Arenal/La Fortuna is one of the most popular regions in Costa Rica, thanks to its diverse ecosystems and abundance of wildlife and outdoor opportunities. La Fortuna is the name of the town that sits at the base of the Arenal Volcano, but "Arenal" also encompasses the entire surrounding region. Here, you'll also find Lake Arenal, Costa Rica's largest lake, and the ideal spot to catch postcard-worthy vistas of the volcano.
Arenal/La Fortuna is northwest of San Jose and east of the Nicoya Peninsula. Here, you can enjoy many excursions, including whitewater rafting, hiking above the rainforest via hanging bridges, spotting wildlife while trekking to electric-blue waterfalls, and relaxing in natural hot springs. Enjoy some unique experiences, too, like visiting an organic coffee farm or searching for sloths at night.
If you'd like to stay a night or two in Arenal/La Fortuna, you have your pick of accommodations. You'll find plenty of boutique hotels and resorts in Arenal, as well as luxury accommodations that can elevate your trip. And for the whole experience, our guide on how to choose the best hot springs experience in Arenal includes options for overnight stays.
Arenal/La Fortuna offers various cultural experiences beyond the typical Costa Rican rainforest excursions. Relax in a series of natural hot springs, go on a night tour of the jungle looking for sloths, or visit a local organic coffee farm.
Tabacón Hot Springs & Dinner
Enjoy a delicious dinner in a unique setting: at the steamy pools and cascades of Tabacón Hotsprings. Set in Arenal's largest private rainforest preserve, you'll find five main spring sources, all featuring mineralized waters warmed by the nearby Arenal Volcano. After flowing underground, the water eventually emerges to form the Tabacón River. Enjoy soaking in several pools of varying temperatures, water flows, and degrees of privacy. Tabacón offers one of the best hot springs hotels in La Fortuna, so it's a great spot for an overnight stay, too. Read More
Sloth Observation Night Tour
Arenal is ideal for the sleepy little sloth, thanks to the region's ecological protections, climate, food sources, and absence of predators. Enjoy a short hike through a preserve, where a partnership of organizations works to protect vulnerable species. Your guides are experts at finding the sloth, so you're guaranteed to spot them as they move slowly and with tenderness through Guarumo trees, their favorite snack! Read More
Chocolate Farm Visit & Workshop
Enjoy a visit to a chocolate farm in Arenal, where you'll learn about the origins of chocolate in Costa Rica and have a chance to participate in the cacao harvest. Your guide will tell you all about the country's history of chocolate-making as you snack on cacao beans, then you'll witness the drying and grinding of seeds to make cocoa butter. You'll taste plenty of varieties of chocolate during your visit, of course, including a traditional chocolate drink developed centuries ago. Learn more
Get Active in Arenal
With such diverse landscapes, consider a more active excursion while visiting Arenal/La Fortuna. Of course, the favored choice is hiking around the volcano, but you can also walk across the area's famed hanging bridges, go whitewater rafting, and enjoy a day trip to the blue-hued Río Celeste.
Hike in Arenal Volcano Park
Although you won't hike to the top of the Arenal Volcano, you'll make your way along a network of trails that wind atop hardened lava fields. These fields are leftover from Arenal's most recent eruption in 1968, which was so powerful that it transformed much of the area's topography. As you hike, you can stop at several viewpoints and enjoy scenes of the surrounding jungles, lakes, and wildlife, plus the volcano itself. Read More
Arenal Hanging Bridges Hike
Enjoy walking on the famous Arenal Hanging Bridges, a set of ten fixed bridges and six hanging bridges with lengths between 16 and 328 feet (5-100 meters). Some reach up to 180 feet (55 m) above the rainforest floor, highlighting views of the Arenal Volcano and the area's famed wildlife, which includes over 350 avian species. Read More
Whitewater Rafting on the Balsa River
The Balsa River, set in Arenal Volcano National Park, offers class II/III rapids, which extend a fun adventure suitable for the entire family. After a safety lesson, enjoy a whitewater rafting experience that balances adrenaline-pumping waves with calm drifts along the riverbank. With so much wildlife nearby, you may spot critters like howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, and more. Read More
Río Celeste Day Trip
Río Celeste is one of the least-visited tourist sites in Costa Rica, meaning you may have most of the trail to yourself. The area's highlight is a hike to the famous turquoise-blue waterfall, which gets its colors from sulfur and carbonate merging at a specific point: Los Teñideros. Though, you might enjoy the local legend's explanation! Read More
How to Craft the Perfect Arenal Itinerary
You could easily spend your entire trip in Arenal/La Fortuna, and many visitors with limited time do just that! Therefore, you only need a handful of days to enjoy your time in the region. However, if you'd like to combine the area with some other hot spots in the country, you'll have to decide how many days to spend in Costa Rica.
Arenal/La Fortuna pairs nicely with neighboring areas, including Manuel Antonio, Nicoya Peninsula, Monteverde, and Tortuguero. If you stick to these more northern reaches, give yourself at least one week in Costa Rica. If you'd like to also tack on a southern region like the Osa Peninsula or Talamanca, opt for two weeks.
Past kimkim travelers have enjoyed the following itineraries that include experiences in Arenal/La Fortuna: