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La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Top Places to Visit

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For years, La Fortuna in Costa Rica has been one of the top tourist destinations. It is the hub of outdoor adventuring with its impressive landscape and variety of activities. In this natural oasis, anyone can find plenty of options to satiate their need for excitement or rejuvenation. Enjoy this guide detailing our recommendations on what to do in La Fortuna.

ARENAL VOLCANO

Arenal Volcano is among the most iconic destinations in Costa Rica. Towering over La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano is a spectacular active volcano in the shape of a perfect cone. What’s more incredible, is the opportunity to get up close with this giant via the Arenal Volcano National Park. Hike on old lava fields, witness lava flow from the overlook, trek among unique vegetation such as wild orchids and historic Ceiba trees, and spot wildlife along the sprawling network of trails in one of the most visited national parks of Costa Rica. Just outside Arenal Volcano National Park, other adventures include canopy tours with hanging bridges, zip-lining, and bungee jumping with the volcano in view.

Best time to visit: Dry season (February to April) as heavy rains in other months can create muddy and inhibitive conditions for hikes; open daily from 8am to 4pm.

Entrance fee: USD 15* per person to enter the national park.

This tour in Costa Rica includes a visit to Arenal Volcano inside the national park.

LAKE ARENAL

Lake Arenal in La Fortuna
Lake Arenal is a perfect destination for a multi-adventure trip.

A trip to Lake Arenal is perfect for creating a multi-sport trip that includes both land and water adventures. If traveling to or from Monteverde area, boating across this lake in combination with a quick 4x4 journey provides a popular and scenic route to connect to La Fortuna. Sunset cruises and kayaking on the lake are spectacular, offering incredible views of the volcano and opportunities for bird-watching. If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you'll appreciate the lake’s superb conventional fly-fishing.

Best time to visit: Early morning, year-round for birdwatching; November to June’s low waters are best for fishing.

Entrance fee: Included in admission to Arenal Volcano National Park; no permit required for freshwater fishing.

LA FORTUNA WATERFALL

La Fortuna waterfall is a great place to go for a swim
La Fortuna is a 70-meter tall cascading waterfall.

Cascading 70 meters, this powerful waterfall is accessed via a short 15-minute hike through lush rainforest. Truly a jungle paradise, the falls crash into a gorgeous, refreshing turquoise-colored pool perfect for swimming. Daredevils can take a short walk around the perimeter of the pool to take in the misty view out from behind the waterfall. Consider taking a friend with you to capture a shot from across the pool of you, miniature in comparison to this massive cascade.

Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall and enjoy a soak in Baldi hot springs with this tour.

Best time to visit: February through April for a refreshing dip in the drier, warmer months. Afternoon hours are suggested for a more pleasant swimming experience. Open daily from 7am to 3pm.

Entrance fee: USD 15* per person

RIO CHOLLIN

Rio Chollin is a volcanic-fed natural hot spring river.
Rio Chollin is a volcanic-fed, hot spring river.

A visit to La Fortuna's Arenal area isn’t complete without taking in some of the natural thermal waters of the region. While many visitors flock to the numerous hot springs resorts in the area, Rio Chollin is a volcanic-fed natural hot spring river that is completely free. After a short walk downstream from the river’s bridge, you’ll be surrounded by pristine Costa Rican nature while soaking in the thermal waters of the site. The river moves swiftly with rapids, small waterfalls, and several excellent dipping spots. Getting there takes some maneuvering through an undeveloped river, so if traveling with small children or limited mobility, spending the day at one of the thermal spring fed resorts is a satisfying alternative.

Best time to visit: Weekdays before noon is best to avoid crowds and afternoon rains.

Entrance fee: Free

RIO BALSA

Not all waters in La Fortuna are fit for relaxing. If you’re looking for thrills on the river, go no further than Rio Balsa just outside of La Fortuna. This river is known for its consistent class II, III, and IV rapids perfect for fun adventures, white water rafting and kayaking. Some areas along the river are good for a quick swim too. Wildlife is abundant, so watch out for monkeys, iguanas, sloths, and native birds along the way.

Best time to visit: For smaller rapids, visit in the dry season (December to May), for a white-knuckling adventure, rainy season (June to November) produces a roaring river flow. Start your trip in the morning to ensure plenty of daylight hours for your raft downstream.

Entrance fee: While booking a tour is the most popular and safest way to enjoy Rio Balsa, it is technically free to enter for experienced adventurers with their own equipment.

PIEDRA CANYON

An increasingly popular destination for canyoning, La Fortuna offers many sites for rappelling and other adventures through jungle cliffs, waterfalls, and streams. The most popular is Piedra Canyon (also referred to as Lost Canyon), offering several rappels up to 36 meters and areas for down climbing and boulder hopping.

Best time to visit: February through April to avoid wet weather that could make climbing dangerous.

Entrance fee: While visiting Piedra Canyon is free, price varies for rappelling depending on the tours.

CERRO CHATO

It’s true that Arenal Volcano holds the prestigious fame of being the most well-known volcano in La Fortuna, perhaps all of Costa Rica. What many visitors to this town don’t know is that Arenal Volcano National Park is actually home to two volcanos. On the southeast side of Arenal Volcano lies the dormant volcano, Cerro Chato, which has long been a destination for outdoors enthusiasts seeking an off-the-beaten path experience. The hike is strenuous, but rewards those up to the challenge with a chance to walk downhill to the volcano’s crater lake. The truly daring cool off with a swim before making the trek back.

Best time to visit: Dry season (February to April), because muddy conditions can result in trail closings to Cerro Chato.

Entrance fee: USD 10* if hiking from Arenal Observatory Lodge, which is the most popular and accessible route. The other previously popular trail from La Fortuna waterfall is closed for an undetermined amount of time.

La Fortuna de San Carlos in Costa Rica is a top choice for solo, family, and group adventure travel. Spend your days checking volcano treks off your bucket list or soothing your senses in healing waters. Offering some of the most authentic outdoor experiences in the country, La Fortuna is a must visit destination for your next Costa Rica vacation.

*Prices listed above are per February 2018

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