs through a lush tropical forest and is an easy hike with a beautiful waterfall and a fun swimming hole at the end. There is a set of 400 steps leading to the base of the waterfall, but the trail is not very steep. Bring a bathing suit and enjoy a refreshing dip in the base of the falls or join others for a picnic on the rocks. 

The entrance fee to La Fortuna Waterfall is $18 USD, all proceeds are reinvested into local conservation efforts. Hours are from 8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m daily. Lockers are available at $2 USD with a $10 USD refundable deposit.

Entrance at the La Fortuna Waterfall
Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Travel to La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall. Arenal, Costa Rica

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10. Visit Cerro Chato Volcano

Cerro Chato volcano is not as well known as its famous brother, Arenal, but it does offer a unique opportunity to hike up to and inside the crater. We didn’t end up doing it ourselves, but the hike is said to be steep and sometimes muddy and is thus only recommended to those in good physical condition.

The entrance fee is $15 USD per person. 

11. Visit Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Exploring the Costa Rican rainforest from high up in the trees is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of its vastness. And a visit to Mistico Hanging Bridges, Costa Rica allows you to do just that. The park dates back to the early 20th Century and sits on 600 acres of protected land that forms a network of trails through the forest. 

There are a couple of tour options available at Mistico Hanging Bridges Park, including guided and self-guided tours. More info and links to prebook are below. 

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park: Guided Tour: This guided tour of Mistico Park is the best way to explore the hanging bridges. La Fortuna is bursting with unique flora and fauna and your local guide will teach you all about it. The tour lasts 2 hours and hits all the park’s highlights, from the hummingbird garden to the Blue Morpho Waterfall. 

Mistico Hanging Bridges La Fortuna Tour: Self-Guided: If you already know a lot about Costa Rican flora and fauna, a self-guided tour is another way to experience the hanging bridges in Costa Rica. Work your way around 16 hanging bridges, 1 tunnel, and a spectacular 18-meter waterfall.

La Fortuna: Horseback Riding at Mistico Park, Arenal Volcano: Spend 1.5 hours exploring the trails of Mistico Park in the stunning rainforest. Enjoy horseback riding in the park while soaking in views of Arenal volcano and all the peaceful nature along the way.     

Hanging Bridges Arenal, Costa Rica
Admiring the views from the hanging bridges

12. Go Zip Lining 

Soar across the La Fortuna zip line on an Arenal Volcano Canopy Zipline Tour. From high above the trees, the view of Arenal volcano and its surrounding rainforest is spectacular. You’ll cross 9 different zip lines on a thrilling ride on one of the longest zip lines in Costa Rica.

13. Take a Cooking Class

Put on your chef’s hat and enjoy a 3-Hour Costa Rican Cooking Class with Dinner. You’ll learn about popular local cuisine and explore the flavours of typical Costa Rican food from an expert chef. You’ll then get to try your hand at preparing your own Gallo Pinto and other Tico dishes while sipping on a hand crafted cocktail.  

Traditional Costa Rican food Gallo Pinto
Traditional Costa Rican food – Gallo Pinto

14. Go on a Sloth Tour

La Fortuna is home to some of Costa Rica’s most beloved animals, sloths! A 2-hour Sloth Tour in the Wild is an amazing way to see two and three-toed sloths in their natural habitat. This La Fortuna sloth tour is led by a local guide who will take you to the best spots to view sloths. Keep an eye out for other wildlife like toucans and frogs while enjoying homemade snacks and beautiful scenery. 

Sloths in Arenal, Costa Rica Arenal
Sloth in Arenal, Costa Rica Arenal

15. Go on a Rainforest Chocolate Tour 

Chocolate is one of the many delicious exports of Costa Rica. So a  Rainforest Chocolate Tour is the perfect way to learn more about the process of making chocolate. Experience the history, culture, and traditions of Costa Rican chocolate with a hands-on tour and tasting. Plus, chocolate on the tour is unlimited so if you are a sweet tooth (ahem, who isn’t?) definitely add this to your list of things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica.

16. Go Canyoning

If you want to visit La Fortuna and get your adrenaline fix, you have to join an extreme canyoning tour. This Waterfall Jumping & Extreme Canyoning Tour explores Gravity Falls and they aren’t for the faint of heart! Spend the day rappelling down tropical waterfalls and jumping from cliffs into deep canyon pools. Thrill-seekers won’t want to miss this exhilarating experience! 

17. Go on a Rainforest Horseback Ride 

One of the top things to do in La Fortuna is to see Arenal Volcano up close. If you’re not into hiking, taking a horseback ride to the base of the volcano is a fun alternative. 

This Half Day Rainforest Horseback Ride to the Arenal Volcano is a peaceful adventure into nature. You’ll see rivers, birds, and even monkeys as you make your way to the volcano.

18. Take a Day Trip to Tenorio Volcano National Park

A visit to Tenorio Volcano National Park should be reserved for those with a lot of time to spare in the region as getting to Tenorio from Arenal takes 2 hours. Tenorio is a true Costa Rican rainforest renowned for the beautiful aqua-coloured Rio Celeste Waterfall. 

