Taylor-LaFortuna-Waterfall4

A woman enjoying Tabacon springs in the La Fortuna and Arenal area

There is nothing more magical than visiting the La Fortuna and Arenal area in North Western Costa Rica. Arenal Volcano is an active stratovolcano that includes luscious rainforests, breathtaking waterfalls, relaxing thermal springs, amazing hiking trails, memorable adventures and incredible wildlife all around. The La Fortuna area features renowned restaurants, stunning eco-friendly hotels and resorts and I could go on!

During April 2021, I did a week-long trip to Costa Rica with Caitlin of My Darling Passport. Costa Rica had been on my bucket list for quite a few years leading up to 2021 and during this wonderful journey, we got to spend three days in La Fortuna and Arenal before making our way to Monteverde where we spent another two nights. (Discover the best things to do with 2 days in Monteverde.) We then ended our trip on the coast at Peninsula Papagayo.

A woman enjoying a day trip to Rio Celeste from La Fortuna and Arenal

Traveling to Costa Rica was special for me because it is a very sacred country that lives off of the “Pura Vida” mindset. During a trip to Costa Rica, you will be greeted with “Pura Vida” by most locals. This famous saying means “Pure Life” in Spanish. It is a Costa Rican philosophy that encourages the appreciation of life’s simple treasures. It also means slowing things down, celebrating good fortune, refusing to take anything for granted and enjoying a laid-back lifestyle.

Pura Vida also means living life to the fullest. In fact, it is more than just a saying, it’s a lifestyle! I am excited to show you all how Costa Ricans live the “Pure Life” in this 3-day guide to La Fortuna and Arenal.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


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Traveling to and Around Costa Rica

A woman at La Fortuna Waterfall in the Arenal area

Before I get into how I traveled to Costa Rica, I do want to go over the requirements for getting to Costa Rica in 2021. There is no testing requirement to travel to Costa Rica! However, you will need to fill out a Health Pass form within 48 hours prior to departure to Costa Rica. You will also need to purchase a recommended travel insurance. After I filled everything out on the Costa Rica Health Pass form, a QR code was sent to my email where I presented it upon arrival at airport customs.

In addition, with the USA CDC travel requirements for re-entry into the United States (as of January 26, 2021) everyone will need to submit either a negative rt-PCR test result within 72 hours prior to departure back to the U.S. or a rapid Antigen negative test result within 48 hours prior to arrival in the U.S. (You will still need to get tested to come back into the United States even if you have been fully vaccinated.)

La Fortuna Waterfall from a distance

From Newark Airport, Caitlin and I flew to Juan Santamaría International Airport in the capital, San Jose, with a layover at Miami International Airport. From San Jose, we rented a car and drove over three hours to the La Fortuna and Arenal area in the Alajuela province. (Since we ended our trip on the Pacific coast of the country, we flew home from Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia.) You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner!

Please note that the best way to get around Costa Rica is by renting a car and you do not need an international driver’s license to rent a vehicle there. Also, the best GPS to use for directions is Google Maps. If you choose to take public transportation in Costa Rica, there are numerous bus companies that will take you around the country at an affordable cost. Uber is also available in certain cities in Costa Rica and there are also city taxis as well.

Where to Stay in the La Fortuna and Arenal Area:

A woman at Tabacon Resort in the La Fortuna and Arenal area

During our time in the La Fortuna and Arenal area, Caitlin and I stayed at Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa.

A trip to this beautiful region would not be complete without relaxing at a thermal hot spring. What is great about staying at Tabacón is that they have their own thermal springs on their property that you can enjoy as a guest or a visitor.

Tabacón is known to be one of the best thermal springs in Arenal and are a favorite amongst many. I loved how immersed I felt in nature at this peaceful resort! What is great about visiting Tabacón’s springs are that they boast Costa Rica’s largest network of naturally flowing thermal springs in Arenal Volcano’s largest and most beautifully private rainforest reserve!

A woman in the hot springs at Tabacon in La Fortuna and Arenal

In addition to their hot springs, Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa also has beautiful rooms and suites; two restaurants – Tucanes Restaurant and Ave Restaurant; four bars – Agua Ardiente Pool Bar, Shangri-La Gardens Bar, Caña Brava and Bosque Bar; a spa and a fitness center.

In addition to Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa, below are other great hotels and resorts in Arenal that are perfect for all budgets:

Luxury: The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal

Boutique: Nayara Gardens

Mid-Budget: The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort and Hotel Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa

Budget: Casa Luna Hotel & Spa and Casa Torre Eco-Lodge

Click here to discover more hotels for different budgets in the La Fortuna and Arenal area. There are also a plethora of hostels, Airbnbs and Vrbo options.

Where to Eat in La Fortuna:

Crafted cocktails from Tabacon Thermal Resort

Even though most of the hotels and resorts are located at the base of Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna boasts a thriving downtown area where you can find a lot of great restaurants, shops, gas stations, visitor centers, banks and more!

During our 3 nights in the Arenal and La Fortuna area, Caitlin and I drove a little over 15 minutes from Tabacón Resort to the downtown area to check out the restaurant scene.

Ceviche from Don Rufino in La Fortuna

Restaurante Don Rufino: A restaurant that was recommended to us and is also known as one of the best restaurants in La Fortuna is Don Rufino. What is great about this restaurant is that it features local flavors mixed with world cuisine.

