10 Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica


Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica

From hiking through the lush rainforest laced with the most stunning waterfalls to relaxing in natural hot springs to watching a sloth slowly crawl through the treetops, this guide covers all the best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, including a number of hidden gems.  La Fortuna was our home base for 10 days to explore the Arenal Volcano and surrounding area in Costa Rica.  We’ve done the research for you and have compiled this guide of the best things to do in/around the La Fortuna area based on our personal experience.  We still dream about our time in La Fortuna, Costa Rica and cannot wait to visit again.  Read on for our full guide on the 10 best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!

FYI: We took this trip when our daughter was 2 years old and our son was 6 months old.  For more information on exploring with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts.


# 1 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Explore Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica

Our #1 best thing to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica recommendation is to visit Mistico Hanging Bridges Park. The hanging bridges at this park are so cool! They take you into and above the rainforest canopy.  The Self-Guided Hanging Bridges tour is about a 2 mile loop path with 400 feet of elevation gain.  On this tour, you’ll cross 15 bridges (6 of them being hanging bridges that go straight into the rainforest canopy). We really enjoyed our time immersed in the rainforest here. 

Although these bridges may look a bit scary, there are attendants at each bridge that only allow so many people on them at one time and we never felt unsafe on them.  These attendants will take some awesome pictures for you on the bridges too (if you ask)!  And even though it seemed busy when we arrived in the parking lot at the park, the trail here is one-way so it felt like there were only a handful of other people on the path during our visit.

Cost: $28/person, Open 6a-4:30p daily, 25 minutes from La Fortuna Area

Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

#2 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Hike in Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

Another one of the best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica is to hike around the Arenal Volcano (one of the country’s 5 active volcanoes that last erupted in 2010).  Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal offers some of the most picturesque spots to hike around the Arenal Volcano.  The lush rainforest hikes, wildlife viewing opportunities and views of the Arenal Volcano here will not disappoint you.  At the park, there are two entrances (right across the street from one another).  See map below for a visual of the different entrances and hiking trails.

Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal Map

Combine Las Heliconias, Las Coladas and El Ceibo Trails

The main entrance is right off the paved main road and leads to three ‘different’ hiking trails. However, you can easily combine all 3 of these trails for a 4.5 mile round trip hike (what we recommend doing).  To start this hike, park in the parking lot right after the main gate and start hiking on the Las Heliconias trail that takes you through a pretty bamboo forest. This short trail quickly joins the Las Coladas trail.  The Las Coladas trail will then take you to a stunning viewpoint of the Arenal Volcano. You also can walk onto the lava fields on some offshoots from the Las Coladas trail if you want to explore the volcanic rock.   

On your way back from this lookout point of the Arenal Volcano on the Las Coladas trail, be sure to head back on the El Ceibo trail. This trail leads you on an offshoot loop to a giant 400 year old Ceiba tree.  The path will then loop you back to the Las Coladas/Las Heliconias trail that you can hike all the way back to the first parking lot.  Our favorite part of this hike was the lush rainforest on the El Ceibo trail.  Beyond the highlight of the GIANT Ceiba tree, there were so many other unique and tall trees in the rainforest along this path.  We also saw a ton of different butterflies and small lizards while on this trail.  

Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

Bumpy Ride to access other Entrance of Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

The other entrance to the park is right across the street from the first off the main road.  However, it is a bumpy 2 km drive down a stone/dirt road.  This was the worst road we drove on in Costa Rica.  The trails at this entrance were well maintained and enjoyable.  However, it took us over 20 mins to drive 2 km in our rental SUV and if you are leary of driving on rough roads, avoid this entrance.  Also, if you’re short on time, stick to the trails at the main gate. 

This side of the park offers two trails that you can hike in a loop for an almost 2 mile round trip hike.  Los Miradores leads to the shores of Lake Arenal and affords you a stunning view of the volcano.  The other trail here, El Tororoi, is a loop offshoot from the main trail with some neat bridges and thick rainforest.  On these trails we saw a lot of Coatimundi (a cross between monkey and raccoon) which was the highlight of hiking on this side of the park for us.  

Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

We found the trails at both entrances to be very serene. We only saw a handful of people on all the trails we hiked here (even at the main gate).   

Cost: $15/adult, $5/child, good for both entrances, can buy tickets at entrance onsite 

Many Private Trails to View Arenal Volcano

Note: There are many private hiking trails around the Arenal Volcano as well that are not technically in the National Park and it can be a bit confusing.  Most have a relatively small admission fee that is comparable in price to entering the National Park.  Arenal 1968 Trail is one of the most popular private trails and starts right beside the entrance to the National Park.  We mainly stuck to the National Park (as US National Park geeks) for hiking around the Arenal Volcano but were told by locals that the experience on these private trails is comparable to the hikes in the National Park. 


