Visiting La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica: Ultimate Guide

a woman in a white shirt stands before the thundering La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica with lush dark green surrounds

La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica, also referred to as Catarata La Fortuna (‘lucky waterfall’ in Spanish), is one of the best things to do in Arenal, and a top visited Costa Rica waterfall.

Derived from the refreshing Arenal River in the Alajuela Province, nestled into the lush Costa Rican rainforest, La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica features a strikingly blue lagoon and a 246-foot (75-metre) thunderous column of water

With 500 steps downward and oh-so-beautiful rainforest surrounds, this Arenal waterfall makes a great self-guided half-day trip or as part of an epic all-day adventure with nearby attractions like the Mistico Hanging Bridges and La Fortuna hot springs like Tabacon.

Make sure to bring your swimmers along with you on your hike to La Fortuna Waterfall. By the time you reach the bottom, you will be dying to sink your feet into the clear, refreshing waters. Keep your eyes open, as you may just see an adorable white-nosed coati, a bright-coloured bird, or even a Costa Rican sloth!

So, if you are planning to visit Catarata La Fortuna Costa Rica (which you should!), then read further to find out where it is, how to get there, what to expect at Cascada La Fortuna and more!

panoramic view of Arenal waterfall amongst lush rainforest with misty sky

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Where is La Fortuna Waterfall
in Costa Rica?

La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica (or Catarata La Fortuna), one of the best things to do in La Fortuna is located a 3.5 mile (5.5km) distance from downtown La Fortuna Costa Rica in the northern Alajuela Province. 

Click on the La Fortuna Waterfall map below to interact with Google Maps and find your ideal route to visit Cascada La Fortuna, or read on about the best ways to get to the waterfall.

digital map of La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica

How to Get to La Fortuna Waterfall

a thin waterfall drops into a dark green blue pool surrounded by rugged grey rocks in Costa Rica La Fortuna

By Rental Car

You can reach the Arenal waterfall within a 10-minute drive with your rental car. I always rent through Discover Cars. They are great because they compare local and global companies to find you the best price. Plus, the last time I was in Arenal, rental cars were completely sold out! So, make sure to book ahead.

Plug ‘La Fortuna Waterfall’ or ‘Catarata Rio Fortuna’ into Google Maps (or Waze) and you are good to go. Otherwise, follow Route 702 away from the main drag in La Fortuna (the 142) for 4 minutes, and turn right heading up Diag. 301. You will reach the La Fortuna Costa Rica waterfall visitor’s centre in approximately a 6-minute drive from there.

TIP | You do not need a 4×4 vehicle to visit La Fortuna Waterfall as the entire roadway is paved.

By Taxi

red SUV taxi parked on the side of the road ready to take you to Costa Rica waterfall La Fortuna
Official Red Taxi at La Fortuna Town Centre ready to take you to La Fortuna Waterfall

If you don’t have a rental car, you can opt to take an official red taxi from the town centre to the entrance of the hike to La Fortuna Waterfall. The cost will be roughly $15 USD. You can find the official taxi stand on the road in front of La Fortuna central park.

TIP | Make sure your driver turns on the taxi metre to properly track your trip. Otherwise, you may fall victim to overcharging.

On Foot

Views of Arenal Volcano on the way to Cascada La Fortuna with partly cloudy blue sky
Views of Arenal Volcano along your walk to Cascada La Fortuna

If you are an avid hiker or just an all-around active person, you can choose to walk to Catarata La Fortuna. From the centre of La Fortuna town, follow the same instructions for getting to the falls by vehicle. The walk will take you around 1 hour and 15 minutes with a slow and mild uphill incline

A great way to experience the walk on foot without having to do both ways is to take a taxi to La Fortuna Waterfall and then walk back on the slight decline. A more enjoyable stroll. Make sure to stop and admire Arenal Volcano! Fingers crossed it’s a sunny day for you.

Do note, that the walk is along the main road of Route 702 and Diag. 301, so please use street sense. Not advisable for families with young children.

Best La Fortuna Waterfall Tours

La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica stands behind a girl in a loose white shirt

Alternatively, you can grab a spot on an epic all-day guided Arenal adventure with a knowledgeable local guide. Combine a hike to La Fortuna Waterfall with a visit to Arenal Volcano, the Mistico hangings bridges or one of the relaxing La Fortuna hot springs

A guided combination tour is a very popular and highly rated way of seeing La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano region, in general. Even if you have a rental car, it can be nice to have the added knowledge from a professional guide and local. 

If you love horses, try a horseback riding excursion through the rainforest at the base of Arenal Volcano that will take you to the top of La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica. 

Popular Guided Tours
Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall + Hot Springs
Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall + Hanging Bridges
Horseback Riding to La Fortuna Waterfall

Catarata La Fortuna Costa Rica runs through dark grey rugged rocks to a pool belong with greenery

La Fortuna Waterfall Entrance Fee

The easiest and fastest way to get your tickets is by purchasing the Skip-the-line Admission Ticket through Viator. This is especially handy if you plan to visit in the high season of December-April, and during the morning hours. 

If not, you can simply purchase your tickets at the visitor’s centre upon arrival.

