La Fortuna 3-Day Itinerary: Arenal Volcano, Waterfalls, and Hot Springs
La Fortuna is a town in Costa Rica known for Arenal volcano, majestic waterfalls, and dreamy hot springs. The town is a great spot to base yourself for a few days on your trip to Costa Rica, with many unique things to see and do nearby. Spend 3 days in La Fortuna doing a range of activities including hiking near Arenal Volcano, swimming below a waterfall, soaking in hot springs, white-water rafting and more. Continue reading for all the details you need to plan the ultimate La Fortuna 3-Day Itinerary including how to get to La Fortuna, where to stay, and the best things to do.
How to Get to La Fortuna, Costa Rica
The closest international airport to La Fortuna is Juan Santamaría International airport (SJO) near San Jose which is about a 3-hour drive from La Fortuna. Another option is to fly into Liberia Guanacaste Airport (LIR) which is about 3 hours west of La Fortuna. Both airports have direct flights from the US, with more flights into SJO. The two best ways to get from these airports to La Fortuna is by booking a shuttle or by renting a car.
You can find and book shuttles from the airport to La Fortuna on Bookaway. Book your shuttle in advance to avoid having to navigate public transportation. Driving in Costa Rica isn’t for everyone, so a shuttle offers a great alternative. Once you reach La Fortuna you can walk around the town center in La Fortuna and most organized tours offer transportation.
By Rental Car
Renting a car in Costa Rica can be expensive, but it gives you more flexibility. A benefit of having a rental car is you can stay in unique places around La Fortuna that would be hard to get to without a car. If you are planning to visit more places in Costa Rica in addition to La Fortuna, it may make sense to rent a car. Make sure to book your rental car as early as possible, as rates get more expensive as it gets closer to the date.
Book your rental car on Discover Cars where you can compare rates across rental car companies to find the best deal. Keep in mind that Costa Rican rental car companies will add personal liability coverage fees and other taxes, so expect a higher rate than what you are seeing while booking. A 4×4 car is not necessary to visit La Fortuna or any of the places on this 3-day La Fortuna itinerary.
Where to Stay in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna has many unique accommodations including bungalows with views of Arenal Volcano, cute B&B’s, and luxury resorts. Having a rental car gives you more flexibility to stay in unique places that may be hard to get to without a car. If you do not plan on renting a car, try to find a place to stay closer to the town center of La Fortuna. This will ensure you are within the range for tour operators to pick you up and you will have easier access to restaurants and shops. A majority of hotels and guesthouses in La Fortuna have breakfast included in the rate, which is helpful as there aren’t many breakfast options in the town.
We put together a list of top places to stay in La Fortuna by price range. Where will you stay?
Cabañas Del Lago – With a Booking.com review rating of fabulous (8.8), this is a great budget accommodation and you even get to stay in your own bungalow.
Hotel Lavas Tacotal– You might not have a view of Arenal Volcano from your room, but you will get an unbelievable view from the hotel’s pool.
La Finca Lodge: You will definitely need a car to stay here, but the place has a 9.5/10 rating for a reason. Each unit features a balcony with mountain views. An exceptional breakfast is included.
Loma Real Hot Springs Bed & Breakfast– Breakfast, a pool, and views of Arenal Volcano. This B&B is 4 km outside of the town center making it conveniently located but still feels remote.
Hotel Heliconias Nature Inn & Hot Springs– Stay in a rustic bungalow in the rainforest. The picturesque pool on the property is perfect for relaxing.
Miradas Arenal Hotel & Hotsprings: Stay in a cute private bungalow with views of Arenal Volcano and a hot springs pool with a bar.
Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa – Staying at Tabacón gives you access to their thermal river and pools throughout your stay. Hotel guests also receive exclusive access to an adults-only part called Shangri-LA gardens. If you were already planning to go to the Tabacón Hot Springs it may be worth it to stay here for at least a night.
