- HOTELS (BEST RATED)
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- SIGHTS & LANDMARKS
- THINGS TO DO
- THINGS TO KNOW
Info La Fortuna
La Fortuna de San Carlos is a small town in the north of Costa Rica. It is mostly famous for the nearby Arenal Volcano (1,633 m). The Arenal Volcano is a destination for scientists and tourists alike. La Fortuna was called "El Borio" before the day of a huge eruption in 1968, when the volcano erupted to the east and destroyed all in its path, including two villages. El Borio (La Fortuna) is located on the west side of the volcano and was untouched. After the eruption of the volcano, El Borio was renamed "La Fortuna", which means "the fortunate", referring to the town's luck during the eruption.
Other than the volcanos, La Fortuna has tourist attractions such as the La Catarata de la Fortuna, a waterfall that falls from a height of 70 meters, several resorts with natural hot springs temperate enough to bathe in, other day spa services, and day-trips which involve horseback riding, whitewater rafting, hanging bridges, a "sky tram," zip-lines, mountain biking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboards, ATV or dirt bike rentals, "butterfly farms," the Venado Cavern tours, bungee jumping, Laguna Cedeno, El Salto Swimming Hole, and canyoneering.
Throughout La Fortuna we can find several natural hot springs with temperatures ranging from 30° to 50° Celsius, which emanate from the depths of the volcano through rivers located in the earth’s crust. Arenal Volcano naturally heats the water of many, such as Tabacon River, Ecotermales Hot Springs, and hot springs located on hotel property such as Titokú of Kioro, Arenal Paraiso, Royal Corin, Los Lagos pools, and Baldi Hot Springs. There are also other hot water sources which are either not currently being exploited for tourism, or are being so in an incipient manner.
Originally called "El Burío", La Fortuna was founded in the mid 1930s by settlers that came from Ciudad Quesada, Grecia (canton), Alajuela and other parts of the region. In 1968, the Arenal Volcano erupted to the west, causing extensive damage and casualties, including 82 deaths. The eruption did not reach the village of La Fortuna. This catastrophe, nonetheless, changed the geography of whole region, making it one of the most visited tourist destinations of Costa Rica..
Due to being in the tropics, the climate of La Fortuna and Costa Rica in general does not vary greatly like those areas in the temperate zones. The four seasons are not all experienced in La Fortuna, which means one can expect close to 12 hours of daylight at any time of the year. The biggest changes in temperature are the effect of the wet and dry seasons. With the dry season being more subject to direct and intense sunlight, there is a resulting higher average temperature of above 25 C (77 F). The wet season, however, also usually includes higher levels of humidity which may be perceived as very warm. The annual average temperature in La Fortuna is between 20 C and 26 C (68 F to 78 F).
Transportation - Get In
- Direct buses from San Jose or transfer in Ciudad Quesada (San Carlos); buses from San Ramon (Costa Rica). Local bus from Tilaran. From Peñas Blancas (Nicaraguan Border) take San Carlos bus (US$8) and alight at Tanque, take bus or taxi to La Fortuna (7km away).
- By car it is a 3-1/2 hour drive from San Jose, but the junctions are not very well marked, so bring a good map.
- By private Shuttle: the cost of a private transportation with a Costa Rican driver is not much if you compare it with the benefit of a direct safe drive to the destination. Available from San Jose to Arenal and other destinations.
- By plane: Domestic flights are available with NatureAir or Sansa Airlines. Costs around US$90 for flights to/from San Jose (SJO) or Quepos (Manuel Antonio National Park). Airport charges $7/person departure tax.
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Standard souvenirs, photos of the erupting volcano, machetes at the hardware store, Costa Rican coffee.
- Que Rico Arenal, . Located next 6.4 kilometers toward the lake from the Catholic Church of La Fortuna. Italian and International menu. Great location for viewing the volcano with an excellent meal!
- Don Rufino (on the main road, one block east from the park, across the street from the gas station.), . 11:30 am to 10:30 pm. A welcoming break from traditional Costa Rican food. International cuisine, extensive menu, fantastic ambiance. US$15-$60.
- La Choza de Laurel is located 3 blocks away from the park. Fantastic menu selection. Tasty food, cheerful service, open to the breeze.
