Around this time last year my family had the opportunity to visit La Fortuna, Costa Rica. This area is home to Arenal National Park, Lake Arenal, Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, Arenal Waterfall and so much more. With the possibility of being able to travel again on the horizon, I am dreaming of a return. Here’s why!
La Fortuna, Costa Rica may be a small town on the map, but it won’t take you long to realize why it’s a popular vacation destination. For starters, it has absolutely breath-taking scenery and epic landscapes. Over recent years it’s evolved into a place that has a little of everything, whether you’re hoping to find an escape where you can kick back and relax, or you’re ready for your next adventurous getaway.
These are some of the places you’ll want to visit while you’re there, along with the places to stay, and a few of the best places to eat.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Where to Stay
Arenal Volcano Inn
At the Arenal Volcano Inn, you’ll have an excellent view from your terrace of exactly that, the stunning Arenal Volcano. The inn has 25 rooms for you to choose from, it’s really just a matter if you prefer a standard room, deluxe, junior, or villa. Enjoy your stay here with their beautiful gardens that sometimes bring in the colorful wildlife, along with their large pool and jacuzzi.
We were actually able to secure the villa. While not fancy it did offer a kitchen and living area for our multi-generational family to enjoy together. And, there was ample sleeping space for the six of us.
The restaurant here is underrated. We came back for the BBQ chicken, and pizza too!
Hotel Arenal Manoa
If you’re in search of another hotel experience that also features the famous volcano, may I suggest the Hotel Arenal Manoa. At the Hotel Arenal Manoa, some of their luxuries include not only a pool, kid’s pool, and hot tub but also a wet bar, restaurant, bar, beautiful gardens with walking trails, and so much more.
Breakfast is included. When you have hungry mouths to feed, what parent doesn’t love that? Not only is it quick and easy but is comprised of the most delicious fresh fruits and juices. Our entire family thoroughly enjoyed breakfast at La Saca.
You’re also only minutes away from many exciting activities and other things to do.
If you’re looking for a place to splurge and pamper yourself, the Springs Resort in La Fortuna is a 5-star experience that promises a little of something for everyone, from their beautiful rooms and outdoor views, as well as some of their adventurous activities that are waiting for you.
They have created a unique opportunity and the perfect vacationing environment, whether you’re looking to get caught up in relaxation, much-needed family time, or a little sizzling romance with that special someone in your life.
What to Do in La Fortuna
Arenal Volcano National Park
While the Arenal Volcano hasn’t been active for several years, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t less beautiful or an impressive place to visit. In fact, it can still be quite dangerous with the landslides and frequent falling rocks, which unfortunately has deemed it no longer accessible to the public.
Though it may not be legal to hike to the top of Arenal Volcano anymore, there’s an extinct volcano in the park named Cerro Chato that you still can climb. Just be aware that the trail is rated difficult.
While you’re venturing inside of Arenal Volcano National Park, be sure to hike on some of Costa Rica’s best hiking trails, or choose from one of their guided tours. If you have smaller children, check out Los Miradors trail. It is right around .7 miles and is mostly flat and has excellent scenic views. Wild tree frogs and jaguars are some of the wildlife that you may come across in the park.
There are also hot springs and thermal pools in the park so you’ll want to remember to bring your bathing suit.
La Fortuna Waterfall
Anyone that visits the town of La Fortuna for the first time, has to pay a visit to the La Fortuna Waterfall that’s located within Arenal Volcano National Park. It’s a rather long descent down a long staircase to reach the waterfall, but the 15-minute hike down to its water basin is well worth the trip.
It plummets from a staggering height of somewhere between 70 to 75 meters and is surrounded by lush green rainforests where you may even spot monkeys and an occasional Toucan. At the top of the waterfall, you’ll find a parking lot with a gift shop, restrooms, cafe, along with a butterfly garden and orchid trail that’s nearby.
Sloths blend in and are incredibly hard to spot. The may be hanging out on a trail right next to your hotel. But you are not likely to be able to spot them yourselves. It is well worth taking a sloth tour. The sloths will be only one of several animals the guide will help you spot.
Tour the Mistico Hanging Bridges
Tour of the Mistico Hanging Bridges is a really close up and exciting way to see more of Costa Rica’s gorgeous scenery. There’s also a chance that you may spot all kinds of interesting wildlife. Nature lovers are sure to love this rare opportunity.
We highly recommend splurging on a private guide. They will help you spot wildlife that you would otherwise walk right past. And, it is sure to add an educational component to the experience that you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Insider Tip: Wear closed toed shoes.
Rainforest Chocolate Tour
At one point or another while enjoying your favorite kind of chocolate, have you wondered how something so wonderful came about? The Rainforest Chocolate Tour is something highly recommended for all you chocolate-lovers. Also for coffee lovers, fruit lovers, and really anyone.
On a rainy day in La Fortuna I emailed Don Olivio Chocolate Tours for a reservation. I didn’t receive confirmation back. But we headed out using Google Maps directions. We weren’t sure if we were headed the right way until we encountered spray painted signs directing us down the mud road. At this point I wasn’t sure how much my family trusted my decision making. I had just driven them along windy roads at night and crossed single lane bridges with no street lamps. But I was sure we were in for an adventure.
We pulled up in a family’s front yard. Our guide, Minor, greeted us offering bananas right off the banana tree in his yard. We then set off to take a tour of the land surrounding their home that was the most amazing ecosystem. To call this a chocolate tour is an understatement. I won’t spoil all the surprises. But know that this is a must-do tour, possibly the favorite of our trip. This is where we discovered Star Fruit and so much more.
