Our La Fortuna & Arenal Volcano travel guide takes you to the slopes of Costa Rica’s most famous volcano. Discover Arenal’s steamiest hot springs, greatest adventures, and most beautiful resorts and hotels.
- Area: North Central
- Average Temperature: 70 to 86º F (21 to 30º C)
- Closest Airport: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), 2.5 hours; La Fortuna Regional Airport, 10 minutes
- Can’t-Miss Attractions: Arenal Volcano (active volcano), Mineral Hot Springs (relaxation), Lake Arenal (boating & freshwater fishing), Venado Caverns (caving/spelunking)
- Hot Activities: Zip Lining, Hanging Bridges, Rafting, Coffee Tours, Horseback Riding, Kayaking, Sport Fishing (freshwater), Waterfalls (including waterfall rappelling)
- Great for: Adventure Travelers, Families, Outdoor Enthusiasts, Couples & Honeymooners
From the editor:
La Fortuna, the beloved adventure capital of Costa Rica, sits at the base of the towering Arenal Volcano, proud owner to one of the world’s most perfect (and picture-perfect) volcanic cones. While the volcano’s once fiery activity has calmed significantly, Arenal is still one of the hottest destinations in Costa Rica, thanks to its relaxing hot springs, adventure activities, and stunning scenery.
The city of la Fortuna, at the base of Arenal volcano, is quiet and tranquil. Like many rural towns, it is also full of charm and friendly residents, who welcome tourists year-round to share the wonders of the Volcano and the nearby attractions.
The quaint town of la Fortuna de San Carlos, would go unnoticed, were it not for the fact, that it is the gateway to the adventure hub in Costa Rica. Not only does the city sit at the base of the majestic Arenal Volcano, it is also surrounded by lush rain-forests, pristine rivers, deep canyons, amazing waterfalls, a lake, a myriad of wildlife and of course, world renowned hot springs, resorts and spas.
Our La Fortuna & Arenal travel guide introduces you to the Arenal’s best hot springs, the most incredible adventures, popular hotels, and favorite restaurants.
What to do at Arenal Volcano
There are plenty of outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy. These range from extreme adventure to simple leisure.
Some hiking tours are suitable for the whole family. Other trails are considered extreme hikes, running through the rain-forest and up to the lagoon in Cerro Chato, a dormant volcano located in the Arenal Volcano National Park.
What to bring: Sneakers or trekking shoes, comfortable clothing, insect repellent, bathing suit, camera, binoculars, and rain gear.
River Rafting and Tubing
The area is surrounded by rivers suitable for whitewater rafting. Check out the Balsa and Sarapiquí rivers. The Arenal river is perfect for tubing. While on the tour you can expect to see splendid scenery and plenty of wildlife.
What to bring: strap on sandals or wet shoes, bathing suit, sun block, a towel, extra clothing so you can change after the tour and waterproof camera.
The tranquil waters of lake Arenal are the ideal place to learn how to standup paddle. This balance sport is not easy, but don’t worry, if this is your first time doing it, you will receive all the necessary training. While on the lake you will enjoy unobstructed views of the colossal Arenal Volcano.
What to bring: Comfortable lightweight clothing, sun block, a towel and a change of clothes, oh and don’t forget your camera!
There are several horseback riding tours to choose from. One will take you to La Fortuna Waterfall, a mystical 200 feet waterfall that culminates in an emerald pool where you can bathe and relax. Others, will take you through the country side where you will get to visit an authentic Maleku village. The Malekus are an indigenous tribe that have lived in the area for centuries.
What to bring: Comfortable long pants, insect repellent, sneakers or hiking shoes, rain gear, sun block and camera.
La Fortuna Waterfall
The La Fortuna waterfall is one of the highlights of visiting the Arenal volcano. Drive, book a shuttle or take a taxi just outside of town to find the main entrance building. There’s a $15 park fee and a 20 minute walk down a well built staircase. This powerful waterfall is so inspiring to witness and fun to swim under. But don’t get too close. The water pressure is extremely strong and the lifeguard won’t let you swim behind or under it for good reason.
The Lost Canyon offers the most spectacular setting for this tour. You will rappel down the Canyon and several waterfalls. Like Desafio Adventure Company says “Grab your helmet, strap on a harness and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime”
What to bring: Comfortable clothes that can get wet, secure shoes (no sandals), a change of clothing and as always a camera.
