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10 FUN & EXCITING Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

10 FUN & EXCITING Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

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Looking for the best things to do in La Fortuna? Then you’ve come to the right place. While living in La Fortuna, we found the absolute best things to do, from hidden gems to popular attractions. Read about them below!

Costa Rica is often a beach getaway for many visitors who come for the surf, sun, and relaxation in towns such as Jaco and Tamarindo. However, another side to Costa Rica involves volcanoes, hot springs, and breathtaking waterfalls. I myself love that version more!

One of the best places to visit and experience this is La Fortuna. It’s located below Arenal Volcano, only a few hours north of San Jose in Central Costa Rica, making it an easy day trip. However, you’ll likely want to stay longer than a day!

La Fortuna is a small, calm town that offers some great places to eat, lively bars, and lots of souvenir shopping. However, the main draw to La Fortuna is the surrounding landscape and the many incredible things to do and see. 

In fact, I loved La Fortuna so much that I moved there at the start of 2022 and spent lots of time exploring the surrounding area. I discovered that La Fortuna is an adventure-lovers paradise and a great place to see wildlife.  

To help plan your upcoming trip, here’s everything I learned in this guide to visiting La Fortuna, including the 10 best things to do there!  

Don’t have time to read the full article? Check out our list of our absolute favorite things to do in La Fortuna:

  1. Experience the treetops on this epic zipline tour!
  2. See both La Fortuna Waterfall and Arenal Volcano on this full-day combo excursion.
  3. See sloths on this guided sloth walk!

Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica 

1. Visit the Mistico Hanging Bridges  

One of the hanging bridges at Mistico Hanging Bridges in La Fortuna
The hanging bridges literally have you exploring the treetops!

If you want to get out of town and amongst the treetops, I highly suggest visiting hanging bridges in La Fortuna. The Mistico Hanging Bridges are some of the best! The hanging bridges are located on a large property that a local family privately protects. Although not a national park, you’ll find just as much wildlife here as you would in places such as Manuel Antonio.  

In the park, there are 14 bridges that you can visit, with 6 of them being hanging bridges. The trail through the forest is 3.2 kilometers/2 miles long, and although the 6 hanging bridges are the main attraction, there’s lots more to see. I loved the two viewpoints of Arenal Volcano. My favorite spot was behind the restrooms at the ticket office! 

While you can visit the Mistico Hanging Bridges on your own, we found a lot of value in joining this guided tour. There are actually tons of wildlife nestled in the treetops and we would have completely missed it without our tour guide. I swear he has an eagle eye! We were able to see sloths, monkeys, snakes, and even more animals.

This tour was also great because it provided transportation from La Fortuna, which is about a 30-minute drive away on a narrow, winding road. We had 2.5 hours to explore the park, which was the perfect amount of time. The tour also has multiple departure times, so we could easily fit it into our itinerary. We thought it was well worth $48 USD, and with over 800 positive reviews – we aren’t the only ones who loved this tour!

You can also visit the Mistico Hanging Bridges on your own, the entrance is $28 USD for adults, $18 for teens, and kids under 10 go free! You are then free to explore at your own pace, and 2 hours is more than enough time.  

Related Read: There are also some epic hanging bridges in Monteverde that you should check out!

2. Go ziplining  

A person ziplines over La Fortuna Waterfall in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Talk about an exciting zipline! Photo credit: Arenal Mundo Aventure Park

It is well known that Costa Rica has some of the best ziplines in the world. I’m going to take it a step further and say that the best ziplines in the country are right here in La Fortuna! Flying over rainforests, and waterfalls, and taking in views of Arenal Volcano and Cerra Chato simply can’t be beat. Ziplining is easily one of the best activities in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

This zipline tour is our top pick because it takes outdoor adventure to the next level. There are 12 different ziplines on this tour and be prepared for a bit of a hike to get to the first zipline and in between each one as well. We had 2.5 hours to zipline and chat with our guide about all things Costa Rica.

The tour also includes a trip to the Maleku Cultural Resource Center once you’re finished and roundtrip transportation from La Fortuna. It was a really convenient way to check off this bucket list item, and I would recommend this tour to anyone passing through La Fortuna – it was so much fun!

This tour is $96 USD and includes roundtrip transportation from La Fortuna, all safety equipment, and your wonderful guide!

3. Visit La Fortuna Waterfall 

La Fortuna Waterfall from Above
La Fortuna Waterfall is so beautiful!

It should come as no surprise that La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the top attractions in La Fortuna. This stunning 230-foot (70-meter) waterfall shoots out from a tall cliff into a powerful pool below that’s surrounded by lush forest. Visiting is nothing short of breathtaking.  

