La Fortuna Waterfall: A Tropical Oasis

La Fortuna Waterfall is an icon in the Arenal Volcano area. This grand waterfall plunges 230 feet (70 meters) into a deep green pool. The surrounding jungle is thick and lush, adding drama to the scene. With this description, it should be no surprise that La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the most popular cascades in Costa Rica. In this post, we’ll tell you about access to this gorgeous waterfall and give some tips for visiting.

Narrow but forceful waterfall splashing into a large pool

Location

La Fortuna Waterfall, also known as Catarata La Fortuna, is located just outside downtown La Fortuna. The waterfall is easy to get to, at only about 10 minutes from the center of town.

The waterfall gets its name from the Fortuna River. The river and waterfall are protected as part of a 210 acre (85 hectare) biological reserve. The property also forms part of the vast Arenal Volcano National Park. Note that there is no volcano view from the property.

Founding Organization

Like most waterfalls in Costa Rica, La Fortuna Waterfall is on private property.

In the case of La Fortuna Waterfall, the property is managed by a non-profit organization called the Integral Development Association of La Fortuna.

Since 1969, this organization has aimed to sustainably manage the waterfall and surrounding land. With the funds raised from visitors, the group works to ensure the well-being and sustainable growth of the area via projects related to infrastructure, environment, education, and community enrichment.

Facility

When we first visited La Fortuna Waterfall back in 2014, the facility was very simple. The steps to access the waterfall were rustic and uneven, making access a little challenging.

Over time, the property has been improved. Today, getting to the waterfall is possible for most people, and the facility is modern with many conveniences.

A sturdy metal bridge leading to the viewpoint
This sturdy bridge marks the entrance to the trail

Arriving at La Fortuna Waterfall

After parking in the large lot, you can buy entrance tickets at the Visitors Center and get a bracelet. This area also has a couple of big bathrooms.

Reception area at the waterfall
Reception area at the waterfall

Stairs to the Waterfall

From the Visitors Center, you’ll follow the path to the stairs leading down to the falls. Get ready for some cardio, as there are 530 steps in total.

The concrete stairs are well-maintained, though, and there’s a sturdy handrail to help. It takes most people about 10 minutes to get down to the waterfall.

A concrete set of stairs with hand railing
The well-maintained stairs

Along the way, you’ll get some nice jungle views and catch glimpses of the waterfall through the trees.

Getting back up is much harder because of the incline. The waterfall is set low in the valley so it is a steep hike back to the top. If you need a rest on the way, there are some benches in between sets of stairs.

View of forested trail and stairway from above
Looking down at the trail to the waterfall

The Waterfall

Once at the bottom, you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous view of La Fortuna Waterfall right in front of you.

View of waterfall splashing into natural pool
The beautiful La Fortuna Waterfall

If you go to the right of the first viewing area, you’ll reach a raised platform. This is a great place to take some pictures.

Swimming

As long as the water isn’t too strong, you can swim in the waterfall pool. Keep in mind that you have to climb over some big rocks to get to the edge of the water.

On our last visit in early rainy season (July), swimming was closed for the day for safety reasons. There had been a big rainstorm the night before, creating a powerful current.

Turbulent pool with rocks along edge
The swimming area below the waterfall. Closed during our latest visit because of strong currents.

The River

You also can swim in the calmer river to the left. This is a great spot with kids as the water is gentle.

The river was crowded on our last visit since the waterfall pool was closed, but people were still managing to find some space to enjoy the crisp, clear water.

Small crowd gathered in the shallow river along rocks
The river area next to the waterfall

Tip: If you want to avoid the crowds, arrive early. Mid-morning to early afternoon is the busiest time of day at La Fortuna Waterfall.

At the base of the waterfall and river are some lifeguards/employees to make sure everyone stays safe.

Orchid Garden

At the top of the stairs, there’s another short trail with some orchid plants. What’s blooming depends on the time of year, but it’s worth checking out for five minutes or so.

Restaurant

A restaurant called Rio Lounge is also located right on the waterfall property behind the Visitors Center.

This big, open-air restaurant is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It has a large menu with everything from Costa Rican food to sandwiches and burgers. You also can just to grab a drink or snack.

Our family had lunch here and the food was good.

Rice dish with orange color and side salad
Arroz con camarones (rice with shrimp) at Rio Lounge Restaurant

Accessibility

One of the best things about La Fortuna Waterfall is that you can enjoy it without having to make the trek down.

At the top, there’s a viewing platform where you can get a nice view of the waterfall in the distance. This is great for anyone who is handicapped or has limited mobility.

Long skinny waterfall dropping through green rainforest landscape
View of the waterfall from the top viewpoint

Planning Your Visit to La Fortuna Waterfall

Cost

Entrance to the waterfall is a bit pricey, but still worth it in our opinion.

Foreigners: $18 per person adults. Children ages 8 and under are free.

Nationals and Legal Residents: $9 per person adults. Children ages 8 and under are free.

It’s easy enough to just purchase tickets when you arrive but you also can buy them in advance through the waterfall’s website. This is probably only necessary during very busy times of year like Christmas, New Years, and Easter Week (Semana Santa).

Hours

7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Last entrance: 4:00 p.m.

Visiting with Kids

If you have babies or toddlers, getting them down to the waterfall is easiest with a baby carrier.

When we visited with our four-year old, he was too big for a carrier and we had to carry him in our arms part of the way back up. It’s a big hike for a little kid.

If you’re planning to swim, bring water shoes for the kids so that they don’t slip on the rocks or hurt their feet.

Side view of waterfall with river and trees

What to Bring/Wear

Good gripping shoes are best as the stairs can be slippery. We saw people in hiking boots and sport sandals like Keens. Many others were just in flip-flops and they were fine too.

As we mentioned, water shoes are good for swimming, especially for the kids.

Towel

Change of clothes – there are changing rooms near the restaurant

Water

Storage

If you want to store anything, there are lockers for rent at the top of the waterfall. The cost is $2.

Bathrooms

It’s important to note that all the bathrooms are at the top only. There are none at the bottom where the waterfall is.

Conclusion

La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the top attractions in the Arenal area and definitely worth fitting in if you can. It only takes a couple of hours to enjoy the falls, take a dip, and get some amazing photos that will take you back.

Have a question about visiting La Fortuna Waterfall or want to share your experience? Leave a comment below.

Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:

La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination – Our full destination guide has all the details about visiting the Arenal area.

The Enchanting Rio Celeste – The Rio Celeste Waterfall is another stunning cascade with bright blue water.

Bogarin Trail – If you’re looking to see sloths on your visit, the Bogarin Trail is a great option.

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