Costa Rica is a destination famous for its lush vegetation, beautiful beaches, active volcanoes, and incredible waterfalls. Waterfalls in Costa Rica are scattered all over the country, often in remote locations deep in the forest. While most are off the beaten path, there are a few waterfalls that can be easily accessed from main routes.
One of the easiest waterfalls to visit in Costa Rica is La Fortuna Waterfall. This natural attraction is located in the town of La Fortuna, at the base of the Arenal Volcano.
Visitors flock here from all over the world to experience the vibrant waters of this hidden tropical oasis. If you’re planning to visit La Fortuna Waterfall, be sure to check out these tips for the best experience.
About La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica
La Fortuna Waterfall, also known as Catarata Fortuna, is located at the base of Cerro Chato Volcano. It is just outside of Arenal Volcano National Park in the province of Alajuela.
La Fortuna waterfall is about 70 meters (230 ft.) tall and feeds in from the Arenal River. The river travels through the thick rainforest of the Arenal Mountain Range before plunging into a deep pool.
In English, la fortuna means “fortune” and getting to jump into this waterfall after a brisk hike is exactly that. The cool water at its base is the perfect place for a refreshing dip on a hot day.
Entrance Fee and Hours
There is an $18 USD entrance fee for adults and $5 for children to visit La Fortuna Waterfall. All proceeds from the sale of tickets go towards the conservation and preservation of Arenal National Park.
The area is managed by ADIFORT, which aims to protect the beautiful landscape and keep visiting the falls safe for everyone. All entrance fees are put back into infrastructure, culture, and growth of the La Fortuna community. In a nutshell, your small toll helps to fund projects that keep La Fortuna and Costa Rica beautiful!
La Fortuna Waterfall opens at 7:30 a.m and closes at 4:00 p.m. Since this park is very popular, we recommend arriving early in the day to avoid the crowds.
How Long is the Hike to the Waterfall?
At the entrance, there is a parking lot, a bathroom, and a small gift shop. From the entrance office, it’s about a 15-minute hike down over 500 steps to the waterfall. The hillside staircase is newly built with handrails and benches and has spectacular lookout points over the jungle and waterfall.
The walk down is easy, but it’s important to always be careful as the stairs may be slippery and wet. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk down the steps and 20-30 minutes to come back up. If you need a break, there are small rest areas every 100 steps or so with benches.
Pay attention to your surroundings and take your time on the way down. The bottom steps can be especially slippery, so safety is key. Plus, if you’re lucky, you may be able to spot some birds or even monkeys right from the staircase!
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Can You Swim at La Fortuna Waterfall?
Bathing in the chilly water of the La Fortuna Waterfall is highly recommended and offers a nice relief from the heat! But be careful as you go in; depending on the rain, the water may be high and the current can be strong.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing swim, follow the trail past the waterfall a little further. The river has several calmer pools downstream with crystal clear water and gorgeous views of the rainforest.
How to Get to La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica
The best and easiest way to get to La Fortuna waterfall is by driving. The waterfall is located just 5 km outside of the town of La Fortuna. It will take you under 10 mins to get there by car and parking is free.
The waterfall is a must-see place on any trip to the Arenal Volcano. Because of their close location, visitors can often check out both in one day. The roads are well paved and Google Maps can give you all the route info you need.
From San Jose, the drive to La Fortuna is 140 km (87 miles) and takes about 3 hours. It’s slightly shorter if you’re coming from Liberia, but San Jose airport is still the closest to fly into.
Getting to La Fortuna Without a Car
Considering that Costa Rica doesn’t have a great public transportation system outside of its big cities like San Jose, where you can catch taxis and buses, getting to La Fortuna Waterfall might be a challenge.
Uber was introduced in Costa Rica a few years ago, but it’s just gradually becoming more common outside of San Jose. If you don’t have a rental car and are looking to hire a taxi to get to La Fortuna Waterfall, search Uber. There are often drivers that can take you directly from San Jose airport to La Fortuna.
Another alternative is ordering a taxi. A taxi to La Fortuna Waterfall from La Fortuna town will cost around $15 each way. You can potentially negotiate with the driver to wait for you in the parking lot while you explore the falls. If you are staying outside of town, be prepared to pay more.
Unfortunately, there is no public transportation to La Fortuna Waterfall.
La Fortuna Waterfall Tours
If you are traveling on your own and want to join a group for a trip to La Fortuna Waterfall, consider a tour. La Fortuna Waterfall tours are also a great way to combine a visit to the falls with some other fun activities in the area. Here are a few great options:
- Half-Day Waterfall Tour with Lunch: This unique tour offers an opportunity to visit the La Fortuna Waterfall and enjoy a typical Costa Rican lunch as well as a visit to a little village of the Maluku Indians.
- Nature Lovers Combo Tour: Visit La Fortuna Waterfall, hike the paths of the Arenal Volcano, and walk the suspension bridge of the Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. This combo tour lasts 8 hours and departs from La Fortuna town. Lunch is included in the price, so you can enjoy being out in nature without worrying about food along the way!
- 4 Activities Tour: This combo tour includes all the stops in the Nature Lovers tour but includes an additional visit to one of the hot springs in town. The hot springs in La Fortuna are not only beautiful but are also a natural and relaxing way to end your day. We highly recommend Tabacon, but other hot springs are just as enjoyable.
- Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling Experience: A little more extreme than the others, this tour takes you into the heart of the rainforest. You’ll repel down canyons and feel the splash of cascading waterfalls.
Tips for Visiting La Fortuna Waterfall
Considering that getting to La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica requires hiking, swimming, and even repelling down cliff sides, one thing you need to consider is hydration. Costa Rica is hot and humid on any given day and staying hydrated while on a hike or spending time in the hot sun is important. So be sure to fill up a reusable water bottle so you can stay hydrated throughout the day.
Make sure you wear comfortable clothes including proper hiking shoes with a good grip. If you’re planning on swimming, make sure to bring proper swimming attire. Swim shorts for men are great. Swim shoes also make a big difference as the bottom of the waterfall pool can be quite rocky.
Also, if you’re planning to bring your camera or phone on the hike, it’s a good idea to bring a dry bag. The trail ventures through the wet forest and the base of the falls can be quite misty. To us, it’s always best to bring a dry bag or leave anything you don’t want getting wet in the car or at your hotel.
There is a restaurant at the visitors centre but it’s always good to bring snacks. You will more than likely need some fuel after the hike and an afternoon of swimming. Packing a picnic lunch (and lots of water!) is also a nice way to enjoy the area.
Protect Your Skin
La Fortuna Waterfall is in a relatively shady area, but it’s a good idea to take sunblock. The location may be wet, but the sun is still very strong in this part of the world.
Make sure you bring mosquito repellent as well. Mosquitos are everywhere, and they will come at you in swarms. DEET is terrible for the environment and for our bodies, so pack a more natural mosquito repellent.
How Much Time Do You Need at La Fortuna Waterfall?
La Fortuna Waterfall itself can be visited in half a day. Even less if you just want to walk down to the pool, take a few photos and head back.
If you are looking to combine your visit to La Fortuna Waterfall with other activities in Arenal, we recommend staying in the area for at least 3-4 days.
La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica is possibly the most popular waterfall in the country. It’s at the base of two dormant volcanoes with lush vegetation and incredible sites around every corner. This picturesque place can be as tame or as extreme as you want it to be.