La Fortuna, Costa Rica is a dynamic destination fit for any type of vacation and traveler. It’s relatively warm year-round so if escaping winter is your goal, this is the perfect vacation spot for you.
No matter what type of traveler you are, the biggest draw to La Fortuna is the Arenal Volcano. If you’re lucky enough to escape the rain, the volcano sets a majestic and beautiful backdrop to this small city.
Our family of 7 adults traveled to La Fortuna for 2 full days in November 2018 for American Thanksgiving. It was the perfect time to escape the chilly weather in the US while spending quality time experiencing bucket-list-worthy activities together. We also spent 7 days in Manuel Antonio to complete our trip. If you’re thinking about adding Manuel Antonio to your itinerary, make sure you read this post on the 10 Best Things to do in Manuel Antonio next.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in La Fortuna as well as a few things we weren’t able to do with our limited time.
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10 Best Things to do in La Fortuna
1. Mistico Hanging Bridges
One of the coolest things to do in La Fortuna is to walk along the hanging bridges within the rainforest. Not only is the scenery incredible, but the bridges make for quite the thrill as you take in the views around you. There are different trails you can take to make the hike shorter or longer. We chose the long trail and it took around 1 hour and 45 minutes. If you opt for a guided tour, I would plan for over 2 hours since the guide will stop to show you certain things along the trails.
The rainforest is so beautiful to walk through, but don’t forget what’s in the name. You are likely to experience rain at some point during your stay in Costa Rica. It drizzled on us nearly the entire time we were in the forest, but it didn’t negatively affect our time there at all. The rain just made all the greenery come to life. Rain or shine, you’re sure to have an amazing time. Just don’t forget your rain jacket!
Website: Mistico Park
Price: Self-guided tours – $26 per person, Natural History Walk – $40 per person
Time needed: 2 – 3 hours
- Closed-toed shoes are required to enter the park
- Guided tours are offered, however, we didn’t think it was necessary. If you’re hoping to see a ton of animals, a guide would be helpful since they are very hard to spot.
- You can purchase tickets ahead of time or just get them when you arrive
2. Hike in Arenal Volcano National Park
The flora and fauna of Costa Rica are second to none. Make sure you take advantage of being in one of the most diverse national parks in the world by exploring a few of the trails within it.
We enjoyed the trails within the grounds of the Arenal Observatory Lodge. This is a privately owned area within Arenal National Park so the trails are kept up very nicely. We enjoyed seeing so many different tropical plants, incredible waterfalls, and a farm with adorable cows. It definitely was one of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever been on.
The hike itself was not hard at all. The path we walked on took us a little over an hour with a few stops here and there. This hike is perfect for all ages, however, I wouldn’t attempt to take a stroller since most of the trail is unpaved.
What made Arenal Observatory Lodge even better was the restaurant situated at the front of the property. We had a delicious lunch there complete with local cervezas (beers) while we waiting for the rain to clear out. It wasn’t the cheapest meal of our trip, but it was very good. Also, If it were a clearer day for us, we would have had the most incredible view of Arenal Volcano.
Arenal Observatory Lodge is a wonderful place to stay with so many activities for families, however, we just went for the day since we were staying closer to the heart of La Fortuna.
Website: Arenal Observatory Lodge
Price: $10 per person for a day pass; free for Arenal Observatory Lodge guests
- The entrance fee has to be paid when you pull up to the gate. Credit cards are accepted.
- If it’s raining, I would suggest wearing sport sandals (like these Teva sandals). The trail can get a bit muddy and you’ll get soaked when visiting the waterfall.
3. Relax in the Volcanic Thermal Hot Springs at Tabacon Resort
There are so many hot springs to choose from in La Fortuna. We decided on Tabacon Resort because of the luxurious atmosphere. But there are hot springs to suit any kind of budget and atmosphere, so if you’d like to compare them before making your decision, check out this thorough comparison post by Costa Rica Travel Blog.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect when we went to Tabacon Resort. I had seen pictures, but I didn’t understand exactly what we were supposed to do there. So let me explain how it works.
