La Fortuna

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Arenal volcano

La Fortuna de San Carlos is a small town in the north of Costa Rica. It is mostly famous for its nearby Arenal Volcano (1,633 m). The Arenal Volcano is a destination for scientists and tourists alike. La Fortuna was originally called "El Borio" before the day of a huge eruption in 1968, when the volcano erupted to the east and destroyed all in its path, including two villages. El Borio (La Fortuna) is located on the west side of the volcano and was untouched. After the eruption of the volcano, El Borio was renamed "La Fortuna", which means "the fortunate", referring to the towns luckiness during the eruption.

Arenal volcano in 2007. As of 2013, the volcano has been inactive for three years and there's no lava flow to see.

Get in[edit]

  • By car it is a 3-1/2 hour drive from San Jose, but the junctions are not very well marked, so bring a good map.
  • By private Shuttle: the cost of a private transportation with a Costa Rican driver is not much if you compare it with the benefit of a direct safe drive to the destination. Available from San Jose to Arenal and other destinations.
  • By plane: Domestic flights are available with NatureAir or Sansa Airlines. Costs around $90 for flights to/from San Jose (SJO) OR Quepos (Manuel Antonio National Park). Airport charges $7/person departure tax.

See[edit]

  • Arenal Volcano The photos at right are views from the village of El Castillo, on the southwest side of the Volcano, about 25 km west of La Fortuna and about 4km up the road from the Arenal National Park entrance. Additionally, there are great views of Lake Arenal and the Monteverde Cloud Forest from road up above El Castillo. In October 2010, the volcano ceased its activity and the famous flowing lava has been gone since. Seeing some smoke during the day is possible, however, do not expect to see lava/eruptions in the night, regardless of clouds. This could obviously change at any time. Tours to the National Park usually start out in the early afternoon and include walking for about an hour through lava rocks before reaching El Mirador, the best place to view the eruption of the volcano. There are also possibilities of skipping the lava rock walking and go straight to El Mirador. Most tours state that they will stay for a hour/hour and half at this place, but if there is nothing to be seen probably a lot less. Also be aware that it might be chilly, so bring a jacket. The tours come in a variety of options: with buffet dinner and entrance to the Tabacon hot spa $64, with entrance to Baldi hot spa $30, just the tour $25. There is also a possibility of a no frills tour by mini-bus to El Mirador and back to Fortuna for $10.

NOTE:

  • Fortuna waterfall by horse $25. Stone steps lead to the bottom. Take a swimsuit for the pool in the lovely stream below. The entrance is accessible by road, so a cab works fine too. The entrance to the waterfall is about $10 and the ticket booth closes at 5pm. However, once you pay to go in, you are free to stay as long as you'd like. It's about a 10 minute hike down to the waterfall and 20 minutes back up.
  • Lake Arenal is just west of the Arenal Volcano and can be seen as you drive over the dam on the main highway to Tilaran. Much better views of the lake and volcano can be seen from the hills above the village of El Castillo, which is located 9 km from the main highway on the Arenal National Park road. Activities on lake include boat tours, fishing, kayaking, and wind surfing.

Do[edit]

