After battling the crowds in Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park, we were glad to be in the slightly less touristy (but still touristy) La Fortuna. The main attraction is the active volcano Arenal, which seemed funny to us because it was in the clouds the whole time we were there… maybe there’s not even a volcano! No but seriously, the area around La Fortuna and Arenal is beautiful and there is so much to do – hiking, ziplining, and visiting one of the many spas and hot springs. The bad thing is it’s not cheap! Here’s how we spent two days in La Fortuna without breaking the bank.
Two Volcanoes Tour
So apart from Arenal, there’s another volcano in the area called Cerro Chato that you can visit. We managed to book a day tour to hike around both volcanoes then visit the hot springs in the Tabacon river, for $50 each. Sounds expensive (and it is a lot of money if you’re on a budget) but looking back on it, we think we got good value for money. If you just want to visit Arenal for the 1968 hike, you’re likely to pay around $25 or more – $15 entry plus $5-10 each way by taxi. Lots of hostels offer a shuttle pass for $15 but we met a lot of people who said the shuttle service was unreliable.
Our tour included transport and a guide for the two hikes. The first hike we did was around Arenal Observatory Lodge, where we got a view of the Cerro Chato volcano (also in the clouds), walked to some waterfalls, and saw wildlife including toucans. We spent a couple of hours walking the trails before having a traditional casado (rice, beans, salad and chicken/fish) lunch, also included in our tour.
After lunch we headed to Arenal 1968 and spent an hour or so waking the lava flow trail. You guessed it, we walked on a lava flow! It was pretty cool to see the volcanic rock and we also got views of Lake Arenal as well as closer views of the Arenal volcano.
Once we finished the trail we were taken to the natural hot springs in the Tabacon river. These are actually free to visit so is easy enough to do on a budget, but again you’d need to pay $5-10 each way for a taxi to get there. Saying that, this is still a lot cheaper than visiting one of the big spas like Baldi or Ecotermales, where you’re paying upwards of $50 for a day pass with lunch.
And we actually loved the Tabacon river springs! There was nothing fancy about it, it was literally a shallow river with a few cascading bits, but it was in a beautiful bit of the rainforest and the water was lovely and warm. We could’ve stayed there for hours, it was so relaxing. Our tour guide basically had to drag us away from the river to go back to the hostel, I definitely dragged my heels.
All in all, a really good tour and good value for money considering how much things are in La Fortuna.
Ziplining with Arenal Mundo Aventura
After our ziplining experience on the Inca Jungle Trek, we were keen to have another go in Costa Rica.
There are a few zipline operators in La Fortuna but we decided to go with Arenal Mundo Aventura, mainly because they’re a bit cheaper than the others but also because reviews online were really positive. We paid $69 each which got us transport to and from the park as well as a go on all 12 ziplines.
Our slot was at 8am and luckily it wasn’t too cloudy so we got great views of the rainforest and Volcan Arenal!
And the ziplining was so much fun! The longest cable was nearly a kilometre long and on all the cables we went super fast. Our favourite cable was the one that went right over the La Fortuna waterfall. Such incredible views! Some of the cables even went though the rainforest canopy, it was really cool to be able to fly in between the trees. We definitely channelled our inner Tarzan!
After our 12 zips were done the team took us to a replica village of an indigenous tribe. This wasn’t too exciting – it was more like a tourist trap with souvenirs for sale, although the local crafts were really nice and reasonably priced.
La Fortuna Waterfall
Our best find of the morning at the zipline park was noticing that the start point was near a trail to the La Fortuna waterfall. We had been thinking about visiting the waterfall but with a $15 entry fee plus taxi fare, we thought it was a bit pricey for a waterfall. So when we asked the team at Arenal Mundo Aventura about the trail, they said that since we had done an activity with them, we could use their trail for free. Ziplining plus saving around $25 for the La Fortuna waterfall, all for $69 each? We were pretty chuffed with our bargain!
We bought some sandwiches from the on-site cafe to take as a packed lunch before hiking the 4km to the waterfall. The walk also took us through Arenal Mundo Aventura’s nature garden, which had a butterfly and frog greenhouse. So many butterflies! We only saw one sleeping frog, but it was a good find considering how camouflaged the little guy was!
After about an hour of hiking, with the last bit being lots of steps downhill, we made it to the waterfall… and straight away regretted not having our swim stuff with us. There was a nice pool downstream from the waterfall which was perfect for swimming. Never mind, at least we got ourselves a nice picnic spot!
Our hike back was a bit of a mad dash to make the 3pm shuttle back to our hostel (literally had to run back up the steps to the top of the hill), but luckily we made it in time. So it all worked out pretty well and we got to see the waterfall as an unexpected freebie after ziplining! We LOVE a bargain!
We had a great few days in La Fortuna. Have you ever visited? Or are you planning a trip to Costa Rica? Let us know by leaving a comment! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram to see our latest travel photos.