La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination

Last Updated: August 21, 2019

La Fortuna, also known as La Fortuna de San Carlos, is undoubtedly one of Costa Rica’s most talked about destinations. Travel writers love to cover it, tour operators boast about it, and a quick Google search will reveal thousands of articles on this small town alone. But does La Fortuna live up to the hype? The answer: yes it does and then some. In this post, we share our insider tips to this quaint town and tell you why following the tourist trail to La Fortuna is still worth it.

La Fortuna Central Park and Garden | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Orientation

La Fortuna is located in the Northern Highlands of Costa Rica, about 2.5-3 hours from San Jose’s international airport and 2.5 hours from Liberia’s international airport. The town is centered on a beautiful park with colorful gardens and a large church. The main star, Arenal Volcano, provides the backdrop and can been seen from almost every vantage point. On the streets surrounding the central park lie many restaurants, hotels, tour operators, and shops, with more lodging on the road leading to the volcano and Lake Arenal.

Some of the guidebooks may have you picturing an overdeveloped tourist trap, but fear not, the town remains charming and still has a local feel. Among the souvenir shops and cafes catering to the many visitors, you’ll find Ticos in their daily life, buying supplies for their farm, grabbing a bite to eat, or just relaxing on a park bench.

Check out our short video at the end of this post to help you get a feel for the town.

Activities in La Fortuna

One of the reasons for La Fortuna’s popularity is the plethora of activities. You can do almost all of the quintessential Costa Rica adventure tours out of La Fortuna. You can explore the rainforest canopy on a hanging bridge, fly through the sky on a zip line, rappel down waterfalls, and splash down churning a river on a whitewater raft. With all of the choices, it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s a list of some of our favorite attractions that are totally unique to this area of the country.

The Mighty Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano is one of a kind

Arenal Volcano

Arenal is, in our opinion, Costa Rica’s most spectacular volcano. Standing at a lofty 1,633 meters (5,358 feet), this cone-shaped giant can be seen for miles around, but it’s worth the effort to get a closer look. Two of the best options for hiking are Arenal Volcano National Park and the nearby Arenal 1968 Trail. From either reserve, you’ll get close views of the volcano and be able to walk on the decades-old lava flows from prior eruptions. Read our full posts for more details. And for one of the best viewpoints, visit the Arenal Observatory. The Observatory has its own hiking trails but also a fantastic view from the observation deck.

Hot Springs

The other attraction that you don’t want to miss is La Fortuna’s hot springs. These are naturally heated by the volcano’s thermal energy. For the whole experience, head to one of the resorts like Tabacon or EcoTermales where you can soak in luxurious gardens. Or if you don’t mind a more rustic setting, visit the river across from the Tabacon to soak in the beautiful natural surroundings for free.

Free Hot Springs in La Fortuna | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Enjoying the hot springs in La Fortuna- doesn’t get much better than this!

La Fortuna Waterfall

Another must-see, which can be done in an hour or two, is La Fortuna Waterfall. We delayed our visit here for a while, not being sure it was worth the $18 entrance fee, but were impressed by the waterfall’s beauty and power. You can swim in the large pool if the current isn’t too strong so be sure to bring a bathing suit. Access is through a Visitors’ Center about 10 minutes from the downtown. They now have sturdy concrete steps down to the falls, but there are about 500 of them so be ready for a little exercise.

Tip: Arrive early in the day to avoid the crowds. This is a popular attraction and it can get busy, especially during high season (December through April).

La Fortuna Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
La Fortuna Waterfall, gushing even in the dry season

Zip Lining and Hanging Bridges

If zip lining and hanging bridges are on your list, you’re in luck because La Fortuna is one of the best destinations in the country for these activities. Not only do you get to experience the rainforest canopy from above on a zip-line cable or hanging bridge, you can also get amazing volcano and lake views.

These activities can be done separately or together if you’re short on time. We work with some great operators in La Fortuna that offer these tours. If you would like help arranging one, contact us through our Tour Booking Service page. Combo tours with zip lining and hanging bridges are around $105 per person, with discounts for students and children.

Restaurants in La Fortuna

La Fortuna boasts over 100 restaurants so travelers are sure to find something that pleases their pallet. High-end dining options are typically located at hotels and resorts, while smaller, local places are scattered throughout town and the surrounding area. But eating off the resort doesn’t limit you to traditional Costa Rican fare. Among the many sodas serving local specialties are restaurants offering international cuisine. Here are our recommendations for the best restaurants in La Fortuna.

Café Mediterraneo

We stumbled upon this restaurant after a grueling hike up to Cerro Chato’s crater lake and were so glad we did. Café Mediterraneo is located right outside town and has great views of Arenal and the neighboring Cerro Chato. Not only is the view nice, but they also have excellent pizza, which can be hard to find in Costa Rica.

La Fortuna's Two Volcanoes: Arenal and Cerro Chato | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
View of Arenal Volcano and its dormant neighbor, Cerro Chato (pictured left) from Cafe Mediterraneo.

Soda Viquez

This soda is one of our favorite spots in town for local food. It’s located just a block from the park and has great service, with typical Costa Rican friendliness. They serve up all of the classics like gallo pinto (rice and beans with eggs) for breakfast and casados (plates of chicken, beef, or fish with side salads and plantains) for lunch. At any restaurant in Costa Rica service can be on the slow side (it’s all part of the pura vida way), but if you’re short on time, Soda Viquez is a good option because it also has a la carte offerings.

Organico Fortuna

This cute café is a great option for those looking for something healthy. Organico Fortuna serves up fresh salads, sandwiches, and quinoa dishes, and has a big breakfast menu. As the name Organico implies, the local family who runs it sources organic, locally grown produce. Vegans and vegetarians will have no trouble finding something delicious to eat here.

Cafe Organico in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Veggie Sandwich with homemade bread at Organico

My Coffee

For breakfast or lunch, head to this casual café with a mix of dishes, from arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) to an assortment of crepes. While the food is good, the real highlight is the coffee. Costa Rica is famous for its rich java and you can get a great cup almost anywhere, but it’s rare to find iced coffee. My Coffee not only has that, but they also make specialty drinks like iced mochaccinos if you want a treat.

Chifa La Familia Feliz

If you need a break from typical cuisine, grab a table at Chifa La Familia Feliz. This small restaurant has made a name for itself with its Peruvian and Peruvian-Asian fusion. Our friend from Peru has tried it and told us that the food was very authentic. Located a block west of the central park. Reservations recommended.

Hotels in La Fortuna

Because La Fortuna is a major tourist hub, the options for lodging are numerous and varying. When considering the choices, our biggest tip is to inquire about the location. While you don’t need a car if you stay near the downtown, you might want one if you’re staying closer to Arenal Volcano where things are more spread out. Click here for our Rental Car Discount to save 10% on a car.

Below are a few recommendations for hotels in the area. For a full list and additional tips, read our post La Fortuna Hotel Guide: Where to Stay Near Arenal Volcano.

High End Hotels and Resorts ($300+)

The Nayara

Our top choice for luxury in La Fortuna is the Nayara Hotel or its sister property, Nayara Springs. These eco-friendly boutique hotels have beautiful grounds, excellent food and service, and nice volcano views. Staying at the Nayara Springs, where each villa has its own private plunge pool fed by hot springs, is definitely on our bucket list. $330-1,000/night. Check Availability and Prices Here.

Nayara Springs Resort, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
One of the Villas at Nayara Springs Resort

The Springs

The Nayara tends to book quickly so if it’s unavailable, try The Springs Resort and Spa. The Springs is a larger property with more of a resort feel. It is located outside town and has several hot spring pools on-site. This family-friendly resort also has a wildlife sanctuary where you can see animals like toucans, sloths, and big cats. Rooms start at $330/night. Check Availability and Prices Here.

Tabacon

Another excellent high-end option is the Tabacon, home to the most popular hot springs in the Arenal area. They have several different types of rooms from well-appointed suites to standard rooms starting at $310/night. Check Availability and Prices Here.

Mid-Range Hotels ($150-300)

Arenal Springs

For a more affordable resort, check out Arenal Springs Resort and Spa about 7 kilometers outside town. It has spacious, clean rooms with volcano views, but the main draw is the big, multi-layered pool. Rates range from $250-$800/night. Check Availability and Prices Here.

Hotel El Silencio del Campo

If you’d rather stay somewhere smaller with more character, there’s Hotel El Silencio del Campo. This family-run hotel has 24 private, comfortable cabins and an on-site spa and thermal pools. It’s a short drive from town on the road going towards the volcano. Good restaurant and friendly staff. Rates range from $155-$300/night. Check Availability and Prices Here.

Hotel El Silencio del Campo, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Hotel El Silencio del Campo

Budget Hotels ($150 or less)

Hotel Monte Real

We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Monte Real on one of our vacations to La Fortuna several years ago. It’s conveniently located only a few blocks from downtown along the river, so you don’t need a car. It has simple, yet spacious, well equipped rooms, and a manicured property with gardens and a pool. Some of the rooms have volcano views so be sure to inquire. Rooms are around $65-$105/night. Check Availability and Prices Here.