- Los Nenes, not a very attractive setting one block from the main street and two blocks from the park (when entering from east), but reasonably priced food (but not as good or big portions as Lava Rocks). The nachos with everything is really good.
- Lava Rocks Café (On the main street, just after the park), , e-mail: [email protected]. Good food, generous portions. Try the Casado de pollo (₡2950).
- Lava Lounge is on main street just getting into town before the park. Good food, a break from typical Tico food.
Travelers looking for more local and inexpensive food can go to any of the numerous 'Soda' restaurants. A large plate of rice, beans, salad, meat, and a drink costs ₡3000 to 4000.
Sights & Landmarks
- Arenal Volcano The photos at right are views from the village of El Castillo, on the southwest side of the Volcano, about 25 km west of La Fortuna and about 4km up the road from the Arenal National Park entrance. Additionally, there are great views of Lake Arenal and the Monteverde Cloud Forest from road up above El Castillo. In October 2010, the volcano ceased its activity and the famous flowing lava has been gone since. Seeing some smoke during the day is possible, however, do not expect to see lava/eruptions in the night, regardless of clouds. This could obviously change at any time. Tours to the National Park usually start out in the early afternoon and include walking for about an hour through lava rocks before reaching El Mirador, the best place to view the eruption of the volcano. There are also possibilities of skipping the lava rock walking and go straight to El Mirador. Most tours state that they will stay for a hour/hour and half at this place, but if there is nothing to be seen probably a lot less. Also be aware that it might be chilly, so bring a jacket. The tours come in a variety of options: with buffet dinner and entrance to the Tabacon hot spa US$64, with entrance to Baldi hot spa $30, just the tour $25. There is also a possibility of a no-frills tour by mini-bus to El Mirador and back to Fortuna for $10.
- Fortuna waterfall by horse US$25. Stone steps lead to the bottom. Take a swimsuit for the pool in the lovely stream below. The entrance is accessible by road, so a cab works fine too. The entrance to the waterfall is about $10 and the ticket booth closes at 5pm. However, once you pay to go in, you are free to stay as long as you'd like. It's about a 10 minute hike down to the waterfall and 20 minutes back up.
- Lake Arenal is just west of the Arenal Volcano and can be seen as you drive over the dam on the main highway to Tilaran. Much better views of the lake and volcano can be seen from the hills above the village of El Castillo, which is located 9 km from the main highway on the Arenal National Park road. Activities on lake include boat tours, fishing, kayaking, and wind surfing.
Things to do
- Arenal Butterfly Conservatory, El Castillo Village - Arenal Volcano (20 km west of La Fortuna, turn left at the Arenal Volcano National Park Road and follow the signs. The Butterfly Conservatory is 9 km from main highway.), . 8:30AM-4:30PM. A visit to the Butterfly Conservatory offers a practical educational experience about nature with diversified exhibits of how butterflies, frogs, insects, and plants are reproduced in this natural environment. There are six large atrium habitats that provide representation of the plants, trees, butterflies, and frogs that live within the four micro-climates surrounding Lake Arenal; the lowland habitat, highland habitat, edge of forest habitat, and inside of forest habitat. You will also see laboratories, reproduction greenhouses, the exotic frog habit, host plant gardens and orchid atrium. If you want more adventure, then take the Rainforest River Walk along Quebrada Mariposa, the creek running through the primary forest on the property, where it’s often possible to spot animals such as sloths, tayras and monkeys; or toucans and parrots. Or, just take time to reflect at the Volcano View Gazebo, overlooking the botanical gardens, with views to the Arenal lake and volcano beyond. US$12.
- Caño Negro Wild Life Refuge. Rio Frío are biological humid areas considered to be one of the richest in biological diversity in Costa Rica. Here you can find a great variety of resident and migratory birds plus three different species of monkeys, also iguanas, sloths, turtles and caymans. Along the river you can see many birds, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, white-faced monkeys, also the three-toed sloth and some reptiles like caimans, Jesus Christ lizard and turtles.
- Canyoneering (Waterfall-Rappelling). In the Lost Canyon.
- Horseback ride to Monteverde. Travel the old fashioned way by horse US$75. This is a gorgeous 2-1/2 hour horseback ride along the beautiful Lake Arenal on wonderful, healthy horses.