During our evening at Don Rufino Restaurant, Caitlin and I both savored fish. At first, we got ceviche as an appetizer because we were starving! (I also had a mojito and Caitlin had a margarita.)

For our main meal, I had the pan seared mahi mahi in an oyster sauce with mushrooms, grilled shrimp, spinach and sweet potatoes. Caitlin enjoyed the grilled tuna. We were both impressed with this local restaurant and understand why it is iconic.

A seafood dinner from Don Rufino in the La Fortuna and Arenal area

Marisquerias Snapper’s House: Another renowned restaurant in La Fortuna that was recommended to us was Marisquerias Snapper’s House. This awesome restaurant is known for its fish and seafood pasta dishes.

During our evening at Marisquerias, Caitlin and I had a local Costa Rican beer and for my meal, I savored sea bass filet in a seafood sauce that was topped with local fish, shrimp and veggies. Caitlin had the grilled shrimp dish. Everything was amazing!

A seafood dinner from Marisquerias Snapper's House

Spectacolar Cantina: On our last evening in La Fortuna, Caitlin and I stumbled upon an adorable Mexican taco joint called Spectacolar Cantina. This great spot is known to have the best tacos in town and I could see why because it was delicious!

For dinner, we both had margaritas with shrimp tacos and it was unreal! Overall, it was one of the best shrimp taco dishes I’ve ever had and I loved the fun vibe of this cantina.

Tacos from Spectacolar Cantina in La Fortuna

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa: During most of my travels, I usually eat two big meals a day, which are breakfast and dinner, with a snack in the afternoon.

Our 3 days in La Fortuna and Arenal consisted of Caitlin and I savoring breakfast at Tabacón’s Tucanes restaurant. During breakfast, there was an omelet station along with a buffet that had traditional American staples such as pancakes, scrambled eggs, tater tots and Liege waffles. You can also enjoy cold cut meats and cheeses, smoked salmon, different breads such as chocolate matcha bread, fried plantains and more!

Liege waffles from Tabacon's breakfast

What I also loved about breakfast at Tucanes was their comforting Costa Rican coffee (if you didn’t already know, Costa Rica has AMAZING coffee) and tropical fruit juices.

Click here to book a cooking class in Costa Rica.

Best Things to do in La Fortuna and Arenal:

Tabacon hot springs in the La Fortuna and Arenal area

Below are the top 5 things to do in the Arenal area. Even though it doesn’t seem like much, most of these excursions will either take a few hours up to an entire day!

Relax at Tabacón Thermal Springs:

A woman enjoying 3 days in La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica

During our first full day in the La Fortuna and Arenal area, Caitlin and I couldn’t wait to enjoy the thermal springs at Tabacón.

What I loved about Tabacón’s springs are that they are the perfect place to immerse yourself in the lush tropical nature that Costa Rica boasts. Please be mindful when you choose to visit a thermal spring in Arenal because some of them will make you feel like you’re at a waterpark or a public pool instead of being in nature. Tabacón’s thermal springs will have you relaxing in a tropical wonderland, which is the best feeling!

Overall, there are plenty of different pools for you to enjoy at these stunning thermal springs and there is even a private area for those only staying at the resort! The temperatures range from 72 to 105 degrees (Fahrenheit) with the perfect mix of high volume and mineral content. It is naturally heated by the volcano.

A woman relaxing in the thermal springs of Tabacon in La Fortuna and Arenal

Each overnight guest automatically receives complimentary access to all of the thermal pools. Guests will also receive exclusive access to Tabacón’s Shangri-La Gardens, which is an adults-only area. (There is also a bar at this spot!)

What I enjoyed most about our day at Tabacón’s hot springs was that there are so many different pools to choose from! One of the pools has a bar in it where you can enjoy tropical drinks and snacks and there are also pools that are quieter and offer a lot of privacy. Additionally, there are a lot of lounge areas where you can sunbathe or take a nap.  

We both tried all of the different pools throughout our day at Tabacón’s thermal springs. We even got to enjoy the pool bar where we savored a refreshing alcoholic beverage in a pineapple with vegan mushroom burgers and fries for lunch.

A woman enjoying a tropical drink in a pineapple at Tabacon's swim up bar

Also located at Tabacón springs is Ave Restaurant that features traditional Costa Rican dishes along with international meals.

For those not staying at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, you will need to purchase a pass to enjoy the hot springs. Depending on when you are looking to go, there are a variety of different passes to choose from. You could also savor a lunch and/or dinner with whatever pass you decide to purchase. Click here to learn more.

Overall, it is very easy to spend a full day at Tabacón’s thermal hot springs. You can also enjoy the springs early in the morning and later at night! The springs open to the public at 10am and close at 10pm. As a hotel guest, you can enjoy the thermal springs before 10am each morning.

See the La Fortuna Waterfall:

A woman at La Fortuna Waterfall in the Arenal area

One of the top things to see during a visit to the Arenal and La Fortuna area is the La Fortuna Waterfall, otherwise known as Catarata Río Fortuna.

This 200-foot waterfall is located just outside of the town of La Fortuna and it costs $18 USD to enter. (All of the proceeds go to local conservation efforts.) It is absolutely fascinating to see this waterfall in person!