Lost Iguana Resort and Spa: Every room has a view of Mount Arenal and in the morning you can enjoy the breakfast buffet that is included. Guests can’t stop raving about the pool.
Arenal Manoa Resort & Hot Springs: Eat a delicious breakfast with a breathtaking view of Arenal. The luxury pool features a wet bar and views of Arenal.
EXTRA SPECIAL SPLURGE:
The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal– This is the hotel that the Kardashians stayed at when they visited La Fortuna. It was also featured on the Bachelor a few years ago and on the Golden Bachelor recently. It looks like dream, perfect for a honeymoon?
How Long Do You Need in La Fortuna?
The area around Arenal Volcano is beautiful and there is a lot to see and do. If you enjoy spending time in nature, I recommend staying here for at least 3 days. You can easily spend a week just in La Fortuna if you stay at a nice hotel with hot springs and want to spend time relaxing as well as exploring.
If you have limited time in La Fortuna consider booking an organized tour that will take you to several places in one day. This Full Day Tour takes you to La Fortuna Waterfall, hikes with views of Arenal Volcano, and a natural hot water river. It includes lunch and a cocktail as well as hotel pick up and drop off. The tour is limited to under 10 people so you know that you will be in a small group.
Reminder: Get Travel Insurance for Costa Rica
Don’t forget to get a travel insurance policy for your trip! SafetyWing offers affordable, flexible, and reliable travel medical insurance that can be purchased ahead of your travels or while you are already traveling.
La Fortuna 3-Day Itinerary
La Fortuna Day 1: Rainforest Chocolate Tour, Hanging Bridges, and Arenal Volcano Hike
Rainforest Chocolate Tour
Start your first day in La Fortuna with a rainforest chocolate tour. On this tour you will get to visit a farm where cocoa is grown, processed, and produced. You will learn about the history, culture, and traditions of chocolate while getting to taste the chocolate. If you are a chocolate lover like me, you can’t miss this during your three days in La Fortuna.
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges
Next make your way to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, where you can follow a 3.2 km trail through the rainforest on a number of hanging bridges and see views of Arenal. You can pay the entrance fee and explore the park on your own, or you can book a guided tour to see more animals and learn about the animals and plants in this rainforest.
Arenal Volcano National Park
Next make your way to Arenal Volcano National Park where you can do a couple of short hikes to see more views of Arenal. There are several hikes to choose from, including a hike that guides you through a lush forest to a viewpoint of Arenal. The best trail at Arenal Volcano National Park is to the Lake Arenal viewpoint where you can get a nice view of Arenal Volcano beside the lake.
Mirador El Silencio
For a hidden gem in La Fortuna check out Mirador El Silencio. Here you can find a 3-mile loop which takes you to a 1968 lava flow and rewards you with incredible views of Arenal Volcano. There are different paths you can take through the rainforest to get to the viewpoint and back. After paying an entrance fee you will get a map with the hiking trails. This was our favorite hike in La Fortuna, so I definitely recommend prioritizing this!
La Fortuna Day 2: Catarata Río Fortuna and Río Celeste
Your second day in La Fortuna is a day for seeing breathtaking waterfalls. Start your day at Catarata Río Fortuna in La Fortuna before making the drive to Río Celeste.
Catarata Río Fortuna
Get breakfast at Arábigos Coffee House near the town center on the way to Catarata Río Fortuna (Fortuna Waterfall). Make sure to purchase your admission ticket in advance for La Fortuna Waterfall on Viator so you don’t have to wait in line. Before going down the stairs you will see a view of the 70-ft waterfall in the distance, surrounded by lush rainforest.
After making your way down the stairs you can enjoy closer views of Catarata Río Fortuna from a viewing platform or the rocks near the river. If conditions allow, you have the option to swim in the pool the waterfall drops into or in the Fortuna River, so don’t forget your bathing suit. Take in views of the rainforest and the native plants as you make your way back up the 530 steps. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes and water!
Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio: Río Celeste
Next drive about 1.5 hours from La Fortuna to Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. The park is open until 2 pm and tends to be busiest in the morning when the tours are coming through. Around noon the park gets significantly quieter, which is why I recommended to go to La Fortuna Waterfall first. At this park you will follow a trail through the rainforest to a bright blue waterfall, lagoon, and river. On the hike you may be able to see animals such as toucans, woodpeckers, coatis, and many different kinds of birds.
I recommend taking the trail all the way to the end and saving the waterfall for the way back once most of the tours have left. You will see a beautiful blue lagoon on your way, surrounded by lush plants and then enjoy a nice walk along the bright blue river which will eventually take you the mixing point (Teñidero). The beautiful blue color of the river is created when Rio Buenavista and Quebrada Agria mix.
On the way back to the trailhead, take a detour to see the top destination in the park, Catarata Río Celeste. Go down about 200 steps to get to the bright blue waterfall that this park is most known for. You cannot swim in this water but you can enjoy the waterfall as you make your way down the stairs and onto the designated platform.
If you don’t have a rental car or don’t want to make the 1.5 hour drive on your own, you can book a tour to visit Río Celeste. This Río Celeste Tour from La Fortuna includes transportation to and from your hotel, a professional guide that will help you spot Costa Rican wildlife, and lunch.
Day 3: Choose From a Range of Water Activities: Soak in Hot Springs, White Water Rafting, Canyoning / Waterfall Repelling
On your third day in Costa Rica choose from a range of unique water activities. You should have time to do one of the adventure activities as well as soak in hot springs. If you want to do both white water rafting and canyoning/waterfall rappelling, I recommend adding another day in La Fortuna. Start your day with an adventure activity and finish it with a relaxing soak in hot springs.
White Water Rafting
If you have never been on a white water rafting adventure now is your chance. If you have already experienced the thrill of white water rafting you know how incredible it is, and you can’t miss the opportunity to do it in La Fortuna. Make sure to book the Upper Balsa River White Water Rafting Class 3/4 in advance so that you don’t miss out.
Along the white water rafting adventure down the Balsa River you will get to take a break, swim, and snack on Costa Rican fruit. After the rafting trip, you will get a traditional Costa Rican lunch at a local restaurant. The tour also includes transportation to local La Fortuna hotels, all equipment needed, and towels.
Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling
This unparalleled experience in La Fortuna takes you on a 4×4 ride into the forest where you will get to rappel down waterfalls and a canyon rock wall. While canyoning and waterfall rappelling you may get to see exotic wildlife such as toucans, sloths, and monkeys. After the thrilling experience you will have an organic Costa Rican lunch. The tour includes transportation to and from hotels in La Fortuna so you don’t have to worry about getting there if you’re not renting a car. Book the Pure Trek Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling Tour in La Fortuna ahead of time to secure your spot!
To finish out your last day in La Fortuna, spend time soaking in hot springs. There are a variety of options to enjoy the hot springs in La Fortuna including: Tabacón Hot Springs, Paradise Hot Springs, Titoku Hot Springs, EcoTermales Hot Springs, Baldi Hot Springs. As a free alternative, you can visit the natural hot springs river located across from Tabacón Hot Springs.
We chose to visit Tabacón Hot Springs which is one of the nicer resort-style hot springs with several cascading pools offering temperatures ranging from 72 to 105 degrees. The water is true thermal water that is naturally heated by the volcano. We enjoyed being surrounded by the lush rainforest while relaxing in the hot springs.
More Top Experiences in La Fortuna
La Fortuna is a perfect destination for a mix of adventure and relaxation. Don’t miss La Fortuna on your Costa Rica adventure! With 3 days in La Fortuna you can experience the highlights of La Fortuna, but if you stay longer there are countless more activities you can do such as an ATV Guided Experience or a Wildlife Safari Float.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Travel guides created to inspire and enable people to use their time away from the office to explore the world.