La Fortuna, Costa Rica (City Guide)

This small city in San Carlos, Costa Rica, despite its size, it is the 4th most populous area in Costa Rica. It means The Fortune in Spanish and its name is certainly descriptive of its ample flora and fauna as well as its supple and fertile lands. Founded in the early 1930’s by people from surrounding regions of the country, it was first named El Burio. It served the area as a farming community and began to be known for its extremely productive soil. The Arenal Volcano erupted in the late 1960’s, killing 82 people and causing many catastrophes around the region. It destroyed much of the area, but this small township still stood. It was then that tourists from all around the globe began to arrive to witness the giant looming volcano and the occasional slow-moving lava that oozed from it.

This city is one of Costa Rica’s most sought-after destinations. It is a small town but packed with everything a tropical vacation should be. From the looming volcano,to the bubbling hot springs and gushing waterfalls, and all the many tourist destinations and hotspots, there are a plethora of activities and attractions. Even if there were no attractions, this little town is bursting with natural beauty. Few places on the planet can claim the dazzling array of flora and fauna found in Costa Rica. A vacation here is always accentuated by cozy La Fortuna hotels with their authentic feel and stunning environments. Not only is the plant life like something from a cartoon, but the marine life and the wildlife seen in the rainforest is hard to believe. The colors of the toucans, the sounds of the monkeys, and the slippery feel of swimming with a manta is not something you soon forget. In fact, it continues to call to you long after to go home.

La Fortuna Weather

La Fortuna weather is a beautiful thing to behold. Although it does rain there quite often, the temperatures are always in the low 80’s making everyday quite balmy. It is the rainforest after all! Rain is certainly inevitable, but it is also very necessary. The reason the landscape is so lush and verdant is because there is plenty of rainfall and sunshine all year round. Luckily, even though they can be heavy at times, the rain showers are short. The one downside to the weather here is that it is so unpredictable. One day can hold a myriad of weather changes. The morning may start rainy and cloudy, only to be bright and sunny by lunch time with a heavy onslaught of rain at bedtime. Not all four seasons are represented in La Fortuna. Any time of the year can bring 12 hours of daylight. The only seasons that matter here are the wet and dry seasons.

Attractions, Landmarks, and Tourist Stops

The Arenal Volcano

Arenal volcano is one of the most spectacular volcanos in the whole world. It is said to be one of the most active in the world. It is visible from almost everywhere in the city. Tourists love to get a close-up look by visiting Arenal Volcano National Park or the Arenal 1968 Trail. The Arenal Observatory is where visitors go to see the most remarkable views available. People come here just to get married. The area sees several hundred marriages a year. The amazing natural beauty of the area makes any occasion even more special. It is very hard to forget this lush rainforest paradise. The Arenal volcano is one of the most iconic in the world because it is exactly what we see in our mind when we think of a volcano with its rugged cone shape. Inactive since 2010, it is a very exciting hike for any visitor to the area. A visit here is all-inclusive. You can enjoy the volcano history, hiking, picnicking, and outdoor activities.

The Chato Volcano

Cerra Chato Volcano is dormant and has not erupted in more than 3,500 years. The La Fortuna Waterfall is the result of one of its mighty eruptions. It has two peaks and a giant crater filled with water. It is much shorter than Arenal Volcano and was a popular hiking destination until 2017 when the government began to enforce a hiking ban that had been in place since the 90’s. The two peaks are named Little Chato, or Chatito in Spanish, and Thorn, or Espina.

Things to Do in La Fortuna

Below is a summary of attractions in La Fortuna, but for a more up close look at what to do, visit this page:  what to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.  It goes in more depth about that topic.

driving to La Fortuna
A shot of the drive into La Fortuna. You’ll be on roads like this for about 90 minutes or more.

La Fortuna Hot Springs

There are several La Fortuna hot springs all throughout the city limits. These natural springs are heated by the volcanic thermal energy that surrounds them. Visitors and locals alike enjoy wading in the rivers with water temperatures fluctuating between 30° to 50° Celsius. It is also possible to experience the hot springs on the grounds of one of the resorts or hotels. The hot springs at the resorts are surrounded by beautiful gardens and supple landscapes.

