La Fortuna, a once sleepy village now tourism-mecca, sits outside of Arenal Volcano National Park and acts as the gateway to endless adventures. Whether you are into volcanic trails, pristine rainforests, hanging bridges, horse riding, river rafting or natural hot springs – this region of Costa Rica seemingly has it all. In this travel blog, we take a look at the best adventure tours in La Fortuna and why you should book at least one of them.
The first thing to know about La Fortuna is that the Arenal Volcano is active. Before the late 1960s, this volcano was pretty much perfectly cone-shaped and covered in rainforest but that all changed in 1968 when several massive eruptions occurred – burying the proximate area in lava, ash and rocks. The next 40 years or so led to consistent eruptions (although on a much smaller scale) – with the last major eruptions happening in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Since 2010, seismologists have determined that Arenal is resting but still technically active. Apart from a bit of vapor and gas that seeped out in 2012, activity at the volcano has been quiet. While it’s not yet legal to climb Arenal, travelers can opt to climb Cerro Chato which is an extinct volcano next to Arenal. Also, the lower slopes of Arenal and the lush rainforest that expands beneath it provide hikers with incredible alternatives.
Although Arenal isn’t putting on a show above the surface anymore, below the surface the volcano’s fiery blaze continues to heat up an abundance of hot springs that flow throughout La Fortuna. Many of these springs are located inside the gates of luxury resorts, like the Insta-famous Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa. Staying at one of these resorts means you can finish your hikes and adventures everyday with a relaxing soak in a hot spring.
The attractions don’t stop at hikes and hot springs. The landscapes here can be experienced on horseback which is one of the most popular ways to go, on an ATV ride to get the adrenaline pumping or a canopy zipline. For a more relaxing activity, travelers might find the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges to be blissful. As you can see, the options are endless. Let us now discuss the best adventure tours that you can book in La Fortuna.
10 Best Adventure Tours in La Fortuna
1. Arenal Volcano Hike
With Adventure Tours Costa Rica, the best tour agency in the country, you can enjoy a three hour hike around Arenal. This is a fantastic option for casual hikers who are looking for something fun but not too strenuous. There are two options – a morning or afternoon trip. The morning tour follows the nature trails of Arenal Volcano National Park, while the afternoon tour takes you to the historic lava fields of the Arenal 1968 Trail.
The landscapes on the nature trails are a mix of hardened lava-flows and rainforest. Most of these paths are flat and navigate around the foothills and lower slopes of the volcano, and to the shores of Lake Arenal. Along the way, hikers can spot everything from tree frogs to howler monkeys to tropical toucans, as well as a plethora of exotic plants. The highlight of the Arenal 1968 Trail, on the other hand, is the undeniably beautiful lava fields.
2. Arenal Volcano Hanging Bridges
Another tranquil three hour experience but this time it’s more of a walk than a hike, and you will visit the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges. You simply can’t come to La Fortuna without checking out the breathtaking views of the rainforest from the bridges. It’s an activity that the whole family can enjoy because it doesn’t demand much physical effort. The trails here only cover around two miles and are designed for every fitness level.
By exploring the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges with Adventure Tours Costa Rica, you will have a naturalist guide (who is bi-lingual and can speak English) accompany you for the walk and they can show you the best spots to see exotic vegetation, unique flowers and tropical birds – not to mention the top viewpoints to soak up the rainforests serene atmosphere. Make sure you bring your camera as the photo-ops are amazing.
3. Arenal Venado Cave Spelunking
For something entirely unexpected, the Arenal Venado Cave Spelunking trip offers travelers a thrilling cave excursion where an underground waterfall, subterranean waterways and unique rock formations amaze at every turn. The Venado Caves date back 15-20 million years and the sense of geological history is palpable. Be led by a professional guide who will help you squeeze into tight corners and take you to stunning photo spots.
All the gear will be provided by Adventure Tours Costa Rica – like boots, a hardhat and flashlight – so you can enjoy this adventure in a safe way. Marvel at the variety of stalagmites and stalactites, plow through streams and keep quiet to ensure you don’t wake up the sleeping bats. Highlights include seeing a subterranean waterfall that flows from the cave ceiling and a natural stairway composed of chalky-white calcium carbonate.
4. Arenal Canopy, Tram & Walk
If you are short on time, why not book this exciting tour which combines a rainforest hike, ziplining rides and a gondola trip. This four and a half hour experience ticks many boxes and gives you a broad overview of La Fortuna. The hiking portion takes you along two and a half miles of rainforest trails. There are many opportunities to see different mammals, birds, reptiles and insects but the animal that takes the cake has to be the sloth.