  •    Arenal Butterfly ConservatoryEl Castillo Village - Arenal Volcano (20 km west of La Fortuna, turn left at the Arenal Volcano National Park Road and follow the signs. The Butterfly Conservatory is 9 km from main highway.),  (506) 2479-1149. 8:30AM-4:30PM. A visit to the Butterfly Conservatory offers a practical educational experience about nature with diversified exhibits of how butterflies, frogs, insects, and plants are reproduced in this natural environment. There are six large atrium habitats that provide representation of the plants, trees, butterflies, and frogs that live within the four micro-climates surrounding Lake Arenal; the lowland habitat, highland habitat, edge of forest habitat, and inside of forest habitat. You will also see laboratories, reproduction greenhouses, the exotic frog habit, host plant gardens and orchid atrium. If you want more adventure, then take the Rainforest River Walk along Quebrada Mariposa, the creek running through the primary forest on the property, where it’s often possible to spot animals such as sloth’s, tayra’s and monkeys; or toucans and parrots. Or, just take time to reflect at the Volcano View Gazebo, overlooking the botanical gardens, with views to the Arenal lake and volcano beyond. $12.
  • Cano Negro Wild Life Refuge. Rio Frío are biological humid areas considered to be one of the richest in biological diversity in Costa Rica. Here you can find a great variety of resident and migratory birds plus three different species of monkeys, also iguanas, sloths, turtles and caymans. Along the river you can see many birds, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, white-faced monkeys, also the three-toed sloth and some reptiles like caimans, Jesus Christ lizard and turtles.
  • Canyoneering (Waterfall-Rappelling). In the Lost Canyon.
  • Horseback ride to Monteverde. Travel the old fashioned way by horse $75. This is a gorgeous 2-1/2 hour horseback ride along the beautiful Lake Arenal on wonderful, healthy horses.
  • Rio Celeste. Two hours away from La Fortuna in Guanacaste province is the turquoise blue Rio Celeste. The turquoise colour is the result of mineral deposits in one stream mixing with the sulphurous water in another. There are tour companies in La Fortuna which organise day trips to Rio Celeste - this involves a two-hour drive followed by a 1-hour hike through a rain-forest to the picturesque waterfall. There are plenty of birds and insects to see, including toucans. Do carry a rain-jacket with you! $75.
  • Rain Goddess fishing boat. For entertainment the boat navigates around the Arenal lake, so that you can appreciate the unparalleled views. They have kayaks and other water activities you can do at the lake. Of course the main attraction is the fishing. The lake has many species of fish but the "Guapote" Bass is most prevalent; this fish is a close relative of the peacock bass and is just as strong. Other fish like the Mojara are also prevalent, think 'kin to the piranha but fruit eaters'. Using the fish you catch, Clifford, the amiable chef will cook them for you. Enjoy the fruits of your day's fun along with his many special recipes!
  • River cruises. On the Peña Blancas river costs around $45.
  • White water rafting. On the Mighty Río Toro (Class 3-4), with over 45 exciting and continuous rapids that move through 16 kilometers of deep-canyon gorges passing waterfalls in a tropical canyon. Another option is the Beautiful Río Balsa (Class 2-3).
  • FlyZone Wakeboard Center on Lake ArenalLake Arenal (Puerto San Luis),  (00506) 8339-5876. Lake Arenal is starting to develop into the wakeboard center of Costa Rica. Here you can learn how to wakeboard while the monkeys are watching you from the shore; an unforgettable experience. 4 People can wakeboard per hour (costing $95) making it an affordable adventure. Always calm water to be found, and year round good air- and water temperatures. $95.
  • Arenal Mundo Aventura (2km S of downtown Fortuna.),  +506 2479-9762. This guide company leads amazing zipline tours as well as horseback riding excursions. Price varies by activity.

Hot springs[edit]

  • Baldi hot springs 16 hot springs of various temperatures. Like Tabacon Hot Springs, this too is often included in volcano viewing packages. At night, admission costs $30 per person and includes a buffet dinner. Open until 10pm.
  • Ecothermales Hot SpringsOn main road between La Fortuna & Arenal Lake (across from Baldi hot springs). More relaxing and a bit more discrete than either Baldi & Tabacon. Reservations definitely recommended as they limit to 100 guests. Good dinner and drinks. Friendly service and feels like you're a guest of the family rather than a customer.
  • Tabacon Hot Springs Entrance fee $65. The fee includes modern changing rooms with locks, towels, and access to the multi-level hot spring with a slide, artificial waterfalls, view of the volcano, and bars for drinks without leaving the water. For a higher price, there is a magnificent buffet. Many hotels will arrange packages including a guided hike to the volcano followed by a trip to the hot springs for a much lower price.
  • Tabaconcito Hot Springs Free Entrance - Across the road from Tabacon Springs used to be Tabaconcito Hot Springs. It was administered by the Tabacon Hotel, but after losing a lawsuit they had to leave the complex and is now free to enter. There are no facilities except for some ranches and tables. This is a great place to enjoy a natural river, with even some waterfalls and places to relax within it. Since no one controls the site, you can take inside any food or drinks. Beware that after sunset there is no electricity in that place, so if you are planning on staying late at night bring with you a good flash light.

