Visiting La Fortuna Waterfall In Costa Rica | 2024 Guide

Costa Rica is a destination famous for its lush vegetation, beautiful beaches, active volcanoes, and incredible waterfalls. 

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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 rainforest waterfalls to visit in Costa Rica is La Fortuna Waterfall, and it’s also one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica. 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 the La Fortuna Waterfall trail, be sure to check out these tips for the best experience.

Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Travel to La Fortuna Waterfall, La Fortuna River Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall. Arenal, Costa Rica.
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Best Time to Visit La Fortuna Waterfalls

The powerful waterfall flows all year round, and both the dry season and green season add their own charm to the full rainforest experience.

In general, the La Fortuna area sees regular rain during the year. The rainy season, or green season is from May to November. People naturally tend to avoid the rain, but the green season in Costa Rica is when nature comes to life. A light tropical shower while you visit the waterfall is not too bad, and it makes a dip in the swimming area even more refreshing! 

If you do experience a bit of rain when you go, be especially cautious on the hike down. When the rain is strong, activities like swimming or climbing rocks are not advisable. It’s always better to stay safe and trust your judgment when going on forest adventures.

Meanwhile, December until April is known as the dry season–but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any rainfall at all. Light showers might happen here and there, so it’s best to pack rain gear regardless of the season.

Most people say that the dry season is the best time to go. There’s no risk of heavy downpours, slippery rocks, or muddy trails. On the flip side, the dry season happens to be the peak time for tourists, so you will deal with big crowds—especially in one of the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica. The area surrounding the Arenal waterfall, the Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake draw in lots of locals and tourists alike. 

Take note of major holidays like Christmas in December and Semana Santa in March or April, which are week-long celebrations. Costa Ricans often celebrate their holidays by going to the top attractions, so expect heavy traffic on the highways, fully booked hotels, and lots of people in national parks and beaches. If your trip falls on these holidays, be sure to plan accordingly.

An insider tip to beat the crowds is to visit the beautiful waterfall first thing in the morning. The La Fortuna waterfall hours are from 7:00am to 5:00pm. Not only will the temperature be cooler, but you’ll likely be the only ones there.

La Fortuna town, getaway to Arenal Volcano
La Fortuna town, getaway to Arenal Volcano

About La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna River Waterfall, also known as Catarata La Fortuna, is located at the base of Cerro Chato Volcano. It is just outside of Arenal Volcano National Park in the province of Alajuela, and is perched at 520 metres above sea level. 

The waterfall is about 70 meters (230 ft.) tall and feeds in from the Arenal River. The river travels through the thick, lush rainforest of the Arenal Mountain Range before plunging into a deep, large 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 the base of the waterfall is the perfect place for a refreshing dip on a hot day.

La Fortuna Costa Rica Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna Waterfall Entrance Fee

The La Fortuna Waterfall entrance fee is USD $18 for adults and USD $5 for children. All proceeds from the sale of tickets go towards the conservation and preservation of Arenal National Park.

The natural beauty in the area is managed sustainably by the Integral Development Association of La Fortuna (ADIFORT). This organization aims to protect the beautiful landscape and keep visiting the falls safe for everyone

All entrance fees are put back into the infrastructure, culture, and growth of the local community. In a nutshell, your small entrance fee helps fund projects that keep the waterfall and surrounding biological reserve beautiful!

La Fortuna Waterfall Opening Hours

La Fortuna Waterfall opens at 7:00 a.m and closes at 5:00 p.m. Since this park is very popular, we recommend arriving early in the day to avoid the crowds.

Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Travel to La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall entrance fee information

How Long Is The Hike To La Fortuna Waterfall?

At the entrance, there is a parking lot, a bathroom, a small cafe, butterfly and orchid garden trails, and a small gift shop or souvenir store. 

From the entrance office, the La Fortuna waterfall hike takes about 15 minutes–that’s over 500 steps. The hillside staircase is newly built with handrails and benches and has spectacular lookout points over the jungle and waterfall. Keep an eye out for the small waterfall right before you get to the base of the falls!

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 with benches every 100 steps or so.

Pay attention to your surroundings and take your time on the way down. The bottom steps can be especially slippery, so safety is key. Swap flip-flops for water shoes or any other pair with a stronger grip. You’ll need it while going down all the stairs and even while walking along the base of the waterfall. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot some birds or even monkeys right from the staircase!

READ NEXT: 8 Best Hikes in Costa Rica

Can You Swim in La Fortuna Waterfall?

Bathing in the chilly water at the 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 swimming area, follow the trail a little further. Past the base of the waterfall is a river with several calmer natural pools downstream. These natural pools have crystal clear water, and from there, you’ll have incredible 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 minutes to get there by car, and La Fortuna waterfall 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.

La Fortuna Waterfall entrance
La Fortuna Waterfall entrance

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, the journey to reach La Fortuna Waterfall might be a challenge

Uber was introduced to the country 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 $10 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 travelling 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 options: 

  • Half-Day Waterfall Tour with LunchThis 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 hanging 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 natural 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.
Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Travel to La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall hike trail

Tips For Visiting La Fortuna Waterfall

Stay Hydrated

Considering that getting to La Fortuna Waterfall 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. 

Our top choice is the LARQ, a self-cleaning water bottle that neutralizes up to 99.9% of harmful, odour-causing bacteria. It has 2 modes that are incredibly useful: Normal Mode for your daily cleaning cycle and Adventure Mode for new places where you’re unsure about the quality of drinking water.

Pack Right

Make sure you wear comfortable clothes, including proper hiking shoes with good grips. Take note that you’re walking through stairs and hanging bridges. If you’re planning on swimming, make sure to bring proper swimwear. 

Swim shorts for men are great. Water 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 La Fortuna hike, it’s a good idea to bring a dry bag. The trail ventures through the wet forest, and the base of the waterfall can be quite misty. To us, it’s always best to bring a dry bag or leave anything you don’t want to get 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 waterfall hike and an afternoon of swimming. Packing a picnic lunch (and lots of water!) is also a nice way to enjoy the area.

Max around La Fortuna Waterfall Orchid Garden
Max around La Fortuna Waterfall Orchid Garden

Protect Your Skin

La Fortuna Waterfall is in a relatively shady area, but it’s a good idea to bring 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.

Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Travel to La Fortuna Waterfall
Hiking trail important reminders

How Much Time Do You Need At La Fortuna Waterfall?

A visit to the La Fortuna Waterfall takes up about half a day. That’s with extra time to explore the surrounding areas, as well as the butterfly garden and orchid trail. It can take 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 to soak up the pura vida.

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

READ NEXT: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Arenal Costa Rica

La Fortuna Waterfall is possibly the most popular waterfall in Costa Rica. 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.

Have you hiked to La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica? Do you have any other tips for fellow travellers?

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