Recommended Hotels in La Fortuna - Hotel Monte Real
Hotel Monte Real just outside downtown La Fortuna

Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul

Another solid budget option is Hotel Rancho Cerro Azul, located about 1.5 kilometers outside town. This lodge is run by a local family and is known for its warm hospitality. It has five rustic cabins set in a garden with great volcano views. Check Availability and Prices Here.

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La Fortuna has no doubt grown over the years into a vacation hotspot with all the amenities, but thankfully it still has a small-town feel. From a traveler’s perspective, it’s the best of both worlds: a place where you can enjoy five-star accommodations and gourmet meals but also experience the culture and get to know the real Costa Rica.

Here’s a quick time lapse video to show you around town.

Are you planning a trip to La Fortuna? What are you most excited about?

Last Updated: August 21, 2019

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book a hotel using one of the links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read our Privacy Policy for more information.

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

Manuel Antonio Trip Planning: If you’re visiting Costa Rica for the first time, Manuel Antonio is the perfect destination to pair with La Fortuna. Learn more about Manuel Antonio’s gorgeous beaches and wildlife with this post.

Packing for Costa Rica: The Essentials – For a small country, Costa Rica has widely varying weather. Read our guide for essential info on what clothing and gear you’ll need.

Rental Car Discount: Unless you’re staying near downtown La Fortuna, a rental car is nice to have to access the area’s attractions and restaurants. Learn how to save 10% or more and get free extras through our discount with Adobe Rent a Car.

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La Fortuna Hotel Guide: Where to Stay Near Arenal Volcano
La Fortuna Hotel Guide: Where to Stay Near Arenal Volcano

170 Comments

  1. I visited there in 2005 which in travel years, is a lifetime ago 🙂 Especially when talking about a destination that has only grown in popularity. It was definitely “busy” then (it was during Semana Santa) but nothing like Manuel Antonio. I would love to go back and see how it’s changed.

    I loved how much there was to do-it was there that I went ziplining for my first time, went to two hot springs (Tabacon of course was one of them), hiked, and just enjoyed the gorgeous scenery and great food.

    I can see why it is so popular!

    1. Julie, it has grown in popularity but still isn’t crazy busy by any means like some other places in CR can be. It’s nice because how the town is set up, you can easily get away from the hustle and bustle. Sounds like you had a great visit!

  2. Ah, that takes me back! I went many years ago and stayed at Tabacon. We had such a good time in the springs, and we were able to see (and hear) Arenal. It was crazy hiking around Arenal while the rocks were tumbling down the mountain. I definitely paid attention to the “do not enter” signs on the mountain. Thanks for taking me back!

    1. Tabacon is awesome! Such beautiful grounds. Very cool that you were there for the lava flows by the way. Arenal has been quiet for several years and we’ve never seen it in action. If it ever decides to wake up again, you can bet we’ll be there in a heartbeat.

  3. This is a really helpful source of info on La Fortuna–thanks! We’ve driven through it before to visit Nuevo Arenal, and I remember being totally stunned by the volcano looming over the flat town. Very cool. We hope to go back soon and stay at the Observatory Lodge, and maybe spot some shooting lava at night!

    1. Glad you found it helpful Emily. Yes, the volcano is quite the presence when you see it in person isn’t it. Although it’s not shooting any lava these days, you never know when it could start back up again. Guess that’s all part of the fun though!

  4. Thanks for the amazing recommendations throughout the post. We absolutely loved The Springs Resort – hands down the best property in Arenal. Nayara Springs Resort, from photos, looks stunning.

  5. Thank you for your recommendations. Great post !

    I have a question – Can the La Fortuna Waterfall and Volcano be done by oneself or do we need to take a guided tour ?

    The tour company charges around 550$ USD for 2 adults + 2 kids for this tour. Is that worth it ? It seems like we should just be able to take a Taxi into the area and hike/trek on our own . What are some tips if we want to do this on our own ?

    can you advice ?

    1. Hi Shery, You definitely don’t need to do a pricey tour to enjoy the La Fortuna Waterfall and Arenal Volcano. The waterfall is right outside town so you can take a cheap cab ride there. Access is through a visitor’s center and then you just have to walk down the steps (there are around 500 of them). It takes about 15 minutes down and a little longer up. For hiking the volcano, you can either explore it on your own through the national park or Arenal 1968 Trail. Having a guide can be nice, especially if you don’t know much about the history of the volcano or the plants and animals, but isn’t necessary. The easiest way to find a good guide outside of a tour company is to ask your hotel. Hope that helps. Have a great trip!

      1. Hey I’m going with my friends but I feel that tours are over priced because they know we aren’t locals is it cheaper to get a tour there or just get it now before arriving?

        1. Hi Wendy, All tours in Costa Rica are geared towards tourists. Locals usually get a nationals rate, which is lower, since they live here. Most people don’t realize that the cost of living in Costa Rica is quite high (many things are similar to the US) so everything is a bit more than visitors typically expect. You can read our Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica post for more information. Sometimes you can get a deal, though, if you wait to book when you get here and pay in cash.

        1. Just added you, Mandy. You should be receiving an email with a link to confirm the subscription and then will start getting our weekly blog posts. Thanks for your interest in our site!

  6. Love your site…lots of great info! We are planning a trip to CR in the spring (My wife and I plus 15yr old son and twin 6 yr old girls) We only have time for a short 6 day trip. Heading to The Springs then the last two nights at the Westin Cochal. Heard some talk about getting car sick on the long winding roads…preparing to bring some meds. Any thoughts on activities for young kids or concern with eating certain foods?

    1. Hi Jeff, You don’t have to worry about staying away from certain foods in Costa Rica. The water is very safe so fresh foods are totally okay to eat. La Fortuna has lots of activities for young kids. One thing you’ll definitely want to check out is a night tour to see frogs and other bugs and animals that only come out at night. Arenal Oasis and EcoCentro Danaus are a couple of good places to do the tour. If you want some more ideas, we have a whole chapter on Family travel in our Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries book and one of the destinations is La Fortuna/Arenal so there’s lots more info. We’d also suggest stopping at Llanos de Cortes Waterfall for a swim (more info here) or Las Pumas Rescue Center on your way to the Westin. Both are great for kids.

      1. question…what is the drive like from Liberia Airport – to Rincon Vieja, then to Arenal?? Some of the driving is not easy from my memory and I have not been in this area and there will just 2 women alone

        1. Hi Donna, We’re actually working on a post now about road conditions on the different routes in Costa Rica. Check back on our website mid next week or you can subscribe to our blog (click here) to get it sent to your email. I don’t think that post will cover the small road you need to take off the highway to get to Rincon, but we have directions and briefly describe what conditions are like getting to the Las Pailas area in our Rincon de la Vieja National Park post (scroll down to the bottom).

          1. Hi there. We have just subscribed to your blog as we are heading to Costa Rica in March 2017. We have already planned activities for Poas area and Arenal but are very interested in road conditions as we are driving from the Playa Flamingo area to Poas and then over to Arenal. Do you have any of that information available yet? Definitely love the time and effort you put into you blogs.

    2. Jeff, for motion sickness, I found the miracle cure. Ginger candies. I prefer the ones made by The Ginger People. I’m not a huge ginger fan, but the spicy apple and caramel flavors are good. I keep a bag in the car and take them on all trips, including Disneyland. I pass them around to the kids, and no one gets sick in the car reading their tablets while we drive through canyons and mountain passes. Best of all, no side effects like drowsiness. It also works on morning sickness.

  7. We will be travelling to La Fortuna in 2 weeks and have booked Princesa de la Luna. It has very good reviews on Trip advisor. I have been following you blog for about a year in anticipation of our trip – thank you for all the great information you provide. I found this blog on La Fortuna and was hoping it was one of your hotel picks. We are staying at Hotel Aranjuez base don your review in another blog!

    1. Hi Sharon, Thanks for all your support! I think I remember emailing with you a while back. That’s wonderful that you have a trip planned- we don’t know much about Princesa de la Luna specifically but it looks great from what we can tell. A little out of town so it’ll be nice and secluded and you’ll probably see a lot of wildlife. Hope you like Hotel Aranjuez– we love staying there whenever we’re in San Jose.

  8. Love this Article I will be visiting Arenal Next month 🙂 I would love to be added to your mailing lists! Any recommendations for Beaches to visit in Costa Rica? We are planning to visit Playa Blanca? But I would like to visit others as well. Also did you get a chance to visit any caves during you stay Thank you

    1. Hi Lisandra, I think you’re already on our list so you should be all set. There are tons of choices for great beaches to visit. From Arenal, the Central Pacific Coast or Guanacaste are the easiest to access so maybe check out Jaco, Manuel Antonio, or Dominical/Uvita on C. Pacific or Tamarindo or Samara. Follow the links to more articles about those places to see how they differ in terms of how developed they are, activities available, etc. We’ll have an article about Samara coming out soon too! For caves, there are some great ones near Arenal (Venado Caves) and also Barra Honda to the south.

