With only two days to spare in La Fortuna during our road trip around Costa Rica, we found ourselves overwhelmed by the amount of things to do available for visitors.
La Fortuna is the city that sits beneath Volcán Arenal. A now dormant volcano, Volcán Arenal looks beautiful from the city down below. This is the reason many who visit Costa Rica stay here.
La Fortuna also offers many adventures such as water rafting, hiking a volcano, waterfall and suspension bridges tours, ATV rentals, and much more. There is always something to do! Today we share how we enjoyed La Fortuna in two days and how you can too!
What To Do in La Fortuna in 48 Hours
Day 1: Full Tour
To take advantage of our short stay in La Fortuna we decided to do the Two Volcanoes Tour. It is a complete packaged tour that can be arranged with your hotel. It starts out with a strenuous rain forest hike to the top of Cerro Chato (Chato Hill) where you will have access to swimming in a beautiful turquoise lagoon in the crater of the volcano. How awesome is that!?
The hike is not easy at all. In fact, it’s probably the toughest hike we’ve completed thus far and it’s the first time I thought I would have to quit, faint, or throw up! Luckily, none of those happened but arriving to the top of Cerro Chato rewarded us with an amazing view of the forest canopy and of the crater lagoon. You will run into wildlife, such as snakes, birds, centipedes, and monkeys.
Suspension Bridges and Waterfalls
Following the success of making it to the lagoon inside the crater, we climbed back out of the crater. And by climb back out we really mean climb. You will need some good hiking shoes and be able to have a good hand grip because you will be pulling yourself up by holding on to branches, stretching your feet high up and latching on to rocks, and possibly be helped by others. Just make sure you look out for snakes before placing your hands and feet anywhere. Seriously, we saw two snakes and some centipedes on our path.
Once we made it out of Cerro Chato, we headed towards the Arenal Observatory and crossed two suspension bridges on our way there. These are pretty cool to walk on and you’ll want to snap some pictures on these hanging bridges. After walking even more, we eventually come across a beautiful waterfall! The view of this waterfall is an amazing reward of all the calories we burned for the past few hours.
Observatory Lodge and Arenal Volcano
The next stop is the Observatory Lodge where we passed beautiful flora and wildlife, such as the frog pond. Our guide even allowed us to snap some close up pictures of a bright green frog. The Arenal Observatory offers a beautiful view of Volcan Arenal (Arenal Volcano). The fog and clouds obstructed our view of the volcano, but thankfully it semi-cleared off for a bit and we were able to enjoy a marvelous view.
While at the observatory, we were also surprised to see spider monkeys crawling high above the trees located at the observatory. And just before leaving, we got hit by a storm that got us completely soaked! Not a surprise since we did come during rainy season, but this did not ruin our tour. In fact, these are those moments that become quite memorable in our opinion.
Natural Hot Springs
The final stop at night was a natural hot spring river where we relaxed after a long day of hiking. However, the storm that hit became much stronger and we were pulled out of the water after only 5 minutes of relaxation. Those 5 minutes were probably the most rewarding of the whole day because our muscles had been worn out after a long day of hiking. Lastly, the tour ends with a cocktail prepared by the tour guide to finish off the adventure and they drop you off at your hotel.
What to bring:
*Good walking/hiking shoes are a must.
* Long pants (to prevent scratches), Bring a swimsuit underneath
* a small backpack with snacks and water. The tour will provide a decent lunch that included a ham sandwich, granola bars, chocolates, a drink, and a container filled with fruits.
When to go:
*High season is best time because there are less chances of rain. We visited during green season (rainy season) and we still enjoyed it despite the storm that hit while there. This actually made our adventure more memorable.
What you’ll see:
*Wildlife such as frogs, monkeys, exotic birds, two volcanoes, a crater lagoon, hot spring waters, suspension bridges, a waterfall, and trees-lots of them.
Warning: We chose a really tough hike and realized good health is probably best and at least a tad bit of condition is needed. No joke! You will be climbing rocks, walking through mud, possibly get rained on, walk at a steep incline, walk for hours, and possibly slip once or twice. (We didn’t slip, but somehow found a few bruises and scratches the day after.)
Some people did trip and fall. Though no one in our tour did, our guide told us people will quit and return after just a few minutes of hiking Cerro Chato. If you are not in semi-good condition and have some sort of health problem, consider doing an easier hike.
Price: $70, but we paid $50 each during low season (after bartering)
Time: 10:00 AM to 8PM (10hrs)
Again, if you feel you aren’t conditioned for this hike, skip Cerro Chato and ask for an Arenal Tour instead. During my hike, I was not fit and it was the first time in my life I felt like I wouldn’t make it and quit. However, I think the embarrassment to look like a failure kept me going and I refused to quit. And I’m so glad because the pain was all worth it!
Nightime: Walk the town and find a place to dine and possibly grab a drink. After an extensive day and a strenuous work out, you’ll possibly be drained and want to rest.
Day 2: La Fortuna town, Hot Springs, and La Fortuna Waterfall
We started the day with a good breakfast and then spent some time walking the town of La Fortuna.
After enjoying the town a bit, we headed to a hot spring.
Free Hot Spring:
Because the day before we hiked what we thought was the most strenuous hike ever, we wanted our muscles to be relieved. What better way than by immersing ourselves in a most natural hot tub, a hot spring. Because we only enjoyed the hot spring for 5 minutes because the storm hit the day before, we decided to return the next day.
Located just across Hotel Tabacon, we found the trail that leads to the free hot spring river that mostly locals come to enjoy. Meanwhile, vacationers are paying large amounts of money to stay at a luxurious hotel with hot springs inside their location. We don’t know about you, but a free hot springs sounds much more relaxing than a paid hot spring. Do we agree?!
Location: It is located cross Tabacon Resort. Park on the street, go past the yellow poles and follow the paved road that leads down to the river.
What to take: A bathing suit, clothes to change into, towel, water.
La Fortuna Waterfall:
Though we didn’t stop at La Fortuna Waterfall because, we decided to leave a few hours early that evening, we are recommending it because there is enough time to make a stop there on a second day.
Those who enjoy adventure can swim in the chilly waters of La Fortuna Waterfall. Visitors can arrive by foot or horseback through a pastured trail and rain forest. A walk through the trail includes the chances of spotting monkeys, toucans, and other wildlife. The hike down the stairs to the waterfall takes 15 minutes but to arrive by horse it can take up to an hour as it takes a different trail.
Location: Just outside the town of La Fortuna
Where to Stay in La Fortuna:
Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort
If you’re looking for a more luxurious stay in La Fortuna, Tabacon Grand Spa gives you that experience. It is surrounded by rainforest views and hot springs.
Staying in a cabina is a great way to save money in Costa Rica. Providing just the basics you need, a cabina offers a room with a bed, towels, a shower, and a tv. They are similar to a lodge or a motel. One option in La Fortuna is Cabina Las Palmas.
La Fortuna has many options for those traveling solo or on a budget. As we explored the town of La Fortuna we passed by some hostels conveniently located and nicely maintained. They seemed like great spots to meet new people as many of them had or were located near bars. Two we came across that have great ratings are Arenal Backpackers Resort and the Arenal Hostel Resort.
There you have it! Our two day adventure in La Fortuna. Though it’s possible to enjoy it immensely on just a 48 hour stay, we highly recommend staying here 3 or 4 days. There really are many things to do around the area and two days wasn’t enough for all the fun it offers!
If you’ve hiked La Fortuna, what were your thoughts on Cerro Chato? Do you agree it was seriously tough?