The rain-forest surrounding the Arenal Volcano is the perfect scenario for aerial adventure tours. There are zip lines and hanging bridges that allow you to fly through the canopy like a bird.
What to Bring: Hiking shoes, comfortable clothing, rain gear, camera and binoculars.
The area of La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano are famous for their hot springs. Natural thermal waters full of minerals that will heal all of your aches and pains. A must for anyone wanting to come to Costa Rica. What to bring: Bathing suit, sun block, and a towel.
If you’re looking for a luxury hot springs and spa experience we suggest Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa. They provide dozens of hot spring pools that are natural and easily accessible for even children and elderly. They offer day and half day passes. It’s also a resort offing nice rooms, spa service, a great restraunt and bar.
Free Hot Springs in La Fortuna
There is a wonderful area to experience the hot springs completely free. It’s across the street from the Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort. You’ll need to drive or take a shuttle there. Here’s the free hot springs on Google Map.
There are several tours available that include a stop at various hot springs.
Popular Tours on Arenal Volcano
Desafio Adventure Company: They offer a complete range of tours that include all of the activities. Choosing which tours to take will be a challenge. Great service and a very professional staff.
Wave Expeditions: One of the top whitewater outfitters in the country, with over 10 years of experience. This is a local company and you simply can’t beat the experience that comes from traveling with someone who grew up here.
Arenal Volcano Travel Guide to Bars
Nightlife in La Fortuna can be challenging, but here are a couple of places to check out if you feel like having a drink in town.
Kazan: Located in the town center, it is the popular spot of locals and tourists to watch a game while having a drink.
Lava Lounge: This pet friendly pub is the trendy spot of town. They have live music twice a week, a great assortment of local and imported beers, and a variety of cocktails.
Arenal Volcano Travel Guide to Restaurants
Don Rufino: One of the more upscale restaurants in La Fortuna, it is still pretty casual, so no need to dress up. Their menu is a compilation of eclectic contemporary dishes that are unique and very tasty.
La Choza de Laurel: One of the better known restaurants in the area, it is located just a short walk from town. This open air restaurant features a very large menu, catering to all tastes. Portions are large so it is a great value.
Rain Forest Café: This cozy café is very reasonably priced. Food choices range from sandwiches and empanadas (turnovers) to steak and the traditional Costa Rican Casado (a plate consisting of a meat of your choice, rice, black beans, salad and fried plantains). They also offer delicious pastries and smoothies.
Soda Viquez: If you are looking for an eatery that offers a local flavor, then this is the place for you. Serving typical local dishes including the famous casado, the dinner is reasonably priced and the portions are large.
Arenal Volcano Travel Guide to Hotels
Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort: This world class resort is located on the outskirts of the volcano. The resort has 100 rooms, and a fantastic spa. The main attraction is the thermal pools. They are a 5-minute walk from the hotel and are surrounded by exquisite tropical gardens.
The Springs Resort and Spa: A complete tourist resort, the facilities include four restaurants, bars, a world class spa, hot springs, swimming pools, a fitness center, and even a wildlife preserve. Every room has a spectacular view of the volcano.
Montaña de Fuego: This hotel consists of individual bungalows that offer a private, peaceful and relaxing experience to its guests. The views of the volcano are amazing, and the hotel offers restaurants, a spa, thermal waters and swimming pools.
Miradas Arenal Hotel: A boutique style hotel with 10 private bungalows, this option is a family owned hotel. Also with impressive views of the volcano, this cozy lodging offers a typical breakfast served in an open restaurant. It has a swimming pool and manicured gardens.
Located in the northern plains of Costa Rica, in the province of Alajuela, Arenal is some 75 miles (120 km) from San José. Travel times vary depending on the route selected, but it generally takes between 2.5 and 4 hours to arrive to La Fortuna if you are driving or taking the bus from San José.
Although temperatures vary depending on the time of year, the average range is a high of 85F and a low of 70F. It rains a lot, however, December to April are considered the drier months. July to October is when the heaviest rainfalls occur.
Visit Arenal Volcano – La Fortuna
No trip to Costa Rica is complete without a visit to the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna. This destination has so much to offer and is easily accessible by road or air. Don’t miss out on Arenal’s natural beauty, cultural roots and adventure filled activities.