  9. OMG! I’m so happy I found your site before booking.
    I am about 5 minutes away from booking 2 weeks in Costa Rica for my husband and I to celebrate our 25th anniversary! I am so excited!
    Hubby has left it all up to me. So I’m hoping you can help us.
    We are in our early 50s. Hubby more physically fit than me but, I can keep up.
    We love nature and relaxing on the beech.
    Originally we were going to go to Guanacaste area but after reading your blog… I think going to the volcano, rainforest, cloud forest, etc. A much better option. ( my husband has been to the Amazon)
    I’m just a little nervous about booking ALL of our hotels before we arrive.
    What if we like one area more than another or vice versa??
    Oh I think we want to rent a car to have the convenience.
    We have been to Panama we stayed at the Gamboa rainforest resort and took a tour. We have traveled through Europe and the USA.
    But going through Costa Rica sounds exciting and a bit nervous at the same time.HELP, AND THANKS FOR YOUR WONDERFUL BLOG!
    Oh we will be there from July 18- August 1 ,2016

    1. Hi Joanne, How wonderful that you and your husband are planning an anniversary trip to Costa Rica! I hear you on wanting flexibility with hotels. Since you’re coming in the low season, it won’t be quite as busy so you would probably be ok not booking everything in advance as long as you’re flexible. The most popular hotels will probably be booked but there is always somewhere with rooms available.

      There are many options for rainforest/cloud forest/volcanoes. If you want help figuring it all out, you might be interested in our itinerary service. Basically we provide a framework for your entire trip. Once we learn more about your interests, we recommend destinations, hotels, activities, and restaurants as well as the best order for your travels. We can also help with the rental car. There’s more info on our itinerary page. Let us know if you’re interested. Cheers!

  10. I love your site! I am planning to be in CR for 3 weeks in July. The first 2 weeks, I will be at a language school in Santa Ana studying Spanish. My husband will join me for the third week and we plan to travel. I just changed our original itinerary after reading through your very informative posts. You can’t imagine how helpful your information is!
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Sandra, Sounds like you have an awesome trip planned. We so wish we would have done an immersion language class when we first moved here…we’ve been learning piece meal and sometimes just wish we could speed it up. Have a great trip!

  11. What a wonderful, helpful site! My husband and I are coming April 2017 for just a 6 day get away. Thinking of staying in La Fortuna for the entire stay and doing most of your recommendations from your page. Do you think this is wise for just a short trip? Should we drive to any other locations (beach or Monteverde) or just enjoy what this area has to offer? We know we are limited on time, so I don’t want to try to overbook us. Thanks for your insight!

    1. Hi Sara, It really depends on what pace you want for your trip. There are definitely enough activities around La Fortuna to keep you busy for 6 days. If you wanted to see another part of the country though, it probably wouldn’t be too much to spend a couple of nights in Monteverde to see the cloud forest or alternatively to visit the beach. Not sure which airport you’re flying into, but Guanacaste is closest to Liberia (Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa, etc.) or the Central Pacific for San Jose (Jaco, Manuel Antonio, etc.). Hope that helps! If you want more help with the logistics and making sure you’re not trying to do too much, we offer itinerary services. Take a look here.

  12. My husband and I along with our 16 year old daughter are visiting Arenal and Monteverde November 23-28, 2016. We can’t wait! Thanks for all of the wonderful suggestions for food and activities! I am really unsure about what immunizations we should get coming from the United States. Should we get Hepatitis A and/or typhoid shots? Also, what can we expect with mosquitoes in late November? Zika is in the back of my mind, but not enough to keep us from our trip. Thanks!

    1. Hi Ellen, Sounds like an awesome trip! The CDC does recommend Hep A and Typhoid for Costa Rica. Food and water is pretty safe here though so a lot of people don’t get any special vaccines. We didn’t when we traveled to CR as tourists but did get them for visiting other parts of Central America.

      You will have some mosquitoes in November, but probably not too many in Monteverde because it’s higher elevation (more in La Fortuna). Just wear repellant and proper clothing when doing activities outdoors and you should be fine. We have more info in our post Costa Rica and Mosquitoes: Tips to Prevent Zika, Dengue, and More, for which repellants work best, etc. Have an awesome time!

  13. Hi Jenn and Matt!

    My husband and I are taking our 6 year old to Costa Rica in the spring. We are first timers and have booked some time in La Fortuna. Thanks for all of the great tips! We are so excited! We have 8 days total and are trying to decide how much time to spend in La Fortuna and if we should plan a few days at the beach. We were thinking 3-4 days in La Fortuna and then 3 in Tamarindo or Jaco. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to and where to divide our time? Also, would you fly into San Jose or Liberia?

    Thanks!

    Susan

    1. Hi Susan, 3-4 days in La Fortuna is a good amount of time if you’ve never been. It has a lot of things to do with kids like a night walk, hanging bridges, the waterfall, and a waterpark too. We actually included it as a recommended destination for families in our Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries book so you could get more ideas in there as well.

      Costa Rica does have beautiful beaches so it’s worth spending some time there. Jaco and Tamarindo are both good choices. They’re more developed beach towns so have a lot of things to do including stuff for kids. We have blog posts with a lot more detail that might help you decide between the two: Jaco: Costa Rica’s Booming Beach Town; Tamarindo: Where Paradise Meets Convenience. If you choose Jaco, SJO is your best option for airport and if Tamarindo, it’s LIR. Not sure how set you are on those places, but one thing we’ll say is to be aware that both Jaco and Tamarindo have bigger waves and rip currents so they aren’t great for swimming with young kids (they’re known more for surfing). There are smaller beaches with calmer water near both though.

      Hope that helps with the planning. If you need more help figuring out the logistics, you might be interested in our itinerary service. There’s more info here.

      1. Thanks Jenn and Matt! I actually just got a copy of your book. After reading the family section it looks like Nosaro might be a better bet for us. Thanks again for your help!

        Susan

  14. Wow, great site, thanks! We are coming to CR for 10 days in mid October (only time we could do it). Three quick questions I hoped you could help with; 1) Looking at spending a few days in the Playa Flamingo area, seems like that area is our best shot at some dry weather on the beach, would you agree or is it a mistake to go here at this time? 2) Along the same line, we were interested in spending a couple days in Samara but have steered away because it seems like chances for all day rain are even higher down there? And last, 3) Planning a couple days in La Fortuna, is a day trip to Tenorio realistic or should we try and find a room near Tenorio for the end of that day? Thanks again for the great site,

    1. Hi Craig, It is fairly rainy along all of the Pacific Coast in mid-October. Take a look at the charts in our Weather post for more info (Playa Flamingo and Samara are closest to Liberia). We would have expected Flamingo to be the best choice since Northern Guanacaste is typically the driest region, but it actually looks like it receives a little more rain (in inches) than the Central Pacific Coast in October (but slightly fewer days with rain). Honestly, though, it all pretty similar and varies by year so don’t do all your planning around historical trends. Just be sure to avoid very rainy areas like the Southern Pacific Coast/Osa Peninsula and you will be fine, with some rainy days but plenty of sun too. If you’re willing, the Caribbean coast actually has the best weather that time of year.

      As for if you can do the Rio Celeste as a day trip, yes it is definitely possible. We just recommend getting an early start. Check out our Rio Celeste post for more info (there is good info in the comments too).

  15. Hi guys, which places you recommend in Arenal Area for Zip Lining and Canyoning (rappelling). Last time I was there we did repelling at a great place, we did approx 4-5 rappels beside a waterfall, it was amazing…can’t remember the name lol…thanks you!

    1. Hi Richard, Maybe you’re thinking of Desafio? They have a good canyoning tour that does 4 rappels and one is to a waterfall that’s 200 ft. tall. For zip-lining, you can’t go wrong with Sky Adventures. They have 7 lines, which get going pretty fast, and you get to enjoy nice views of the lake and Arenal Volcano as long as it’s not hidden behind the clouds. The guides are really fun too.

  16. Hi,

    We wonder what is the best way to enjoy the hot springs while we will visit the arenal.
    We saw there are many hotels with their own pools.
    Is it better to reserve an hotel with private hot pools or any hotel without and visit some other hot springs.
    Is the pools within the hotels are same as hot springs places?
    What is your recomendation

    Thank you very much

    Yehuda.

    1. Hi Yehuda, You can do either really for a nice experience. If you want to spend a lot of time in them, the hotel option is better since they’re right there. Another advantage of staying at a hotel with them is that it won’t be crowded like at some of the resorts. I recall that you’re coming in September so this won’t be as much of a concern for you, but the popular resorts like Tabacon do get busy during high season. A few hotels with nice pools that you could look into are Arenal Kioro (higher end), Arenal Springs (mid range), and Arenal Paraiso (more affordable).