#3 Hike to Waterfall/Rio Celeste in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio

Rio Celeste in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio

Our next top recommendation on what to do near La Fortuna, Costa Rica is to visit Rio Celeste in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. This is the iconic bright blue river and waterfall that has water unlike any other water we have ever seen (introduction picture on this post).  The Mysteries of Tenorio Trail here is about 3 miles round trip with 650 feet of elevation and is the only way to see this river and waterfall.  First, you will hike to just above the waterfall.  Then you will take an offshoot staircase trail down to the waterfall.  It is incredibly beautiful here! 

Once you’ve taken in all the beauty, head back up the stairs and continue on the trail to the end where you can see the transition from normal water to the bright blue water in Rio Celeste.  This bright blue is due to the increased acidity at this point in the river making aluminosilicate present into a larger particle size. This particle changes light reflection creating an optical illusion of the blue color (yay science!). If you prefer the more poetic reason for the blue colors, the indigenous peoples believed the river was blue due to God using the river to wash his paintbrush when he was painting the sky.

Magical Hike and Waterfall

The hike here through the rainforest to this waterfall is magical.  Despite pouring rain almost the entire time we hiked here, we had one of the most memorable and fun hikes we have completed as a family.  We saw a ton of unique birds and several snakes. Fun (maybe more important) fact–the smaller snakes are actually more dangerous because they don’t know how to control their venom and are usually more aggressive.  This park is about a 1.5 hour drive from the Arenal area through the countryside. 

Cost: $12/adult, IMPORTANT NOTE: You cannot buy tickets onsite (unlike Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal) and need to purchase a timed entrance prior to arrival (or upon arrival if you have wifi/service and there are still openings).  This timed entry system helps keep the trail from getting congested. We are glad this system was in place because the trail had other people on it but the number of people was not overwhelming. 

Stranger Shout Out

Note of Appreciation: HUGE Shoutout to the local who (out of the pure kindness of his heart) gave us nice adjustable rain ponchos to put on/over our kids on our hike here.  This man went to his car and got these ponchos for us (without us asking) after he heard we had forgotten our kids’ rain gear at our Airbnb (1.5 hours away so if we went back we would miss our timed entrance) and that the local shops did not have any ponchos for sale that would work for our kids.  This man was an angel and these ponchos kept our kids happy (by keeping their bodies dry) during this entire hike.  Without him, we may not have completed the hike and wouldn’t have our treasured memories from completing it.  We hope he reads this blog post and knows we will be sure to pass on his kindness!


# 4 Hike to Catarata del Toro Waterfall

Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica

Catarata del Toro, one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica, is located in the middle of Costa Rica on an ecological reserve on private property.  This ecological reserve is home to one of the most green, lush rainforests and several other waterfalls as well.  To view this waterfall, you’ll hike down approximately ¾ of a mile, into a volcanic crater, to the base of the 300 foot waterfall.  The cliffs around the waterfall are streaked with vibrant red and orange as well as surrounded by bright green ferns. It looks like something straight out of the show Lost.  This waterfall is 1.5 hours from La Fortuna.  The drive here is a bit windy but nothing out of the ordinary for Costa Rica roads and, unlike some other Costa Rican roads, the road is well-paved. 

Cost: Catarata Del Toro $14 (combine with Blue Falls entrance for $25/person)


#5 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Hike to the Blue Falls 

Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica

Although most people visit this area mainly to see Catarata del Toro waterfall, do not miss visiting the other Blue Falls just down the road as this was one of our favorite hikes and things we did in Costa Rica.  Coming from the La Fortuna area, less than a quarter mile down the road from the entrance to Catarata del Toro (where you pay for admission) is the trailhead to hike to the Blue Falls.  There are several waterfalls you can hike to from the Blue Falls trailhead (some closed during our visit though due to trail erosion).  We hiked to two of the waterfall areas, Tepezquintle (1 waterfall here) and Las Gemelas (2 waterfalls at this spot), and were completely blown away with their beauty. 

