16 Free & Cheap Things To Do In La Fortuna

Enjoying the paradise of La Fortuna isn’t cheap. But to have the best fun without spending too much, consider activities like El Choyin hot spring and El Salto rope swing, which are all free. 

What if I told you that I recently spent five days in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, and managed to have great fun while spending under $500 in total? Yes, it’s possible. 

I’ve watched many vlogs in which budget travelers are warned to be wary of the cost of enjoying wildlife, hot springs, and waterfalls, as they aren’t cheap. 

But guess what? That happens when you don’t look in the right places. 

In this article, I will show you twenty different fun things you can do in La Fortuna that don’t cost a dime! And even the ones that will eventually cost you money are below $40. 

Key Takeaways

In case you don’t have the time to read the entire article, here are the key takeaways from my recommendations:

Our top free activities 

  • Soak in El Choyin, a free hot spring—the — free thing to do in La Fortuna
  • El Salto rope swing—a — Free thing to do in La Fortuna for backpackers

Our top cheap activities 

  • Moonshine Sunset Cruise on Lake Arenal: This cheap thing to do in La Fortuna at night
  • Mistico Hanging Bridges—a — Cheap private nature park
  • Hike the trails at Arenal Observatory Lodge—cheap hiking 

I’m a big advocate of budget travel, and I’m glad to have found these activities worth the experience despite their low to no cost. 

Read on to learn what to expect when you embark on any of these fun activities in La Fortuna.

THE FREE ACTIVITIES

Here’s a list of free activities you can do in La Fortuna:

1. Soak in El Choyin (a free hot spring).

  • Cost: Free (parking outside of Tabacon Springs Resort may cost $5).
  • Location: F7QG+CH4, Alajuela Province, La Fortuna, Costa Rica.
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: In groups 

One of the first places that locals will recommend for free activities to do in La Fortuna is the free hot springs of El Choyin. 

These hot springs are accessible around the clock, but it’s important to monitor your personal belongings. Leave your valuables at your hotel, and just bring a towel for a relaxing time.

You can bring along a big cooler full of drinks and even some candles for when it gets dark. The water was pleasantly warm—warmer than I expected—and its depth and speed varied in different spots. 

Many neat rock formations create little ‘pools’ or spots to rest your head. This is just what you’d need after lots of walking and hiking in La Fortuna.

Meanwhile, because accessing this area is free, expect a crowd at El Choyin, especially on weekends. 

But you can have the place to yourself if you get there early enough in the morning. 

How do I get there?

To get there, take the yellow gate next to Tabacon Springs. It’s easy to spot, and you can park on the side of the road. Walk down the path behind the gate, and in no time, you’ll reach a bubbling hot creek. 

2. Explore hiking options around Volcan Arenal.

  • Cost: The cheapest entry fee option is $10 (Mirador El Silencio Trails).
  • Location: F76C+FPQ, Provincia de Alajuela, El Castillo, Fortuna, Costa Rica
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: Alone and in groups 

Hiking to the summit of Volcan Arenal is no longer possible because it has been declared illegal for conservation reasons.

With that out of the way, there are some worthwhile hikes on the lower slopes of the mountain, most of which are very cheap. 

The cheapest and longest trail is the Mirador del Silencio, which I recommend. It offers a fantastic view of the volcano and lots of lava flows, and in my opinion, it has better views than even more expensive tour options like the Arenal Volcano National Park and the Arenal 1968. 

Solo hikers can also enjoy Mirador El Silencio’s trails, which were surprisingly uncrowded. The paths took me through some stunning rainforest areas and up to lava rocks left behind from the 1968 eruption. 

Although some trail markers were a bit confusing—marking exits where the trail actually continued—I still found it well worth the $10 entry fee. I highly recommend checking it out if you want something to do on a tight budget. 

3. El Salto rope swing

  • Cost: Free
  • Location: 1.6 km (about 1 mile) south of the town’s downtown area along Road 702, right under a bridge.
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: In groups 

The El Salto rope swing is one of the coolest free activities in La Fortuna is swinging on the El Salto rope swing. Found along the Rio Fortuna, El Salto (which means “jump” in Spanish) is a blast, especially when it’s hot outside. And the best part? It doesn’t cost a thing! 

