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Arenal & La Fortuna
Travel Guide


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Arenal & La Fortuna at a glance

The small town of La Fortuna was never designed as a tourist destination, but its fate was decided for it after the nearby Arenal volcano erupted in 1968, forever changing La Fortuna’s destiny. Arenal had not erupted in 400 years, and upon the explosion of this imposing yet impossibly picturesque mountain, the three local towns of Tabacón, Pueblo Nuevo and San Luís were buried in their entirety by the flow of lava and ash, which didn’t abate for three days. It was after the dust settled that the discovery was made that a town called El Borio on the eastern side of the volcano had survived the eruption. This town was renamed La Fortuna (or The Fortunate), and is now one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica, with tourists coming from far and wide to marvel at the unnervingly placid sight of the Arenal volcano. It has erupted many more times since 1968 but has been dormant since 2010, although this does not mean that another eruption could not happen at any moment. The dominating presence of the Arenal is not the only reason that visitors come to La Fortuna; they also come to explore the natural beauty of the region, which is teeming with wildlife, adventure sports and once in a lifetime experiences.

Experiences around Arenal & La Fortuna

What not to miss

La Fortuna itself is awash with hawkers, street vendors and tour operators trying to coax you into buying something or using their services, but if you venture beyond the village, you will find a plethora of amazing activities to take part in. Zip line through jungle and forest canopies, take a boat ride on the stunning Lake Arenal, hike through the lush, idyllic forests that line the hills and mountain sides or ride on horseback around the base of the volcano. Nighttime excursions in the area are extremely popular, as this is the best time to see the incredible array of wildlife that proliferates in this region. Keep your eyes peeled for sloths, howler monkeys, night herons, spectacled owls and American crocodiles during your nighttime outing, and make sure to check out the amazing sunsets that make the slopes of the volcano glow bright pink. Another unmissable activity is a trip to the Arenal volcano, which you can hike on a guided tour, stopping at some hot springs along the way.

Arenal Volcano Paradise Hot Springs Top

Experience a Costa Rican rain forest with the famous Arenal volcano, after a drive through the Arenal National Park you will start your 1.5-hour trek through the forest. The Arenal Volcano National Park has trails that let you observe the famous iconic shaped volcano that was regularly erupting since 1968 and shows how its surroundings transformed. Within its volcanic folds, you can enjoy the secondary forest filled with wildlife such as tropical birds and mammals, among others. Lastly, you will be able to walk over old lava rocks from 1992 and get a full view of the volcano and Arenal Lake. To thoroughly enjoy this nature-filled region, you certainly don’t want to miss the relaxing hot springs that come from the heart of the Arenal Volcano. Water passes through the hot rocks located deep within the volcano, where temperatures can reach as high as 150° Fahrenheit. After your hike, relax and at the nearby hot springs. The natural hot springs of Paradise Hot Springs are the perfect option to revitalize your mind and body in a relaxed setting while enjoying views of the Arenal volcano. The beautiful surrounding gardens with relaxing music and light therapy create the perfect ambiance to fully unwind, embraced by the nature that’s native to the area.

Bird Watching near Arenal Volcano Top

Spectacular bird watching! More than 60 different bird species in their natural habitat in a protected forest near the Peñas Blancas River, about a 30 min drive from Arenal. Be dazzled by its beautiful colors and sounds; make unique pictures of birds like Turquoise-browed Motmot, Keel-billed Toucan, Gray Hawk and more. After your tour, you will enjoy a delicious locally homemade breakfast.