Tabacon Hot Springs is a resort. You can stay there or just visit for the day. If you decide to stay there, you’ll have free access to the hot springs as well as special hours set aside just for guests. It’s expensive, but if you’re traveling to La Fortuna for relaxation, this is definitely the way to do it.
Our day visit started with parking in a gravel lot across from the resort. We arrived early to ensure we could get in. Their website recommends booking in advance, so if you know exactly when you want to go you might want to book ahead of your visit. We did not book ahead and entered without any issues.
We opted for the day pass which included lunch at their restaurant. A reservation was required so we made sure to make that after we bought our passes. Here are all the pass options including prices:
Tabacon Resort Day Pass Prices
|Type of pass||Hours||Cost (adult; child)*||Inclusions|
|Full day pass||10 am – 10 pm||Standard: $105; $40|
Peak: $115; $50
|Lunch and dinner|
|Day pass||10 am – 10 pm||Standard: $85; $38|
Peak: $94; $42
|Lunch or dinner|
|Night pass||6 pm – 10 pm||Standard: $70; $28|
Peak: $77; $32
|Morning pass||10 am – 2 pm||Standard: $70; $28|
Peak: $77; $32
|Day spa pass||10 am – 10 pm||$160||Lunch or dinner; $100 credit towards any spa treatment|
* See standard and peak season details on Tabacon’s website
Tabacon hot springs never felt crowded since there were so many pools to choose from. Some pools were warmer than others and they even had a cold pool to bring your body temperature down if you needed it. We loved their beautiful swim-up bar where we enjoyed delicious frozen drinks. There was even a waterslide which was so fun to go down.
The lunch was good and not a typical buffet like many hotels offer. We were offered a few choices for a starter, main dish, and dessert so it was nice to have options.
We didn’t encounter very many children at Tabacon since it is one of the most luxurious hot springs to choose from, but they did have a kids area. There were two small spring-fed pools close to the main pool area.
Website: Tabacon Resort
- Wear a sport sandal like these; the springs are full of loose rocks
- There are lockers available
- Bring a change of clothes
- Clothes are required for lunch, but most of us just wore a cover-up over our swimsuits
4. Rainforest Night Hike
Did you know that over 50% of the animals in Costa Rica are nocturnal? That’s why a night hike is a perfect way to see some of the most incredible animals you most likely won’t see during the day.
The night hike with Natura Costa Rica is the perfect tour to increase your chances of seeing some of the rarest animals in this part of the world. The guides are highly skilled at locating and identifying animals in the dark so you know you’ll be in good hands.
Website: Natura Costa Rica
Price: Adult – $45, Senior/Student – $36, Child: $26
Time: 6pm – 8pm
- Reservation required
- No flash photography
- Wear closed toed shoes, use insect repellent, and bring a rain jacket
5. Sloth Tour
I was so excited to see sloths when we went to Costa Rica. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side because the only sloth we saw was super high in a tree and we could barely see it. I wish we had done an entire tour dedicated to sloth-spotting!
The Sloth Tour with Arenal Oasis is perfect if spotting a sloth is on your Costa Rica bucket list. Seeing a sloth with Arenal Oasis is 100% guaranteed or your money back, so what is there to lose? Not only will you get to see sloths, but you’ll also get breakfast or a snack depending on your tour time.
Website: Arenal Oasis
Price: Adult – $60, Child – $30
- Round trip transportation included
- Breakfast or afternoon snack included
- Closed toed shoes required
6. Visit La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall sits a little outside of the main part of town at the base of the Cerro Chato Volcano. This 246-foot tall waterfall makes for a wonderful day trip but isn’t the easiest to get to.
Although it’s a quick drive from the main part of town, you’ll have to walk down 400 steps to reach the falls. This means you will have to walk back up those steps at some point, so make sure you wear good shoes and don’t have any conditions which might hinder your trek back.
