One of the most beautiful and most visited waterfalls in all of Costa Rica has to be the La Fortuna Waterfall. Visiting this 250 foot / 75 meter waterfall is quite the journey.
You get to experience various lookout points from above, a 500+ staircase to the bottom of the falls, and the opportunity to jump into the water with the La Fortuna Waterfall hovering overhead.
This guide will go into detail on how to visit the waterfall, what to expect on a visit, and how to prepare yourself for the best experience possible.
1) How to Get to La Fortuna Waterfall Location
There are three main ways to get yourself to the La Fortuna Waterfall – by rental car, by taxi or by tour. The waterfall is located just 3 miles / 5 km from the La Fortuna town center, making it a pretty accessible attraction to visit.
Rental Car: when traveling around Costa Rica in general, I found that renting a car is the best overall option when it comes to flexibility. This way you can take part of any and all activities you would like on your own schedule.
That means not worrying about things like intercity bus schedules and how to get to attractions. There are plenty of rental car companies in the country and you can go about picking up directly from the airport or in one of the main cities.
→ Feel free to take a look at Rentalcars.com for a variety of car options to choose from for your time in Costa Rica. You will be able to filter by price, car type, rental company, & more to find the best car rental for your trip.
Taxi: the second main option to get yourself to La Fortuna Waterfall is to simply hop into a taxi from town. Hotels can certainly arrange this as well for you so you can be all prepared to go.
You should expect to pay around $10 USD from La Fortuna (note that many hotels are not located directly in La Fortuna town, so the cost can get a bit higher than that).
Note that there is no public bus service that gets to directly to the La Fortuna Waterfall.
The third main option is to take part of a private or group La Fortuna Waterfall tour. I will head into more detail about that in the next section below.
2) La Fortuna Waterfall Tour
If you are looking for more than just a visit to the waterfall, and want to visit the waterfall (and possibly other attractions) with a guide, then a La Fortuna Waterfall tour could be for you.
Joining a tour will remove any and all hassle as you visit the waterfall and you will learn more about the region throughout the day. Many tour options also offer additional activities as well, making it more of a full day tour.
Below are some of the more highly rated tour options out there that you can choose from depending on your interest level. Click the links to learn more about each one of these great options.
3 in 1 Arenal Tour – this 3 in 1 tour visits some of the top attractions around the area in a single day. These include the La Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal 1968 hiking trails, and the Arenal Hanging Bridges. Learn more about the Arenal 1968 hiking experience!
2 in 1 Arenal Tour – this 2 in 1 tour combines the La Fortuna Waterfall with the Arenal Volcano National Park. At the National Park you will take a part of a guided hike in the rainforest with beautiful views of the volcano itself.
La Fortuna Waterfall Tour – this is the simplest of tours as it only includes the La Fortuna Waterfall as a main attraction. However, the tour will also take you to a swimming hole and waterfall park where you will be able to enjoy some lunch.
Skip the Line Ticket – if you are not interested in a tour, you can still purchase a ticket ahead of time to skip the line. This will save you time if you happen to visit during peak hours / time of year.
La Fortuna Waterfall Horseback Riding
One very unique opportunity here is to take part of a La Fortuna Waterfall Horseback Riding tour. While you will not take the horse directly to the base of the falls, you will be exploring the Costa Rican countryside on horseback throughout the tour. You will then be able to visit the waterfall itself before continuing on with your day.
» Visit La Fortuna as part of a longer 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary that takes you around the country
3) Where to Stay in La Fortuna
In and around the town of La Fortuna there are plenty of hotel options to choose from. Most of the resorts are not located within the town itself, but rather on the outskirts of town surrounding the volcano.
Below are three highly recommended options to choose from that surely will not disappoint. Since these are some of the more highly rated spots, you will want to book your room as soon as possible!