Hikes[edit]

  • Arenal Volcano Night Hike. Around a two hours hike through secondary rainforest which contains lots of habitat of monkeys, spiders, congos, some cariblancos and not leaving behind the tucans, turkeys, and the big quantity of different flora that's in the outskirts of the volcano. There are some emerald green hot springs, colored from copper deposits.
  • Cerro Chato Hike (La Fortuna Costa Rica). This hike takes you through very dense primary forest toward the Cerro Chato. There is a crater lake where you can swim, take pictures and explore the surroundings. After that you continue the descent through the rainforest with occasional views over the San Carlos Valley as well as the Arenal Volcano. The trek ends at La Fortuna Waterfalls, where you can take a swim

Buy[edit]

Standard souvenirs, photos of the erupting volcano, machetes at the hardware store, Costa Rican coffee.

Eat[edit]

  • Que Rico Arenal 2479-1020. Is located next 6.4 kilometers toward the lake from the Catholic Church of La Fortuna. Italian and International menu. Great location for viewing the volcano with an excellent meal!
  • La Choza de Laurel is located next to Burger King. Fantastic menu selection. Tasty food, cheerful service, open to the breeze. Low prices! (10000 colones for two).
  • Kioro is located at El Mirador and is the restaurant closest to the Arenal volcano. You can sit in the restaurant and watch the erupting volcano or the red lava glow from the top. Specializes in meat. A steak will set you back 4500-5000 Colones. Tel 461-1700.
  • Los Nenes, not a very attractive setting one block from the main street and two blocks from the park (when entering from east), but reasonably priced food (but not as good or big portions as Rocas de Lava). 2000-3200 for a dinner. The nachos with everything (1200 C) is really good.
  • Rocas de Lava (Lava Rocks Café), e-mail: . On the main street, just after the park. Tel 479-8039, Good food, generous portions. Try the Casado de pollo (2950 Colones).
  • Lava Lounge is on main street just getting into town before the park. Good food, a break from typical Tico food.


Travelers looking for more local and inexpensive food can go to any of the numerous 'Soda' restaurants. A large plate of rice, beans, salad, meat, and a drink costs about 2500 colones.

Sleep[edit]

Budget[edit]

  • Arenal Rabfer. One block north of NE corner of Plaza Central. Family-run, decent, very modern, tiny but comfortable double room with balcony & bath & breakfast US$50 (low season, November 2009), friendly hosts, good view of volcano from landing, occasional iguanas.

Mid-range[edit]

