La Fortuna, Costa Rica - one of the most adventure-filled towns I’ve ever been to. Not only is La Fortuna home to a massive, active volcano, it’s filled with rain forests, hot springs, rushing rivers, and a ton of wildlife. It is a town which literally revolves around adventure and trying new things.
In this post, I’ve detailed out all of the best adventures and experiences I had while I was in La Fortuna. On a rushed itinerary, you could probably squeeze all of these activities into three, full days. However, I spread them out over the course of five days. No matter how much time you have in La Fortuna though, you’re bound to have a good time!
1. Go white water rafting
This was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip! Neither Yuting nor I had been white water rafting before Costa Rica, so we were a little unsure of what to expect. Would the rapids be too intense, or would we be bored out of our minds and wishing for more action?
At first, the tour leaned heavily on the action side. So much so that in the span of two minutes, an entire raft in our company went overboard, we lost a person in the front of our raft, and then our guide went overboard as well. Lucky for us, no one was injured and everyone who had fallen out still had a smile on their face (even more so now because they had a story to tell).
The rest of rafting tour was very relaxed in comparison. As the river slowed down, we were able to spot iguanas and a couple of sloths chilling in the treetops. Around one lazy bend, our guide even pulled our boat to the side for a bit to show us a poison dart frog! It was one of the most beautiful, little creatures I’ve ever seen and surprisingly not as dangerous as their name suggests.
Cost: Varies. We paid $55 during the high season, but it should be cheaper during the low season. Price included lunch and transportation to and from our hostel.
2. Swing into El Salto
This little swimming hole is one of my favorite spots in La Fortuna. Not only is El Salto completely free, it’s where a lot of the locals go to hangout and cool down on sunny days (which is practically every day). The best part though, is swinging off the rope swing into the deepest part of the pool. I swung off the rope four times at El Salto and each time the jump gave me a jolt of adrenaline.
3. Relax in the free hot springs
In 1968, Arenal Volcano erupted, creating natural hot springs throughout La Fortuna. Today, many sections of the hot springs have been claimed by resorts who now charge steep prices to use their facilities. While the resorts are beautiful and very comfortable, the real adventure comes from visiting the free hot springs. This portion of the hot springs has been left completely natural - no manicured riverbed, no swim up bar, and no changing rooms.
Still interested in visiting the free hot springs? I hope so!
The free hot springs is where all the locals go to get their soak on. You may see kids playing, friends splitting a watermelon, or someone getting in fully nude. What I liked about the free hot springs though, was that everyone was just doing their thing and being themselves.
To get to the free hot springs, head to the Tabacon hot springs building. Here, there’s usually a bunch of cars and scooters parked along the road already. Park your car/scooter or get dropped off, and then walk a short ways down to the bridge in the middle of the road. Along either side of the bridge, there are foot paths down to the river.
4. Swim at the bottom of a waterfall
Sounds like an absolute dream, right? For $15, you can live that dream at La Fortuna Waterfall. This particular waterfall is one of the most well-known spots in La Fortuna, and is located just 5-10 minutes out of town by taxi.
Most of the people who visit this waterfall come simply for the views and a nice hike. The extra swimming bit is a nice bonus for anyone down for the challenge. The reason I call it a challenge, is because the water here is a little tough to actually swim in. Since the waterfall is coming down with a lot of force, it’s constantly pushing you towards the edge and away from the center.
The water here is also really cold for some reason. Even if you are able to fight the current, you probably won’t want to for long. That being said, it was a really cool experience to brave the icy water and powerful force of the current - all while being at the bottom of a waterfall in a Costa Rican jungle.
If you’re not a strong swimmer or have small children with you, I still recommend checking out La Fortuna Waterfall. The hike down to the waterfall is really beautiful and not very long (just prepare yourself for a lot of stairs). Once at the bottom, you can sit and have a picnic or look for small fish in the pools downstream.
