La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica, also referred to as Catarata La Fortuna (‘lucky waterfall’ in Spanish), is one of the best things to do in Arenal, and a top visited Costa Rica waterfall.
Derived from the refreshing Arenal River in the Alajuela Province, nestled into the lush Costa Rican rainforest, La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica features a strikingly blue lagoon and a 246-foot (75-metre) thunderous column of water.
With 500 steps downward and oh-so-beautiful rainforest surrounds, this Arenal waterfall makes a great self-guided half-day trip or as part of an epic all-day adventure with nearby attractions like the Mistico Hanging Bridges and La Fortuna hot springs like Tabacon.
Make sure to bring your swimmers along with you on your hike to La Fortuna Waterfall. By the time you reach the bottom, you will be dying to sink your feet into the clear, refreshing waters. Keep your eyes open, as you may just see an adorable white-nosed coati, a bright-coloured bird, or even a Costa Rican sloth!
La Fortuna Costa Rica Travel Guides
La Fortuna Hotel Guide: Where to Stay near Arenal Volcano
Best Things to Do in La Fortuna
Visiting the Arenal Hanging Bridges
Rio Celeste Waterfall Guide
Visiting Tabacon Hot Springs
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So, if you are planning to visit Catarata La Fortuna Costa Rica (which you should!), then read further to find out where it is, how to get there, what to expect at Cascada La Fortuna and more!
La Fortuna Waterfall: Quick Guide
Where is La Fortuna Waterfall
in Costa Rica?
La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica (or Catarata La Fortuna) is located a 3.5 mile (5.5km) distance from downtown La Fortuna Costa Rica in the northern Alajuela Province.
Click on the La Fortuna Waterfall map below to interact with Google Maps and find your ideal route to visit Cascada La Fortuna, or read on about the best ways to get to the waterfall.
How to Get to La Fortuna Waterfall
By Rental Car
You can reach the Arenal waterfall within a 10-minute drive with your rental car. I always rent through Discover Cars. They are great because they compare local and global companies to find you the best price. Plus, the last time I was in Arenal, rental cars were completely sold out! So, make sure to book ahead.
Plug ‘La Fortuna Waterfall’ or ‘Catarata Rio Fortuna’ into Google Maps (or Waze) and you are good to go. Otherwise, follow Route 702 away from the main drag in La Fortuna (the 142) for 4 minutes, and turn right heading up Diag. 301. You will reach the La Fortuna Costa Rica waterfall visitor’s centre in approximately a 6-minute drive from there.
TIP | You do not need a 4×4 vehicle to visit La Fortuna Waterfall as the entire roadway is paved.
If you don’t have a rental car, you can opt to take an official red taxi from the town centre to the entrance of the hike to La Fortuna Waterfall. The cost will be roughly $15 USD. You can find the official taxi stand on the road in front of La Fortuna central park.
TIP | Make sure your driver turns on the taxi metre to properly track your trip. Otherwise, you may fall victim to overcharging.
If you are an avid hiker or just an all-around active person, you can choose to walk to Catarata La Fortuna. From the centre of La Fortuna town, follow the same instructions for getting to the falls by vehicle. The walk will take you around 1 hour and 15 minutes with a slow and mild uphill incline.
A great way to experience the walk on foot without having to do both ways is to take a taxi to La Fortuna Waterfall and then walk back on the slight decline. A more enjoyable stroll. Make sure to stop and admire Arenal Volcano! Fingers crossed it’s a sunny day for you.
Do note, that the walk is along the main road of Route 702 and Diag. 301, so please use street sense. Not advisable for families with young children.
Best La Fortuna Waterfall Tours
Alternatively, you can grab a spot on an epic all-day guided Arenal adventure with a knowledgeable local guide. Combine a hike to La Fortuna Waterfall with a visit to Arenal Volcano, the Mistico hangings bridges or one of the relaxing La Fortuna hot springs.
A guided combination tour is a very popular and highly rated way of seeing La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano region, in general. Even if you have a rental car, it can be nice to have the added knowledge from a professional guide and local.
If you love horses, try a horseback riding excursion through the rainforest at the base of Arenal Volcano that will take you to the top of La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica.
La Fortuna Waterfall Entrance Fee
The easiest and fastest way to get your tickets is by purchasing the Skip-the-line Admission Ticket through Viator. This is especially handy if you plan to visit in the high season of December-April, and during the morning hours.