  • Arenal Manoa Hotel & Hotel Resort (Arenal Hotel), La Fortuna (Located just out of La Fortuna),  2479-11-11. Volcano views from all rooms. The hotel includes, a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and a nice restaurant. Also, free farm tour. Spa service. Rates start from $135 a night..
  • Lomas del Volcan (Lomas del Volcan), La Fortuna (Frotuna),  2479-90-00. Volcano views from all rooms. Rates start from $95 a night..
  • Arenal Paraiso (about 6km from the tow),  +506 460-5333, e-mail: . Each room has a small patio and offers a view of the volcano as well as double bed, tv, fridge, coffee pot, hot water. There are also 14 hot springs pools on the hotel property The hotel also has a famous canopy tour on the property which costs $45 and lasts about 3 hours. Rooms range from standard to suite ranging from $60 to $300 (not including tax)..
  • Arenal Springs Resort Modern hotel with volcano views from $87.
  • Arenal Volcano Inn (About 6.5 kilometers from the church),  +506 2479-1122. 15 rooms. The deluxe rooms feature two queen size beds, mini fridge, a/c, private bathroom with hot water, coffee maker and safety deposit box. Every room has its own private terrace with direct view to the volcano. The hotel has swimming pool,a small spa for body treatments and a very good Italian/international restaurant.
  • Finca Luna Nueva Lodge (30 min South of Fortuna in San Isidro de Peñas Blancas),  +506 468-0352, e-mail: . Organic/biodynamic certified ginger and turmeric farm with rustic lodgings on the edge of the rainforest. Steven, the farm manager is a walking encyclopedia of medicinal plants, sustainable farming and rainforest ecology. They have a variety of lodging options from individual cabins to air-conditioned master suites. All have overwhelmingly comfortable beds and nice views. The food is all organically grown on the site (including the meat) and is alone worth the trip. They have a natural pool and solar jacuzzi, wireless internet, rainforest hikes, options for day-tours both on and nearby the farm.
  • Hotel La Fortuna (506) 2479-9197. A brand-new five-story hotel in downtown. Good views from the upper rooms. Several rooms and most of the hotel are wheelchair accessible. On site restaurant, sports bar and offers "No Limits Tours" for senior and physically challenged and disabled tourists.
  • Jardines de Arenal (2 km east of town. The friendly owner will usually give you a lift from/to town, taxi costs around 650 Colones),  479-9728, e-mail: . 15 rooms, all with AC and fan, 1 double and 2 single beds. A typical breakfast with gallo pinto, egg, ham, cereals, fruit, bread, coffee and juice is included. The owner Hernán Blanco can help you order tours to the surrounding attractions, and if you're lucky, he might give you a free ride to the volcano (and back). He can also get you shuttle service to or from San José for $15 (one way) leaving Fortuna at 6AM and returning at noon. Friendly and helpful staff. $27.50 per person with volcano-view and slightly bigger bathroom, $23 pp for the others..
  • La Mansion Arenal La Mansion Arenal overlooks the vast Lake Arenal and is located just minutes from the volcano and hot springs. The hotel includes an infinity pool, wireless internet and free canoes for your enjoyment. Rates start at $180 a night.
  • La Roca Virgen (Three blocks north of the square). La Roca Virgen is a surprisingly cheap yet clean and comfortable place to stay. Off the beaten path but only a couple minutes walk to the center of town. 6? rooms with private baths for $9pp, rooms with shared bath cheaper. Off season discounts. Wireless internet. TV, fan, and refrigerator in rooms. Tours arranged. Property patrolled/inhabited by friendly dogs. $9.
  • Volcano Lodge (On the side of the road that connects La Fortuna de San Carlos with the Arenal Lake, Near the Tabacon Hot Springs). The lodge has 65 rooms with two double beds, a/c and private bathroom with hot water. One of the better views of the lava flow of the Arenal Volcano, also features an open air jacuzzi with a magnificent view of the volcano and swimming pools.
  • Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge & Wildlife RefugeLa Fortuna, Arenal Volcano. (2kms west and 800mts south of town),  (506) 2479 9526. Check-in: 2:00pm, check-out: 12:00md. Located at the base of Arenal Volcano and managed by a local family. Rooms are rustic fancy cabins in the woods. The lodge has its own wildlife refuge where you can walk in flat trails inside the rain forest, visit a butterfly garden, frog ponds and terrariums with local reptiles, insects and poison dart frogs. $75 double.
  • Magic Mountain (Hotel Magic Mountain), La Fortuna (La Fortuna),  506 2479-7246. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. A Colonial Modern Hotel, facing the Arenal Volcano. Scenic location provides visitors with a stunning view of the volcano. $99 double.
  • Arenal Country Inn. In the foothills of the Arenal volcano, it has 20 rooms with view of the volcano. The rooms have air conditioning, safety deposit boxes, hot water, flat screen cable TV, phone and private terraces. The hotel has swimming pool, beautiful gardens, restaurant service and conference room. Tropical breakfast included in the room rate. $100-114.

Splurge[edit]

  • Tabacon Grand Spa. Entrance to the hot springs and spa is included in room rate, one of the top spas in Costa Rica. Room rates start at $235 + tax per night in garden or forest rooms. Breakfast is not included..
  • The Springs Resort & Spa One of the newest resorts in Costa Rica and one that boasts incredible views of Arenal Volcano. The hotel premises includes hot springs, three restaurants, a wildlife preserve, a fitness center and a casino. Easily one of Costa Rica's most extravagant hotels.

Connect[edit]

There are two internet cafes in the main street, by the park. At Destinytours (tel 479-9850) 50 meters north of Banco National you can download pictures from your digital camera and burn to cd.

Go next[edit]

From Fortuna you can go to Monteverde with a combination of jeep and boat or horse. Or you could take the bus to Tilarán, and from there to Santa Elena, Monteverde, or down to the Interamericana that takes you north to Guanacaste or south in the direction of Puntarenas. You can get to Los Chiles and San Jose via Ciudad Quesada. And of course there's the direct bus back to San José, at an approximate cost of $6.50.

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