Volunteer at ASIS Wildlife Rescue Center Top

Drive through the Costa Rican countryside to the ASIS Wildlife Rescue Institute located in the small town of Javillos for an up-close experience and learn about Costa Rican wildlife. Proyecto ASIS is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to wildlife protection, environmental conservation, and promoting cultural exchanges through education. The project is an animal rescue center, Spanish language school, and volunteer center with the overall aim to give injured wild animals care while rehabilitating them. The rescue institute receives no financial aid from the Costa Rican government, so they are dependent on the money and manpower of volunteers to care for injured animals and keep the wildlife rescue institute alive. Your ASIS guide will explain in detail about each creature’s territory, lifespan, type of diet, social behavior as well as the possibilities and considerations to re-introduce the animals back into the wild. To get even more involved with the project, you’ll have the chance to participate in some volunteer work, helping with the preparation of the food for the animals and feeding them!

Navigate the Caño Negro Wildlife Rescue Top

One of the most essential birdwatching reserves lies near the northern border town of Los Chiles, the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, where year-round observation of wildlife takes place in Costa Rica. It is a wetland area of almost 10,000 hectares, which in the rainy season is flooded by the Rio Frio. After boarding a comfortable pontoon boat, navigate your way through the wetlands, rainforest, and swamplands where you will find more than 200 species of bird that come to this one area. The most famous being the endangered Jabiru Stork which is the tallest flying bird in Latin America…if you’re here during the dry season (February to April), you will have a chance of seeing them. But you can also very much appreciate Tiger Herons, Woodstorks, Kingfishers, amongst others. If you’re not such a fan of birds, don’t worry, as you silently cruise the Rio Frio, this area will reveal all kinds of wildlife from capuchin monkeys, sloths and iguanas to, river turtles, caiman and the basilisk, also called Christ Lizard as it can walk on water. Caño Negro will provide you with some fantastic photo opportunities so make sure your camera is fully charged!

Navigate Caño Negro w/ Baldi Hot Springs Top

This wildlife-rich wetland stretches for almost 10,000 hectares and is flooded during the rainy season by the Rio Frio. It is home to around 350 bird species, and animals such as river turtles, sloths, caiman, and iguanas. When we visited, we got a great shot of a basilisk, a bizarre type of lizard that runs across the surface of the water. After a two-hour boat ride through the wetlands, you´ll stop for a riverside lunch before heading to the Baldi Hot-springs. This hot spring resort with 20 different thermal baths, swim up bars, giant Jacuzzi, steam room and waterslides, is warmed by the heat of the Arenal Volcano and you can actually see the volcano peak in the distance as you soak. It´s a beautifully relaxing experience, and the springs have a nice buffet restaurant where you´ll enjoy a good dinner.

Canopy Ecoglide & Tarzan Swing Top

Enjoy the beauty of the Arenal Volcano and the surrounding area, on one of the most famous activities in Costa Rica from the Canopy Zip-Line for an unforgettable experience at Arenal. Driving alongside Arenal Volcano to the Arenal Ecoglide Park, you and your family will be hooked up in a secure harness to commence your Canopy Zip-line, riding down on 13 different cables, stretching across canyons and between treetops creating a great adventure. Like a bird that flies through de treetops… that’s the way you will feel doing this canopy tour that offers a perfect combination of healthy fun and nature. During your zip-line adventure, you will see the rainforest from different angles, passing right through the natural habitat of varying animal life. Enjoy the experience as well as panoramic views of the Arenal volcano and Lake Arenal in the company of your naturalistic guide that will show you different species of animals and plants of the surrounding rainforest. During your zip-line tour, you’ll also have the opportunity to participate in one of the major attractions of your canopy tour: The Tarzan Swing, an impressive vertical drop from a specially designed platform which guarantees for a great adventure.

Waterfalls & Chocolate of the Rainforest Top

Enjoy two of what we consider some of the most exciting activities to do near the Arenal Volcano: a nature hike to the La Fortuna Waterfall as well as a fabulous Chocolate Tasting Tour. Setting off on a guided hike that will take you to this beautiful waterfall that is a must-see when you come to the Arenal area. It stands at an impressive 150 feet tall and its crystal-clear waters cascade into the pool below which after the hike to the falls offers the perfect place to swim, relax and take photos while soaking up the exuberant nature around this secluded canyon. The beauty of the waterfall is not the only thing that will take your breath away, but also the hike back up…we promise that it’s well worth it as you’ll then begin your Rainforest Chocolate Tour. Explore the ancient secrets of chocolate: from its discovery and use in the tropical Americas to the processing of the mouthwatering chocolate products we know and enjoy today. This experience brings history, culture, traditions, and flavor together as you participate in the production process, from the harvesting of the fruit, drying and grinding of the seed, to the tasting of high-quality organic chocolate.