This spot gives you a taste of living like a local. It’s where many locals go to swim and chill out. The rope swing adds a fun touch, and the water feels super refreshing. 

You can wander along the river by yourself or hang out at the central swimming spot. 

It’s really near the town—maybe a 20-minute walk from Central Park. I suggest checking it out; it’s one of the rare free places around.

Lots of locals and backpackers love it, too, so it might be busy. But it’s entertaining to watch everyone take their turns on the swing, some more gracefully than others.

4. Explore La Fortuna town.

  • Cost: Free
  • Location: La Fortuna Town
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups 

If you’re watching your spending and still want to enjoy fun things in La Fortuna, you can head to town. You’ll find plenty of traditional souvenir spots with the usual stuff, like postcards and t-shirts. 

But there are also unique craft stores and art galleries waiting to be discovered, making for a fun few hours in La Fortuna!

One place I recommend checking out is the central park, Parque de La Fortuna. It’s lovely, and on a clear day, it has one of the best views of the volcano! 

Another fantastic spot to explore is Coco Loco Art Studio and Gallery. It’s a fair-trade gallery showcasing original artwork from local artists. 

You’ll find all sorts of captivating art here, from vibrant paintings to traditional Costa Rican masks, ceramics, and mirrors. 

5. Explore Iglesia San Carlos Park 

  • Cost: 
  • Location: Town Square, Downtown La Fortuna
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups 

This park is pretty and cozy, with a church in the background. It’s a nice place to explore and take pictures, and it doesn’t cost a dime to come here and feed your eyes. 

Downtown La Fortuna doesn’t have many things to see, but one of them is this church. It’s small and plain, not very fancy. Inside, there’s a big statue of Jesus in the middle.

I said a quick prayer here before I left. It’s right in the middle of downtown La Fortuna. 

The park is a lovely spot to relax and have some ice cream or gelato from a nearby store.

6. Browse the many excellent shops in La Fortuna.

  • Cost: Window shopping is free. 
  • Location: La Fortuna shops
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups 

La Fortuna is chock-full of souvenir shops selling standard tourist fare like postcards, magnets, and t-shirts. But you don’t have to want to buy something before feeding your eyes with the wonders of the shops. 

You’ll also find unique craft shops and art galleries. It’s delightful to stroll through them and see what they have to offer.

I recommend visiting Coco Loco Art Studio and Gallery as well as Wood Gallery.

You can see all sorts of neat stuff there, like colorful paintings, Costa Rican masks, ceramics, and mirrors. 

It’s a great way to spend a few hours in La Fortuna without buying anything.

7. Hule Lagoon

  • Cost: Free (a guided tour can cost $104)
  • Location: at the base of the Cerro Congo Volcano
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups 

You don’t have to join a full-day tour with a guide to explore or hike Hule Lagoon in La Fortuna. 

The Hule Lagoon sits beautifully at the bottom of the Cerro Congo Volcano. This place is famous for its fantastic hiking trails, and guess what? You can enjoy them for free!

The main trail is about 4 miles long and is one of the top hikes in La Fortuna. This trail will take you around a volcanic lake and through a lush rainforest. 

There’s even a spot where you can see the Toro Hydroelectric Project and its massive 590-foot waterfalls! 

It’s a strenuous hike, so it’s best for physically fit people.

THE CHEAP ACTIVITIES

Here’s a list of cheap activities you can do in La Fortuna:

8. Go hiking at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

  • Cost: $15
  • Location: 7 km southeast of the Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal, Provincia de Alajuela, La Fortuna
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: in groups

The Arenal Observatory Lodge is an eco-lodge near La Fortuna. It’s a vast property, covering over 800 acres, right by the volcano. There are lots of trails here where you can see all kinds of animals.

Even if you’re not staying overnight, you can still visit for a day of hiking. A day pass costs $15.

The hike is fantastic, offering close-up views of the volcano. There’s also a neat museum where you can learn about the volcano and the lodge’s history. 

It’s definitely worth the entry fee. 

I spent about 4-5 hours there, and all the trails had clear signage. After our hike, we stopped at the restaurant for a drink. 