The hike also features a photography session, a waterfall and Tarzan swing, and the famous hanging bridges. Another highlight of this tour is the open-air gondola ride, taking you to an elevation of 2,500 feet. From this height at the observation deck, the views on offer are otherworldly. Last but certainly not least of the activities on this tour is the ziplining adventure. Fly like a bird from platform to platform, and look out over Arenal and its lake.
5. La Fortuna ATV Tour
Prepare to get muddy on this tour as you ride across rainforest trails at the foot of Arenal. By this we mean, dress in clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and be open to having mud on your face. It’s all part of the fun and the more you embrace it, the better. If you haven’t ridden a 4×4 before, don’t worry – the instructor will lead practice runs at the camp. Regardless of your concerns, the guide will stay close by throughout the journey.
The terrain is characterized by muddy trails, bumpy paths and rocky hills. The best part is hooning over shallow rivers and streams that spray you, and even jumping into the water to cool down at a scenic river along the way. As invigorating as the ride is, there will also be moments where you can catch your breath and just enjoy the views. Bring your camera for remarkable landscape portraits of the Arenal Volcano and its surrounds.
6. La Fortuna Waterfall Horseback
The La Fortuna Waterfall Horseback tour is our top recommendation because it doesn’t get any more romantic than riding through the most gorgeous landscapes on the planet, does it? Ride through winding trails en-route to the La Fortuna Waterfall – the most popular falls in the area – and admire views of the Arenal Volcano along the way. Even if you haven’t ridden before, you can still join as the guide teaches you how to ride.
A unique aspect about this tour is having the chance to meet an indigenous tribe of the Maleku people. This group is one of the oldest tribes in Costa Rica and meeting them is a privilege. They share intriguing details about their culture and you can check out their small thatched huts which are replicas of what the Maleku lived in centuries ago. Make sure you buy something from the gift shop. Money goes directly to the tribe’s people.
7. La Fortuna Rafting & Rappelling
Getting out of your comfort zone is a big part of travel and there is no better way to achieve this in Costa Rica than on the La Fortuna Rafting & Rappelling Tour. It includes waterfall rappelling and river rafting – two challenging activities that help you realize what you are made of, both mentally and physically. The adventure kicks off with learning important safety precautions before you try your hand at a 10 foot drop off a waterfall.
Once you have warmed up, the next rappelling experience is a 150 foot waterfall where you will slowly head down. The views literally take your breath away. And it doesn’t stop there. The grand finale is a 200 foot drop that combines rappelling and free falling. As the afternoon rolls round, it will be time to swap your rappelling harness for some paddles as you jump onto a rafting boat and tame the rapids. These are all Class II and III rapids.
8. La Fortuna Sarapiqui Rafting Tour
For almost 14 miles, this rafting trip takes you over 40 Class III and IV rapids in the wild yet majestic Sarapiqui River. That might sound scary but in reality this is something the whole family is able to enjoy. The tour begins in calm waters and steadily gets more intense. Some of the rapids have garnered names like “The Terminator”, however there is no need to panic as your guide is a professional and safety is of the utmost priority.
After traversing each rapid, you will feel truly alive and ready for more. When your adrenaline is depleted, there are a couple of peaceful spots to enjoy with lovely vegetation and (if you are lucky) some creatures will come out to say hi. Everything from toucans to monkeys can be seen. To cap it off, a small waterfall presents itself and the raft glides under its waters for a refreshing spray. Believe it or not, this is only the halfway mark.
9. La Fortuna Combo Tour
In many ways, the La Fortuna Combo Tour is the ultimate day trip. It spans for eight hours and has three different components: Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall and Arenal Volcano National Park. These are three of the biggest highlights of La Fortuna and if you only have one full day to spend in the area, then you can’t go wrong with this option. Nothing is too hard on the tour – so anyone over the age of 5 can go.
The trip commences with hotel pick-up before driving into the countryside. First item on the agenda are the hanging bridges. Families with young kids in particular will enjoy spotting frogs and sloths hanging out in the trees. Next is La Fortuna Waterfall – a 250 foot cascade that flows amidst a tropical background – and then a bite to eat at a local restaurant. The final activity is hiking in the national park with its dense greenery and lava rocks.
10. Canopy + River Drift Combo
Three adventures are involved on our last La Fortuna recommendation, namely: zipline rides, rappelling and river drifting. It’s not as challenging as the Rafting & Rappelling tour but it still provides enough exhilaration to get the blood flowing. To get to the riverbank where the drifting awaits, travelers need to zipline across two long lines which equal over 800 meters in length. The feeling of soaring over dense rainforest is unparalleled.
Once you arrive at the riverbank platform, the next is to rappel down 100 feet to the basin below, and then put on your life jacket and helmet because more water-based thrills are to come. Jump into the water with your tube and drift down between various classes of rapids. This activity is more immersive than rafting but the rapids aren’t as strong for obvious reasons. Still, you can expect whirlpools, big drops and strong currents.