Solo Travel

Solo Travel Guide to La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica

Matt Wilson
May 29, 2024

La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica, are a paradise for solo travelers. I spent nearly seven years living in Costa Rica, and this region is one of my favorites. Within a 30-minute drive, you can experience some of the best wildlife, Arenal National Park, mountains, waterfalls, whitewater rafting, and the best zip-lining in Costa Rica. 

Here’s what this solo travel guide to La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica covers: 

  • Best time to visit La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica
  • Safety in La Fortuna and Arenal
  • 3-Day La Fortuna and Arenal Itinerary
  • Top Things to Do near La Fortuna and Lake Arenal, Costa Rica including:some text
    • La Fortuna 
    • Lake Arenal
    • The Arenal Volcano
    • Arenal National Park
    • La Fortuna Waterfall
  • Top Hot Springs near the Arenal Volcano
  • How to get to La Fortuna, Costa Rica 
  • How to get around the La Fortuna and Arenal Region of Costa Rica
  • Where to Stay in La Fortuna
  • What/Where to Eat and Drink in La Fortuna

If you are looking to explore other regions of Costa Rica, check out my Ultimate Solo Travel Guide to Costa Rica.

arenal volcano costa rica

Best time to visit La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica

The dry season (best weather) around Lake Arenal is between November 15 and April 15. Expect temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and dropping to the 60s at night. The sun is hot midday but can rain anytime, so be prepared.

November and April are considered “shoulder season,” when there are fewer crowds before Thanksgiving and after Easter, making it a quieter time to visit.  

April 15 - November 15 is considered the rainy or “green” season. Prices are cheaper, and there are fewer crowds. Expect a mix of clouds, rain, and occasional sun. July and August are naturally more expensive as more North Americans and Europeans travel to Costa Rica during this time.

Spoiler alert: it rains a lot in this region of Costa Rica, year around… remember, you are going to the rainforest! Here is why you should visit Costa Rica during the rainy season.

lake arenal costa rica
Taking photos in Arenal National Park, Costa Rica with Lake Arenal in the background. Of course, it's always a good idea to safeguard your valuables when you aren't in the middle of the jungle.

Safety in La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica: Overall, this region is pretty safe, especially compared to other parts of Central America. But don’t walk alone at night or leave your stuff unattended. Petty theft can be an issue anywhere in Costa Rica. Keep your valuables locked up in the hotel instead of leaving them in a rental car.

TLDR; 3-day Itinerary in La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica: 

  • Get up early to go to Arenal National Park and hike to see the volcano and Ceiba tree. Relax in the hot springs in the afternoon. 
  • The next day, visit Sky Adventures Sky Trek Zip-line to get your heart pumping. In the afternoon visit the La Fortuna waterfall and explore the town of La Fortuna once the sun gets low.
  • On your final day, check out the hanging bridges at Místico. If you are still feeling adventurous, go kayaking on Lake Arenal to round out a long weekend full of action and adrenaline.
sky trek zipline costa rica
Zip lining with Skytrek in La Fortuna is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

Continuing your stay in Costa Rica? Don’t miss my Solo Travel Guide to Quepos and Manuel Antonio.

Top Things to Do near La Fortuna and Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

  • Arenal National Park: This place offers incredible views of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano. Since it is in the rainforest, save this for a clear day so you can snap some great pictures. Don’t skip the Ceiba tree!
ceiba tree costa rica
Here is my wife getting wrapped up in a Costa Rican Ceiba tree!
  • Místico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park: Personally, I like this place better than Arenal National Park. The hanging bridges are fun to walk across, and it’s a rare opportunity to see spider monkeys. 
  • La Fortuna Waterfall: While 20 USD may be a little steep to visit a waterfall, La Fortuna is still considered a must-visit and totally worth it. Go early in the day to take uncrowded photos and swim after your short hike and descent of over 530 steps.
  • El Observatorio: For only 18 USD, El Observatorio offers much more than La Fortuna Waterfall. It has 11km of self-guided trails, the Danta Waterfall, the “Nest” Observatory tower, and the Arenal Crossfit Challenge fitness trail. Some of our groups have even seen tigrillos or ocelots here!
costa rican ocelot
Here is an ocelot from Costa Rica. I like the Spanish name better. It's "tigrillo".
  • Skytrek Zip-lining and Canopy Tour:  Unlike most zip-lines that go from tree to tree,  Skytrek makes you feel like you are zip-lining from one mountain to another. This canopy tour has the infrastructure of a ski resort and first-class safety guidelines. Trust me, as a tour operator, I’ve read their 64-page safety manual! 
  • Kayak or SUP on Lake Arenal: Kayaking and standup paddleboarding on Lake Arenal are amazing experiences that I’ve enjoyed plenty of times! Plenty of tour companies in La Fortuna will take you for sunset.
  • Chocolate Tour: Finca Educativa Don Juan is the place to stop by for a farm tour, an organic lunch, and to learn to make chocolate! All our Under30Experiences groups stop here.
  • Whitewater Rafting: Rios Adventure Travel (formerly known as Rios Tropicales) is a legendary rafting company in Costa Rica. The Pacuare River can run anywhere between level III and V. There are unique eco-lodges on the river where we stayed during our Costa Rica Adventure trip. 
white water rafting la fortuna costa rica
Here I am up front getting a mouthful, whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River.
  • El Salto: This is a fun local spot outside La Fortuna. El Salto is a small waterfall with a rope swing that is fantastic for watching locals. Costa Ricans, or Ticos as they refer to themselves, are adventurous people, so you’ll love the local vibe. 
  • Hot Springs: There are several amazing hot springs naturally warmed by the natural geothermal energy of the Arenal Volcano. Read on for my top picks! 