9. The Moonshine Sunset Cruise on Lake Arenal

  • Cost: $74
  • Location: El Fósforo, a town in La Fortuna
  • Guide required: Yes
  • Best enjoyed: Couples

If you’re looking to see Costa Rica’s stunning sights without dealing with big crowds, consider the Lake Arenal Sunset Cruise. 

You’ll sail on Lake Arenal, enjoying views of the Arenal Volcano and the local plants, animals, and wildlife. 

And while you’re cruising, you can unwind with some Costa Rican moonshine and delicious snacks.

It’s a fantastic way to spend your evening. 

They also serve delicious local snacks and drinks, and there’s even dancing and a serenade by our guide, Otto.

You can book or reserve your spot for the cruise. via Viator

10. Visit Catarata La Fortuna 

  • Cost: $25
  • Location: 21007, Provincia de Alajuela, La Fortuna, 21007, Costa Rica
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups 

Catarata del Toro is the tallest waterfall in Costa Rica and one of the biggest. The water is too strong to swim in, but it’s incredible to see.

The person who owns this waterfall also has a big jungle area where you can find the Blue Falls. A ticket for both places costs $25.

The Blue Falls have six waterfalls along a blue river in a thick forest. You’ll need to walk a bit, but it’s an incredible jungle adventure.

There are three easy-to-get-to falls and three more deeper in the jungle if you have more time and energy.

Remember, both waterfalls are closed on Sundays. To avoid crowds, it’s best to go on a weekday. 

11. Visit the Mistico Hanging Bridges

  • Cost: $32
  • Location: 2km east of La Represa del Lago Arenal, La Fortuna de, Provincia de Alajuela, La Fortuna
  • Guide required: No (but I recommend it for the best experience).
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups 

The Mistico Hanging Bridges is a private park near La Fortuna. It has a bunch of bridges that hang up to 55 meters (147 feet) above the forest.

The main trail in the park is 3.5 kilometers (2.1 miles) long and goes around all 16 bridges. Six of these bridges hang. The longest one is 97 meters (368 feet), and the tallest is 55 meters (147 feet).

Walking among the treetops is amazing. We were able to see down to the forest floor. The day we went was really humid and cloudy, so there was a thick mist in the air, adding to the atmosphere.

If you’re in La Fortuna, you have to visit this place! I suggest getting a guide, because you might miss seeing animals if you don’t have one. They’re everywhere, right under your nose!

Make sure you go early because the crowd here can be crazy, and you won’t have the bridge to yourself, especially for Instagram-worthy pictures. Also, the experience of seeing wildlife will be better with a tour. 

13. Walk on a sloth trail.

  • Cost: $16 for a self-guided walk ($48 for a guided walk)
  • Location: C. 480, Provincia de Alajuela, La Fortun
  • Guide required: optional
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups 

Another cheap thing to do in La Fortuna is to watch sloths. You can accidentally see one as you walk into any reserve. But for a more deliberate effort, you’ll almost definitely spot one on the Bogarin Trail, even without a guide.

During our walk, we saw three sloths, and the trail was easy, beautiful, and shaded—a perfect mix! This guide offers more tips for spotting sloths.

14. Volunteer to take a dog for a walk.

  • Cost: $30 
  • Location:
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: alone or in groups 

Costa Rica Dog Rescue, located in La Fortuna, is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing and caring for homeless dogs. 

They’re always looking for volunteers to help by offering morning and afternoon volunteer programs. During these programs, you can walk, play with, and spend time with our dogs and help care for our facilities.

While you’re in La Fortuna, you can volunteer to take one of their dogs for a walk and give them some love and socialization. A $30 donation is required.

As a dog lover myself, I recommend visiting this place if you’re in the area and able to help. 

During my visit, my family and I washed four dogs and took them for a walk. The package included a meal for four, helping care for the dogs, and T-shirts as souvenirs.

We could have helped with more dogs, but we had to leave for our next destination, so we stopped at four.

15. Go on a unique butterfly tour in El Castillo.

  • Cost: $15 to $18
  • Location: in the small town of El Castillo, a 35-minute drive from La Fortuna. 
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: Alone

This is another affordable afternoon activity, only a ten-minute walk from town.

This local tourist spot is fantastic and definitely worth spending 60–90 minutes at. Admission is $15 per person if you pay with cash or $18 per person if you pay with a card. 