The Arenal Observatory Lodge is located as close as it gets to Arenal Volcano. The property itself has over 860 private acres of land full of Arenal walking trails, wildlife, and volcano viewpoints. If you are lucky enough to grab a room here, you will get to enjoy all of that and more during a visit.
One of the most popular thermal pools to visit in the area is located at the Tabacon Thermal Resort. It is by far one of the nicest and most relaxing thermal areas in the area. Instead of just taking a quick visit there, why not stay on the property itself!
A great overall option in the area is Hotel Los Lagos. Here you will find a whole variety of thermal pools, ziplining, wildlife, and some volcano views. The property itself is just so beautiful to walk around and enjoy during a stay.
4) La Fortuna Waterfall Map
To get yourself accustomed to the area around the waterfall, I thought it may be helpful to include the map below.
This image can be found near the main entrance to the waterfall and it highlights all of the main areas around the waterfall that are included with your entrance fee.
At the entrance you will find restrooms, showers, lockers, a restaurant, and souvenir shop. Also by the entrance you can find the butterfly trail and plant nursery.
As you get further away from the entrance you will be welcomed to the main viewpoint spot of the waterfall from above. Directly next to the viewpoint spot is where the stairs down to the waterfall begin along with the secondary Orchids Trail.
Along the staircase you can find several bench areas to sit down and relax at (on the way down and on the way up). And then at the bottom of the staircase you can find the second main viewpoint area.
Of course, on the bottom you will be welcomed to the waterfall itself, alongside a safer swimming area to enjoy.
5) Helpful Things to Know
Before jumping into the waterfall itself, I wanted to lay out some things to know about the admission details and the hike down to the waterfall.
La Fortuna Waterfall Hours: the waterfall is open from 7:00AM – 5:00PM daily. This is one spot in La Fortuna that can get crowded. If you are looking for a bit more of a relaxing experience, I would highly recommend an early visit to the falls.
My recommendation would to get there at 8:00AM or earlier before the crowds begin to arrive closer to 9 onwards. An end of the day visit could also be an option as you visit closer to closing time.
La Fortuna Waterfall Entrance Fee: the entrance fee for the waterfall is $18 USD for ages 9 and up. You can also add lunch onto your day for an additional $12 USD per person.
La Fortuna Waterfall Hike Length: the hike down to the waterfall is approximately 0.75 miles / 1.2 km round trip. Since most of the walk is on stairs, expect this to take about 15 minutes to head down and 30 minutes to head back up.
La Fortuna Waterfall Steps: to reach the waterfall you must descend a staircase made up of approximately 530 steps. Remember, you will need to come back the same way you went down, so that means 1000+ steps round trip.
» Another great waterfall in Costa Rica is the Catarata Del Toro. Check out the link to learn more about this incredible natural attraction.
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7) What to Bring
The below is helpful not only for a visit to the La Fortuna Waterfall but also for a trip to Costa Rica in general. Since it can rain on and off throughout the country, you should always come prepared with the right gear. Some of the must bring items include:
1) Dry Bag: since you may be getting wet during this experience I would highly recommend a dry bag to keep all your valuables safe. Take a look at this Earth Park Dry Bag to hold your belongings.
2) Hiking Shoes or Closed Toe Sandals: you will want to watch your step as you go down the path into the valley. Having hiking shoes or closed toe sandals will be your best bet here. Take a look at the Keen Targhee III that I have been wearing recently or these Keen Newport H2 Sandals. These can be great if also visiting the Rio Celeste waterfall during a trip to the country.
3) GoPro: if you want to get up and close to La Fortuna Waterfall you can get wet. With that said, your camera equipment may get wet as well. Having a GoPro will solve some of those camera issues when dealing with water. Check out the GoPro Hero for your travels.
4) Quick Dry Towel: after getting all wet down in the water, it is nice to have a towel to dry off. This Rainleaf microfiber quick dry towel has been my go to when it comes to traveling.
-> Feel free to also take a look at my usual hiking packing list for even more great items to bring along with you!
