tourists visiting Costa Rica, Arenal area is one of the best destinations and
probably a “must stop” in your trip planning.
probably has all what Costa Rica has to offer, except beaches 😊
Hear you can
enjoy the jungle as well as Arenal Volcano views, hikes, animal viewing, waterfalls,
hanging bridges, zipline, ATV, hours ride, rafting, hot springs and a lot more.
When people are
saying that they visit “Arenal Volcano” they are probably referring to the town
of La Fortuna.
La Fortuna is a
small town east of Arenal Volcano Mountain, it is active volcano that is
protected by the National Park service.
Need to understand
that many attractions or tourist activities are not within the national park
but rather in the area surrounding the mountain and the town.
La Fortuna is the
main town in the area, here and nearby you can find all hotels, restaurants, activities,
and many tourist services. This is the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park
and all what this area has to offer.
La Fortuna is a
touristic area and with that come the crowd and also higher price so take this
into your consideration.
I do recommend
to plan staying here for 2, 3 days max, usually you need to plan for at least
half a day driving to/from La Fortuna to your next destination.
Other Costa Rica Blogs I wrote:
- Costa Rica – How to Plan your Visit and Tips
- Costa Rica – Poas Volcano
- Costa Rica – La Paz Waterfall
- Costa Rica – Starbucks Coffee Farm
- Costa Rica – The Crocodile Bridge
- Costa Rica – Sunset near the town of Jaco
- Costa Rica – Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio National Park
- Costa Rica – Manuel Antonio Biesanz Beach
- Costa Rica – Manuel Antonio Hotel
- Costa Rica – La Fortuna Arenal Mistico Hanging Bridges Park
- Costa Rica – Arenal Volcano View and Lava Trails (1968 Trail)
- Costa Rica – La Fortuna Waterfall
- Costa Rica – Hotel at Nicoya Peninsula Pacific coastline
- Costa Rica – Tamarindo Beach and River Boat Ride
La Fortuna is
located 130 km northeast from the capital San Jose in the central mountain
range of Costa Rica.
It will take
you 3-4 hours’ drive.
Do not expect
highway, as almost everywhere in Costa Rica the road may be narrow and winding,
passing through many villages and small town and from our experience, no matter
what Waze will time it, the actual drive is always longer.
[see my ‘rent a
car and driving’ section in my main Costa Rica Blog]
April is the dry season at Costa Rica and I recommend visiting the state when
there is less chance for rain.
It’s also the
most popular time to visit, so expect more tourists and crowds. Book things you
know like hotel, park entries, rental car as far ahead as you can.
to Costa Rica you should always be prepared for some showers no matter what
time of year you are visiting.
La Fortuna is
prime destination for tourist in Costa Rica, you should expect many other
tourists. Book your hotel well in advance and I do recommend booking your
activities when you know for sure your dates in the area.
or attractions can be overcrowded, other might feel less crowded.
This is mainly
depending on the time of the year and if you are visiting less “popular”
We as many
other came to visit Costa Rica at the dry season and during US vacation time so
we can’t escape the crowd (we were part of it 😊).
The town of La Fortuna:
We really liked
the town of La Fortuna.
Although it a
central tourist destination it still look & feel with a lot of local vibes.
The town has
many restaurants and other tourist services like rental car brunches, activity
tours booking agencies, bus and taxi, gas stations, and any other store you
scattered all over town area and in all price levels, small guesthouses,
hotels, AB&B,…. The more fancy (and pricey) hotels, resorts and spas and
the famous hot spring’s locations can be found not so far outside the town,
mainly north on the road 142.
At an elevation
of 1,670m and with the classical volcano cone shape, Arenal is one of Costa
Rica’s many volcanoes.
Arenal volcano erupted
in 1968 after hundreds of years that it was dormant.
In that massive
side eruption that lasted for several days it cover the surrounding countryside
with lava and ash, 73 people lost their lives in this tragic event.
Since 1968 the
volcano has been considered active with its last eruption in 2010.
national park surrounding Arenal Volcano, here you can find several hiking
trails options at the base of the mountain; it is illegal to climb the mountain.
several hikes to choose from around the Arenal volcano area, we decide to hike
the Arenal 1968 trail.
My blog on this
options that I’m aware of are within the national park, near the lake or near Arenal
I think that
all the trails in the parks in this area are +/- the same.
To the best of
my understanding, you need to pay entry/parking for all the above hikes.
There are many
hot springs in Arenal but except one place* all are private properties, so you
need to pay for entrance.
levels of the resorts and in general, the more they cost the better they are,
some can get expensive.
For most hot
springs you can have a day use entrance, but you can also book your hotel room
in one of them and with that you get free hot-spring access.
We stayed at the Baldi Hot Springs there are many of thermal pools, restaurants, or bars. We chouse this as our hotel because we wanted to travel during the day and enjoy the hot water pools at the afternoon/night + it has slides section and we were with kids.
Overall, we like
staying in this hotel although the place can be packed (overcrowded) with hotel
guests and many more day visitors.
Springs is the most luxurious hot spring in Arenal, it is also very expensive
and if I remember correctly adult only.
There are many
other hot-springs resorts in this area.
There is one free
hot spring water that you can access (need to tip the parking attendant).
The location is
just right at the entrance of Tabacon Hot Springs on road 143 north of La
Fortuna, you park at the roadside and walk down and under the road bridge. Here
the hot water of Tabacon resort flowing in the stream and you can enjoy the
small hot water pools.
is always crowded with tourist as well as locals.
activities has their coast, and your overall additional expenses are depending
on what exactly you want to do.
If you want to
visit as many places as possible or do many activities the total expenses for a
family can, be higher than your initial expectations.
You can check
everything in advance on-line and you can plan visit accordingly.
We came to La
Fortuna after staying for few days in Manuel Antonio, there we saw many animals
This is the
reason we did not take any special tour in La Fortuna for wildlife viewing or
visit any animals shelter or sloths walk parks…
In most cases the best chance to spot wildlife is early in the morning.