The tour starts with a visit to the butterfly enclosure and continues with a stroll through the garden to observe the fruit growing.

Various kinds of butterflies might land on you or fly over your head, and you might even see one emerge from its chrysalis.

After that, unwind in the cozy bar area while sipping a complimentary dragon fruit and pineapple smoothie.

Remember to wear closed-toe shoes so you can explore the conservatory trails and check out other cool things like the frog habitat, plant gardens, and greenhouses.

16. Take coffee and watch monkeys.

  • Cost: From as low as $2
  • Location: Café Metrópoli, a ten-minute drive from the center of La Fortuna. 
  • Guide required: No
  • Best enjoyed: Alone

For as little as $2, you can enjoy coffee at Cafe Metropoli and enjoy the sight of monkeys and other entertainment. 

I first came here because a friend of our guide recommended it, and I was really impressed by the coffee, hot chocolate, and sandwiches. 

They even have naturally decaffeinated coffee, but you can’t buy the beans. The barista was nice enough to give me a small sample to take home.

For the best views, sit in one of the chairs along the edge of the terrace. If you see something interesting in the distance, they even have binoculars.

Look for the “Red Frog” sign just after the cemetery—Metropolí is right next to it.

Tours are overrated in La Fortuna.

If you have your transportation in La Fortuna, you can do whatever you want. Sometimes, you might have to pay to get to places or go with a guide, but honestly, there’s not much you can’t do on your own.

For example, I once bought tickets for the Mistico Hangin, which cost about $30 each. You can buy them on the website. 

You don’t really need a tour because there are so many other tours around every 50 feet. You’ll end up walking through them anyway, seeing what everyone else sees.

Pro Tip: 

  • It’s best to go early to avoid the crowds. 
  • You might see more with a guide than without. Guides share information about what’s there and generally know where to look.

I remember our guide playing a game of “Spot the X” with us. I was looking for something else, and he pointed out a pit viper right in front of me. 

Moving Around La Fortuna on a Budget

You may have a solid bucket list of free things to do in La Fortuna, but if you don’t manage your transportation budget properly, you may still end up spending a lot of money. 

  • Renting a Car: Renting a car is ideal for flexibility and exploring remote areas. Ensure the rental includes mandatory insurance to avoid unexpected costs. I’ve had a remarkable booking experience with Alamo
  • Shuttles: Shuttles are convenient, affordable, and provide pick-up and drop-off services at hotels and airports. You can use Bookaway to find the best deals on shuttles across Costa Rica.
  • Public buses: Public buses are the cheapest option but can be unreliable, crowded, and uncomfortable for long journeys. They’re best suited for short, simple trips, but be prepared for delays and schedule changes. It’d be helpful if you knew basic Spanish to interact with drivers.

FAQs

How much does it cost to go to La Fortuna Falls?

It costs $18 for adults to gain access to La Fortuna Falls. However, it’s free for children up to 8 years old. You can pay for the entrance ticket with either a card or cash. This gives you access to free parking spaces and bathrooms, changing rooms, and a drinking water fountain.

Is it easy to get around La Fortuna without a car?

Yes. You can stroll around downtown La Fortuna without any trouble. The central bus station is located downtown, close to Mega Super in the large square. However, if you’re not staying in downtown La Fortuna, it’s more convenient to rent a car to conveniently access all the Arenal area attractions at your own pace, given their dispersed nature.

Does La Fortuna have a nightlife?

Yes, La Fortuna Nightlife at Mercadito Arenal, close to the Arenal Volcano, is a fantastic spot to hang out, eat local food, and enjoy the evening. Many tourists come here for the nightlife in La Fortuna. 

If you’re up for more of a party vibe, five kilometers west of town is Volcán Look, a nightclub open Wednesday through Saturday. They feature DJs and Latino bands to entertain both locals and visitors.

How do I spend two days in La Fortuna?

For a wholesome two-day getaway at La Fortuna, you can start your morning of the first day with a visit to Arenal Volcano National Park, Proyecto Asis, and Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, which offer great views and the opportunity to spot wildlife.

Here’s a separate guide that walks you through the entire process of enjoying two days in La Fortuna to the fullest. 

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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