To get to the waterfall, you will need to go down a 500-step staircase. It takes around 15 minutes to get down the stairs to the waterfall and around a half hour to trek back up. I highly recommend bringing water with you because the trek up the stairs can be tiring, especially if you are out of shape. (I also recommend bringing bug spray for all of your adventures in Costa Rica!)

A woman enjoying the mist from La Fortuna Waterfall in Arenal, Costa Rica

At the waterfall, you can sit along the rocks and admire the natural beauty and you can also go swimming! I highly recommend getting to La Fortuna Waterfall right when it opens (it opens anytime between 7am to 8am, depending on the day) because it does get fairly crowded.

Visit Arenal Volcano National Park:

A woman admiring the views of Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano National Park or Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal is a 29,692-acre conservation area that contains a large percentage of geologic and biological complexity. It features two volcanoes – Arenal Volcano and Chato Volcano. Arenal is Costa Rica’s most active volcano since summer 1968 and its lava flows have been consistent ever since. Chato, on the other hand, has been inactive for nearly 3,500 years.

La Fortuna is located on the eastern side of the volcano, but if you want to get a glimpse of the lava, you will need to drive to the western side. Please note though, that most of the time the top of the volcano is covered in clouds. Consider yourself lucky when you get a clear view of the entire volcano.

Lava rocks from Arenal Volcano National Park

In addition, the rainy season at Arenal runs from May to January and its dry season goes from February to April. Since Costa Rica has a coastline along both the Atlantic and Pacific, the two oceans play an important role in Arenal Volcano National Park’s temperature and climate.

Some of the best things to do at Arenal Volcano National Park are to admire the views, go on a hike, zipline, enjoy horseback riding, learn about wildlife and more. (Some exotic animals that you can see are different types of monkeys, sloths, toucans, macaws, jaguars, amphibians, crocodiles, hummingbirds, butterflies, cougars, iguanas, snakes, spiders and more.)

Horses at Arenal Volcano National Park

Even though I went zip lining and walked along the hanging bridges during my next stop in Monteverde, you can also enjoy these same thrilling adventures in Arenal! Other great things to do in the area are to wander into the Venando Caves; visit Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge, ride ATVs and have fun white-water rafting, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and even mountain biking! The memories to be made here are endless!

Please note that it costs $15 USD to enter into Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal as an adult and depending on what adventures you decide to do, it will be an extra cost. (Costa Rica does accept U.S. Dollars and I recommend having cash on you. I also recommend using crisp dollar bills because if there is a rip in any form of cash payment, they may not be accepted.)

This was my second time visiting a volcano. I also had the opportunity to see the active volcano, Mount Etna, during my Sicily trip in June 2017.

Hike the Lava Trail in Arenal:

A woman doing the lava trails hike in Arenal from La Fortuna

A trip to La Fortuna and Arenal in Costa Rica would not be complete without going on at least one hike. During our time in this area, Caitlin and I were trying to see the volcano from up close and ended up doing the 2.9-mile Arenal 1968 Volcano Trail, which is also known as the lava trail. (It is a loop trail and is considered a moderate hike that is best to do from November through April.)

After the 1968 volcanic eruption, lava has flown in this area till 2010. Since then, it has stopped. When you first start this hike, you will ascend into the tropical rainforest. Eventually, you’ll reach an area where there is all lava rock! At that point, you will either get an amazing view of the volcano or see nothing at all due to clouds.

Unfortunately, when Caitlin and I did this hike, the clouds had already taken over. It even started to rain at the end of our hike. (I also recommend purchasing a waterproof poncho in case it rains. The weather could be unpredictable in Costa Rica no matter if you’re traveling during dry or rainy season.)

A toucan in Arenal Volcano National Park

Overall, I highly recommend hiking this trail during your time in the Arenal area. There are so many great lookout spots and scenic views all around. During this hike, there is a 570-foot elevation gain and there is a big chance that you’ll see cool wildlife. We saw a toucan!

Please note that it costs $15 USD to hike the Arenal 1968 lava trail. I also recommend downloading the AllTrails app to track your hike.

When Caitlin and I were finished with this hike, we treated ourselves to happy hour drinks at Tabacón’s Caña Brava bar. They have amazing, crafted cocktails!

Enjoy a Day Trip to Tenorio Volcano National Park

Rio Celeste at Tenorio Volcano National Park

Located around an hour and a half from La Fortuna is Tenorio Volcano National Park, otherwise known as Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. This beautiful park is situated in the Guanacaste province in Costa Rica and makes for the perfect day trip from the Arenal and La Fortuna area.

One of the main reasons why Tenorio Volcano National Park is so popular amongst travelers is because it is where the beautiful bright blue waterfall, Rio Celeste, is located! (Caitlin and I actually visited Rio Celeste on our way from La Fortuna to Monteverde. It was admittedly out of our way, but worth it!)

A woman admiring Rio Celeste on a day trip from La Fortuna and Arenal

Please note that it costs $4 USD to park your car at Tenorio Volcano National Park and it costs $12 USD to enter into the park as an adult. Not only is Rio Celeste waterfall situated here, the park is also known for the dormant Tenorio Volcano itself, natural hot springs, epic hiking trails, amazing wildlife and more.

