La Fortuna Waterfall (aka Catarata Fortuna) is one of the most visited waterfalls in Costa Rica. It’s about 75m (~246 feet) and sits at the base of the dormant Chato volcano.
When I was researching this, the posts made it seem like the steps are really difficult and rugged. They’re not. This is a touristy destination and the steps are man-made. There are a lot of steps, so certainly anyone with concerns about that should avoid going down to the waterfall.
The water was cold (end of May 2016) so most people opted to observe the waterfall from the rocks, which is nice. I love waterfalls so I loved it. If you’ve been to Foz do Iguacu, Victoria Falls, Niagara or other big waterfalls – this is not that by any stretch of imagination.
This is like a family friendly water park, except the main attraction is a natural waterfall. We saw people ziplining too, which actually seemed really cool. There are two different options – one with 12 platforms and another with 10. Both offer the optional Tarzan swing, which is kinda like doing a canyon swing….so it’s fun.
Your hostel or hotel can call you a cab. The cab costs about $25 each way from La Fortuna to the waterfall. Pay the cab driver in cash (USD or colón). The really nice thing is they’ve setup a phone at the park entrance where you can call a cab to pick you up when you’re done.
Closing Time and Cost
When I visited in May, it was $15 per person. You can pay by credit card. The park closed at 5pm but I also read other posts where people said it closed at 4:30pm. I recommend giving yourself at least 2 hours to hang out there.
When & What Time to Visit
I was there the 3rd week of May, which is considered shoulder season. In May, I recommend visiting before 2pm because it starts raining in the afternoon. The 3.5 days I was in Arenal, the weather was rain-free everyday from 6am-about 2:30p and then rain storms with thunder and lightning ensued until the next morning. The park closed at 5pm and we wanted to give ourselves enough time to enjoy.
Once the rainy season starts, I imagine it’s hit or miss as rain comes and goes throughout the day. And during the dry season you might base your visit on crowd volume instead of weather, as during the dry season there are ALOT more tourists. (side note, one of our drivers shared that many locals work two jobs each year: dry season in the tourist areas and during the rainy season they move to San Jose).
What To Wear
Summery clothes – dresses, shorts, light pants. It’s hot and humid so you’ll want something breathable. It actually got a little chilly as it became overcast on our visit so a rain jacket is a good idea.
Water shoes like Keens or sneakers are fine. You don’t need hiking boots/shoes. Just wear something that you won’t mind if it gets wet.
Camera Types, Protection and Lenses
It’s a good idea to have some sort of protective cover for your camera. The waterfall’s spray’s reach is pretty far but not enough to ruin your camera if you’re just hanging out on the rocks. But if you plan to use your camera while you play in the water or have fiends shoot images while you’re in the water, make sure you keep a protective cover on the camera. Water damage can make your whole camera malfunction (see my post about how my DSLR died at Victoria Falls).
A camera phone or a point and shoot are all you need here. If you’re taking your DSLR, keep a wide angle lens with you. You’ll want to capture the whole scenery as opposed to zooming in on the waterfall.
Safety & Solo Travelers
The park is very safe. There’s staff throughout the park ensuring everyone is safe and having a good time. Solo travelers, couples, groups, families – La Fortuna Waterfall is great for everyone. You might even be able to share a cab with someone arriving from La Fortuna town.
There are lockers, restrooms, a nice restaurant and bar and souvenir shops at the entrance too.
There is a tour that offers a visit to La Fortuna Waterfall + a coffee tour for $72. We didn’t find the cost savings to be significant but it is convenient to do to them together since they’re close to each other. Once you’re inside La Fortuna Waterfall, you won’t need a guide.
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