Sky Tram & Waterfalls Sky Walk Top

Today you will embark on a Sky hike excursion that takes you high up into the forest surrounding the Arenal volcano. The adventure begins with a smooth ride in a slow-paced Sky Tram gondola through the rainforest, with endless views to enjoy during this mountain ascent. One-of-a-kind photographs to be captured and tropical birds to be spotted, as the Sky Tram ends in a wide observation platform on the highest point of the Arenal Reserve, where you can sit down to admire the volcano, Arenal Lake, the mountain range and rainforest. Next, you take to the Waterfall Sky Walk offering visitors a different perspective on the dynamic rainforest at a much slower pace. Experience spectacular views as you walk across the metal bridge structures over the foliage and forest below, several bridges take you right alongside the canopy of tall trees, some of which have colonized the bridges, draping their woody lianas over the ramparts. Spot birds and howler monkeys from their perspective, and learn about native plants and animal species. Along the way, you can enjoy two amazing waterfalls, and a stunning cantilever platform 30 meters high with spectacular views of the forest, Arenal volcano, and Arenal Lake.

Canoeing on Lake Arenal Top

Come and enjoy the unique experience of canoeing on Lake Arenal with unbeatable views of the Arenal Volcano and its lush green surroundings. You will explore various areas of the lake in search of exotic wildlife such as monkeys and beautifully colored tropical birds. To further enjoy the serenity, you will stop over on a small island where you will be served some of the fresh tropical fruit of Costa Rica.

Lost Canyon Adventure Canyoneering Top

At a government-approved platform looking down into the depths of a 150-ft massive waterfall. You will rappel down for the thrill of a lifetime. Make your way along the river bed by down-climbing and rappelling a series of six waterfalls that get gradually bigger and bigger. This tour saves the best waterfall for last as you will finish with a 200ft-guided rappel at the end.

Morning Arenal Volcano Nature Hike Top

Exploring the Arenal National Park on a 2-hour trek through the rainforest around the foot of the Arenal Volcano. You´ll be accompanied by a naturalist guide, who will point out flora and fauna of the region. The Arenal Volcano National Park has trails that let you observe the famous iconic shaped volcano that was regularly erupting since 1968 and shows how its surroundings transformed. Within its volcanic folds, you can enjoy the secondary forest filled with wildlife such as tropical birds and mammals, among others. Lastly, you will be able to walk over old lava rocks from 1992 and get a full view of the volcano and Arenal Lake. You will then be transferred back to your hotel.

Rafting Sarapiqui River La Virgen Top

The Sarapiqui River is an excellent introduction to whitewater rafting, this class II/III rafting trip is an ideal one day adventure from the Arenal/La Fortuna area. Set in the lowlands of the Caribbean rainforest you will enjoy breath-taking views of tropical birds, and lush jungle landscapes along the Sarapiqui River and of course enjoy the rapids. Even beginners and families enjoy the big splash of rapids which will give your family an experience they will never forget! Once on the river, in store for you are three action-packed hours where in the middle you will stop for a fruit break and rest time to restore your energy for the latter half of the paddle. At the end of the river portion, your transportation will be waiting for you and will take you in five minutes to Tirimbina in Sarapiqui where the operation center is located. There you will get a towel and be able to shower and change at the facilities to get ready for lunch. Finishing the day in the beautiful lush gardens and cross a 300meter long hanging bridge over the Sarapiqui River taking in a bit of a different perspective from above than below.