Rio Celeste is a 98-foot waterfall that plunges into a pool of glistening aqua blue water. In order to get to the waterfall, you will need to hike to get there. (It is a fairly easy hike.) Just like at La Fortuna Waterfall, you will also need to go down 250 stairs. It is pretty challenging on your way back up, but just a tad easier than at La Fortuna!

Stairs at Rio Celeste waterfall

Overall, Rio Celeste, which means light blue river, is a magical waterfall to see during your trip to Costa Rica. It is located in the middle of the enchanting rainforest; the water is a striking blue and locals consider it a true “diamond in the rough”!

According to Costa Rican folklore, when God was finished painting the sky, He washed His paintbrushes in the river that made it turn the beautiful blue color that it is today. Scientists discovered that the blue water is actually an optical illusion versus a chemical reaction.

Rainforest in Costa Rica

Other awesome patches of water to see at Tenorio Volcano National Park are Laguna Azul and El Teñidero. There are also great hiking trails that go beyond Rio Celeste that take you deeper into the rainforest and the park also boasts hanging bridges too. It truly is an incredible spot in Costa Rica that cannot be missed!


I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best things to do with 3 days in the La Fortuna and Arenal area of Costa Rica and reading about my day trip to see Rio Celeste. If you have any questions about my trip to Costa Rica, please email me at [email protected]

Basic Facts of Costa Rica:

Currency: Costa Rican Colón (The United States Dollar is accepted everywhere!), Capital: San José, Time Zone: Costa Rica does not follow Daylight Savings. During the summer months, Costa Rica is on Mountain Standard Time and then it is on Central Standard Time during the winter months.

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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21 Comments

  1. Cosette on May 6, 2021 at 11:59 am

    Those waterfalls, I love waterfalls and they all look amazing. The hot springs at the hotel also look super cool, would love to spend the day there.

    • Taylor Deer on May 6, 2021 at 11:26 pm

      They really were so magical Cosette! I definitely loved my time in this part of Costa Rica! 🙂

  2. Kim Deer on May 6, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    Costa Rica is breathtaking ~ gorgeous aqua waters, lovely waterfalls, awesome hot springs and beautiful rain forest. Your blog was very informative! Great guide ~ love all the stunning photos of you 👍👌 Love you, mom 👩 xoxo ♥️

    • Taylor Deer on May 6, 2021 at 11:27 pm

      I loved it so much there. Thank you mom and love you too! 🙂

  3. Krista on May 8, 2021 at 11:21 am

    These seem like perfect destinations for people who love to be outdoors. I love how many waterfalls there are to choose from, and there are hiking trails too which is fantastic. Also, that food looks so tasty!

    • Taylor Deer on May 8, 2021 at 10:35 pm

      Yes, it was the perfect place to experience the best of nature! I loved all the food I had there. 🙂

  4. N on May 8, 2021 at 6:28 pm

    Is it safe to drive in costa rica? Where did u guys get the rental car? Did u guys need to get insurance?

    • Taylor Deer on May 8, 2021 at 10:39 pm

      Yes, it is safe to drive in Costa Rica if you’re careful and drive with caution. The roads are a bit bumpy and they aren’t paved like the way they are in the United States though, so be mindful of that. We rented our car from Economy and we bought the insurance through the rental car company. I think it was like $20-something per day. (I don’t remember the exact price.)

  5. Shelley on May 8, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    your photos are gorgeous! and you did this part of costa rica right… such great combo of the outfoors & pampering yourself a bit. i saved this blog & will be passing it on to any friends who will be beading to CR (since i’ve been!)

    • Taylor Deer on May 8, 2021 at 10:40 pm

      Thank you so much Shelley and I really appreciate that! It’s such a special place. 🙂

  6. Devin Held on May 8, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    This brings back great memories of my trip here. It is such an incredible place! The blues of Rio Celeste are so dreamy. Looks like you had a great time!

    • Taylor Deer on May 8, 2021 at 10:40 pm

      I really did have a nice time and it definitely is a special place to visit. 🙂

  7. Tanya on May 9, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    Loved reading this post, although it did make me rather envious as we didn’t get to visit this part of Costa Rica when we were there. Looks incredible.

    • Taylor Deer on May 9, 2021 at 4:30 pm

      Thank you Tanya! Now it gives you a reason to go back. 🙂

  8. Denise on May 9, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    Wow! That really looks like a very special place!

    • Taylor Deer on May 9, 2021 at 4:30 pm

      It definitely is Denise! 🙂

  9. Rachel-Jean Firchau on May 9, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    I am drooling over this!!! I went to Costa Rica 5 years ago and have been dying to go back and spend more time there. It’s so beautiful and the food just GOT me. Great post Taylor!

  10. Krystianna on May 9, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    Wow, these photos look amazing! I’ve never been to Costa Rica, but it’s on my list.

    • Taylor Deer on May 9, 2021 at 7:34 pm

      Thank you so much! It is such a beautiful destination! 🙂

  11. lisa on May 10, 2021 at 8:37 pm

    taylor your pictures are always sooo stunning! i love following along on your adventures via instagram! great post with so much detail – this makes me want to go back to costa rica asap!