You can either visit La Fortuna Waterfall on your own or with a tour. If you visit on your own, I highly suggest booking these skip-the-line entrance tickets in advance. They are the same prices as admission at the park ($20 USD), and it can get pretty busy here, so skipping the line gives you more time at the waterfall!

To get there, grab a taxi or drive yourself from La Fortuna town to this parking lot, where you’ll pay the entrance fee and begin hiking. The trail is well-maintained and leads down to the waterfall via lots of steps. It only takes 15 minutes to get down but a little longer on the way up – it’s 500 steps!  

Once at the bottom, you can get some great pictures and swim in the pool below the waterfall, or visit the calmer pools downriver for a more relaxing swim. The water is cold but super refreshing, and the entire area is gorgeous.  

La Fortuna Waterfall from a viewpoint
Bailey poses for a photo at La Fortuna Waterfall

We spent around 1 hour at the waterfall before “enjoying” the 30-minute walk back up. This walk takes some people much longer, so be prepared and take your time. Keep an eye out for wildlife too. We saw lots of toucans during our visit.  

For an even better value for money, take this full-day tour to La Fortuna Waterfall. It also visits the Arenal Volcano for one of my favorite hikes, the Mirador El Silencio lookout hike, and a soak in a luxury hot spring. It is only $95 USD for a full 11 hours of exploring, including all national park fees, lunch, and alcoholic drinks. If you tried to do all of this on your own, the entrance fees alone would nearly be $95 USD, and you get so much more out of this experience!

Best of all, this tour has over 1,300 5-star reviews, so it’s definitely a popular way to explore La Fortuna’s sights – which includes the gorgeous waterfall!

Related Read: La Fortuna is one of the places we suggest visiting on even a short 7-day Costa Rica itinerary!

4. Explore Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano as seen from Arenal Volcano National Park
Views of Arenal from one of the viewpoints!

Arenal Volcano is obviously one of the best things to do in La Fortuna, that’s what drew us to this town initially! Exploring the park is an adventure that takes you to the volcano’s base and slightly up its steep face. Along the way, you can enjoy the magnificent views and even see where the lava from the last major eruption oozed down the side of the volcano. 

There are a few ways you can experience Arenal Volcano National Park. We chose to join this guided hiking tour, which made our day seamless! After being picked up from our La Fortuna hotel, we headed to the park to hike the Toucans Trail. One of the major reasons we decided to book a hiking tour was so that we could learn about the volcano’s history, the geology, and the unique wildlife, and this tour sure delivered.

We also loved that this tour provided transportation, national park fees, snacks, and water, so all we had to do was show up and hike. It definitely made the $73 USD worth it!

Lush forest in Arenal Volcano National Park
Parts of the forest are so dense from all the minerals in the soil!

You can also explore Arenal National Park on this combo tour we mentioned above. It visits La Fortuna Waterfall, a hot spring, and a gorgeous scenic lookout, and will give you about 3 hours to hike around the national park. So if you have all day scheduled to explore La Fortuna, this is an excellent option!

Without a tour, entry to the park is $15 USD for adults and $5 USD for children. Once in the park, you can wander the many different hiking trails, ranging in length. Be sure to get to the park when they open at 8 am so you have plenty of time to explore (they close at 4 pm). But, we highly recommend a tour because it makes visiting that much easier!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

5. Rio Celeste

Steps to Rio Celeste Waterfall
Two people pose for a photo at Rioe Celeste Waterfall

Costa Rica is home to lots of rivers, but few are as beautiful as Rio Celeste. Located around 1.5 hours north of La Fortuna. This natural attraction is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica

Rio Celeste is famous for its bright blue color. This natural phenomenon is caused by the mixing of two rivers that literally turns the water Gatorade blue – I’m not joking! This happens because acidic and neutral waters combine, and they create enough particle concentration to reflect light. It’s similar to glacier lakes that reflect rock flour. 

It is about over a 1-hour drive from La Fortuna to Rio Celeste, and this area is well known for wildlife being hidden in the trees. Because of these factors, we chose to take this guided tour to get the absolute most out of our experience, and we certainly did!

It included transportation and our hilarious (and informative) guide, who made our day all the better. Once we got there, we set off on the Rio Celeste Trail, which is 3 kilometers/1.9 miles each way and gave us about 4 hours to explore.

A lady walks across a bridge at Rio Celeste
The river really is that blue!

The main highlight of Rio Celeste is the Rio Celeste Waterfall. I would argue the most beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica – big claim, I know! It’s about a 30-minute walk from the entrance and you get to tackle a rather large set of stairs.

Further, along the trail, we reached the Borbollones or Bubbling Hot Pot. This part of the river is really hot, and you’ll smell the sulfur before you see it! Finally, we ended the hike at the Teñideros, which is where the two rivers meet. Here, you can literally see the water turn blue as the stream converges – it’s so cool!