For a fun morning or afternoon, head to a local grocery store and gather items for a delicious picnic breakfast or lunch. Don’t forget a towel or two to sit on!
Check out this detailed post all about visiting La Fortuna Waterfall for more information.
Price: $16 per person
Time needed: 1 hour (or more if you pack a picnic)
Important information: Open every day from 7:00 am – 5:00 pm
7. Taste and Learn about Local Chocolate
Whoever told you chocolate grows on trees… is right! Chocolate does grow on trees, however, it’s not in its delicious form until much later.
Chocolate comes from the cacao trees which are native to Central and South America, although 70% of the world’s chocolate actually comes from Africa. The process of creating chocolate takes time and has been around for thousands of years. It starts with fermenting the beans inside the cacao pods which are then left to dry. Those beans are ground up and send to be turned in to chocolate bars all over the world.
Since cacao trees are native to Costa Rica, La Fortuna is the perfect place to get your chocolate fix while learning all about how it’s made.
If you’d like to visit a cacao farm on your own, I would suggest the family-run Don Olivo Chocolate Tours. The reviews say it all.
If you’d like to experience the Costa Rican chocolate making process as part of a full day of activities, check out my suggested tour below:
8. Ride Horses through the Jungle
Sure, you can hike through the jungle but going by horseback offers you the opportunity to explore more and see more. Take a tour around the majestic Arenal Volcano while enjoying a leisurely ride through the tropical landscape. You’ll learn so much about Costa Rica and La Fortuna from your guide and see things along the trail that you probably would have never seen on your own.
Check out any of the highly rated tours below
9. Take a Costa Rican Cooking Class
If you’re looking to have a truly authentic culinary experience in Costa Rica, why not take a cooking class? Cooking classes have become increasingly popular around the world with travelers wanting more than just to eat an authentic dish. With a cooking class, you’ll see where the food comes from, learn how to make some of the most popular dishes of the country, and enjoy delicious food throughout the day. We didn’t get the opportunity to take a class, but we were fortunate enough to have a home cooked Costa Rican dinner while we were in La Fortuna. The food was so incredible, I wish we could have learned how to make some of it too!
Costa Rica Cooking is one of the most top rated cooking schools in La Fortuna. There is an option to just visit for a half day including one meal (no cooking included) or spend the entire day starting with a visit to the farm ending with cooking a delicious 3-course Costa Rican meal. Did I mention the unlimited mojitos?
There are additional tour options including some with a little more adventure involved. Check the Costa Rica Cooking website below for more information.
Website: Costa Rica Cooking
Class prices: $75 – $199
10. Visit Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center
Costa Rica is home to an abundance of animals, but sometimes those animals need a little help. Proyecto Asis is a wildlife rescue center located in La Fortuna dedicated to protecting and conserving the animals and ecosystems of Costa Rica. This nonprofit organization thrives off of donations and paying visitors to help fund their important efforts.
Proyecto Asis Tours & Volunteer Opportunities
|Regular Tour||Adult $33|
|Learn about animals in rescue center; educational tour|
|Regular Tour + Volunteer||Adult $56|
|Learn about animals in rescue center; educational tour + prepare food and feed animals.|
|Full Day Tour||Adult $88|
|8:30am - 12:00pm|
1:00pm - 3:30pm
|Prepare food/feed animals, clean enclosures, make toys|
|One full day (includes all meals)||Stay with a local Costa Rican family; volunteer for a full day at the rescue center.|
Website: Proyecto Asis
- Proyecto Asis is not open on Sunday’s
- Previous reservation is required for all options
- No flip flops are allowed in the rescue center
- Child price is for ages 5 – 9
Whether you’re going for 2 days or 7, La Fortuna has so much to offer. If you’re heading to La Fortuna soon, make sure you save this list to help you plan the trip of a lifetime!