Best Hot Springs in La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica

  • Overall Best Hot Springs: Ecotermales.For a relaxing day in the La Fortuna area, I’d recommend Ecotermales. It’s a great place to lounge and soak in the thermal pools and I’ve never seen it too crowded.
  • Best Value Hot Springs: Termalitas. For a relaxing half day, spend your time lounging in the naturally warmed pools. It’s only about 10 USD-12 USD to enter. You’ll see many local families coming to enjoy, so it can get busy.
  • Best Luxury Hot Spring: Tabacón. To be honest, I’ve never splurged on Tabacón, but everyone I’ve recommended it to has loved it. Day passes start at 89 USD, and complete spa services are available.
  • Best Local Hot Springs: El Choyin is the best free hot springs option near the Arenal Volcano. It’s literally a river where you can sit in the warm water and chill. I’d only recommend this for people who are good on their feet, as the slippery rocks can be treacherous!

Enjoying my tips about La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica? Check out my book, The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, & Make Travel a Priority in Your Life.

Where to Stay in La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica 

  • Best Hostel in La Fortuna: Selina. If you want to interact with other travelers, this is your place. They have nightlife by the pool, a wellness program with yoga classes, and a co-working space if you need to get work done. Dorms and bungalows are also available.
  • Best 3-star Hotel in La Fortuna: Volcano Lodge & Springs: I stayed here with some friends for a weekend and had a blast. They were looking for the resort experience with a geothermal pool overlooking the volcano, and this delivered! 
  • Most Unique Stay in La Fortuna: Rancho Margot, or Rancho” is definitely one of my favorite places in the world. It’s world-renowned for sustainability and is where we stayed on our Under30Experiences Costa Rica trip.
rancho margot la fortuna costa rica
Rancho Margot is one of the lushest places on earth!
  • Honorable Mention: Finca Luna Nueva. Like Rancho Margot, you’ll stay a bit outside La Fortuna. This is another incredible eco-lodge known for its regenerative farming practices.

How to get to La Fortuna, Costa Rica 

The closest international airport to La Fortuna is Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in Alajuela, Costa Rica, just outside of San José. If you need trusted private transportation to La Fortuna, I recommend my friends Wilson and Elsy at the locally-owned Coati Tours. Expect to pay around 180 USD for an SUV or minibus. You can also choose to fly into Liberia, Costa Rica.

During the dry season, taking a domestic flight with Sansa Airlines or Green Airways on a Cessna aircraft can be a fun experience if you like small planes. Flying from SJO to the landing strip in La Fortuna takes about 30 minutes, and fares can cost around 120 USD.

If you wish to rent a car, there are many options near the international airports. Keep in mind that the roads are windy and not well-marked, especially when driving to La Fortuna. Thus, I suggest having an overseas wireless internet plan. Waze is the app that Costa Ricans use. Looking to extend your trip through Central America? Check out my Guide to Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean! 

How to get around the La Fortuna and Arenal Region of Costa Rica

  • Rental Car: This is the most efficient way to get around this region of Costa Rica. Various rental car options are available near international airports. While four-wheel drive is not necessary, it can come in handy given the challenging terrain. Please note that roads in Costa Rica are windy and dangerous, so driving is not for everyone.
  • Taxi: Although Uber doesn’t work well here, it’s easy to track down a licensed red cab in the center of La Fortuna. You could fly to La Fortuna quickly and then use taxis to make day trips from town, but having a car will make your stay more convenient. 

What/Where to Eat and Drink in La Fortuna

  • Best Local Eats in La Fortuna: Soda La Hormiga. A hidden gem in town, where you can have a quick “casado” at local pricing! 
  • Best Food in La Fortuna: Restaurante Nene’s. This restaurant serves excellent local food, with an emphasis on meat, and has been a favorite among locals and tourists for 30 years.
  • The Best Healthy food in La Fortuna is Organico Fortuna. This Costa Rican-owned organic market, restaurant, and coffee shop has an amazing atmosphere! 
  • Best Nightlife in La Fortuna: Some classics include Lava Lounge and The Volcano Look Disco Club. Here are some good Fortuna nightlife recommendations.

Interested in group trips that include La Fortuna, Costa Rica? Check out our 9-day Costa Rica itinerary!

Matt Wilson
Matt Wilson is Co-founder of Under30Experiences and Author of The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, & Make Travel a Priority in Your Life. He is host of the Live Different Podcast, Millennial Travel Podcast, and formerly Co-founder of He is committed to helping people live more adventurous lives.


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