La Fortuna

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

The town of La Fortuna lies to the east of this area’s awe-inducing natural landmark: the sublime Arenal Volcano. Most visitors to the volcano and the natural wonders that surround it set up camp in this lively town when they come to explore the area, and it’s no wonder! La Fortuna has a seemingly endless selection of accommodation, restaurants, shops, bars and tour desks.

A few years ago, La Fortuna was an unrecognizable agricultural village with dirt roads, but the tourism boom after the volcano’s massive eruption in the 1960s turned it into a thriving tourism hotspot.

But visitors don’t just flock here to see the volcano and hike along the trails of Arenal National Park. Another attraction that draws the crowds to this area are its famous thermal springs and the spas built around them. Adventurous types can also arrange scores of adrenaline-pumping tours in this area, such as whitewater rafting, canyoneering, ziplining, hiking, or a thrilling selection of water sports on the magnificent Lago Arenal (Arenal Lake).

If time is not an issue, try to set aside a full day to enjoy the steaming springs, most of which are located around the road to Arenal Volcano National Park. There is a variety of hot spring complexes to choose from, ranging in price and ambience. The crown king of thermal springs is without a doubt Tabacón Hot Springs, in the area’s most elegant, serene and natural setting along the Tabacón River. They are also the least affordable, with day passes starting at $60 (entrance fee only) and going to $95 USD including lunch and dinner.

Another beautiful and tranquil choice is Eco Termales, while Baldi offers a more festive environment for all ages, from pools with slides and cooler temperatures for children, to swim-up bars with music blaring from all sides for a steamy party. The thermal spring complexes generally include spas, restaurants and bars.

A Firey History

Arenal Hill, known as Cerro Arenal in Spanish, burst to life with an explosive eruption on July 29, 1968, after approximately 400 years of lying dormant. The eruption had devastating consequences, destroying the surrounding villages of Tabacón, San Luis and Pueblo Nuevo, and killing almost 100 people. Afterwards, the volcano continued gurgling out streams of lava and rocks and tourists from around the world flocked to La Fortuna to witness Arenal’s nightly fireworks show.

However, towards the end of 2010, after almost 40 years of daily eruptions, the volcano became still. Although since then, Arenal has discontinued its daily fireworks show, it remains an imposing structure and smoke still twirls out from its top. Despite the seeming stillness, scientists know that molten lava is still gurgling beneath the surface and there is no way to predict when this giant will burst into life once again.

La Fortuna Weather and Packing Checklist

Average daily temperatures in La Fortuna shift from the upper 70s during the daytime, dropping to the lower 60s at night. The rainy season here typically runs from May to June and September through November, with the heaviest rainfall expected in September and October.

September and October are said to be the best months for volcano observation because the heavy rains appear to disperse the ring of clouds that usually rests atop the volcano.

Make sure to pack shorts, t-shirts, rain and hiking gear and lots of sun block. A pair of pants and a light jacket or long sleeve t-shirt is recommended in case of any damp, breezy nights.

How to get to La Fortuna

From San José:

By Plane:

Nature Air has daily 30-minute flights to La Fortuna from Tobías Bolaños International Airport in Pavas. A one-way ticket costs $100 USD. The airline recently inaugurated a flight from Liberia to La Fortuna and also flies from La Fortuna to other destinations in Costa Rica.

By Car:

Many roads lead to La Fortuna and each route offers breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery. One option is to take the Interamerican Highway until you reach the town of Naranjo, then head north to the lovely town of Zarcero and drive along the San Carlos Valley, passing the towns of Florencia, Jabillos and El Tanque.

You can also follow the Interamerican Highway to the town of San Ramón and turn north, driving through La Tigra.

Both of these drives take approximately three hours and there are lots of road signs to keep you on track. The roads can get foggy at night so drive safely if your journey starts on the late side!

By Bus:

Buses departing from San José’s Atlántico del Norte station (Tel. 2255-0567) take approximately four hours to get to La Fortuna. Buses leave at 6:15, 8:40 and 11:30 a.m. and tickets cost ₡2,070 (approximately $3.50 USD). 

 

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