Along the way, our guide spotted lots of wildlife hiding in the trees, like toucans, owls, coatis, and monkeys! We also stopped for a traditional Costa Rican lunch, which was much needed after all that hiking. This full day tour is only $89 USD and includes all entrance fees, and everything else mentioned here.

You can also visit Rio Celeste, it’s pretty straightforward, just makes for a long day. Be sure to leave La Fortuna before 7 am so you can get to the park entrance before it gets really busy. Parking at Rio Celeste costs 2,000 colones ($3.70 USD) per vehicle, and the park entrance fee is $12 USD for adults.

6. Whitewater rafting  

White water rafting in La Fortuna
The rapids are so much fun! Photo credit: Desafio Adventure Company

Because of La Fortuna’s central location in the country, it’s not far from some great rivers that are perfect for whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. There are a few different levels of rapids, so you can find a tour that’s great if it’s your first time paddling or if you’re an experienced rafter.  

For those with experience who want a challenge, the thrilling Rio Sarapiquí has 30 Class 3 and 4 rapids to try on this tour. The water is surrounded by lush tropical scenery – although you probably won’t be focused on that! The rapids here have names like the Terminator, the Pipeline, and Dos Locos, and you’ll get soaked as you navigate the river. The tour also includes transportation (it’s about a two-hour drive) and lunch for $112 USD.

If whitewater rafting sounds fun but intimidating, I suggest going with this specific tour on a gentler section of Rio Balsa. These rapids are Class 2 and 3, so still a challenge but more suited to beginners. The guide will instruct you on the paddling techniques you’ll need before you set out on the 6-mile (9.6 km) trip. The tour includes a pitstop halfway through to have a snack and swim in the river. You’ll also have roundtrip transportation from La Fortuna and lunch included too, all for $85 USD!

Regardless of which tour you choose, whitewater rafting in La Fortuna is one of the best activities to add to your itinerary. After all, few destinations offer rafting this good!

7. Go on a night walk 

Two red-eyed tree frogs on a night tour in Costa Rica
A huge lizard on a night tour in La Fortuna

While La Fortuna is absolutely stunning during the day, it really comes alive at night! So, you have to do a night walk through the rainforest in La Fortuna to see and appreciate all the critters that only come out after dark.  

This Rainforest Night Walk and Dinner tour is the same tour I did in La Fortuna with Ecoterra. The tour includes a 90-minute hike, a visit to a frog sanctuary, and ends with a Costa Rican dinner prepared on a wood-burning stove. You’ll follow your guide along an easy trail as you look for bats, birds, frogs, snakes, and other animals in the rainforest.  

The trail goes around the mirrored lakes to a frog sanctuary where you can spot the red-eyed tree frog and the tiny dart frog. We saw so much wildlife, including a huge green lizard and even a bullet ant, which is known to have the most painful sting of any insect on the planet. Luckily, our guide kept us safe!

The dinner was also so tasty and one of the best local meals I enjoyed in Costa Rica!

8. Take a walk along a sloth-watching trail

A sloth in a tree on a sloth watching trail in La Fortuna
A guide on a sloth watching tour in La Fortuna

Seeing sloths in the wild is honestly so cool, and a major reason people travel here! They are such unique animals, and the area around La Fortuna is a great place to see them. 

Of course, you can see them in the wild just randomly in town, and while I lived in La Fortuna, this happened a lot! However, those on a short trip might not have such luck. So, instead, go on a sloth-watching tour in La Fortuna with an expert guide in an area known for sloths.

This tour explores an area well known as sloth’s territory, which is a private reserve run by a local family about 10 minutes away from downtown La Fortuna.  

You’ll have the chance to see two and three-toed sloths (and if you’re lucky baby sloths!) as well as other animals like frogs, toucans, hummingbirds, and parrots. The hike ends with a break to enjoy fresh fruit from the organic farm here.  

It’s a great chance to learn all about sloths and other animals. I found the tour very informative and left with an abundance of knowledge. Such as, did you know sloths come all the way down to the ground to use the bathroom once a week?!

The best part is that this sloth tour only costs $40 USD for 2 hours of sloth-watching!

9. Explore on a canyoning tour

Canyoning in La Fortuna
Canyoning is so much fun!

One of our most adventurous experiences in La Fortuna was this canyoning and waterfall rappelling tour! Just below Arenal Volcano, this landscape was stunning, and even more exciting to explore areas that we can’t get to on just any regular tour.

We started the day riding a 4×4 into the forest and then geared up to trek along this natural playground. Our guide was fantastic at spotting animals, he pointed out sloths, monkeys, and toucans!

