Top 5 Best Hikes La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

The La Fortuna area offers countless lush rainforest hikes.  These hikes lead to stunning waterfalls and volcano views. They also offer many wildlife viewing opportunities.  While visiting La Fortuna, Costa Rica for 10 days, we hiked everyday and explored as many different trails here as possible.  After completing so many hikes in the La Fortuna area, we’ve complied a top 5 best hikes near La Fortuna, Costa Rica list. Read on for a full breakdown of our favorite hikes in the La Fortuna area.

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#1 Waterfall/Rio Celeste in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio

Our #1 best hike recommendation near La Fortuna, Costa Rica is Rio Celeste (first picture of this post). This hike located in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio is famous for its iconic bright blue river and waterfall that has water unlike any other water we have ever seen.  The Mysteries of Tenorio Trail here is about 3 miles round trip with 650 feet of elevation. Hiking the trail 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 down to the base of the waterfall.  It is incredibly beautiful here! 

Once you’ve taken in all the beauty of the waterfall, 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 Rainforest and Waterfall Hike

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. 

Shout Out to a Stranger

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 for 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 and would miss our timed entrance if we went back to get) and learned that the local shops did not have any ponchos for sale that would work for our kids.  These ponchos kept our kids happy (by keeping their bodies dry) during this entire hike.  Without this kind stranger, 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!

#2 Best Hike near La Fortuna: Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

Next on our list of best hikes near La Fortuna Costa Rica is Mistico Hanging Bridges.  The hanging bridges on the trail here are so cool as they take you into and above the rainforest canopy.  We really enjoyed our time immersed in the rainforest at this park.  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 the bridges may look a bit scary, we never felt unsafe or scared on them. There are attendants at each bridge that only allow so many people on the bridges at one time so they never get too wobbly.  These attendants will also take some awesome pictures for your family on the bridges (if you ask)! And even though it seemed busy when we arrived in the parking lot of this park, the trail here is one-way and 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

#3 Best Hike near La Fortuna: Catarata del Toro Waterfall

Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

Our next top hike recommendation near La Fortuna Costa Rica is Catarata del Toro.  This waterfall is one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica and is located in the middle of Costa Rica on an ecological reserve that is on private property.  This ecological reserve is home to a green, lush rainforest and several other smaller 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)

Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 8+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots

#4 Best Hike near La Fortuna: Blue Falls

Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

Our next best hike near La Fortuna Costa Rica is Blue Falls.  Although most people visit this area mainly to see the Catarata del Toro waterfall, do not miss visiting the other Blue Falls just down the road as this hike also makes our top hikes near La Fortuna Costa Rica list.  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 were 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.  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.  

Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

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, be prepared for a chilly dip. 

Logistics of Hiking Catarata del Toro and the Blue Falls

The hikes to the Blue Falls are a bit more challenging than the Catarata del Toro hike.  The Catarata del Toro trail 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 to assist if needed, 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. So 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

#5 Best Hike near La Fortuna: Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

Our next best La Fortuna hike recommendation is to hike in Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal. This park 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 here for a visual of the different entrances and hiking trails. 

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 to the left 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 La 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.  

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 trails.  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.  

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 Create Confusion

Note: There are many private hiking trails around the Arenal Volcano as well that are not technically in the National Park. It can be a bit confusing to determine what trails to hike.  Most areas 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. 

Bonus Best Hike near La Fortuna: Arenal Observatory 

Our next top hike near La Fortuna Costa Rica recommendation is to hike at 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.  We really enjoyed the hiking here as it felt very serene.   There were several waterfalls we hiked to see but 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.  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 and then getting lunch at the restaurant (if it is a clear day). Beyond hiking, on a clear day, the lodge here also has stunning views of the Arenal Volcano from the restaurant.  

We hope this guide helps you plan your hiking in/around La Fortuna.  Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment! Please also read our 5 Best Activities in La Fortuna, Costa Rica with a Baby and/or Toddler & 10 Best Things to do La Fortuna, Costa Rica articles for more La Fortuna information.

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