    • Taylor Deer on May 11, 2021 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you so much Lisa! I also love following your adventures on Instagram as well. 🙂

Leave a Comment





Taylor-LaFortuna-Waterfall4

A woman enjoying Tabacon springs in the La Fortuna and Arenal area

There is nothing more magical than visiting the La Fortuna and Arenal area in North Western Costa Rica. Arenal Volcano is an active stratovolcano that includes luscious rainforests, breathtaking waterfalls, relaxing thermal springs, amazing hiking trails, memorable adventures and incredible wildlife all around. The La Fortuna area features renowned restaurants, stunning eco-friendly hotels and resorts and I could go on!

During April 2021, I did a week-long trip to Costa Rica with Caitlin of My Darling Passport. Costa Rica had been on my bucket list for quite a few years leading up to 2021 and during this wonderful journey, we got to spend three days in La Fortuna and Arenal before making our way to Monteverde where we spent another two nights. (Discover the best things to do with 2 days in Monteverde.) We then ended our trip on the coast at Peninsula Papagayo.

A woman enjoying a day trip to Rio Celeste from La Fortuna and Arenal

Traveling to Costa Rica was special for me because it is a very sacred country that lives off of the “Pura Vida” mindset. During a trip to Costa Rica, you will be greeted with “Pura Vida” by most locals. This famous saying means “Pure Life” in Spanish. It is a Costa Rican philosophy that encourages the appreciation of life’s simple treasures. It also means slowing things down, celebrating good fortune, refusing to take anything for granted and enjoying a laid-back lifestyle.

Pura Vida also means living life to the fullest. In fact, it is more than just a saying, it’s a lifestyle! I am excited to show you all how Costa Ricans live the “Pure Life” in this 3-day guide to La Fortuna and Arenal.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


Pin the Below Image to Keep Handy

Traveling to and Around Costa Rica

A woman at La Fortuna Waterfall in the Arenal area

Before I get into how I traveled to Costa Rica, I do want to go over the requirements for getting to Costa Rica in 2021. There is no testing requirement to travel to Costa Rica! However, you will need to fill out a Health Pass form within 48 hours prior to departure to Costa Rica. You will also need to purchase a recommended travel insurance. After I filled everything out on the Costa Rica Health Pass form, a QR code was sent to my email where I presented it upon arrival at airport customs.

In addition, with the USA CDC travel requirements for re-entry into the United States (as of January 26, 2021) everyone will need to submit either a negative rt-PCR test result within 72 hours prior to departure back to the U.S. or a rapid Antigen negative test result within 48 hours prior to arrival in the U.S. (You will still need to get tested to come back into the United States even if you have been fully vaccinated.)

La Fortuna Waterfall from a distance

From Newark Airport, Caitlin and I flew to Juan Santamaría International Airport in the capital, San Jose, with a layover at Miami International Airport. From San Jose, we rented a car and drove over three hours to the La Fortuna and Arenal area in the Alajuela province. (Since we ended our trip on the Pacific coast of the country, we flew home from Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia.) You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner!

Please note that the best way to get around Costa Rica is by renting a car and you do not need an international driver’s license to rent a vehicle there. Also, the best GPS to use for directions is Google Maps. If you choose to take public transportation in Costa Rica, there are numerous bus companies that will take you around the country at an affordable cost. Uber is also available in certain cities in Costa Rica and there are also city taxis as well.

Where to Stay in the La Fortuna and Arenal Area:

A woman at Tabacon Resort in the La Fortuna and Arenal area

During our time in the La Fortuna and Arenal area, Caitlin and I stayed at Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa.

A trip to this beautiful region would not be complete without relaxing at a thermal hot spring. What is great about staying at Tabacón is that they have their own thermal springs on their property that you can enjoy as a guest or a visitor.

Tabacón is known to be one of the best thermal springs in Arenal and are a favorite amongst many. I loved how immersed I felt in nature at this peaceful resort! What is great about visiting Tabacón’s springs are that they boast Costa Rica’s largest network of naturally flowing thermal springs in Arenal Volcano’s largest and most beautifully private rainforest reserve!

A woman in the hot springs at Tabacon in La Fortuna and Arenal

In addition to their hot springs, Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa also has beautiful rooms and suites; two restaurants – Tucanes Restaurant and Ave Restaurant; four bars – Agua Ardiente Pool Bar, Shangri-La Gardens Bar, Caña Brava and Bosque Bar; a spa and a fitness center.

In addition to Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa, below are other great hotels and resorts in Arenal that are perfect for all budgets:

Luxury: The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal

Boutique: Nayara Gardens

Mid-Budget: The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort and Hotel Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa

Budget: Casa Luna Hotel & Spa and Casa Torre Eco-Lodge

Click here to discover more hotels for different budgets in the La Fortuna and Arenal area. There are also a plethora of hostels, Airbnbs and Vrbo options.

Where to Eat in La Fortuna:

Crafted cocktails from Tabacon Thermal Resort

Even though most of the hotels and resorts are located at the base of Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna boasts a thriving downtown area where you can find a lot of great restaurants, shops, gas stations, visitor centers, banks and more!

During our 3 nights in the Arenal and La Fortuna area, Caitlin and I drove a little over 15 minutes from Tabacón Resort to the downtown area to check out the restaurant scene.

Ceviche from Don Rufino in La Fortuna

Restaurante Don Rufino: A restaurant that was recommended to us and is also known as one of the best restaurants in La Fortuna is Don Rufino. What is great about this restaurant is that it features local flavors mixed with world cuisine.

