The town of La Fortuna is one of Costa Rica’s most visited destinations known for Arenal Volcano, which was one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanos until 2010. During its violent reign, it erupted in 1962 and completely destroyed the nearby village of Tabacón. Visitors would often flock to La Fortuna to grab a glimpse of the fiery rim around the crater, but rest assured, the volcano is pretty dormant now. Its slopes are covered with lush rain forests and home to many species of wildlife.
The Costa Ricans are very hospitable and friendly. One term that you will always hear is “Pura Vida”. It is the law of the land in Costa Rica. The expression is used in many forms, from a greeting to a synonym for “excellent.” Ticos follow this lifestyle and are some of the most wonderful people on earth. The more we spoke with locals, the more we fell in love with this beautiful country. It became very clear the Costa Ricans really care for their environment. Renewable energy and sustainable living are very common here.
In our quest to find some of these great locations, we set out by renting a car from Hertz at Guanacaste airport and driving to La Fortuna. The drive is around 4 hours and has gorgeous views for the most part. But be aware! The roads are terrible in some areas. You must stop by the Café y Macadamia at Lago Arenal to get some breathtaking views of the lake. Try their famous desserts or milkshakes. We especially loved their banana macadamia bread!
Though most businesses will accept US dollars we found the best exchange rate at the Super Christian Mercados in La Fortuna (no jokes, that is the real name of this grocery chain). Pay for an item in dollars and get your change in colones (pronounced colón not colon) at the best exchange rate.
Where to stay?
The Arenal Hostel is one of the popular hostels in La Fortuna that offers dormitory- and hotel-style lodging at affordable prices. The hostel is located right in front of the town square, close to shops, restaurants, and transportation. It’s also walking distance from cultural events and local art. The lounge area has hammocks right next to a swim up bar and has a youthful but family friendly culture.
Things to do
Sky Tram & Zip Lining
“Sky Tram” Gondolas take you high up the slopes of the rain forest and give you breathtaking views of the lake and the crater. Then, get ready for an exhilarating ride on 8 different lines across lush stretches of the rain forest. Make sure to have a Go Pro at hand! If you don’t, the friendly staff are ever ready to help you get amazing pictures zip lining through the forest. There are also options to hike and do water sports in the area.
La Fortuna Waterfall
The La Fortuna waterfall is located a short distance from the town. All proceeds from the entrance fees go back to helping the residents of La Fortuna. This waterfall is quite the hike down (you definitely feel it in your glutes on the way back up as it is approximately 471 steps each way), but it is all worth it! The waterfall is susceptible to flash floods, so keep an eye out for changes in color and follow all posted signs.
Find over 500 different species of butterflies and other insects at the Butterfly Conservatory. If you are lucky you might see a few howler monkeys, too.
Baldi Hot Springs
Known for its many hot springs, Baldi is a result of volcanic activity with the Tabacón River. Some are commercial, whereas a few are public. We visited the Baldi Resort in the evening which included half a day at the hot springs along with buffet dinner. Some hot springs are way too warm to visit during the day so we feel that the evening makes the best time to plan a visit and is far less crowded during the day.
1968 Trail allows you to hike where the lava used to flow during the eruptions in 1968 that destroyed 3 towns. You will be able to see large rocks that were flung many miles and ash/mudflows. There is also the 1989 trail that was the most recent large scale eruption. Remember to always keep on the trails and carry plenty of water and insect repellent – you may get caught up in all the beauty that these essentials may become secondary.
Coffee & Chocolate Tasting
Costa Rica is known for it fine coffee all over the world, especially the type is grown in the higher elevations of 6,000 feet. The beans are a lot denser and the plant has to work harder to survive. The result is an outstanding coffee with complex flavors. Be sure to check out Down to Earth Coffee when you visit La Fortuna.
La Fortuna is a great place to visit if you enjoy outdoor activities. It is great for kids and there is always something for everyone to enjoy. While eating out can get expensive, meal prepping can save you a considerable amount of money. We hope to re-visit this place soon. For now Pura Vida!