Exploring La Fortuna
Exploring La Fortuna and its abundant surroundings is easy to do in your rental SUV; and, you’ll find plenty to keep your group in fun and adventure.
The quaint town of La Fortuna is a three-hour drive northwest from Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose. Using a car to navigate around may be fine depending on the road conditions nearer to La Fortuna, but renting an SUV is often recommended due to the potential for muddy roads caused by unpredictable tropical weather.
Multiple attractions near La Fortuna can be visited in a single day, making it a perfect place to spend a few days relaxing and sight-seeing.
What to do in La Fortuna
Arguably the best reason to visit La Fortuna is to see the Arenal Volcano. Towering over La Fortuna at over 1,600 meters high, the volcano is a beautiful backdrop behind many of the places you’ll be.
Arenal Volcano is currently dormant, but in 1968 it had erupted and wiped out the entire town of Tabacon. Up until 2010, it had also been possible to view lava flows running from the volcano, but since then it has been dormant with no lava flows, much to tourists’ disappointment.
Still, there are plenty of other reasons to drive around La Fortuna. Below are some of the best activities to partake in.
Arenal Volcano National Park is the prime gateway for hiking to the base of the Arenal Volcano. From the National Park, it takes about two and a half hours of easy, flat terrain to reach incredible viewpoints of the volcano.
The Arenal 1968 trail is split into two routes: Lava Flow 1968 and Trail Forest 1968. Both can be done in a day, with or without a tour guide. Tour guides will provide a wealth of information during the hike, and depending on your tour accommodations, transportation may be provided to and from. However, if planning this hike independently, it’s best to have rented an SUV since no buses travel to this area and the roads become quite bumpy.
There’s no shortage of naturally heated hot springs near La Fortuna for you to spend a few hours relaxing in. While a quick search can yield dozens of potential hot springs, the resorts located further north and closer to the volcano tend to be of higher quality.
Fairly close to the city of La Fortuna are the Baldi Hot Springs. About an eight-minute drive up the Northwest-bound Route 142, Baldi Hot Springs offers 25 hot water pools that flow directly from the Arenal Volcano.
Paradise Hot Springs is located just across from Baldi Hot Springs. Although they contain a far smaller amount of heated pools, the facility is surrounded by lush forest vegetation.
For a more family-oriented experience, Los Lagos Hot Springs has water slides and bubble jets that people of all ages can enjoy. Los Lagos Hot Springs is located just a few minutes up the road from Baldi and Paradise Hot Springs.
One of the more striking and accommodating hot springs to visit is Tabacon Hot Springs. Located 12 kilometers up Route 142 from La Fortuna, the Tabacon Hot Springs will take about 15 minutes to reach. Layered table-top waterfalls allow tourists to relax underneath naturally heated cascading water. Tabacon also features indoor spas that also tap into the volcanically heated mineral water.
Those on a tighter budget may prefer to forego the nicer accommodations at Tabacon Hot Springs and venture to the free hot springs located near the official resort. These free hot springs are easily found just off the road leading to Tabacon. Locals refer to it as Rio Chollin.
Wildlife Reserves are an important and entertaining way to ensure the continuity of the exotic species native to Costa Rica.
Ecocentro Danaus is a private nature reserve with a focus on the sustainability of local ecology. Tours there last about an hour and a half and are accompanied by a knowledgeable naturalist as a guide.
Another private wildlife reservation is Arenal Natura Ecological Park. Located fairly close to the base of the Arenal Volcano, tourists get to witness an assortment of monkeys, reptiles, birds and exotic frogs in their natural habitats.