We had the chance to rock climb up a hidden rainforest canyon and rappel along a thrilling course that includes the “Monkey Drop” canyon zipline and four waterfall descents. Be prepared to get wet and conquer a fear of heights if you have one!  

After canyoning, change into dry clothes at the ranch house and eat lunch with homemade tortillas, salsa, fresh tropical juice, and coffee.  

The tour is 4 hours long and includes roundtrip transportation, lunch, all necessary gear, and the guide for $119 USD per person. We had a blast on this tour, and it’s another one of La Fortuna’s top-rated experiences with over 1,000 glowing reviews!

Related Read: Heading to Monteverde? Read about the best restaurants in Monteverde before you go!

10. ATV tour  

Riding an ATV in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
In the wet season, you’ll get soaked with mud! Photo credit: Original Arenal ATV

For a faster-paced adventure in La Fortuna, jump on an ATV to get up close to Arenal Volcano. While you’ve seen the volcano in the distance in La Fortuna, it’s worth getting closer to appreciate this landmark.  

The Arenal ATV Tour takes you to a private farm right next to Arenal Volcano National Park. After instructions from your guide, you’ll head out on the off-road trails. You’ll see old impact craters from Arenal Volcano’s eruption in 1968 and find a river with volcanic mud. The mud is known for its natural exfoliating benefits, and you’re welcome to try it while you’re here.  

This is certainly one of the most enjoyable things to do in La Fortuna but be prepared to get muddy – especially if you do the tour in the wet season. There are also lots of chances to see monkeys and even sloths. In fact, the guides know the trees they love to hang out in, so fingers crossed!

This ATV experience lasts for 2 hours (you’ll be tired by the end – trust me) and is $105 USD. I highly recommend this for any adventure-seekers out there!

Related Read: Need some yummy food after all this adventure? Check out the absolute BEST restaurants in La Fortuna.

Getting Around Costa Rica

Bailey with our rental car near Rio Celeste Costa Rica
Our rental car!

How you choose to get around Costa Rica is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when planning your holiday here! How you do it depends on your budget, travel style, and comfort level. 

Renting a Car

Without a doubt, the number one way to explore Costa Rica is in a rental car. We book rental cars on the Discover Cars website as we have had good experiences with them in the past.

One of the things you need to watch for when renting a car in Costa Rica is the mandatory insurance that the government requires you to have. There are a lot of very cheap rentals that don’t include this mandatory insurance (TPL) in the original booking price, but there are also ones that do. To avoid additional surprise charges when you pick up your rental car, be sure to rent a car that includes the mandatory insurance when you book.

Thankfully, on Discover Cars it’s easy to tell apart the companies that include the mandatory insurance and those that don’t. The trick is you can’t pick any car on their website. In the picture below, you can see this rental car, with pick up in Jaco, includes the TPL. That means the mandatory insurance is included in the price. Any cover you get above that is extra.

Of course, I still suggest getting the full coverage offered by Discover Cars, which covers you even more.

You can browse cars on Discover Cars here.

TPL Cover Costa Rica
TPL Cover Costa Rica

Book Shuttles

If renting a car isn’t in your budget, you don’t feel comfortable driving in Costa Rica, or you just don’t like driving, shuttles are the next best option. There are hundreds of shuttle routes available all over the country, and they are very affordable.

Shuttles in Costa Rica are specifically for tourists and often include pick up and drop off at your selected hotels and airports. The drivers also speak some English, and the vehicles have air conditioning. You’ll also be guaranteed a seat when you book a shuttle (which isn’t the case with the public bus system.)

To get the best price, use the website Bookaway. They compare all the offers and prices of shuttle companies in Costa Rica so you get the best price! Honestly, we have saved so much money using Bookaway! 

You can search for shuttles online on Bookaway here.

Public Bus

Lastly, you can use the public bus system. On short journeys, such as from San Jose to La Fortuna or Uvita to Manuel Antonio, this system is great. However, the longer the journey the more hassle and time spent on a bus. It’s undoubtedly best to save the public bus in Costa Rica for short and straightforward trips!  

The public buses are definitely the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica, but they are not always very reliable and schedules often change without notice and delays are to be expected. The buses can also be very crowded and hot – so just be prepared!

It’s also good to speak some Spanish if you plan on riding the public bus since most drivers and ticket booth operators don’t speak English.

Pura Vida!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at Rio Celeste Waterfall
Thanks for reading!

La Fortuna certainly made its way into the top tourist destinations in Costa Rica for a reason. Although I love the beaches in Costa Rica, coming to explore the mountains and volcanoes is a highlight not to be missed.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading our guide to the best things to do in La Fortuna. If you did, then be sure to browse around and check out more of our in-depth guides such as:

Where to stay in Jaco

Things to do in Uvita

Best restaurants in Manuel Antonio

Things to do in Liberia, Costa Rica