Insider Tip: Bring bug spray and apply before arrival. Be sure to download our printable Costa Rica packing list for more of what you need!
The tour lasts for a couple of hours, and you’ll learn interesting facts and how it’s processed with a more hands-on approach. And of course, there will be delicious homemade organic chocolates and hand grown and ground coffee waiting for you to enjoy as well!
Do you have older kids that love to live life on the edge? Or maybe you are the thrill seeker in the family? It doesn’t get much more exhilarating than zipping past waterfalls and through the trees of the rainforests that surround Arenal. There are many ziplining tour opportunities to choose from, where one is sure to stand out more for what interests you the most.
White Water Rafting
Your entire family will have a blast should you choose to white water raft while you’re there visiting. It’s certainly an adventurous and exhilarating experience that’s sure to bring lots of smiles and plenty of laughter. It also doesn’t matter if you are experienced or if it’s your first time ever white water rafting, it will still be a memory that you’ll look back on and be glad that you did.
Horseback riding is also an exciting way to visit the La Fortuna area and no matter which horseback riding tour you choose, there’s sure to be excellent views of La Fortuna waterfall and Arenal Volcano, along with a trained and knowledgeable guide.
Visit the Hot Springs
There are hundreds of hot springs in Costa Rica, with healing soaking tubs. The volcanoes have heated the ground beneath these springs, making the water naturally warm. La Fortuna is where you will find some of the most luxurious and secluded hot spring locations in Costa Rica.
Where to Eat in La Fortuna
Chifa La Familia Feliz
It’s been said that Chifa La Famila Feliz has some of the best food in all of Costa Rica, but you don’t have to sit there and decide for yourself. They focus on a little of everything, from Chinese, Asian, and Central American cuisine.
Tired of the touristy places to eat out? I don’t blame you. You’ll love what Soda Mima has to offer you. Not only is their food delicious, but it’s also at a reasonable price. They even serve a warm hearty breakfast that’s equally as good, along with friendly service.
I highly recommend visiting a few Sodas while in Costa Rica. They are wonderful experience. Many are located in the back of a home. They serve limited menus of traditional Costa Rica cuisine. Not only are prices more affordable but you will get an authentic Costa Rican dining experience. Arroz con Pollo is a staple, and new family dinner favorite in our house.
Did somebody say taco? At Spectacolar Cantina, they have some of the best lineups of tacos that you’ll ever eat. Seriously. The restaurant serves other Mexican food, along with Latin and Costa Rican style dishes that you won’t regret that you ordered.
Que Rico Restaurant
While the breakfast at Que Rico located at Arenal Volcano Inn is not as fancy at that at La Saca at Arenal Manoa, they have a couple of dinner menu items that knock it out of the park. We highly recommend their BBQ chicken and all of their pizzas. You are likely to spot some wildlife here as well.
La Saca at Arenal Manoa
This patio restaurant surrounded by rainforest has ambiance, delicious food and top notch service. It is where we enjoyed dinner our first night in Costa Rica. And, it is where we first discovered Arroz con Pollo, which we now make at home. The breakfast buffet is unmatched with fresh fruit, juices and traditional Costa Rican fare.
How to Get to La Fortuna
The Arenal area is a similar distance from either the Liberia or San Jose airports. The roads there are windy and narrow. If you plan on getting a rental car and driving, be sure to allow plenty of time prior to dusk. We made the mistake of making the final part of the drive on a dark and rainy night. I wasn’t quite prepared for single lane bridges, nor could I see the right of way signs in the dark. In addition, people and dogs wander the roads and cars even just park right in the middle of the road.
We have heard it recommended to hire a driver. I would drive again. But I could see how that would not be a good fit for many. My time on icy and snowy Colorado winter roads has given me enough practice at keeping my heart rate down on treacherous roads.
Is La Fortuna Safe?
There is petty crime in Costa Rica. Be prudent. Don’t be flashy. Lock valuables in your safe at the hotel. We didn’t have any issues. But we didn’t have issues in Rome either. I know people who have.
How many days do you need in La Fortuna?
That is a tough one. You could easily spend a couple of weeks here. But there are so many other areas of Costa Rica to also explore. I think four to five days on a 10 day Costa Rica itinerary is appropriate.
La Fortuna is not an easy day trip, so I would recommend a couple of nights at a minimum.
The Guanacaste area of Costa Rica has the most beautiful sunsets. Be sure not to miss Playa Potrero and Playa Flamingo on your trip.
Manuel Antonio is another top Costa Rica destination. And, some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica are on the Caribbean Coast in the Puerto Viejo area.
Monteverde Cloud Forest is another destination you may want to include on your itinerary.
What is the weather in La Fortuna?
Rainy. You may think I am kidding, but I am not. During our four days there in November and December there was only one day when the clouds parted and we were able to see Arenal Volcano.
Insider Tip: Be sure to check out our printable Costa Rica packing list!
Costa Rica is known for rainy season from May through November. But in the rain forest you probably want to extend that a month on either end. But rain doesn’t mean that you won’t have a wonderful experience. It may just mean that you don’t have clear views of the spectacular volcano and lake.
A trip to La Fortuna, Costa Rica is a trip that you and your family will remember for a lifetime. You certainly won’t grow tired of the amazing views of rainforests, waterfalls, and Arenal Volcano. Should you plan on staying at any one of these locations, your vacation will be more than what you could have ever hoped for.