8) La Fortuna Waterfall
After making your way to the La Fortuna Waterfall parking lot and purchasing your entrance ticket, it is time to head off to the waterfall itself.
You will follow the path towards the first main point of interest – the La Fortuna Waterfall viewpoint. This viewpoint is around 650 feet / 200 meters in distance from the waterfall so it gives you a fantastic view of the falls surrounded by the rainforest in all directions.
La Fortuna Waterfall Hike
After enjoying the view from above, it is time to head down the staircase. You will see a sign pointing you down along with another sign to the Orchids Trail. I would recommend checking out the Orchids trail on the return.
The great thing about the staircase is that it is 100% maintained with easy steps and great handrails throughout the entirety of the trail down. Some of these handrails are made to look like tree branches while others are made out of metal.
Throughout the trail down you will come across some bench areas to sit down and rest at. You most likely will take advantage of these on the way up at some point. There are also some motivational signboards posted all along the way.
As you continue lower, be on the lookout for waterfall viewpoints through the trees. The waterfall does come into view from time to time during the duration of the trail down.
Soon enough you will reach the bottom of the waterfall, where you will be welcomed to another viewpoint area to enjoy.
From there you can decide to just enjoy the view from the trail or you can head a bit closer to the waterfall itself. If you do so, that means you will need to head on some slippery rocks to get you closer to the waterfall pool. You must watch your step here as it is obviously a very wet area.
La Fortuna Waterfall Swim
If you are up for it, you can also swim in the pool under the waterfall. You will need to stay close to the rock area and avoid getting too close to the waterfall itself. To be fair, even if you tried to get close to the waterfall, the sheer force of the falls hitting the pool will push you back.
While it is certainly an experience to go swimming in the pools directly below the waterfall, it may not be for everyone. Don’t worry though because directly next to the waterfall is a calm natural pool.
The natural pool is part of the river that continues further down the valley and is a perfect area to just hang out and cool down in.
After an enjoyable experience near the waterfall, it is time to retrace your steps back up the 500+ stairs. Please be sure to take your time and take breaks if need be as you make your way up.
Once up top you can then take part of a couple short trails (mentioned next) before heading off and enjoying the rest of your day.
Orchid Garden and Butterfly Trail
Before heading back to the main entrance, you can visit the Orchid Garden and Butterfly Trail.
You will pass by the Orchid Garden near the top of the staircase. Here you will find one of the most unique collections of orchids there is. The garden has nearly 200 orchid species that are native to Costa Rica.
Close to the entrance of the park, you will also find the Butterfly Trail. It is a short serene trail filled with flowers and hopefully many butterflies!
9) Helpful FAQs
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to the La Fortuna Waterfall.
How Long is the LFW Hike?
The round-trip hike is approximately 0.75 miles / 1.2 km. Expect the trip to take around 45 minutes altogether. Note that you will probably want to spend additional time around the waterfall and viewpoint areas. This means you will most likely spend 2-3 hours altogether on a visit.
Can You Swim La Fortuna Waterfall?
Yes, you are allowed to swim in the pool directly below the waterfall as well as in the nearby natural pool formed by the river.
The pool beneath the waterfall itself can be a bit more dangerous due to the slippery rocks and the waterfall itself. The natural pool off to the side can be a safer option for most.
What Formed La Fortuna Waterfall?
The La Fortuna Waterfall was formed by the lava flow of the extinct Cerro Chato volcano.
Is La Fortuna Waterfall Worth It?
In my opinion, yes the La Fortuna Waterfall is well worth it. During my visit, I headed to the waterfall early in the morning before the crowds arrived. This made the experience much more worth it in my eyes.
If I had visited the waterfall with tons of other people around, I am not sure I would have had the same type of experience though. So it is definitely something you will want to think about during your trip there.
That about wraps up a guide to the La Fortuna Waterfall. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them in below. Also don’t forget to check out the other Costa Rica itineraries and guides up on the site.
Have fun out there and safe travels!