La Fortuna is well-known for its natural attractions and outdoor activities. With three days in this Costa Rican gem, you’ll have plenty of time to explore its extensive trail systems, ziplining and white-water-rafting options, and hot springs, with time left over for a day trip. Here’s how to get the most out of three days in La Fortuna.
Day 1: Hiking and Exploring
Spend your first day exploring La Fortuna’s signature attraction: Arenal National Park. At the heart of the park sits the Arenal Volcano, visible from most parts of the city. Hike the trail system surrounding the volcano, or head down to the nearby La Fortuna waterfall, a popular spot for swimming and picnicking. Alternatively, head out to El Castillo, a nearby village and home to the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Originally built in 1987 as a Smithsonian Institution research station, this complex a little over 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from the crater affords great views of the volcano and offers regular guided treks and bird-watching activities. End your day with a guided evening hike along the hanging bridges of nearby Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, a great place to see the rain forest come to life after dark.
Day 2: Exhilaration and Relaxation
Dedicate your second day to a mix of adventure activities and hot-springs relaxation. Start with a morning of ziplining high above the jungle canopy; there are plenty of spots to choose from. In the afternoon, head out on a guided white-water rafting expedition—an abundance of relatively small rapids in the area means that even beginners can join a tour without much preparation. Wrap up your evening with a relaxing soak in a thermal hot spring; if you’re not staying in one of the area’s many hot-spring resorts, it’s worth splurging for a visit to Tabacon Hot Springs, which offers quiet evening soak sessions for a fee.
Day 3: Day Trip to Caño Negro or Monteverde
On day three, expand your explorations deeper into Costa Rica’s Northern Highlands. Make your way out to the Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge in Alajuela, about a 2-hour drive from La Fortuna. A must-visit for anyone with an interest in wildlife, this area is home to primates, lizards, and colorful birds. Many tours are available from La Fortuna, and most include a boat ride along the Rio Frio led by an expert guide.
Alternatively, if you’re willing to wake up early and spend a fair bit of time on the road, consider a visit to Monteverde, a 3- to 4-hour drive from La Fortuna. Monteverde is best-known for its Cloud Forest Reserve—home to an array of wildlife including quetzal birds, howler monkeys, and pacas—along with a hummingbird reserve and a network of suspended bridges above the rain forest canopy.