Venado Caves Underground Adventure Top

On this spelunking tour of the Venado Caves, you’ll go deep into the insides of the earth following many underground trails that lead you through grottos and chambers. With flashlights to light your way and all the gear needed for the adventure, you will enter together with an experienced guide into the labyrinth of ancient underground rivers and seabeds that have only recently become exposed after thousands of millions of years. During the tour, you will visit rock formations with names as exciting and unique as the formations themselves as you explore the rocks of, ‘the birthing canal,’ ‘the papaya,’ ‘the coral’ and ‘the altar.’ Numerous rock formations called stalactites and stalagmites are very common inside the caves, some hanging from the rocks overhead, and others surging up from the ground, and you will explore them through the sometimes narrow and caved underground river streams. There is a large colony of bats that inhabit the caves, as well as spiders and crabs adding to this fantastic and exciting experience!

Tenorio Celeste River & Waterfall Hike Top

A legend tells that after God was done painting the sky, he washed his brushes in the river that now bears the name of Rio Celeste (Light Blue River). Arriving at the Tenorio National Parks entrance, you start your hike through this Humid Forest ecosystem, with the chance to observe various animal species and exuberant flora. Along the walk, you will discover the magnificent falls of the Celeste River. This fast-flowing stream seems to tear the green hill before to fall 20 meters lower into a basin of such a sky-blue color that will bring out the most spontaneous expressions of wonder. Your walk will then go upstream along two crystal-clear streams coming together to form the Rio Celeste. This place is called ‘Los Teñidores,’ where the river dyes itself into that amazing light blue coloration. Walking along jungle trails, your guide will then take you to a volcanic field where bursts of hot volcano smoke rise into the air, making this unique hike complete, that combines nature’s beauty with an excellent opportunity to observe unusual flora and fauna.

Fast Facts on Arenal & La Fortuna

USEFUL TRAVELER INFORMATION

This section is a quick overview to help in planning your trip to Arenal & La Fortuna.

When to go

Arenal and La Fortuna can be visited all year round, but if you want to see the Arenal Volcano against a backdrop of a cloudless blue sky, then certain months are better than others. December, January, and February are the rainiest and cloudiest months, so the volcano’s peak can often be obscured. From March through to the beginning of August, the weather is volatile and changeable due to fronts from the rainier Caribbean and the drier region of Guanacaste coming into contact with each other. From June to mid-November, the warm and humid “green” season is a perfect time to visit if you don’t mind the rain and would like to see the area in full bloom. Travelers looking to avoid peak seasons should visit in the shoulder months on either side of the wet and dry seasons.

How to get there

The town of La Fortuna is 10 miles (16 km) from the Arenal Volcano National Park, about 3 or 4 hours away from San Jose’s International Airport, and approximately 2.5 hours away from Liberia’s International Airport. Nature Air operates daily flights from San Jose to La Fortuna. The flight takes about 20 minutes and offers passengers incredible aerial views over Costa Rica. One of the most common ways to get to La Fortuna is to arrive by bus from either San Jose, Liberia or Penas Blancas in Nicaragua. If you would prefer to hire a car, just talk to one of our travel experts, and they can advise you.

Infrastructure

There are plenty of places to stay in the vicinity and town of La Fortuna, but you should consider what it is you want when deciding where to stay. Some of the more picturesque and relaxed hotels and lodges are located on the outskirts of the town, and have direct access to hot springs and hiking trails, with epic views of the volcano. There is also a wide range of restaurants catering to international tastes, but more typical eateries such as the sodas offer traditional Costa Rican gastronomy. Biking around La Fortuna is one of the best ways to see the town and visit the surrounding areas, but if you are planning on venturing further afield to visit the volcano or the local caves and rivers, it is best to go as part of an organized tour. Or speak to one of our representatives about the options of hiring a car. There are also plenty of banks and ATMs where you can withdraw money.

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