If not, you can simply purchase your tickets at the visitor’s centre upon arrival.
La Fortuna Waterfall Price | $18USD for Adults, Free for Children Under 8 Years Old
La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica Hours
The La Fortuna Waterfall opening hours are from 7AM – 5PM daily with the last entry at 4PM.
La Fortuna Waterfall Parking
You can find a nicely paved parking lot just outside the visitor’s centre at La Fortuna Waterfall. The parking lot can take up to 25 cars and is free of charge.
Because the waterfalls are so popular (one of the top waterfalls in Costa Rica!), I would recommend getting to the falls early to snag a spot. There is one accessible parking stall.
Love Waterfalls? Check out this guide to Rio Celeste Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall Amenities
As a popular waterfall in Costa Rica, La Fortuna Waterfall enjoys a few established amenities. A trip to these waterfalls near La Fortuna is no longer a wilderness adventure, which can be a good and not-so-good thing depending on what type of traveller you are.
Situated behind the visitor’s centre across a bridge is the outdoor restaurant called Restaurant Rio Lounge. The restaurant offers a few typical, yet elevated, Costa Rican cuisine options like ceviche, plus a variety of meals catered to the North American palette like burgers, sandwiches, pasta and salads.
The restaurant opens its doors at 9AM and is a perfect spot to grab breakfast after your visit to the falls. The restaurant closes at 5PM.
Read this detailed guide on the best La Fortuna restaurants
Restrooms + Lockers
Well-maintained restrooms and lockers are available just past the visitor’s centre. If you don’t have your swimsuit on already, make sure to change here before descending the 500 steps down to the falls as this is your only opportunity on site.
If you’d like to leave your bag and belongings and not carry them with you on your Catarata La Fortuna hike, you can rent a locker at the visitor’s centre for $2 USD. Please note, that a $10 USD deposit is required for locker rental in case of key loss.
Of course, with any big attraction, you can purchase a souvenir to commemorate your trip or to gift to loved ones at home. There is a souvenir shop at the visitor’s centre just for this purpose.
Best Time to Visit La Fortuna Waterfall
Time of Year
The best time to visit La Fortuna Waterfall is in the dry season of December – April. After heavy rains, the waterfalls and lagoon tend to turn brown and lose their beautiful blue hue.
It’s important to note, that even during the dry season, the Costa Rican rainforest in Arenal can experience periodic heavy rains, so check yesterday’s forecast before visiting.
If you plan to visit Costa Rica in the wet season when the rainforest is at its most lush, don’t fret if it’s always raining. La Fortuna Waterfall will always be a great experience no matter the weather. Plus, the well-built stairs at the waterfall will keep you safe on your feet.
Time of Day
The best time of day to visit the La Fortuna Waterfall is first thing in the morning when the visitor’s centre opens at 7AM. If you aren’t joining a daily tour, this will be the quietest time of day to thoroughly enjoy nature and the waterfall all to yourself.
Tours will arrive between 9-10AM (although this popular tour arrives around 8AM).
Alternatively, you can visit the Rio Fortuna Waterfall after the mid-morning rush around lunchtime or in the afternoon to experience fewer crowds.
What to Expect at La Fortuna Waterfall
Read on for a step-by-step guide to visiting La Fortuna Waterfall, just in case you are looking for a trip without surprises. Otherwise, you can just go, enjoy it and report back on your experience! I have no doubt, it will be a good one.
La Fortuna Waterfall Visitors Centre and Facilities
When you first arrive at the visitor’s centre, park your rental car in the paved parking lot (space for 25 cars) and make your way to the admission counter. Here, you can purchase your tickets, or show your Waterfall skip-the-line ticket and receive your admission bracelet. Make sure to wear your bracelet for your entire visit to Cascada La Fortuna.
Then, you will cross a bright green bridge, reminiscent of the Mistico Hanging Bridges, and arrive at the on-site amenities. Here you will find the bank of changing rooms and restrooms, and further on the restaurant to the left.
Here is the last opportunity to go to the restroom, change into your swimsuit or grab a bite to eat before descending down to the La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica.