Arenal Volcano Pic
This photo was taken from “The Springs,” a local resort.

The La Fortuna Waterfall

This waterfall is over 200 feet high. Visitors can swim, hike, and enjoy the natural beauty of the area for a $18 entrance fee. Witness the monkeys, toucans and myriad wildlife that call this unbelievable natural wonder their home. Some visitors prefer to explore on horseback which takes a bit longer but affords a special type of experience. Enjoy a picnic after the hike to the falls to extend the visit as long as you can. Come alone, with your crew, or join one of the tours of the area. There are a lot of unique watersports to try out here as well.

Hanging Bridges, Ziplining, and Hiking

Outdoor enthusiast and adventure hunters fall in love with Costa Rica as soon as they get here. The luxuriously green canopy of the rainforest and the thick forest walls make ziplining super exciting. There is a specific rush from flying through the sun dappled air thick with freshly fallen rain. This is also one of the country’s best destinations for hanging bridges. Gaze down into the deep forest below or let the many local birds and air life amaze you. Heading out alone can be fun but joining in on a tour is a great way to meet new people. There are many places to get hiking and horseback tours of the volcanos, waterfalls, and hot springs. There are also a variety of local activities that occur annually. Swimming and a few unique watersports such as freediving, snuba, and SUP yoga are all the rage. SUP yoga is a mixture of stand-up paddle boarding and yoga. Yoga in the middle of the ocean is an otherworldly experience. Snuba mixes scuba diving and snorkeling for an underwater experience that’s a bit less restricting than scuba diving and doesn’t require a certification. Free diving is a learned skill where divers can dive down as deep as 30 feet for at least a minute and a half on a single breath. It offers you the most simple and serene way to explore the marine world. No heavy equipment to keep up with gives you an incredible feeling of freedom underwater. Freediving courses are available at any of the area marinas.

Shopping and Dining

There is no shortage of souvenir shops, boutiques, and stores in this city. The Original Grand Gallery is a shopping area containing more refined merchandise. It is a family owned art gallery featuring authentic sculptures. There are several other art galleries and craft shops in the area. There are plenty of restaurants around as well. Bar Nene’s is great for a burger and fries. They even have a wine list, which isn’t easy to find in Costa Rica. You can pizza, American style, and Chinese food as well as traditional Costa Rican dishes. Most of the larger resorts have restaurants on the premises for guest to dine and grab cocktails. There are many street vendors selling authentic Costa Rica dishes that you can’t get elsewhere. If you feel like something more formal, there are a number of mid-priced and high-scale restaurants and eaters as well.

I made a guide to the best restaurants in the area, so if you are looking for a curated list, check it out here.

La Fortuna Hotels

There are many different types of hotels in this small town. No matter your budget, you can find a place to stay. There is also an array of rental houses. Almost everywhere available to tourists is going to sport a volcano view. The town is so small, most of the hotels and rental facilities are with easy walking of the major attractions in town. Some of the hotels have access to their own hot spring. Others have several swimming pools, swim up bars, and on-site steak houses. The resorts offer massage and beauty treatments to enjoy along with the hot springs and volcanic environment to bring about specific health benefits. You can find high-end resorts, mid-priced hotels, and cheaper budget motels.

>> View Hotel Options in La Fortuna on This Page (With Reviews)

There are so many things you could spend your day enjoying in this rainforest city. Enjoying the outdoors is possible no matter where you’re staying. The waterfalls, hot springs, and lush, verdant environment are always a draw. Staying at a resort or hotel can get you a private sitting in a hot spring, a bit of massage therapy, as well as a fine dining experience and a luxurious suite in which to rest. Shop local tourist boutiques or venture into the art district to discover home-grown craftsmanship. No matter how you choose to spend your time, you will never forget the time you spend here. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to come back soon.