The Best Free & Cheap Activities In La Fortuna, Costa Rica
April 25, 2021
La Fortuna is a small, quaint town, located in central Costa Rica, in the province of Alajuela. It is best known for the giant volcano towering over the area, which is visible from almost everywhere in town. I feel like La Fortuna represents everything Costa Rica is known for (aside from its tropical beaches): lush jungle, epic waterfalls, hot springs, volcanoes, wildlife,… Adventure is waiting for you around every corner!
Logically, this attracts many tourists every year, which means the prices of some activities aren’t the cheapest. Several cost around $50-100, which, unfortunately, was slightly above my budget. Nevertheless, I still wanted to make the most of my time, so I made an effort to search for fun things to do in La Fortuna that are still budget-friendly! I ended up having a great time (without breaking the bank), which is why I wanted to share these 5 either free or cheap activities in La Fortuna, Costa Rica!
5 cheap or free things to do in La Fortuna!
FREE NATURAL HOT SPRINGS RIVER
One of my absolute favourite activities out of everything I did in Costa Rica, was going to the free hot springs near Tabacón resort. Many resorts in the neighbourhood (Tabacón included) have their very own hot spring pools, but you’ll pay a high entrance price and it obviously isn’t completely natural.
Rio Chollín is a completely natural hot spring river in the midst of the jungle. The river has the perfect temperature; even when it’s raining, you’ll be warm enough (prepare to freeze a bit when you get out, though, but that’s part of the experience). I’ve heard that people even stay there until after dark, when locals join with beers and candles! It doesn’t get more adventurous than this…
How to get there: Take an Uber to “free hot springs near Tabacon” (they all know this) and they’ll drop you off near the entrance. You’ll see a metal chain and a smaller road that goes down, which is the “main entrance”, though not the most convenient one. If you go down there, you’ll have to go through a tunnel and climb over some stones, while carrying your stuff above your head. Another option is to walk a bit further up the main road (on the opposite side of the first entrance). You’ll see a small path, which leads directly to the river. You can drop your stuff or hang it on a tree and get in immediately!
What to bring: Water shoes, a towel, some snacks & drinks, your phone if you want to take pictures and perhaps some warmer clothes (you’ll be cold when you get out).
LA FORTUNA WATERFALL
Visiting La Fortuna waterfall is one of the top activities in the area. Despite the slightly higher price, I still wanted to include it on this list, because you simply can’t go to La Fortuna and skip its most impressive waterfall! When you arrive, you immediately get to admire La Catarata from afar. The view is absolutely stunning, as you can see in the picture below.
What follows next is a steep path of stairs all the way to the base of the waterfall. There’s about 500 steps, but the path is very well-maintained and you can take as many breaks as you want. Before you get all the way down, there’s another view point where you should definitely make a stop to take pictures.
Once you’re all the way down, you can go for a swim (it’s cold, but so refreshing!), chill on some rocks or explore the river (you might see some cool fish).
Epic photo idea: Swim towards the waterfall and have someone take a picture from the viewpoint from above!
How to get there: Take an Uber from the town center, it’s about a 10 min. drive. They’ll drop you off at a parking lot where you can buy your tickets. There’s also free Wi-Fi, toilets and even a souvenir shop.
Tip: Go early if you want to avoid crowds, doors open at 7am.
ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
When I was in La Fortuna, I was overwhelmed by how many national parks there were. To save some money, I only wanted to visit one and I wanted to make sure I got the most value for money. I was in doubt between Arenal Volcano National Park, Arenal 1968 and Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park.
After lots of research, I went with the first one and I’m so glad I did! For just $15 you get amazing views of the volcano, the opportunity to walk on old lava, you’ll see a majestic, 400-year-old tree and you’ll be able to go all the way down to the lake!
How to get there: This is one of the longest drives from the center (about 30 min.), but you can still get there with an Uber. You’ll be dropped off at the entrance of a parking lot, where you can buy your tickets and hike the first part of the park. To get to the second part of the park, you’ll have to go back to the main road and walk about 2km (ask for directions at the ticket shop). It’s quite a long walk, but it would be a shame to skip this part, since it’s included in the price. It’s where you get the ultimate lake Arenal + volcano view, which you don’t want to miss!
Tip: Wear your best hiking boots. If you do the entire tour and you don’t have car, you’ll be walking for hours!
Anyone who loves adrenaline kicks and adventure should visit El Salto. Completely free and one of the easiest places to reach, this activity is a must during your stay in La Fortuna! El Salto (or “the jump” in Spanish) is a popular local spot where you can jump into a river’s natural pool from a rope attached to a tree. There’s also a small waterfall.
I’ve tried the jump and thought it was awesome! However, if you don’t like heights, you can just relax by the river and watch the locals do cool tricks.
How to get there: It’s only a 20 min. walk from town or a 5 min. Uber ride. You’ll reach a narrow bridge, where you have to go down a small path on the side of the road.
Warning: Watch your stuff and don’t jump in when the water’s brown; this means the current is too strong.
HANG OUT IN THE PARK
La Fortuna is one of the few towns in Costa Rica that feels a bit more “alive”, without being overly urbanized like San Jose or Liberia. It actually has a really nice park in front of a cute old church, where children play and people chill on benches or in the grass. On clear days, you can see the volcano!
Though simple, I really enjoyed this activity and went several times to have a beer and people watch. You can also check out the many souvenir shops while you’re at it.
How to get there: Just walk into the direction of the church and you’ll quickly see the park appear!
There you have it! For only $33, you’ll have witnessed epic views, hiked beautiful trails and had some crazy, adventurous experiences! Of course, there are more options such as ziplining, canyoning, and so on, but if you’re looking for free or cheap activities in La Fortuna, I really recommend all of these!
Have you ever been to La Fortuna? What was your favourite activity you did while you were there? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
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