Traveling from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to La Fortuna, gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park, takes you almost all of the way across the country. The 170 miles (274 km) will take the better part of the day, depending on your preferred mode of transportation.
The quickest way to get from Puerto Viejo to the Arenal/La Fortuna area is by plane, and the second-fastest option is by car or private transfer, which takes about 5.5 to 6 hours. The drive is easy and on good roads, though having a private driver is a nice option.
Duration: 2 hours + layover
There are no direct flights from the Puerto Viejo area to La Fortuna, but with the right layover in San José, the two 30-minute flights make for a short trip. Rent a car or take a taxi for the hour drive from Puerto Viejo to Limón, and then fly from Limón to San José to La Fortuna.
The San José airport often has weather-related delays, but even if you wait for an hour or two between flights, you’ll still be arriving in about the same time it takes to drive. Both Limón and Fortuna airports are small but efficient.
By Rental Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 5-8 hours
There are two routes from Puerto Viejo to La Fortuna and Arenal, one that is about 5.5 hours and one that takes you through Heredia and San Ramón, taking upwards of 7 hours. The more direct route—and the most recommended one—takes you around Limón and through San Miguel and San Carlos driving on Highway 32 and Route 4.
Head north on Route 36 towards Limón but keep an eye out of the bypass towards Highway 32 west. After about 65 miles (104 km) you’ll turn right on to Route 4, for another 60 miles (96 km). As you get closer on Route 4, you’ll start seeing signs for the Arenal Volcano, which makes the drive easier to navigate.
As you pass through Muelle, consider a quick stop to look at the famous tree full of iguanas, before continuing onto Route 141. After a few miles, you’ll make the final turn onto Route 142 and arrive in La Fortuna, with Arenal just a few miles past that.
Most people make this trip in a day, leaving early enough to arrive before it gets dark. There are a few places you could stop for lunch along the way, such as Guapiles. If you wanted to make the trip in two days, consider stopping at Sarapiqui—about 3 hours into the trip—for a floating adventure along the Sarapiquí River. The second day of your drive would then only be about two hours.