During our evening at Don Rufino Restaurant, Caitlin and I both savored fish. At first, we got ceviche as an appetizer because we were starving! (I also had a mojito and Caitlin had a margarita.)

For our main meal, I had the pan seared mahi mahi in an oyster sauce with mushrooms, grilled shrimp, spinach and sweet potatoes. Caitlin enjoyed the grilled tuna. We were both impressed with this local restaurant and understand why it is iconic.

A seafood dinner from Don Rufino in the La Fortuna and Arenal area

Marisquerias Snapper’s House: Another renowned restaurant in La Fortuna that was recommended to us was Marisquerias Snapper’s House. This awesome restaurant is known for its fish and seafood pasta dishes.

During our evening at Marisquerias, Caitlin and I had a local Costa Rican beer and for my meal, I savored sea bass filet in a seafood sauce that was topped with local fish, shrimp and veggies. Caitlin had the grilled shrimp dish. Everything was amazing!

A seafood dinner from Marisquerias Snapper's House

Spectacolar Cantina: On our last evening in La Fortuna, Caitlin and I stumbled upon an adorable Mexican taco joint called Spectacolar Cantina. This great spot is known to have the best tacos in town and I could see why because it was delicious!

For dinner, we both had margaritas with shrimp tacos and it was unreal! Overall, it was one of the best shrimp taco dishes I’ve ever had and I loved the fun vibe of this cantina.

Tacos from Spectacolar Cantina in La Fortuna

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa: During most of my travels, I usually eat two big meals a day, which are breakfast and dinner, with a snack in the afternoon.

Our 3 days in La Fortuna and Arenal consisted of Caitlin and I savoring breakfast at Tabacón’s Tucanes restaurant. During breakfast, there was an omelet station along with a buffet that had traditional American staples such as pancakes, scrambled eggs, tater tots and Liege waffles. You can also enjoy cold cut meats and cheeses, smoked salmon, different breads such as chocolate matcha bread, fried plantains and more!

Liege waffles from Tabacon's breakfast

What I also loved about breakfast at Tucanes was their comforting Costa Rican coffee (if you didn’t already know, Costa Rica has AMAZING coffee) and tropical fruit juices.

Click here to book a cooking class in Costa Rica.

Best Things to do in La Fortuna and Arenal:

Tabacon hot springs in the La Fortuna and Arenal area

Below are the top 5 things to do in the Arenal area. Even though it doesn’t seem like much, most of these excursions will either take a few hours up to an entire day!

Relax at Tabacón Thermal Springs:

A woman enjoying 3 days in La Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica

During our first full day in the La Fortuna and Arenal area, Caitlin and I couldn’t wait to enjoy the thermal springs at Tabacón.

What I loved about Tabacón’s springs are that they are the perfect place to immerse yourself in the lush tropical nature that Costa Rica boasts. Please be mindful when you choose to visit a thermal spring in Arenal because some of them will make you feel like you’re at a waterpark or a public pool instead of being in nature. Tabacón’s thermal springs will have you relaxing in a tropical wonderland, which is the best feeling!

Overall, there are plenty of different pools for you to enjoy at these stunning thermal springs and there is even a private area for those only staying at the resort! The temperatures range from 72 to 105 degrees (Fahrenheit) with the perfect mix of high volume and mineral content. It is naturally heated by the volcano.

A woman relaxing in the thermal springs of Tabacon in La Fortuna and Arenal

Each overnight guest automatically receives complimentary access to all of the thermal pools. Guests will also receive exclusive access to Tabacón’s Shangri-La Gardens, which is an adults-only area. (There is also a bar at this spot!)

What I enjoyed most about our day at Tabacón’s hot springs was that there are so many different pools to choose from! One of the pools has a bar in it where you can enjoy tropical drinks and snacks and there are also pools that are quieter and offer a lot of privacy. Additionally, there are a lot of lounge areas where you can sunbathe or take a nap.  

We both tried all of the different pools throughout our day at Tabacón’s thermal springs. We even got to enjoy the pool bar where we savored a refreshing alcoholic beverage in a pineapple with vegan mushroom burgers and fries for lunch.

A woman enjoying a tropical drink in a pineapple at Tabacon's swim up bar

Also located at Tabacón springs is Ave Restaurant that features traditional Costa Rican dishes along with international meals.

For those not staying at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, you will need to purchase a pass to enjoy the hot springs. Depending on when you are looking to go, there are a variety of different passes to choose from. You could also savor a lunch and/or dinner with whatever pass you decide to purchase. Click here to learn more.

Overall, it is very easy to spend a full day at Tabacón’s thermal hot springs. You can also enjoy the springs early in the morning and later at night! The springs open to the public at 10am and close at 10pm. As a hotel guest, you can enjoy the thermal springs before 10am each morning.

See the La Fortuna Waterfall:

A woman at La Fortuna Waterfall in the Arenal area

One of the top things to see during a visit to the Arenal and La Fortuna area is the La Fortuna Waterfall, otherwise known as Catarata Río Fortuna.

This 200-foot waterfall is located just outside of the town of La Fortuna and it costs $18 USD to enter. (All of the proceeds go to local conservation efforts.) It is absolutely fascinating to see this waterfall in person!

To get to the waterfall, you will need to go down a 500-step staircase. It takes around 15 minutes to get down the stairs to the waterfall and around a half hour to trek back up. I highly recommend bringing water with you because the trek up the stairs can be tiring, especially if you are out of shape. (I also recommend bringing bug spray for all of your adventures in Costa Rica!)

A woman enjoying the mist from La Fortuna Waterfall in Arenal, Costa Rica

At the waterfall, you can sit along the rocks and admire the natural beauty and you can also go swimming! I highly recommend getting to La Fortuna Waterfall right when it opens (it opens anytime between 7am to 8am, depending on the day) because it does get fairly crowded.

Visit Arenal Volcano National Park:

A woman admiring the views of Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano National Park or Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal is a 29,692-acre conservation area that contains a large percentage of geologic and biological complexity. It features two volcanoes – Arenal Volcano and Chato Volcano. Arenal is Costa Rica’s most active volcano since summer 1968 and its lava flows have been consistent ever since. Chato, on the other hand, has been inactive for nearly 3,500 years.

La Fortuna is located on the eastern side of the volcano, but if you want to get a glimpse of the lava, you will need to drive to the western side. Please note though, that most of the time the top of the volcano is covered in clouds. Consider yourself lucky when you get a clear view of the entire volcano.

Lava rocks from Arenal Volcano National Park

In addition, the rainy season at Arenal runs from May to January and its dry season goes from February to April. Since Costa Rica has a coastline along both the Atlantic and Pacific, the two oceans play an important role in Arenal Volcano National Park’s temperature and climate.

Some of the best things to do at Arenal Volcano National Park are to admire the views, go on a hike, zipline, enjoy horseback riding, learn about wildlife and more. (Some exotic animals that you can see are different types of monkeys, sloths, toucans, macaws, jaguars, amphibians, crocodiles, hummingbirds, butterflies, cougars, iguanas, snakes, spiders and more.)

Horses at Arenal Volcano National Park

Even though I went zip lining and walked along the hanging bridges during my next stop in Monteverde, you can also enjoy these same thrilling adventures in Arenal! Other great things to do in the area are to wander into the Venando Caves; visit Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge, ride ATVs and have fun white-water rafting, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and even mountain biking! The memories to be made here are endless!

Please note that it costs $15 USD to enter into Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal as an adult and depending on what adventures you decide to do, it will be an extra cost. (Costa Rica does accept U.S. Dollars and I recommend having cash on you. I also recommend using crisp dollar bills because if there is a rip in any form of cash payment, they may not be accepted.)

This was my second time visiting a volcano. I also had the opportunity to see the active volcano, Mount Etna, during my Sicily trip in June 2017.

Hike the Lava Trail in Arenal:

A woman doing the lava trails hike in Arenal from La Fortuna

A trip to La Fortuna and Arenal in Costa Rica would not be complete without going on at least one hike. During our time in this area, Caitlin and I were trying to see the volcano from up close and ended up doing the 2.9-mile Arenal 1968 Volcano Trail, which is also known as the lava trail. (It is a loop trail and is considered a moderate hike that is best to do from November through April.)

After the 1968 volcanic eruption, lava has flown in this area till 2010. Since then, it has stopped. When you first start this hike, you will ascend into the tropical rainforest. Eventually, you’ll reach an area where there is all lava rock! At that point, you will either get an amazing view of the volcano or see nothing at all due to clouds.

Unfortunately, when Caitlin and I did this hike, the clouds had already taken over. It even started to rain at the end of our hike. (I also recommend purchasing a waterproof poncho in case it rains. The weather could be unpredictable in Costa Rica no matter if you’re traveling during dry or rainy season.)

A toucan in Arenal Volcano National Park

Overall, I highly recommend hiking this trail during your time in the Arenal area. There are so many great lookout spots and scenic views all around. During this hike, there is a 570-foot elevation gain and there is a big chance that you’ll see cool wildlife. We saw a toucan!

Please note that it costs $15 USD to hike the Arenal 1968 lava trail. I also recommend downloading the AllTrails app to track your hike.

When Caitlin and I were finished with this hike, we treated ourselves to happy hour drinks at Tabacón’s Caña Brava bar. They have amazing, crafted cocktails!

Enjoy a Day Trip to Tenorio Volcano National Park

Rio Celeste at Tenorio Volcano National Park

Located around an hour and a half from La Fortuna is Tenorio Volcano National Park, otherwise known as Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. This beautiful park is situated in the Guanacaste province in Costa Rica and makes for the perfect day trip from the Arenal and La Fortuna area.

One of the main reasons why Tenorio Volcano National Park is so popular amongst travelers is because it is where the beautiful bright blue waterfall, Rio Celeste, is located! (Caitlin and I actually visited Rio Celeste on our way from La Fortuna to Monteverde. It was admittedly out of our way, but worth it!)

A woman admiring Rio Celeste on a day trip from La Fortuna and Arenal

Please note that it costs $4 USD to park your car at Tenorio Volcano National Park and it costs $12 USD to enter into the park as an adult. Not only is Rio Celeste waterfall situated here, the park is also known for the dormant Tenorio Volcano itself, natural hot springs, epic hiking trails, amazing wildlife and more.

