La Fortuna is one of the most popular areas for visitors coming to Costa Rica. It’s the gateway town to one of the country’s most famous residents – Arenal Volcano – and is also home to a large area of rainforest making it perfect for wildlife spotting too.
La Fortuna is around a 3hr drive from the capital, San Jose – and there are so many hotel options in the town you can’t go too wrong. We chose to stay at the wonderful Nayara Springs, the perfect choice for a special getaway.
The weather in the area is super variable, and rain is experienced here 9 months of the year. We had glorious sunshine through to torrential monsoons for up to 36hrs solid, so it’s important to pack for both and expect rapid weather changes.
This post concludes our time in the Arenal area, and after this we’re heading to the Caribbean coast!
1. Visit Arenal National Park
The main draw to La Fortuna is its proximity to Arenal National Park, which is around a 20-30 minute drive from the town, depending on which area you visit. There are two sections to the park – the main Lava Fields section, and the Peninsula section. We hiked in both areas, and enjoyed both for different reasons. You can read my full guide to visiting the Park HERE.
In the Park we saw a large variety of birds (including a toucan, hawk and lots of smaller birds), but the highlight was the spider monkeys who played above us for 10 minutes or so.
2. Spot sloths on the Bogarin Trail
Sloths are the main draw for many coming to Costa Rica, and we didn’t manage to see any in the National Park. So instead we headed to another section of rainforest to walk the Bogarin Trail, where we were lucky enough to see 3 sloths – 2 of which were active.
This are of dense rainforest is an oasis filled with tropical birds (we saw motmots, owls, hummingbirds, a yellow throated toucan and a fiery billed aracari amongst others), as well as colorful frogs and lots of ants! The trail is around 2km long and is an easy walk, just remember to look up as sloths live at the top of the trees. It’s not guaranteed you’ll see them, but we managed to spot 2 on our visit.
3. Arenal hanging bridges
The hanging bridges are spectacular and give beautiful views out over the wet and misty rainforest which is full of moss, orchids and cheeseplants growing naturally in the wild. We spotted howler and spider monkeys, snails, poison frogs, leaf cutter ants, a mot mot bird and various hummingbirds. We recommend doing this with a guide, to make the most of the wildlife.
4. Enjoy Lake Arenal
Lake Arenal is the largest man made lake in Costa Rica, and provides around 30% of the country’s enegery. It lies at the base of the volcano and is perfect for a number of activities. We chose to do a boat tour around the lake, but you can also do wildlife tours, kayaking or even fishing.
5. Nature walks galore
Most of the hotels and lodges in the area offer free nature walks for customers and it’s a great way to get an introduction to the rainforest and the incredible array of species. Below is just a section of what we saw on our walks – including a whole host of birds, all beautiful colours plus many lizards, frogs and spiders as well. My favourite though was the Blue Morpho butterfly which was absolutely massive and so beautiful.
6. Relax in a natural hot spring
The are all around La Fortuna is famous for its hot springs. There are a number of free ones which lie along the main road, or you can pay to enter others for a day pass at a spa in one of the hotels (if your hotel doesn’t have its own). The most famous and beautiful are at La Tabacon Hotel – but we chose to visit those in our hotel for free, and they were still beautiful.
You can read my full review of our hotel, Nayara Springs, HERE.
7. Sky Adventures walk and ziplining
Sky Adventures offers an array of jungle experiences. There is a sky gondola to take you to the top, where you can do a beautiful walk for views and then either get the gondola back down or choose something more adventurous and jungle zip-line back through the rainforest.
On arrival we were given helmets and strapped in to our special belts then given some basic instructions about what (not) to do. Then we went up the mountain by steep cable car which carried us over the tree canopy to the first zip line which was a short practice wire. The practice zip line was cleverly set up so that we could not see the first ‘proper’ zip line just round the corner. When we saw the first proper zip line we all gulped: it vanishes in to the distance and you can’t even see the end of it. Our guides were brilliant though, cheering us all on.
After the first shaky landing our nerves started to settle so that as we zig zagged our way back down the mountainside via long zip lines we began to regard ourselves as experts. The views were magnificent (once relaxed enough to enjoy them!).
If ziplining isn’t your thing, then you could also try abseiling or white water rafting, which are also both offered in the area.
8. Try local Costa Rican food and drink
The area is great for trying a whole host of local food, which is so delicious. We ate Gallo Pinto, Patacones, traditional Casado and so much fresh fruit. The pineapple was the best I’ve ever eaten, and we loved the hearty style of Costa Rican food.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope this was helpful to learn about Costa Rica. If you’re planning a visit to the country, then you may find my other posts useful too:
- La Fortuna/Arenal area – Arenal National Park, Nayara Springs Hotel Review
Stay safe and happy travelling everyone.