  17. Hi! I’m leaving for CR in less than a week and am still finalizing my trip plan. This is my first trip to CR and I’m planning to backpack, stay in hostels, and take public transit/cabs. I’m traveling Aug. 18-31 – My current plan is 3 days in Manual Antonio, 3 days in Monteverde, and 3 days in La Fortuna leaving 1-2 days to be flexible and/or for travel to/from the different cities. I know I am going during the start of the real rainy season – I’m super excited about Manuel Antonio (the beach and rainforest!!) so I wanted to end my trip there but because that is closer to the end of the month where do you recommend I start my trip? Are MA and MV similar? Is there somewhere else I should go instead of either MA or MV?

    1. Hi Ashley, I hope we caught you in time since your trip is coming up very soon. Your itinerary sounds really good. Those three destinations are all very different and will give you a feel for how diverse the country is. Monteverde is the cloud forest and will be totally different than your other destinations in terms of climate, how the forest is, and even the style of hotels and hostels etc. The rain won’t change that much from the beginning to end of your trip so just do whatever order you prefer. If you want to end in MA (which we think is a good idea) and are flying into San Jose, we would recommend starting in La Fortuna and then heading to Monteverde. This makes more sense for bus routes. Hope you have an awesome time!

      1. We are going in 3 weeks…any suggestions where to find anew easter mass schedule. I hear Semana Santa is huge over there. We will be in Santa Juana that Sunday? Thk u.

          1. Hi Karen, Yes, Semana Santa is huge here so you should definitely be able to find a service. We don’t know of anything specific to suggest in the Manuel Antonio area, but your hotel should know so maybe ask them when you arrive. There are a lot of churches in Quepos (the next town over).

  18. Hi guys,love your blog, its so helpful. How long would you recommend i stay in Fortuna area for? i was planning 3 nights but perhaps 2 is enough to go to the waterfalls, hot springs and do a hike in the national park?

    1. Hi Dani, You could do the hike and hot springs one day since they’re near each other and waterfall the day you arrive so two nights would work. It will be a little fast paced but fine if you don’t mind that. If you’re coming from the airport or somewhere else far away, though, you might be better off with three so you’re not as rushed trying to get in an activity the day you get there.

  19. Hola Jenn and Matt,

    My husband and I are in La Fortuna staying for a few days. We just wanted to thank you for recommending all of these wonderful places! We ate at Soda Viquez yesterday and we plan on going back today. Your blog has been so helpful, I’m not sure we would have stopped there on our own. The waitresses are extremely nice and the food is awesome!!! Thanks again! We can’t wait to try out the rest of your recommendations!!

  20. Have you heard of a company called LocalAventura Tours? They offer a chocolate tour that sounds quite interesting. The tour leaves from La Fortuna Bullring. Do you know if that is in town?

    1. Hi Mary, We haven’t heard of that company, but from their website, it looks like they offer tours all around Latin America. Maybe they contract with locals in each place and that’s what’s happening here? I’m not totally sure but think the bullring/stadium is near the bus station in downtown.

  21. Hello, great website and tips! Please add me to the email list. I’ll be traveling with my wife and two boys in there 20’s (who thank heavens are both fluent in spanish!) for three weeks over christmas. We are avid hikers and are always looking for a hard hike to do. Thanks!

    1. Hi Bruce, It looks like you’re already subscribed to our email list so you should be all set. That sounds like an awesome family trip – 3 weeks is a good amount of time to really experience the country. If you’re into challenging hikes, make sure to check out the hike to Cerro Chato while you’re in La Fortuna. It’s a good one.

      Not sure where else you’re going, but you might want to check out our Itineraries Book if you need more ideas. We have a whole chapter called Eco-Trekking that covers our favorite hikes around the country. Here’s a link with more info. Also, if you get over to Guanacaste, we just did an awesome hike that didn’t make it into the book. It was Lomas Barbudal Biological Reserve. Not particularly challenging but really off the beaten path and beautiful.

  22. Hi there, My husband and I are planning 12 days in CR, in April 2017. I’m so happy I found your blog as it’s very informative. We are staying one night in Alejuha as recommend our first night in and hope to get see La Fortuna the second day. Is it realistic to do that and get to our base lodge in Jaco by the end of the day? Or should we spend a couple of days around Fortuna?

    I really want to see Manuel Antonio and think planning some day trips to Playa Manta and Blanca will be easy to do from Jaco. Are those day trips realist. Or should we try and stay around Manuel Antoino a night or two so not to be rushed? Thanks!

    1. Hi Vickie, We would recommend at least a night in La Fortuna (2 nights would be better), otherwise you’ll be doing too much driving and it won’t really be worth it just to see La Fortuna for a few hours. You want to avoid driving long distances at night. La Fortuna has a lot to do so I don’t think you’ll regret it.

      Manuel Antonio is a little over an hour from Jaco so it is much easier to do on a day trip. Just get an early start and you will be fine. Playa Blanca and Playa Mantas are easy day trips from Jaco so no problems there either.

  23. We are visiting this area May 2017. How can I be put on your email list to read your posts? Still deciding on a hotel.

  24. Hi, we go to CR in early December. I have a question concerning our itinerary. We land in San José and go straight to Manuel Antonio for 5 nights (via hotel transfer). We then have 2 nights before going to Tamarindo for a week. I was wondering if it made sense to stop off in the Arenal/Monteverde area for 2 nights between Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo. I’m concerned about the distances as I’m not sure google maps is entirely true. Do you think this is madness? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Leona, That would totally work as a stopover and is not crazy at all. Monteverde is a better choice because it’s less of a drive (about 3.5 hrs from Manuel Antonio). La Fortuna takes a couple of hours more so probably isn’t worth it for only two nights. If you decide on Monteverde, make sure to check out our destination guide and post on driving there so that you have good directions. Hope you have a great trip!

  25. Hi, we are heading to CR to stay in La Fortuna at Nayara springs for 7 nights (yes, we are going all out). We are two thirty somethings and travelling sans kids on this trip.
    We are looking to do as much as we can, essentially, with a bit of a rest day. We are pretty set on doing the following: White water rafting class IV, Canyoning (Desafino? Or???), Zip Lining (Sky adventures or Arenal Mundo?), some hiking (Chato? 1968? Should we get a guide?), visiting the town, the Spa. Is there anything else we should look at doing?
    Thanks for your help on these questions.

    1. Hi Matthew, That’s a good list for activities so far. We would be happy to help you pick out some good tour operators and also make sure you’re not missing out on anything else. We can also answer your general questions on hikes in the area and if you need a guide. Send us an email to bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com with your trip dates and anything else you might be interested in and we can get started. Looking forward to hearing from you!

  26. Hello,
    Happened on your site and read the comments. I’m planning a trip 12/25/16 to 1/2/17. I would love to have some adventures like hiking Arenal, zip lining, white water rafting, and some cultural events or opportunites/museums (only 1 or 2). I would like to end the trip on the beach with a yoga retreat or in the mountains with a yoga retreat (preference is beach). Airport is open…everything is open as I haven’t made any rezs yet.
    Looking forward to your response.
    thanks so much.
    Anne Marie

    1. Hi Anne Marie, With about a week, we would recommend two destinations. La Fortuna for one since you want to see Arenal, hike, go rafting and zip lining, then maybe Nosara, Montezuma, or Puerto Viejo de Talamanca for the beach/yoga portion. Each of those beach towns has a different feel so check out our Destinations Summary Guide for which is the best fit. Also keep in mind that you will be traveling over the busiest time of year so it will be very busy, especially at the beaches. Good luck with the planning!

  27. What a fantastic site! We’re so excited to go with our two kids in March for 9 days. Can’t wait to check out your family itinerary!

    We’re flying out of SJO and I was hoping to hit La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio and Monteverde but based on your recos, should we save MV for another time?

    Also inspired by your writing, we’re hoping to rent a car. What order makes sense: SJ, LF, MV, MA or SJ, LF, MA (if not MV) or reverse?

    Thanks so much for your expertise! And I’d love to subscribe.

    1. Hi Genie, You could definitely do Monteverde if you have nine days. You could do 3-3-3 without being too rushed since drive times between those destinations is manageable. We just don’t recommend trying to see Monteverde for only an overnight because it does take a little while to get there. The order SJ to LF to MV to MA works well. The reverse order makes just as much sense, but personally we like ending trips at the beach.

      Also I wanted to point out our rental car discount in case you haven’t seen it yet. Good luck with the rest of your trip planning!

  28. Excellent website, si helpfull.I am
    travelling almost one month in march 2017 from San José to Panama city.
    I will begin probably with poao, then torteguro, then arenal area, monteverde, montezuma, jaco, cerro chirripo for the hike, then puerto viejo salamanca and crossing border to bocco del oro, and continue to Panama city.
    backpack, couchsurfing, hôtel, bus and hitchhiking..
    what do you think about this plan ?
    I travelled for many years around the world

    1. Hi Michel, That will be a fast paced trip but I think it is possible. If you spent two nights in most places and three in a few, you would still have about two weeks for Panama. One thing to keep in mind is that the bus will take a long time between some towns because there won’t be anything direct and you’ll have to make a lot of connections. Hitchhiking will help if you’re comfortable with that and there’s always shared shuttles too, which are fairly affordable. A couple of legs of the trip that will have a lot of travel time are Monteverde to Montezuma and Chirripo to Puerto Viejo. Sounds like you are well traveled though so you will figure it out. Hope you have a great trip!