Rio Celeste is a 98-foot waterfall that plunges into a pool of glistening aqua blue water. In order to get to the waterfall, you will need to hike to get there. (It is a fairly easy hike.) Just like at La Fortuna Waterfall, you will also need to go down 250 stairs. It is pretty challenging on your way back up, but just a tad easier than at La Fortuna!

Stairs at Rio Celeste waterfall

Overall, Rio Celeste, which means light blue river, is a magical waterfall to see during your trip to Costa Rica. It is located in the middle of the enchanting rainforest; the water is a striking blue and locals consider it a true “diamond in the rough”!

According to Costa Rican folklore, when God was finished painting the sky, He washed His paintbrushes in the river that made it turn the beautiful blue color that it is today. Scientists discovered that the blue water is actually an optical illusion versus a chemical reaction.

Rainforest in Costa Rica

Other awesome patches of water to see at Tenorio Volcano National Park are Laguna Azul and El Teñidero. There are also great hiking trails that go beyond Rio Celeste that take you deeper into the rainforest and the park also boasts hanging bridges too. It truly is an incredible spot in Costa Rica that cannot be missed!


I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best things to do with 3 days in the La Fortuna and Arenal area of Costa Rica and reading about my day trip to see Rio Celeste. If you have any questions about my trip to Costa Rica, please email me at [email protected]

Basic Facts of Costa Rica:

Currency: Costa Rican Colón (The United States Dollar is accepted everywhere!), Capital: San José, Time Zone: Costa Rica does not follow Daylight Savings. During the summer months, Costa Rica is on Mountain Standard Time and then it is on Central Standard Time during the winter months.

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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21 Comments

  1. Cosette on May 6, 2021 at 11:59 am

    Those waterfalls, I love waterfalls and they all look amazing. The hot springs at the hotel also look super cool, would love to spend the day there.

    • Taylor Deer on May 6, 2021 at 11:26 pm

      They really were so magical Cosette! I definitely loved my time in this part of Costa Rica! 🙂

  2. Kim Deer on May 6, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    Costa Rica is breathtaking ~ gorgeous aqua waters, lovely waterfalls, awesome hot springs and beautiful rain forest. Your blog was very informative! Great guide ~ love all the stunning photos of you 👍👌 Love you, mom 👩 xoxo ♥️

    • Taylor Deer on May 6, 2021 at 11:27 pm

      I loved it so much there. Thank you mom and love you too! 🙂

  3. Krista on May 8, 2021 at 11:21 am

    These seem like perfect destinations for people who love to be outdoors. I love how many waterfalls there are to choose from, and there are hiking trails too which is fantastic. Also, that food looks so tasty!

    • Taylor Deer on May 8, 2021 at 10:35 pm

      Yes, it was the perfect place to experience the best of nature! I loved all the food I had there. 🙂

  4. N on May 8, 2021 at 6:28 pm

    Is it safe to drive in costa rica? Where did u guys get the rental car? Did u guys need to get insurance?

    • Taylor Deer on May 8, 2021 at 10:39 pm

      Yes, it is safe to drive in Costa Rica if you’re careful and drive with caution. The roads are a bit bumpy and they aren’t paved like the way they are in the United States though, so be mindful of that. We rented our car from Economy and we bought the insurance through the rental car company. I think it was like $20-something per day. (I don’t remember the exact price.)

  5. Shelley on May 8, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    your photos are gorgeous! and you did this part of costa rica right… such great combo of the outfoors & pampering yourself a bit. i saved this blog & will be passing it on to any friends who will be beading to CR (since i’ve been!)

    • Taylor Deer on May 8, 2021 at 10:40 pm

      Thank you so much Shelley and I really appreciate that! It’s such a special place. 🙂

  6. Devin Held on May 8, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    This brings back great memories of my trip here. It is such an incredible place! The blues of Rio Celeste are so dreamy. Looks like you had a great time!

    • Taylor Deer on May 8, 2021 at 10:40 pm

      I really did have a nice time and it definitely is a special place to visit. 🙂

  7. Tanya on May 9, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    Loved reading this post, although it did make me rather envious as we didn’t get to visit this part of Costa Rica when we were there. Looks incredible.

    • Taylor Deer on May 9, 2021 at 4:30 pm

      Thank you Tanya! Now it gives you a reason to go back. 🙂

  8. Denise on May 9, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    Wow! That really looks like a very special place!

    • Taylor Deer on May 9, 2021 at 4:30 pm

      It definitely is Denise! 🙂

  9. Rachel-Jean Firchau on May 9, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    I am drooling over this!!! I went to Costa Rica 5 years ago and have been dying to go back and spend more time there. It’s so beautiful and the food just GOT me. Great post Taylor!

  10. Krystianna on May 9, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    Wow, these photos look amazing! I’ve never been to Costa Rica, but it’s on my list.

    • Taylor Deer on May 9, 2021 at 7:34 pm

      Thank you so much! It is such a beautiful destination! 🙂

  11. lisa on May 10, 2021 at 8:37 pm

    taylor your pictures are always sooo stunning! i love following along on your adventures via instagram! great post with so much detail – this makes me want to go back to costa rica asap!

    • Taylor Deer on May 11, 2021 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you so much Lisa! I also love following your adventures on Instagram as well. 🙂

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