Fairytale Worthy Waterfalls

Hiking to these waterfalls was nothing short of magical.  With intermittent rain that day, there was a  mystical fog in the air that added to the allure of the lush moss covered rainforest and stunningly beautiful blue waterfalls here.  We were the only people at each waterfall area and actually had ‘hiking attendants’ help us access each. To reach both waterfall areas, you have to cross a river and the trail is not necessarily easy to follow from there. It was awesome to have someone help guide us through these areas that truly felt untouched.  We’ve never experienced another hike quite like this (despite all our hiking experiences all over the world) and loved it.  

Our favorite waterfall and associated hike at the Blue Falls area was Tepezquintle. Words cannot justly describe the beauty here (although we attempted above). The round-trip hike to both of these waterfalls/areas combined was about 3 miles. Both waterfalls are accessed from the main trail to the right of the initial trailhead. This trail also leads to Poza Azul, part of the Blue Falls area where you can swim. The water tends to be rather cold here though so if you’re planning on swimming here, be prepared for a chilly dip. 

Blue Falls

Logistics of Hiking Catarata del Toro and the Blue Falls

The hikes to the Blue Falls are a bit more tricky then Catarata del Toro hike as that is mainly on well maintained stairs whereas Blue Falls is more of a traditional hike with some rivers/rocks to cross. That being said though, since there were ‘hiking attendants’ at the Blue Falls, we had no issue accessing them. 

If it is a clear day, we would recommend hiking to the Blue Falls area first and then to Catarata del Toro. However, if the day is questionable on the ability to see Catarata del Toro due to fog or rain, be sure to hike there first if the area is clear. Sometimes it can get so foggy in the volcanic crater that you cannot see the Catarata del Toro waterfall very well. We visited on a rainy and foggy day but happened to hike down to Catarata del Toro when it was clear. However, by the time we got back to the top of the crater, it was too foggy to see Catarata del Toro again. mSo if you have clear skies, hike there first to ensure you can see Catarata del Toro.  

Cost:  Blue Falls $17/adult, Catarata Del Toro $14, Both $25


#6 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Sloth Watching Tour 

Sloths in La Fortuna Costa Rica

Another top activity to do in the La Fortuna area is to go on a guided sloth tour.  Seeing a sloth in the wild was something on our Costa Rica bucket list.  However, seeing them on your own in the wild is almost impossible as they are masters at camouflage and also tend to curl up into a ball in the trees making them even harder to see.  We are sure there were sloths in the trees while we were hiking through other parts of the rainforest Costa Rica on our own but only with the help of the guide were we able to see them.  

We went on a hike with a guide from the small local family business of the Las Mariolas Trails.  On this tour, besides seeing five different sloths (including a mama and her baby), we saw many different birds, several snakes, several lizards and the elusive yet stunning red dart frog. The highlight of our time here was seeing a mama sloth climbing along a tree with her baby on her belly. The guides on our tour were very knowledgeable and so skilled at seeing different animals.  They also brought a telescope with them that allowed you to see a lot of the animals close up.  

 Las Mariolas Trails

At the end of this tour, we also got to make (and eat) traditional handmade tortillas and hand press/juice (and drink) sugar cane with the family.  This family treated our kids like family, and we would highly recommend this tour for some awesome wildlife viewing opportunities and welcoming company.  Las Mariolas offers public tours (up to 10 people) or private tours (great option with unpredictable littles, inquire with company on dates/times/cost).

Public tour cost: $32/adult, baby/toddler free 


#7 Take a Cooking Class 

Cooking Class La Fortuna

Another best thing to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica is to take a cooking class with a local family.  This was definitely one of our favorite things we did in Costa Rica!  The food was amazing (more delicious than words can describe) and we really enjoyed the company of the family. Most of the ingredients you use to cook your meal are right from the family’s farm and you actually go pick most of them fresh from the garden that evening. The couple items they do not grow/raise themselves, they get from the neighbors farm. We really felt like part of the family for an evening and got so much local insight from the two sons who taught the class. 

The day we took the cooking class, it was just our family, which was extremely nice given that we have two little unpredictable children. An added bonus is that before you leave, they’ll take you on a little tour of the garden area at night, and will show you lots of different, colorful frogs. This was super neat! We highly recommend this class! 

Cost: $80/adult, baby/toddler free


#8 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Visit a Hot Springs

Our next best thing to do in La Fortuna recommendation is to visit a natural hot spring.  Natural hot springs are very prevalent throughout the La Fortuna area.  There are many large and extravagant resorts in the area that offer you an expensive yet luxurious hot springs experience. We would love to spend a day at one of these more fancy resorts if the littles were not with us.