  29. Good morning!
    My wife surprised me with a Costa Rica vacation for Christmas!
    This will be our first time there so we really are looking for advice.
    Right now we are flying into San Jose and staying for a week at the Tabacon Resort.
    Should we rent a car and drive from the airport or take a shuttle to the resort.
    Once we are at the resort would it be safe to rent a car to explore the area and to go back and forth into La Fortuna.
    We are very excited to explore a new area and can’t wait.
    Any info would be appreciated.
    Thanks,

    1. Hi Jim, What a great Christmas gift! Either shuttling or driving from the airport would work, but if you want a car for while you’re in Arenal anyway, you might as well rent it right away. The drive from San Jose to La Fortuna isn’t too bad, but be sure you will arrive before dark (5:30). The road is curvy and mountainous but well traveled. Driving locally between Tabacon and town is safe, and it will definitely be nice to have a car there because the area is more spread out.

      Be sure to check out our Rental Car Discount as you’re researching your options on a rental. The company we work with, Adobe, also has an office in La Fortuna if you decide to wait to rent. Shared shuttles are the cheapest option from the airport if you do go that route, but if you need a private shuttle because of flight times, we can help you with a recommendation. The company we like charges around $150 for that trip. Let us know if you need any more info, otherwise, good luck with the planning!

      1. Is the drive from San Jose airport to Tabacon really bad at night? Our flight doesn’t get in until 9:30pm and we are planning to drive up to Tabacon that night. I’m a little worried now.

        1. Hi Amy, We have not done that drive at night but everyone we have talked to says to avoid it because visibility is often poor due to heavy fog. We don’t recommend driving long distances after dark in general here, and avoid it ourselves. I’m also not sure you would even be able to get a rental car that time of night because as far as we know the offices close at 10 p.m. Better to stay overnight near the airport and get an early start the next day. Some companies, including the one we work with, will deliver your car to your hotel the next morning for free too. Here’s a link to our rental car discount page and also our list of best hotels near SJO if you need a recommendation.

  30. First, thank you so much for such well made, informative site! I’m planning my 3 weeks in CR and gave up looking for information elsewhere, you’re simply the best. My question for you is: our plane arrives at 3:45pm to SJO with no check-in luggage and I’m wondering if there’s enough time to rent a car and make it to La Fortuna the same day or better spend the night in Alajuela. Would greatly appreciate your input, thank you!

    1. Hi Maria, That’s great to hear that our site has been so useful!

      It will take around 1-1.5 hrs to get through the airport and get the car (even without checked luggage) and then 2.5 hrs to drive to La Fortuna so you should definitely overnight near the airport. It gets dark here around 5:45 and the route from the airport to Arenal is curvy and can get fogged in so it’s not a good idea to try it at night. If you need a recommendation for a hotel near the airport, we have some ideas in our Best Hotels Near SJO post. One of the options has a discount promo code too. Have a great trip!

    1. Here are your options:

      SJO to Arenal and Arenal to Tamarindo – fly on a small plane (fastest) or take a shuttle van.

      Tamarindo to Liberia – Shuttle

      Shuttles are either shared (up to 10-15 people, have AC, schedule is set) or private (you set the time). If you need a recommendation for a private shuttle, just let us know. Another option is to take the public bus but this takes a lot more time.

      1. Thank you and yes do you have any private shuttle suggestions for our transfer from Aernal to Tamarindo. We really want a trust worthy company.

  31. Hi Jenn & Matt
    Your website is fabulous! I am looking at my first trip to C. America, and I will be flying solo. I’ve done Thailand solo before but I must admit I feel a bit nervous about this one. I’ve been looking at group tours, and would be hostel/backpack if I went under my own steam. I was wondering if you could help? From your experience, is it reasonably safe for a solo female (usual sensible behaviour applied) and is it relatively easy to get around? I am thinking 10 days, and possibly SJO for 1 night, then La Fortuna, then Monteverde then somewhere with beachs and a bit of community? Does that sound sensible and achievable? Or would a group tour be the better option? Any help very much appreciated!!

    1. Hi Natalie, Costa Rica is very safe for solo female travelers. I think you will find a lot of other women going at it solo when you are here. Those destinations you mentioned would be great stops. For your time at the beach, you might like Samara or Montezuma, which are safe, attract a lot of younger people, and have nice communities.

      It is fairly easy to get around too. The public bus system is decent (we used to use it when we backpacked here) and all the popular destinations are accessible via affordable shared shuttles when the bus would take too long.

      Hope that helps you decide! You should also look at our safety tips post to get a better idea of the type of crime to watch out for. We cover travel by bus specifically.

      1. Hi Jenn & Matt

        I think I have decided on Manuel Antonio for the beach part, I found a good surf lesson company there too! What do you think? I will read the safety post. Thank you so much for your help, feeling more confident already! Nat

  32. Hello,

    I will coming to CR in March and have a few questions.
    1. How hard is Cerra Chato. I noticed you are from Boston and so are we. Is it more challenging that the White Mountains of NH? i.e. Mt. Washington?
    2. If I go to Arenal National Park can I access all the hiking trails and La Fortuna Waterfall or do I need to drive to the falls? Is there plenty of parking at the park and how much is the entrance fee? Is Cerra Chato trailhead in the park? Is the Observatory in the park?
    3. We are sharing a care with others. If we needed to split up, will I be able to get around via taxi and how much would that cost (about)? We are staying at Paraiso and we would like to go to the about referenced places.

    Your site is great!
    Thanks,
    Candi

    1. Hi Candi, (1) You can read our detailed post about the Cerro Chato hike to learn about level of difficulty. In comparison to Mt. Washington, which we have hiked before, it is much easier because it is shorter but different because of the more intense heat and humidity.
      (2) Going to the national park will only give you access to those trails. There is plenty of parking and entrance is $15 for foreigners. La Fortuna Waterfall is separate and has a separate admission fee of $10. You can find the location on Google Maps. Cerro Chato can be entered from either the Observatory or Green Lagoon Lodge. The Observatory is separate from the park.
      (3) Your hotel is in between town and the places you mentioned. A cab to the Observatory will be quite a bit because the road is very slow so go there as a group if possible. Cab fares will probably be around $15-25 each way, less to town.

  33. We are going from Manuel Antonio to Arenal/La Fortuna . The back to SJO for a day.The flights seem very confusing with luggage chargers. Should we fly? Get a private driver? How do we find a private driver? Bus?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Cindy, Flying on a small plane is a good way to save time. Yes, the small plane carriers price their fares based on luggage weight, but you can always pay for one of the more expensive fare classes for heavy luggage. If small plane tickets aren’t affordable for your dates, you could either take a shared or private shuttle. All of your destinations are served by these shuttles. They are air conditioned vans that hold between 10-20 people. If you would like help booking either type, let us know. We work with a reliable company here. The public bus is another option, but it takes a lot more time and isn’t as comfortable (most buses don’t have A/C).

  34. your site seems great ! We have a trip planned and leave next week for a week in Mexico for a wedding and then off for 8 days to CR. We do have things planned but im trying to see if i can fit in other smaller activities during the days that we end things early. Is there a particular guide for me to check out? Or must i give you exact locations? I do know we have a private walk planned for arenal on one morning but im wondering if once thats over we can fit in a hike that allows us to see more wildlife and fauna etc. Suggestions on how i can go about finding some things out instead of giving you my list? Thanks so much for organizing and being present on this site!!! — Carolyn

    1. Hi Carolyn, Our Itineraries book has information on different things you could do to fill up your time when you have a free hour here or there. La Fortuna is covered right in the Best of Costa Rica itinerary and is also in a few other chapters. Not sure where else you’re visiting, but many other destinations are covered as well.

  35. Is parking in downtown Fortuna easy to find? Our hotel is 15 minutes from Fortuna so some of the tours won’t pick us up from there and we have to meet them in La Fortuna downtown. We are worried of leaving a car there most of the day . Is the parking free or paid parking? Would you recommend leaving a car there all day?

    1. Hi Carina, La Fortuna is a tourist destinations but still has a small town feel. There’s plenty of free parking on the street in the downtown if you need it. Just be sure to leave nothing in the car so that you don’t get broken into. You shouldn’t, but everywhere in Costa Rica you have to be careful about breakins when cars are left parked (this is one of the most common crimes). The tour companies might have secure parking too so I would definitely ask them first since they’re not picking you up.