Cost: $15 entry fee
5. Rent a scooter for the day
If you’ve never driven around on a scooter before, it’s time to change that! In downtown La Fortuna, you can rent a scooter and use it as your personal taxi to check out the town. Yuting and I rented a scooter for 12 hours during our stay and loved the freedom it gave us. One moment we were cruising around looking for sloths, and the next moment we were scoping out restaurant options.
Besides the convenience aspect, riding a scooter is so much fun! It’s a rush flying down the road exposed to the elements. Your hair gets tangled, your arms get tan, and you begin to wonder why you don’t own a bike back home…
Cost: Varies. We paid $30 for a 12-hour rental with two helmets and a full tank of gas. We visited during the high season though, it should be cheaper during the low season.
6. Zip-line through the rain forest canopy
Isn’t zip-lining a little overrated? That’s what Yuting and I were asking ourselves as we buckled into our harnesses. The two of us had been zip-lining a few times, and while it was awesome the first time, there was rarely anything new and exciting about it.
Then one of our guides handed us each a leather glove. “What’s this for,” I asked.
“That’s your brake,” he said.
“Oh shoot,” I gulped, “This is a real zip-line...”
Sure enough, these zip-lines are so fast you have to keep your brake hand on the cable at all times. You don’t necessarily have to be braking at all times, but you have to be ready. For a non-adrenaline junkie like myself, I was pretty scared for the first few cables. It wasn’t until about halfway though the course when I stopped and fully appreciated my surroundings.
My loss too because our surroundings were beautiful. We were flying through a Costan Rican rain forest - high enough up in the air you had to strain your eyes to see the ground.
Cost: Varies. We paid $45 per person during the high season with a little negotiating. Should cost less during the low season. This price also included access to the Los Lagos hot springs after our zip-line tour.
7. Look for sloths
You can’t go to La Fortuna (or Costa Rica for that matter) without looking for sloths. These adorable little fur balls hangout in the trees around La Fortuna, happily living the slow life.
When Yuting and I first arrived in La Fortuna, we were super anxious to see sloths. We didn’t know where exactly to find them, and contemplated spending $25+ per person just to guarantee a sighting. Then we talked to other travelers and learned you can actually see sloths on your own for free. The trick to doing so, is to rent a scooter and drive down the main road in the direction of Lake Arenal. Between leaving the main strip of town and the Tabacon hot spring resort, you should be able to spot a few.
The only problem is sloths are incredibly good at blending in with the trees. Their light-colored, algae-dotted fur can easily be mistaken for a tree branch. To spot one, we discovered it’s much easier to look for groups of people along the road with their necks craned upwards and index fingers pointing (clear sign there’s something to look at). Using this method, we were able to see two different sloths within 20 minutes of driving around.
Cost: Free if you look for them along the road.
8. Get hooked on Costa Rican coffee
First off, I am not a coffee drinker. The caffeine is somehow too much for me to handle and I always have to dump a load of cream and sugar in before I enjoy it. So the fact I bought two cups of coffee in La Fortuna, added zero sugar, and savored every last sip of them, says a lot.
The magical coffee I discovered was at a storefront called Down to Earth Coffee. It’s located right next door to the hostel I stayed at, so naturally I had to check it out. As soon as I walked up, the owners greeted me warmly. As I explored their little shop, a young girl at the counter noticed my curiosity and came over to show me around.
For the next ten minutes or so, she excitedly explained the differences between the different roasts they offered and what makes their coffee so much better than Starbucks (I had told her I was from Seattle). Their little shop, I learned, only sells coffee they grow, mill, and roast themselves in Costa Rica. That’s awesome!
By the time I left Down to Earth Coffee, I was happily sipping a cappuccino and smiling over the fact I’d just had an incredibly authentic, local adventure just steps away from my hostel. Long story short, give this shop a try when you’re in La Fortuna. It’s the first place I’m stopping at when I return someday.
Cost: $2-$4 depending on what you order and what size cup.