visit to Arenal Volcano and more attractions

Visit to Arenal Volcano and more attractions

Central America

A small village at the foot of the most famous volcano in Costa Rica, La Fortuna de San Carlos got its name because of its luck: the fertile lands, in which planting everything grows, added to the excellent location for the most diverse tourist activities, have provided a high economic development.

And all this without losing the hippie look that attracts backpackers from all over the world looking for contact with nature and a little adventure, among thermal waters, waterfalls, caves and tropical forests.

So much vocation for tourism has its negative side. Almost everything there is explored and the prices charged by agencies are not the most attractive. La Fortuna could very well turn out to be a big prank with little authenticity, especially if you don't know exactly what you were doing there.

You can even do things on your own, but you will need to rent a car, as access to attractions by public transport is quite restricted.

How to get to La Fortuna, Costa Rica

To get there, you have to take a four-hour bus ride from San José, leaving from Terminal 7-10. There are three daily departures: at 5 am, 8:40 am and 11 am, and the ticket costs around 5 dollars. You can buy on the spot, but if this is your plan, it is recommended to arrive at the location in advance.

Make sure you have a designated seat, as in Costa Rica it is possible to sell tickets even when the bus is full, and flyers may have to travel in the aisle. The region is quite mountainous and the road zigzags for a long time. Keep this in mind if you tend to get sick in these types of situations.

A faster and more comfortable way to travel is to rent a car. Buses usually stop everywhere in the city and this makes the journey take twice as long. As the roads are good and the local infrastructure is one of the best in the region, this is a viable and safe option. Just be careful with the curves on the road (mountainous region, remember?) Find out how to rent a car on a budget.

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Travel insurance for Costa Rica

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Arenal Volcano National Park: how to visit

On clear days, Arenal steals the show in La Fortuna. There it is, at the end of the avenue, composing the postcard along with the friendly little main church. Arenal is still considered an active volcano and last erupted in 2010. It is, without a doubt, the main objective of those who include La Fortuna in their itinerary and the main tour offered by local agencies.

To get there on your own, the best way is by car. They say there is a single daily bus that runs between the city bus station and Arenal Volcano National Park and which leaves every day at 7am, heading to Tilaran. You have to get off in front of a police station and walk to the park (ask the driver for help).

The problem is that neither on the internet nor in the city, I found consistent information about this line. The taxi ride costs around 20 dollars and is a good alternative if you want to avoid agency tours and, especially, if you have someone to share the fare with.

The park opens from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and entry costs 15 dollars. Guided tours sold by agencies include tickets, transportation, lunch and snacks for 50 dollars, in addition to other attractions during the day.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

The trail that leads to the volcano, from where it is also possible to enjoy the view of Lake Arenal, lasts two hours. It is recommended to wear shoes that are suitable for walking and that you don't mind getting mud on (the girls in white all-stars almost had a blowout). Also take water and a jacket, as the weather there can change suddenly.

The trail to the Arenal Volcano viewpoint is a difficult walk, but the humid climate and the climb require breath. The place is great for observing native fauna, especially the various species of birds that inhabit the region. If you go alone, avoid leaving the marked paths, as the park is also home to several species of poisonous snakes.

Inside the park, it is worth checking out Cerro Chato, a volcano that was extinct more than 3,000 years ago and is now a small mountain range. There are trails that lead to the top, but this walk requires greater physical preparation. And those who want to cool off can take a dip in the Rio Fortuna Waterfall, a 70-meter drop over volcanic rock.

Sand Volcano, The Fortune

What to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica: other attractions

Public hot springs

The hot water of the Cholin River is perfect for those who want to enjoy the region's thermal activity without paying the price of the various spas located in the surrounding area. To get there on your own, just by car or taxi, going to the entrance to the Tabacon Resort hot springs (it's different from the hotel entrance). There is a public parking lot there.

On the other side of the road, follow a small concrete trail through the forest to reach the public part of the river, which even has small natural pools to relax in. Avoid taking belongings with you, as theft in the area is quite common and there is no safe place to leave your things there, as well as any type of tourist structure. It's just a section of a river that runs parallel to a road. Be very careful, as the stones can be slippery. Unless you are on a guided tour, avoid visiting the site at night.

Hot spring spas in La Fortuna

A favorite activity for those who visit La Fortuna on their honeymoon or romantic trip, the surroundings of the city are full of spas and resorts. Those who don't want to stay in one of them can buy a day pass and enjoy the thermal water pools, massage and therapeutic activities. See here some of the best spas and resorts in the region.

Rio Celeste

Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

Photo: Martijn Smeets, Shutterstock

The blue pool of the Rio Celeste looks fake, but it is the result of the meeting of the clean waters of two rivers and a type of mineral coated with silicone, oxygen and aluminum. To see this wonder of nature you need to go on a trail in the Tenório Volcano National Park, which is, in fact, outside of La Fortuna, in a town called Bijagua de Upala.

This is another attraction that is more easily reached by car or with a hired tour (which costs 60 dollars). The trip lasts 1h30. There is no direct public transport and this difficulty ended up making me abandon the tour, despite the photos. You can also hire a shutter or taxi service (between 30 and 40 dollars, with the advantage that in the taxi you can share this amount with more people).

As there is a limit of 1200 visitors per day in the park, and only 400 at a time, it is recommended to arrive early. There are two trails of low difficulty, one of 6 km and the other of 1.5 km. Both can be quite muddy. Swimming inside is prohibited.

Where to stay in La Fortuna: accommodation tip

La Fortuna is full of accommodation options. There are more than 150 establishments, ranging from five-star resorts to family inns and backpacker hostels.

I stayed at La Choza Inn, a super comfortable hostel that has shared rooms for 9 dollars and private rooms for 30, with breakfast included and views of the mountains. Those who prefer can search here among the other accommodations in La Fortuna and choose the best one for each style of travel.

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