  36. Hi Jenn!! Is it possible to explore this beautiful area without booking a guided tour? We are touring on a budget but also want to be able to explore everything La Fortuna has to offer without spending a lot of money on guided tours. Is this possible? Thank you for all that you’re willing to share 🙂

    1. Hi Sara, It is totally possible. We have done La Fortuna on a budget and it’s not too bad. You can hike for cheap at the national park and Cerró Chato and it’s a cheap cab ride to the waterfall and chocolate tour. Staying in downtown is easiest because you’re closer to restaurants and can take the bus. Getting over to the park, hot springs, and anything near the lake is a little tough because the bus doesn’t run that often, but you could always take a cab one way or rent a car just for the day. The rental car company we work with and get a discount through does have an office in La Fortuna so that’s an option. Hope that helps!

  37. Hello from texas 🙂 Partner and I are looking into visiting La Fortuna in May for 5-6 days and just have a few questions. 1) Best way in your opinion to get to La Fortuna from the airport? Obviously prefer the cheaper and safer options. 2) Is it more affordable to stay outside of the town and use public transportation to get to the town or should we look for accommodation in walking distance? 3) Where do you recommend booking tours/activities? Should we pre-plan these things for the best prices or wait until we arrive to speak to locals etc.

    I haven’t had a lot of time to search through your website, but from what I’ve seen this looks great! Thanks for all your advice!

    1. Hi Carrie, Assuming you don’t want to drive, your best options are flying on a small plane (more expensive but very fast) or taking a shared shuttle (cheaper at around $50pp from San Jose, but slower). We work with one of the major shuttle companies in Costa Rica and can get discounts if you book more than one trip through us. There’s more info on our Costa Rica Discounts page.

      If you’re not going to have a car, it’s best to stay in the downtown. We just answered a similar question from someone on this post tonight. Scroll up to our response to Sara for more.

      May is low season so you don’t need to book everything in advance. But we always recommend making the arrangements for anything you know you want to do so that you get the best choice for date and time of tour. It’s also easier to shop around for prices online in advance. We are a travel agent and can make bookings so if you would like help, let us know. Like the shuttles, if you book multiple tours through us, we can often pass on savings to our clients.

  38. My wife and I will be in La Fortuna in mid May and I wonder if there’s decent birding around, and if the eco zoo near El Castillo is worth visiting? You’ve been helpful in the past on other trips, and I thank you for that. We also plan a stay in Ojochal and Quepos. Any thoughts about the “Farmers Market, ” in San Isidro on Thursday’s I think ? You folks are around Dominical as I recall? Again thank you for a great site.

    1. Hi Dave, Nice to hear from you again. Glad you have another trip planned. There is very good birding in the La Fortuna area. We have seen a lot of different species there. We’ve never been to Arenal Ecozoo, but are going back to Fortuna in a couple of weeks. If we have time to check it out, I’ll try to remember to report back on how it was. We have heard good things about it (I think they focus mostly on snakes).

      The feria in San Isidro is great! One of the best and definitely worth the trip from Ojochal. If you need a good place to eat, we highly recommend Ricar2 on the main road between Dominical and SI (right side about 15 min before you get to town). Excellent local food and has a really nice view too.

  39. heading to CR as a couplein late April , first time! hoping to do arena-_La fortuna area and ME national park and beach. any suggestions for unique jungle-cultural places to stay in ME-Quepos? good eats. other outings? can u keep me updated on the newest suggestions and weather forecasst!

    1. Hi JC, You can read our Manuel Antonio Trip Planning post for suggestions on places to stay. Manuel Antonio is fairly built up, but Quepos might work for you if you’re looking for more of a cultural experience. For restaurant recommendations, read our Manuel Antonio Restaurant Guide. And for things to do, the destination guide I referenced before has some ideas and also our post 7 Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to Do Near Manuel Antonio. You can subscribe to our blog to receive our latest articles. We are actually returning to La Fortuna soon and will be coming out with new posts. Here’s the link to subscribe: http://eepurl.com/Dj-4f. It’s free.

  40. Hi! This is the best blog I’ve read on Costa Rica so thank you for that!

    My boyfriend and I are traveling at the end of June and would love to swim in the pool at the La Fortuna waterfall as well as the hot springs across from Tabacon. I’m nervous about bringing belongings for both of these activities since I’ve heard it’s common for things to get stolen when left on the shore at both of these places. Any suggestions how I can bring a camera/towels/bag with car keys etc. to these places and not have them get stolen?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Emily, Great question! What we do is put all our stuff in a dry bag (something like this) and put it as close to us as possible, on the rocks, etc. We have never had any problems, but don’t bring anything really valuable with you just in case. Not sure what you have for a camera. If we have our SLR, we don’t let it out of our sight. For more casual pictures, we have a waterproof one (this
      one) that we love because it can come right in with us.

  41. We just came back from 8 days in Costa Rica and I found your blog to be very helpful. I wanted to mention a wonderful little coffee/snacks/souvenir shop called Red Frog Coffee Roaster. The owner was very friendly. We bought several wood items made by the owner or his friends, had yummy patacones, and stocked up on coffee roasted in his shop for family back home.

  42. Hi, my wife and I will be heading to The Springs Resort in Oct and want to do some 4-wheeling while we are in Costa Rica. Could you recommend any good companies near our resort or La Fortuna? Thank you!

  43. Have to take issue that Fortuna is a charming town – I found Montezuma charming, but Fortuna with its endless identikit tacky souvenir shops just s bit much. We also struggledto eat well. Have to say that cafe Mediterranean was pretty mediocre.
    Of course it’s a great base for all the activities you list.
    One funny episode for us was trying to find the “airport”; there is no sign for it at all. The signs in front of the building are for the bar which is effectively the “shop window ” for the airstrip and we only knew it was there because my son thought he’d spotted tarmac behind the hedge!

  44. This truly is the most helpful blog on Costa Rica! I can’t thank you enough for all your travel tips (and for your Itineraries book). My question is this: we are traveling to La Fortuna/Arenal in February, and will have a car. We’d like to do the Mistico/Arenal Hanging Bridges, the Arenal Volcano hike, and the Waterfall. If we go for a 3-in-1 tour, it’s very expensive for 3 people. Would we be able to get guides at the volcano and the hanging bridges, or would we need to arrange one in advance? We don’t think we need one to see the waterfall. I greatly appreciate your advice.

    1. Hi Laura, At some national parks in Costa Rica, there are guides lined up ready to do a tour. But that is not the case at Arenal Volcano or Mistico. Mistico has their own guides but you do need to arrange them in advance and they are still a little expensive. You’re right that you don’t need a guide for the waterfall. Not sure how much time you have in La Fortuna, but we would recommend splitting up Mistico and the volcano, otherwise it would be a lot of hiking in one day. Better to pair one hike with the waterfall one day and do the other hike another day, maybe with a visit to hot springs. We work with a great company that does guided tours of the volcano and Mistico- and we could most likely get you a discount on the rate. Just reply to this comment with what tours you would like to do, and we can send you more information by email.

      1. Hello, just found your blog and the information is awesome. We will be in La Fortuna in February and would like the name of the company for a tour of Mistico Hanging Bridge and Arenal tour. We like to do the bridges in the morning and the Volcano in the afternoon. Is this too much, celebrating my husbands 60th birthday.

        1. Hi Brenda, We just sent you an email about a combo tour that we can help you arrange. It includes both the hanging bridges and hiking around the volcano, as well as a visit to La Fortuna Waterfall. We don’t think it’s too much to do in one day since the walking is broken up with the waterfall and lunch.

  45. We will be visiting Manuel Antonio and Arenal next month with our kids! I am trying to figure out what to do on our last day in Arenal (heading to SJO area that afternoon). We already have planned: hanging bridges, AOL for hiking, Club Rio activities, and safari float. Do you think a chocolate tour would be good on our last day? Our other option is to leave early in the day and stop over at La Paz – but that would cost an extra $230 between admission and transport charges. Not sure if the kids would appreciate La Paz enough for that cost. Thanks!

    1. Hi Justine, A chocolate tour would be a great short activity before you head back to SJO. The Rainforest Chocolate tour is especially good for kids because the guides are really funny. We think it’ll be just as nice as La Paz and a lot cheaper

  46. Our flight is scheduled to land at SJO at 1:00pm. I have read numerous posts discouraging driving after dark (6:00pm). I question if we will have enough time to get through customs/immigration, get our rental car, and drive to Arenal. We would definitely prefer to get a rental car at SJO but I wonder if it would be better to hire a private transfer and get a rental car in La Fortuna the next morning instead.

    Would getting a rental car in La Fortuna be a big hassle/time-consuming? I saw through your link that Adobe will drop the car off at our hotel…is this a better option?

    1. Hi Amy, Unless your flight arrives late, you should have the rental car around 3 pm, which would get you to La Fortuna around 5:30. So you should be fine. Renting it from La Fortuna is easy too if you feel more comfortable doing that, and yes, Adobe could deliver the car to your hotel. Usually this is for free unless your hotel is far from town.

  47. I have a trip planned with my kids to Arenal. We planned on visiting the hot springs, probably a day pass at the Springs resort. I have recently read about amoeba being present on some hot springs, and there was a child fatality a few years ago. The resort told me they extensively clean the hot springs every day. Does anyone have safety information about this? I want my kids to be able to play in the hot springs if it is ok.