- Rio Celeste. Two hours away from La Fortuna in Guanacaste province is the turquoise blue Rio Celeste. The turquoise colour is the result of mineral deposits in one stream mixing with the sulphurous water in another. There are tour companies in La Fortuna which organise day trips to Rio Celeste - this involves a two-hour drive followed by a 1-hour hike through a rain-forest to the picturesque waterfall. There are plenty of birds and insects to see, including toucans. Do carry a rain-jacket with you!US$75.
- Rain Goddess fishing boat. For entertainment the boat navigates around the Arenal lake, so that you can appreciate the unparalleled views. They have kayaks and other water activities you can do at the lake. Of course the main attraction is the fishing. The lake has many species of fish but the "Guapote" Bass is most prevalent; this fish is a close relative of the peacock bass and is just as strong. Other fish like the Mojara are also prevalent, think 'kin to the piranha but fruit eaters'. Using the fish you catch, Clifford, the amiable chef will cook them for you. Enjoy the fruits of your day's fun along with his many special recipes!
- River cruises. On the Peña Blancas river costs around US$45.
- White water rafting. On the Mighty Río Toro (Class 3-4), with over 45 exciting and continuous rapids that move through 16 kilometers of deep-canyon gorges passing waterfalls in a tropical canyon. Another option is the Beautiful Río Balsa (Class 2-3).
- FlyZone Wakeboard Center on Lake Arenal, Lake Arenal (Puerto San Luis), . Lake Arenal is starting to develop into the wakeboard center of Costa Rica. Here you can learn how to wakeboard while the monkeys are watching you from the shore; an unforgettable experience. 4 People can wakeboard per hour (costing $95) making it an affordable adventure. Always calm water to be found, and year round good air- and water temperatures. US$95.
- Arenal Mundo Aventura (2km S of downtown Fortuna.), . This guide company leads amazing zipline tours, and horseback riding excursions. Price varies by activity.
- Baldí Hot Springs. 16 hot springs of various temperatures. Like Tabacon Hot Springs, this too is often included in volcano viewing packages. At night, admission costs US$30 per person and includes a buffet dinner. Open until 10pm.
- EcoTermales Fortuna, On main road between La Fortuna & Arenal Lake (across from Baldi hot springs), , e-mail: [email protected]. More relaxing and a bit more discreet than either Baldi & Tabacon. Reservations definitely recommended as they limit to 100 guests. Good dinner and drinks. Friendly service and feels like you're a guest of the family rather than a customer.
- Tabacon Hot Springs Entrance fee US$65. The fee includes modern changing rooms with locks, towels, and access to the multi-level hot spring with a slide, artificial waterfalls, view of the volcano, and bars for drinks without leaving the water. For a higher price, there is a magnificent buffet. Many hotels will arrange packages including a guided hike to the volcano followed by a trip to the hot springs for a much lower price.
- Tabaconcito Hot Springs Free entrance - Across the road from Tabacon Springs used to be Tabaconcito Hot Springs. It was administered by the Tabacon Hotel, but after losing a lawsuit they had to leave the complex and is now free to enter. There are no facilities except for some ranches and tables. This is a great place to enjoy a natural river, with even some waterfalls and places to relax within it. Since no one controls the site, you can take inside any food or drinks. Beware that after sunset there is no electricity in that place, so if you are planning on staying late at night bring with you a good flashlight (torch).
- Arenal Volcano Night Hike. Around a two hours hike through secondary rainforest which contains lots of habitat of monkeys, spiders, congos, some cariblancos and not leaving behind the tucans, turkeys, and the big quantity of different flora that's in the outskirts of the volcano. There are some emerald green hot springs, colored from copper deposits.
- Cerro Chato Hike (La Fortuna Costa Rica). This hike takes you through very dense primary forest toward the Cerro Chato. There is a crater lake where you can swim, take pictures and explore the surroundings. After that you continue the descent through the rainforest with occasional views over the San Carlos Valley and the Arenal Volcano. The trek ends at La Fortuna Waterfalls, where you can take a swim
Things to know
There are two internet cafes in the main street, by the park. At Destinytours (tel 479-9850) 50 meters north of Banco National you can download pictures from your digital camera and burn to CD.