We recommend taking a day trip to Tenorio to fully experience the magic of Rio Celeste. This Rio Celeste Full-Day Tour From La Fortuna is the ultimate day tour filled with hiking and spectacular views. A local guide will point out the diverse plants that make the area so unique, take you to a few lookout points and help you navigate your way to the Rio Celeste waterfall. 

Things to do in La Fortuna at Night 

Nighttime isn’t known to be ideal for wildlife viewing, but in Costa Rica, this is when the rainforest really comes alive! Here are 2 fun night tours to get you out into nature after dusk. 

19. Go on a Mistico Night Walk

Mistico Night Walk is our favourite La Fortuna night tours to see the many nocturnal creatures. You’ll make your way through lush vegetation and hanging bridges searching for eyes glowing in the bushes. Your guide will help point out a variety of animals including frogs, snakes, lizards, owls, and tons of nocturnal insects.  

20. Do a Guided Twighlight Safari

Guided Twilight Safari on Peñas Blancas River is another fantastic night tour. You’ll set sail on a raft through the peaceful river surrounded by the sounds of nature. The boat’s low lights are the perfect way to see the nocturnal animals without disturbing them. This is a much more relaxing way to experience the river than La Fortuna rafting! 

Nighttime can be the best time to see some elusive Costa Rica creatures!

Best La Fortuna Tours

If you are short on time but want to squeeze as much as possible into your few days in La Fortuna, consider joining one of these recommended combo La Fortuna tours. 

Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, and Hot Springs TourThis is the best Arenal, Costa Rica volcano tour to see it all. You’ll spend an entire day exploring the area around Arenal Volcan, do the La Fortuna waterfall hike and end the day in hot springs. Traditional Costa Rican lunch is included. 

Arenal: 4 Activities Tour with Optional Hot SpringsCross all of the Arenal highlights off your list on this 4 activities tour. You’ll visit Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, the Arenal Hanging Bridges, and a relaxing hot spring of your choosing. 

La Fortuna: 6-Hour Arenal Volcano Observatory & Lake TourHike through lush gardens to see the active volcano from a different perspective. You’ll visit the Arenal Observatory to learn about the volcano before basking in the sunset over Lake Arenal. Finish the day with a cocktail while relaxing in the soothing Arenal Costa Rica hot springs. 

From La Fortuna: Zip-Line and Rafting AdventureFor a dose of adventure, spend your day doing two of La Fortuna’s most popular activities: ziplining and rafting. Soar through the forest canopy on a zipline before hitting the water on Río Balsa’s class 2-3 rapids. 

La Fortuna Waterfall, Volcano and Hanging Bridges ComboThis is one of the best combo tours because it includes 3 of the best La Fortuna things to do. Visit the La Fortuna Waterfall, hike the lava flows around Arenal Volcano, and cross the famous hanging bridges. 

La Fortuna Costa Rica Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall is a must see while in Arenal

Best Hotels in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Unlike other destinations in Costa Rica, the area around Arenal is quite spread out with hotels, restaurants and activities spanning well beyond the town of La Fortuna. 

When searching for the best hotels in Arenal, Costa Rica you’ll have two options: stay in town or outside of town. 

Hotels in Downtown La Fortuna tend to be cheaper and more backpacker/budget-focused. There are a few apartment rentals, hostels and guest houses. The biggest benefit of staying in the town center is that you can walk to restaurants and join activities without having to drive. SO if you are traveling without a car or are on a budget, this is the way to go!

Hotels outside of La Fortuna town are more expensive and tend to be more luxurious. You’ll find these hotels to offer resort-style accommodation with restaurants, pools and other facilities on site. Some of them even have private hot springs on site. In our opinion, one of the biggest perks of staying in a hotel outside of town is that many of them offer unobstructed views of the Arenal Volcano. We always opt for accommodation outside of town and would definitely recommend this to others visiting Arenal and La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Best Hotels in La Fortuna Town, Costa Rica 

If you opt to stay in town, here are a few sustainably-minded hotels we recommend: 

La Fortuna Suites is a conveniently located bed & breakfast steps from downtown La Fortuna. The hotel features 16 suites that are simple but comfortable, with air conditioning, free WiFi, and memory foam mattresses. There’s a restaurant on-site. The B&B is located 25-minute drive from the entrance to Arenal Volcano Park. Rooms start at USD $69 per night. 

Selina La Fortuna is an excellent pick for budget-conscious travelers visiting Arenal, Costa Rica. It’s right in the centre of town and has a restaurant, bar, and pool onsite. There are dorm-style rooms, private rooms, and suites to choose from starting at just USD $20 per night. For the price, it’s easily one of the nicest places to stay in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.   

La Secreto La Fortuna is located on the edge of town, just 15 minutes from Arenal Volcano. The garden-like setting offers beautiful views and a lush place to soak in the sun. La Secreto has a pool, outdoor patio, and close access to great restaurants. It’s a nice balance between town and nature in Arenal, Costa Rica with rooms starting at USD $68 per night.

Downtown La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Downtown La Fortuna, Costa Rica

For those looking to stay outside of town, below is a list of the best hotels that offer hot springs on-site!