    1. Hi Brian, It is our understanding that that was a very isolated incident. As long as you go to a reputable resort (like the Springs), we wouldn’t be concerned. People use these hot springs every day and that is the only incident we have ever heard of.

  48. Hi, my wife and adult son are staying at the Hummingbird nest, a VRBO offing. We will arrive on the 29th of Dec and be there thru the 3rd of Jan. I have read reviews of the place we are staying. Do you have any insight into what we can expect when we arrive? We arrive in CR on the 28th and will drive up the next day. We just plan on relaxing and see the local sights while there and then going down to Dominical and Uvita for diving and additional sightseeing there. We depart on the 11th of Jan.

    1. Hi Ken, We aren’t familiar with that specific property, but it looks like it is located in El Castillo. El Castillo is a very small town on the other side of La Fortuna, closer to Arenal Volcano National Park. It’s off a long bumpy dirt road. There isn’t a ton there so it’s best to have a rental car. While it is a longer drive to downtown La Fortuna for restaurants, shops, etc., it is close to certain activities like hiking around the volcano, Sky Adventures, etc. Hope that helps. It will be a nice home base for you and very peaceful.

  49. Hello
    I was just wondering if you had any recommendations on good places to snorkel off the beach without needing a tour? We are arriving at San Jose on March 4th for 13 days and then going to Tortuguero for a couple of days. We are looking at going back to San Jose and then to La Fortuna, Monteverde and then over to the Pacific side somewhere. I saw that Isla Tortuga might be good.

    1. Hi Pamela, Costa Rica doesn’t have a ton of snorkeling right off the beach but there are a few options: (1) Punta Uva Arrecife in Puerto Viejo; (2) Playa San Josecito near Drake Bay (very remote); (3) and in Guanacaste, Playa Conchal and Playa Penca near Playa Hermosa Guanacaste (there are other smaller beaches in that area too). Conditions really vary depending on the seas but March is generally a good time of year. TO get to Isla Tortuga, you need to take a boat/tour.

  50. Jenn and Matt:

    We are thinking about booking for a week at Villa Hermosa. It’s off the beaten path but private and close to The Springs. What is your take on this place?

  51. Hi Jenn and Matt! I stumbled upon your site and wanted to say thank you for all the great information. We have been to Costa Rica a few times, but this time we will have our 7 year old with us. We are flying into San Jose and planning to spend 3 nights in La Fortuna, 3-4 in Manuel Antonio and 2-3 in Ojochal or Uvita area. We have done rafting and canyoneering in La Fortuna, but Jack is not quite old enough. We will definitely do the hot springs, but wondering if you have other suggestions. I do not think he’d do a long hike, but we can definitely see the volcano and maybe the waterfalls? I found some great suggestions on your website of things to do when we are on the coast: catamaran, kids saving the rain forest and Nauyaca Waterfalls to name a few. I cannot believe we have not gone to the falls yet. It sounded like it might be doable as a hike so we can consider that although horseback could be fun too. So many things around Dominical I did not know about. I am sure hanging out at the beach and pool would be nice too. Just like to have some kid friendly options for adventures.

    1. Hi Candace, The Family chapter of our book, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries, goes to La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio so you should definitely check that out for ideas. By the way, if you did want to go canyoning with your son, he is actually old enough for one of the operators in Fortuna (their minimum age is 5). A good hike with younger kids to see the volcano is the new Peninsula sector of the national park. This is a paved trail closer to the lake, but it still feels immersed in the jungle. It leads to a nice lookout of Lake Arenal and the volcano. We went with our son and it worked out great. La Fortuna Waterfall will be a good activity for you. It’s just a 15 or so minute walk down some stairs to get to the waterfalls. Around Dominical, there’s Hacienda Baru for hiking, the Uvita Waterfall (very short walk to get to it), or a boat tour on the Terraba River. The Nauyaca hike is a bit long but if he is used to walking, he should be okay with the approx. 1.25 hours each way. Hope that helps to give you some ideas. I think you’ll find that Costa Rica is a great destination with kids too!

  52. Yor website is a gem of information – thank you and please add me to your email list!
    we fly into Liberia in April (fam of 4, incl 2 teens) and have booked three nights in La Fortuna and 4 nights in Samara. While based in La Fortuna, is it resonable to fit in a rafting trip in the Pacare river? (We are not experienced but it sonds fantastic!) Also, I have heard that it is possible to get to the Tabacon hot springs off the road so you can swim and avoid the crowds…is this doable? if so, how do we find the entrance?
    Lastly, should we attempt the drive from La Fortuna to Samara in one day or should break it up?
    Thank you for yor amazing blog and advise!

    1. Hi Stephanie, The Pacuare River is really too far to do from La Fortuna, unfortunately. Whitewater rafting that is available out of this area is the Balsa River (Class II-III). This is the closest option. People like it because there is the opportunity to see wildlife. If you wanted a little more excitement, you could do the upper portion of the Sarapiqui River, which also has really pretty scenery. This is a little farther but still totally doable as a day trip. It has Class III-IV rapids. We know of some great companies that offer these tours so let us know if you would like help making the arrangements. We don’t charge anything extra to do this.

      Yes, right across the street from the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort are some free springs. It’s not part of the Tabacon so doesn’t have the spa feel. It’s rustic but still really nice. You’re in the riverbed with the jungle all around. Here’s a map with the approx. location.

      The drive from La Fortuna to Samara is definitely doable in one day. It should be only be around 4 hours.

  53. Hello! My husband and I are travelling to Costa Rica for a late honeymoon and are travelling to La Fortuna, Monteverde, and Samara (thank you for your awesome blog- definitely helped us with our selections!) We are wanting to check out the hanging bridges, but won’t have time to do them in both La Fortuna and Monteverde- do you have a rec for which is a better spot to do these at? Thanks!

  54. Your website and blog are great! We are heading to CR for two weeks March 27th to April 11th. We are flying into San Jose. Late! We want to rent a car either that day or next then head to La Fortuna 2- 3 days Monteverdi 2-3 days and then Manuel Antonio. I am considering flying from there to the southern region for a few days and then fly back to San Jose. Early morning flight home. Just two mature healthy adults. Is this going to work without being pushed too much?

    1. Hi Daniel, Yes, four destinations in two weeks in doable. A few things to keep in mind- if you’re getting in late, we recommend staying overnight near the airport then getting an early start the next day so you’re not driving in the dark. You mentioned flying from Manuel Antonio to the Southern region. This is actually not a bad drive if you had Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez in mind so you don’t need to fly. Flying on the way back to San José would be a big time sizer though. Looks like a good plan overall. Maybe go with 3 nights in La Fortuna since there is a lot to do there.

    1. Hi Carys, We have never stayed at the Tree Houses Hotel but have heard good things about it. It’s about 25 minutes from downtown La Fortuna so best with a rental car. We have a guide with the hotels we recommend in the La Fortuna area here.

  55. Hi we are headed to Costa Rica in July. Any advice on a particular tour company to use to set up the expeditions we would like to do? Also I have heard mixed things about the different spas in Arenal. We have been to Baldi before, however this time we are traveling with our teenage daughters. Would you recommend Tabacon over Baldi?

    Also, please add me to your email subscription. I have signed up below!

    1. Hi Erin, It depends on the types of activities you want to do. We work with a lot of different companies in La Fortuna and regularly book tours there for our clients (we are a travel agency as well). If you would like any help choosing companies and getting things booked, let us know and we can send you an email with more information. We don’t charge a markup so the price is the same as if you booked directly through the tour operator.

      Personally, we prefer the ambiance at Tabacon. The setting is more natural and relaxing. The food is a little better there too.

      You’re on our subscription list, thanks for signing up!

  56. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    Thank you so much for your informative blog. We are planning a trip to Costa Rica in a month and your suggestions have been so helpful. My husband and I would like to take a day trip from Liberia airport area to Arenal (either the Mistico hanging bridges or a private reserve in the area) so that we can see the rainforest before heading to the coast for the rest of our trip. We are having a little trouble finding a day tour because most of them require at least 3-4 people. Do you have any suggestion of a good company to look in to?

  57. Hi Jenn and Matt. Is it possible to travel from Tortuguero to La Fortuna by public bus or is it better to go back to San Jose.
    Great travel tips. Much appreciated.

    1. Hi Paul, There’s nothing direct so it’s probably easier to go back to San Jose, then catch the direct bus to La Fortuna from there. If you could time it right with the boat from Tortuguero, there is a bus that leaves from Guapiles to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, then you change to another bus to Ciudad Quesada, then onto La Fortuna. This seems faster, but we’ve never done it before and can imagine it would be hard to time the boat taxi and bus from La Pavona to Guapiles. You can look at the schedule here, searching Guapiles to La Fortuna. Best of luck!

  58. Hi Jenn and Matt! We are looking to have a wedding in the area of La Fortuna/Arenal and have found that prices for resort weddings are very expensive, especially once you include taxes. Do you have any recommendations for venues that are not resorts and may be less expensive. Another thought may be a caterer who knows a beautiful setting and would be willing to deliver/cater to the location.