La Fortuna Waterfall Viewpoint
So, you’ve changed into your swimmers, had a quick bathroom break and grabbed a snack, you are officially ready for your visit to La Fortuna Waterfall! It’s time to walk towards the viewing platform that will give you panoramic views of the Costa Rican rainforest and La Fortuna Waterfall spilling out of the lush surrounds.
Make sure to stop here! It is rare you get such a beautiful, all-encompassing view like this at any waterfall in Costa Rica. Plus, the viewing platform is accessible for all visitors as it doesn’t require any steps to get up.
If you are a photographer or content creator, this is a perfect spot to put up your drone. To make sure you aren’t disturbing other visitors, arrive at the La Fortuna viewpoint just after opening at 7AM.
The Orchid Trail
Just past the viewing platform, you can choose to start your hike to La Fortuna Waterfall or take a very short detour to follow the Orchid Trail. This scenic trail loop will take you through an orchid garden consisting of up to 200 native orchid species planted along the path.
The walk takes about 5-10 minutes to complete (including stops to admire the flowers) and is worth seeing.
The end of the trail loops back to the start of the descent to La Fortuna Waterfall, so it’s super convenient and a great addition to your visit to Waterfall La Fortuna Costa Rica.
La Fortuna Waterfall Hike
First off, I wouldn’t call the La Fortuna Waterfall hike a ‘hike’ per se. What I imagine when I think of a hike is dirt or rocky trails, steep elevation and hard work. Although you will be descending and ascending 500 stairs, it will be a very easily navigable climb on a paved surface.
The La Fortuna Waterfall Stairs
After strolling among the beautiful orchids, make your way to the top of the stairs down to Catarata La Fortuna. Here you will follow the well-built and well-maintained staircase of 500 steps downwards.
Make sure to enjoy the surrounding rainforest on your way down and keep an eye open for native Costa Rican wildlife like coatis and sloths.
Depending on your fitness level, you may want to stop at the very nice rest areas with benches that are located every 100 steps or so. Take a seat, grab some water from your reusable water bottle and enjoy being in nature (I certainly did this on the way back up!). Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, after all.
After crossing a bridge or two and several sets of stairs, you will make it to the bottom of the waterfalls. The La Fortuna Waterfall hike length is about 15 minutes on the way down depending on how many times you enjoy the rest stops.
The trip back up the stairs will take upwards of 20-30 minutes.
The Base of La Fortuna Waterfall
Now it is time to ascend a couple of steps to the paved viewing platform at the base of the falls. Here you can really feel the strength and glory of nature as the 246-foot waterfall rushes into the strikingly blue lagoon below.
Yes, you can walk down to the waterfall lagoon and stand amongst the rocks on the edge of the pool, but it’s important to note two things:
- The rocks at the base of the La Fortuna Waterfall are slippery! Please be careful or simply wear a good pair of grippy water shoes. I wear these water shoes.
- You are not allowed to swim in the lagoon directly below the La Fortuna Waterfall. There is a lifeguard on duty that will get testy if you try to wade too far into the water. Don’t worry though, you can swim a short distance further downstream.
Swimming at La Fortuna Waterfall
Can you swim in La Fortuna Waterfall? The answer is yes and no.
While you are able to swim while visiting Catarata La Fortuna, you aren’t allowed to swim directly under the waterfall. About a 30-second stroll down the river, you will find a clear, refreshing swimming hole with waters directly from the waterfall and Arenal River itself.
It’s a great way to cool off after your descent down the 500 steps.
There is a small sandy beach at the swimming hole and there are small hooks provided to hang your bags, clothing items and towels while you enjoy the water. Note, there are small silver dart river fish in the freshwater pool, but no worries, they are super friendly!
What to Bring to La Fortuna Waterfall
There are a few important things you should bring with you on your visit to Waterfall La Fortuna. On my visit, I got really good use out of my grippy water shoes and was happy I brought a quick-drying microfibre towel and mosquito repellent. Plus, I always bring my purifying reusable water bottle with me on my full-time travels. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.
Here are some other essentials to bring to La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica:
Travel Insurance for La Fortuna
La Fortuna Costa Rica is known for adrenaline-packed adventures, and with that, comes the risk of fall, injury or accident. Don’t be left with huge hospital bills and protect yourself with the right travel insurance.
Travel insurance is one of those things I hope you never have to use. But in case you do, you’ll want reliable insurance on your side. Plus, it’s such a small cost for peace of mind. Please, don’t leave home without it!
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