Hot Springs La Fortuna

If opting for a more local, inexpensive and low-key hot spring experience like us (with our littles), go to Relax Termalitas Hot Springs. Here there are several nice pools and even a large slide leading into one of the hot spring pools (that our toddler LOVED watching us go on). This place also had a very local feel. We are quite certain we were the only non-locals there. Many people were cooking out and making the most of using the covered picnic areas surrounding the pools

Cost: $10/adult or child, baby/toddler free 


#9 Arenal Observatory Lodge 

Our next top thing to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica recommendation is to visit the Arenal Observatory Lodge. This is an off-the-beaten path rainforest area to explore that was recommended to us by a local as their favorite thing to do in the area.  Also, on a clear day, the lodge has stunning views of the volcano from the restaurant.  We really enjoyed the hiking here as it felt very serene.   There were several waterfalls we hiked to see. 

The most unique thing about this area was the colorful eucalyptus trees along the trails.  These colorful eucalyptus trees almost look fake with the streaks of different colors and glossy appearance of them.  They are also huge! Watching them sway in the wind was mesmerizing. There are about 6 miles worth of trails to hike at the Arenal Observatory Lodge.  We recommend hiking to the three waterfalls here and then getting lunch at the restaurant (if it is a clear day).

Cost: $16/adult, baby/toddler free


#10 Don Olivo Chocolate Tour

Don Olivo Chocolate Tour

This Chocolate Tour through a locals ‘backyard’ is fun way to learn more about local fruits and the chocolate making process.  Come hungry because you’ll get a lot of samples of fruit/juices, chocolate and coffee.  They have tours at 8a, 10a, 1p and 3p.  We recommend the 8a tour for the least amount of people on the tour and use it as a light breakfast.  We took a tour similar to this when we lived in Belize (where we met) and this experience had us reminiscing of our time living there. 

Cost: $25/adult, kids free


Bonus: Enjoy Local Restaurants 

There are all sorts of yummy restaurants in the La Fortuna area. Three of our favorites were Selva Rustica, Tierra Mia and Travesia. Each of them had very yummy food for a reasonable price.  The staff at each was very accommodating to our two young children as well.  Special shout out to the waitress at Tierra Mia who gave our daughter to coloring/sticker books that she clearly bought and brought herself. Her kindness to our daughter warmed our hearts! 


General La Fortuna Costa Rica Tips

Flying/Driving/Navigation

  • Fly into whichever international airport, Liberia or San Jose, that is less expensive. Both are about the same distance from the La Fortuna area. You will need to rent a car to then drive to the La Fortuna area. Beware, the drive from either spot is VERY windy and you may get motion sick.  See our How to Prevent Motion Sickness While Traveling and Flying post for more tips on combating this. 
  • We highly recommend driving to La Fortuna during the day, as it is rather scary to drive at night with the windiness of the road and steep drop offs. In general, only plan to drive any sort of distance during the day while in Costa Rica. 
  • For navigation, we were told the App Waze is much better than Google maps by many other travelers. However, we used Google maps the entire time we were in Costa Rica and did not have any issues. We used the offline Google maps and did not have a data plan in Costa Rica. 

Where to Stay Near La Fortuna

  • We stayed in Agua Azul, which is about 10 minutes outside of downtown La Fortuna.  We stayed on a farm where we had acres and acres of beautiful gardens and farmland to ourselves while staying in a private small home. We highly recommend scoping out Airbnb and looking at all the different unique stays offered in the general area. We also highly encourage you to stay outside of downtown La Fortuna, somewhere a bit more remote, for a more serene experience.  Downtown La Fortuna is actually rather touristy and built up.  The park in downtown La Fortuna is nice and downtown La Fortuna is where we got groceries, browsed local bookstores and had some yummy meals. Beyond that though, we do not recommend spending an extensive amount of time in downtown La Fortuna. 

Miscellaneous Tips

  • This is not an exact conversion, but the easiest way to get an approximation of how much something costs in Costa Rican colones in USD is to move the decimal point 3 spots and then double that amount. So if something cost 500 Costa Rican colones, it cost approximately $1 USD. Likewise, if something costs 8000 Costa Rican colones, it costs $16 USD. Note that conversion rates may change over time.
  • WhatsApp is an awesome way to communicate/inquire with a lot of different businesses in Costa Rica.

We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to La Fortuna, Costa Rica.  Anything you’d add to our best things to do La Fortuna post? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment! Please also see our 5 Best Activities in La Fortuna, Costa Rica with a Baby and/or Toddler & Top 5 Best Hikes La Fortuna, Costa Rica articles for more information on La Fortuna.

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