    1. Hi Joe, You should look at some of the places closer to Nuevo Arenal. This is about 45 min. from La Fortuna and it is generally cheaper. There are some B&Bs and vacation rentals around Lake Arenal – it’s very scenic. We’d think that they would be much more affordable. We’d recommend connecting with a property first, then looking into the food part. If you did a vacation rental, the owner should be able to connect you with someone locally who could do the catering. Best of luck with the wedding planning and congratulations!

  59. Hi there!

    What a great source of information. We are traveling to Tabacon for 4 nights in October and I noticed it is the rainy season…should that worry us at all? Also, would you recommend driving from SanJose airport to Tabacon or shuttle service?

    Thank you!
    Yeon Thomas

    1. Hi Yeon, The La Fortuna/Arenal area has slightly different weather patterns so October is usually a good time to visit. You could drive if you’re comfortable, but keep in mind that it gets dark in Costa Rica at 5:45 pm. You definitely don’t want to be driving after dark, so if your flight gets in any later than 1:30/2 pm, we’d take a shuttle instead. You can always pick up a rental car the next day (see our Rental Car Discount). If you’d like any help booking a shuttle, please contact us through our Private Shuttle Booking page. We work with a company that makes the trip from SJO to La Fortuna for $145, and would be glad to help!

  60. Hi Matt & Jenn, thank you for the wonderful information. My sister and I (in our mid 40’s and single) will be visiting CR in Sept (middle/end). We fly into Liberia and thought we’d arrange transport to La Fortuna & then rent a car the next day (Adobe). We are looking at Nayara or Tabacon. Would you suggest one over the other?

    While in the region we were hoping to go hiking, do a trip to La Fortuna Waterfalls, and the wildlife sanctuary (maybe) and “Gravity Falls” looks interesting. The Monteverde Cloud Forest and Butterfly Sanctuary and possibly Ziplining (we have done this many places so not sure it’s worth the time/money.) is it reasonable to do these things is we were staying 3 nights? Any suggestions/comments?

    Were are planning to then drive Guanacaste. We are looking at Resorts (preferably all-inclusives) and the top contenders are the JW Marriott, Four Seasons, Beaches Las Marsea and Secrets Papagyo. Do you have any in sight on any of those locations? Looking for a nice pool/ beach (preferably swimable) and it would be nice if it was not entirely newlyweds/couples. We are thinking of spending a week there. Although we are hoping to relax we also like “activity” so water sports, spa, maybe some live music or dancing would be nice. Will likely keep the car so we can take occassional day trip to some surrounding towns if we get bored (heard that you feel kind of isolated at some of these locations.).

    Any suggestions greatly appreciated!!!

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Alli, The Nayara and Tabacon are both excellent choices. The advantage of Tabacon is that is has the elaborate hot springs resort on site. The Nayara has nice cool water pools, though, and if you stayed at Nayara Springs, you’d have a private hot springs plunge pool. Tabacon has a bigger feel than the Nayara, which is more boutique. Hope that helps you decide. Yes, that’s a good plan to arrange transport from the airport and then rent a car once you get to La Fortuna. Let us know if you’d like help reserving the shuttle. We work with a great company that charges $174 for a private shuttle transfer.

      La Fortuna does have a lot of great actitivites to choose from. If you’d like help deciding the best way to use your limited time and to pick specific hikes, etc, we could help through our Tour Booking Service. Follow the link for more information. We know about all of those activities you listed. Monteverde is probably too far to do on a day trip.

      For a resort in Guanacaste, the JW Marriott is nice because it’s close to Tamarindo, so if you have a car, you can go check the town out for restaurants, etc. Four Seasons and Secrets are nice too but much more isolated and farther from things.

  61. Where do you think zip lining is best at? I’m travelling to CR in December and hitting La Fortuna, Monteverde, Tamarindo, and Manuel Antonio! There are so many different places to do thing it’s hard to pick which one to do what in.

    1. Hi Mary-Anne, We’d probably say that either La Fortuna or Monteverde would be the best for zip lining out of those destinations. The lines are really long and fun and you get some great views, of either Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal or the cloud forest. Let us know if you’d like help selecting a tour operator. We’d be happy to help you with the arrangements. See our Tour Booking page for more info.

  62. I’ve visited Costa Rica 3 different times and even got married there. I loved every bit of it. We’ve walked the black sand beaches near Jaco, hiked the Arenal Volcano and saw the sloths and monkeys at Manuel Antonio. The food, the people, the sites. This place is heaven. I would recommend anyone who hasn’t visited here yet, to go an experience this magical Central American country.

  63. hi Jenn and Matt,
    found your side through Google and really love it.
    We will travel to CR for 2 weeks between December 10 and 24th. Followed your advise and booked one of the nice places in La Fortuna you are recommending. Do you think we need to pre-book every night for the rest of the tour across North Western CR and Pacific Coast? Thanks a million.

    1. Hi Phil, Thanks for the kind words. We would recommend booking all of your lodging in advance that time of year. We have found from helping our itinerary clients that the better hotels are already filling up for those dates. So best to reserve ahead of time to have a good selection. Hope you have a great trip!

  64. Hi

    We are visiting CR 24 Nov to 7 Dec. We’ve booked an organised trip with transfers and pre-chosen hotels and a couple of included tours, but are not part of a full tour group, so semi-independent once we get to each location (Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, Tamarindo).

    We have three nights in the Arenal area, staying at the Arenal Paraiso Resort, which looks OK, but having read about it, it seems to be quite a way out of town. As we’re there for 3 nights, I don’t fancy eating in the hotel each night. How easy do you think it will be to get a taxi in to (and more importantly back from) La Fortuna to find somewhere for dinner? I’m sure the hotel can arrange for one to get us there, but how would we get one back – do you hail them in the streets? We don’t speak Spanish, so not sure the best way of doing this.

    Any safety issues doing this which we should think about?

    Also- for sodas or average restaurants do you just turn up, or do you have to book? What time do people generally eat in CR?

    Re Lake Arenal – I’ve seen online something about pedal boarding on Arenal lake – have you tried this?! Looks amusing! Is the lake far from La Fortuna itself?
    Thx

    1. Hi Hazel, That hotel is outside town but a lot of people prefer this location since it is quieter and set in the rainforest. Yes, your hotel will be able to call a taxi for you to get to town – it’s not a long trip. For the way back, it would be best to ask the restaurant to call one for you. They are used to this so it shouldn’t be a problem. La Fortuna is a peaceful town so no worries about safety issues.

      You don’t need reservations for sodas and most restaurants. If you eat at Chifa La Familia Feliz you may want to make one since it is smaller. People in CR eat between 6 and 7 pm on average.

      We haven’t tried pedal boarding but had some clients do it and they loved it. Let us know if you’d like us to set you up on a tour. Just send us an email to bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com.

  65. Hi Jenn and Matt!

    Me and 3 college-aged friends are planning a trip to Costa Rica for spring break and we’ll be getting in on March 1st and leaving on March 10th. So far, we’re thinking La Fortuna/Arenal on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, Monteverde on the 4th and 5th, and Tamarindo and the rest of the Guanacaste coast for the rest of the time. Any activity recommendations for the more adventure-oriented in La Fortuna and Arenal? We’ve already planned a day of hiking on the 1986 Trail and Arenal National Park followed by a night of soaking in Tabacon on the 2nd, but don’t have much in mind for the 3rd yet. Also, any nightlife recommendations in Guanacaste or La Fortuna?

    1. Hi Qasim, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We always recommend zip lining in either La Fortuna or Monteverde since the experience is wonderful there – great views and fun, fast lines in both locations. Canyoning/waterfall rappelling is also a fun adventure tour and very unique. Let us know if you would like any help booking these excursions. For nightlife, Guanacaste will have the most. Tamarindo has a lot of bars and restaurants often have live music. So you should definitely check that out.

  66. Jenn and Matt,

    We are going to CR in May with our 4 year old.

    We plan on using shuttles. Do we need to bring his car seat or are there shuttles that have car seats for rent?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Camille, By law, the shuttle companies are required to provide car seats. But in our experience booking shuttles for people, it can be hard to guarantee that a specific type of car seat will be provided, even if you request one. For example, a lot of times companies will automatically provide a booster seat for a 4 year old even though most 4 year olds are too small for them. So our advice is to bring your own unless you are absolutely sure that the company is going to provide the type of seat you want. If you’d like any help booking your shuttles, please contact us through our shuttle booking page.

  67. Planning a trip with 7 people to La Fortuna in Jan 2020. I was wondering if any of the hotels offer day passes to use their hot springs? We are staying at an apartment complex via Airbnb so only have a small regular pool. Also is there Lyft or Uber there? Thank you!

    1. Hi Michelle, Yes, several of the hotels offer day passes to use their hot springs. We can send you some more information on the different options if you’d like. Just let us know.

      There is Uber in some of the larger towns and cities like San Jose but I don’t think it has made its way to La Fortuna yet.

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