La Fortuna Hotels with Hot Springs

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa is an excellent place to spend the day at the hot springs but it is also a great place to lay your head for the night. They have a wide range of rooms and suites to choose from which start at $310/night as well as some great sustainability practices in place. Hotel Tabacon, Costa Rica is by far one of the best options if you want to spend lots of time soaking in beautiful hot springs. 

The Springs Resort & Spa is a five-star property that has been voted as one of the resorts with the most spectacular views in the world. There is a vast range of rooms and suites at the resort, and the property is home to the Club Rio Outdoor Center offering river tubing, kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing, hot springs and an Animal Sanctuary.

Volcano Lodge is a spa hotel built on hot springs. The hotel’s rooms boast beautiful volcano views and 2 outdoor thermal pools to soak in. There is also a spa on-site for a full “thermal experience.” Standard rooms are $239 USD per night while a thermal room with private hot springs is $350 USD/night. It’s one of the best La Fortuna, Costa Rica hotels with hot springs!   

Hot Springs Hotel Costa Rica 
Enjoying private hot springs at Volcano Lodge in Arenal

Nayara Springs is a luxurious adult-only retreat nestled on a tropical hillside. Nayara Springs, Costa Rica, is a great launch point to explore the area as it’s close to La Fortuna Waterfall and Arenal Volcano. The rooms are bright and airy, with private pools, an onsite restaurant, and free yoga classes. Villas are a premium-priced at USD $885 per night, but sister hotel Nayara Gardens offers rooms for USD $425.   

Nayara Tented Camp is the ultimate slice of paradise. In fact, Nayara Tented Camp, Costa Rica is rated as one of the best resorts in all of Central America. You can enjoy spectacular views from your own private plunge pool with a backdrop of pristine rainforest. There’s a restaurant, fitness room, and sauna, with luxury tents for USD $1,200 per night.  

Arenal Spring Hotel Resort & Spa, a nice and reasonably priced resort with great views of the volcano, on-site hot springs, 3 restaurants, and a fitness center with rates starting at $150/night.

Arenal hotels in Costa Rica: Arenal Springs Resort

READ NEXT: Best Places To Stay In Costa Rica

Best La Fortuna Restaurants 

Most restaurants in the area are located in the town of La Fortuna. So, unless you are eating at your hotel, be prepared to venture into town. There are lots of things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, so you can end a day of adventure at a nice restaurant.  

Lava Lounge Bar & Grill – great atmosphere, good drinks, delicious local and international food. Try their ceviche and mango cheesecake.

Life House Organic Restaurant – Plant base farm to fork dishes that cater to those looking for a healthier lunch/dinner option. Try their cucumber juice and mango pico de gallo.

Pollo Fortuneno – budget-friendly grill with the best-grilled chicken and rib dishes. Great spot for typical Costa Rican food. 

Kappa Sushi Fortuna – if you are tired of rice and beans, this is a great alternative. Delicious sushi at a very affordable price.

Organico Fortuna – a cozy little spot offering vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options in a bright, cheery setting. 

Yellow Bark – nice variety of homemade local comfort foods like sandwiches, quesadillas, wraps, and burgers. Vegan options on the menu. 

Restaurante SelvaRustica – a great spot for open air dining with classic Costa Rican dishes. It’s a bit out of Downtown La Fortuna, but totally worth the trek. 

Don Rufino – looking for fine dining in Arenal, Costa Rica? This is your spot. Enjoy contemporary dishes with Costa Rican flair made from locally grown ingredients.

Arenal Costa Rica: Ceviche, guacamole and a steak salad at Lava Bar, La Fortuna
Ceviche, guacamole, and a steak salad at Lava Lounge, La Fortuna
Arenal Costa Rica: Healthy eats at Life Source Cafe, La Fortuna
Healthy eats at Life House Cafe, La Fortuna
Arenal Costa Rica: Meat platter at Pollo Fortuneno, La Fortuna
Meat platter at Pollo Fortuneno, La Fortuna

How many days do you need in Arenal Costa Rica?

If you want to get the most of your visit to Arenal, plan to spend at least 5 days in the area. 

There’s no shortage of fun things to do and ways to relax near Arenal and La Fortuna. Travelers can get the best of both worlds with adventure and serenity in Arenal Volcano’s beautiful natural setting. 

 

What activities would be on your list in Arenal, Costa Rica? 

2 thoughts on “20 Best Things to do in Arenal & La Fortuna, Costa Rica (Complete Guide 2021)”

  1. Hi! Thank you for all of the helpful information! My husband and I are planning our very first trip to Costa Rica. We are flying into and out of Liberia Airport. Our plan is to visit Tamarindo and a national park/volcano – either Arenal or Rincon de la Vieja. Do you recommend one of these over the other?! Thanks,

    1. Rincon makes for a very nice day trip from Tamarindo. There is hiking and hot springs and ziplining. Arenal is more of a 2-3 day trip. There is a lot to see/do and it’s much farther away from Tamarindo, so we usually do not recommend it as a day trip. So the answer depends on how much time you have and if you are just looking for a day trip form Tamarindo or if you are willing to split your time between Tamarindo and Arenal.

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