La Fortuna Waterfall Price | $18USD for Adults, Free for Children Under 8 Years Old

looking up at green rainforest canopy at La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica
Rainforest Canopy at La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica

La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica Hours

The La Fortuna Waterfall opening hours are from 7AM – 5PM daily with the last entry at 4PM.

La Fortuna Waterfall Parking

parking at the Arenal Waterfall with a grey and white SUV and lush rainforest beyond

You can find a nicely paved parking lot just outside the visitor’s centre at La Fortuna Waterfall. The parking lot can take up to 25 cars and is free of charge.

Because the waterfalls are so popular (one of the top waterfalls in Costa Rica!), I would recommend getting to the falls early to snag a spot. There is one accessible parking stall.

La Fortuna Waterfall Amenities

As a popular waterfall in Costa Rica, La Fortuna Waterfall enjoys a few established amenities. A trip to these waterfalls near La Fortuna is no longer a wilderness adventure, which can be a good and not-so-good thing depending on what type of traveller you are.


colourful seating and hanging plants in a restaurant at waterfall in Costa Rica

Situated behind the visitor’s centre across a bridge is the outdoor restaurant called Restaurant Rio Lounge. The restaurant offers a few typical, yet elevated, Costa Rican cuisine options like ceviche, plus a variety of meals catered to the North American palette like burgers, sandwiches, pasta and salads.

The restaurant opens its doors at 9AM and is a perfect spot to grab breakfast after your visit to the falls. The restaurant closes at 5PM.

Drone shot looking down at Cascada La Fortuna Costa Rica
Drone shot of the Falls

Restrooms + Lockers

Well-maintained restrooms and lockers are available just past the visitor’s centre. If you don’t have your swimsuit on already, make sure to change here before descending the 500 steps down to the falls as this is your only opportunity on site.

If you’d like to leave your bag and belongings and not carry them with you on your Catarata La Fortuna hike, you can rent a locker at the visitor’s centre for $2 USD. Please note, that a $10 USD deposit is required for locker rental in case of key loss.

Souvenir Shop

Of course, with any big attraction, you can purchase a souvenir to commemorate your trip or to gift to loved ones at home. There is a souvenir shop at the visitor’s centre just for this purpose.

Best Time to Visit La Fortuna Waterfall

Time of Year

The best time to visit La Fortuna Waterfall is in the dry season of December – April. After heavy rains, the waterfalls and lagoon tend to turn brown and lose their beautiful blue hue.

It’s important to note, that even during the dry season, the Costa Rican rainforest in Arenal can experience periodic heavy rains, so check yesterday’s forecast before visiting.

If you plan to visit Costa Rica in the wet season when the rainforest is at its most lush, don’t fret if it’s always raining. La Fortuna Waterfall will always be a great experience no matter the weather. Plus, the well-built stairs at the waterfall will keep you safe on your feet.

Time of Day

The best time of day to visit the La Fortuna Waterfall is first thing in the morning when the visitor’s centre opens at 7AM. If you aren’t joining a daily tour, this will be the quietest time of day to thoroughly enjoy nature and the waterfall all to yourself.

Tours will arrive between 9-10AM (although this popular tour arrives around 8AM).

Alternatively, you can visit the Rio Fortuna Waterfall after the mid-morning rush around lunchtime or in the afternoon to experience fewer crowds.

a large colourful sign reading 'Fortuna' under a wooden canopy in the rainforest
Visitor Centre for Ziplining over La Fortuna Waterfall

What to Expect at La Fortuna Waterfall

Read on for a step-by-step guide to visiting La Fortuna Waterfall, just in case you are looking for a trip without surprises. Otherwise, you can just go, enjoy it and report back on your experience! I have no doubt, it will be a good one.

La Fortuna Waterfall Visitors Centre and Facilities

a grey brick pathway runs through the rainforest to La Fortuna waterfall with signage
You can see the Viewing Platform at the end

When you first arrive at the visitor’s centre, park your rental car in the paved parking lot (space for 25 cars) and make your way to the admission counter. Here, you can purchase your tickets, or show your Waterfall skip-the-line ticket and receive your admission bracelet. Make sure to wear your bracelet for your entire visit to Cascada La Fortuna. 

Then, you will cross a bright green bridge, reminiscent of the Mistico Hanging Bridges, and arrive at the on-site amenities. Here you will find the bank of changing rooms and restrooms, and further on the restaurant to the left. 

a woman in a white shirt and black shorts walks on a green suspension bridge amongst Costa Rica rainforest

Here is the last opportunity to go to the restroom, change into your swimsuit or grab a bite to eat before descending down to the La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica.

La Fortuna Waterfall Viewpoint

waterfall in the distance in La Fortuna Costa Rica jungle
The waterfall in La Fortuna from the viewing platform

So, you’ve changed into your swimmers, had a quick bathroom break and grabbed a snack, you are officially ready for your visit to La Fortuna Waterfall! It’s time to walk towards the viewing platform that will give you panoramic views of the Costa Rican rainforest and La Fortuna Waterfall spilling out of the lush surrounds. 

Make sure to stop here! It is rare you get such a beautiful, all-encompassing view like this at any waterfall in Costa Rica. Plus, the viewing platform is accessible for all visitors as it doesn’t require any steps to get up. 

If you are a photographer or content creator, this is a perfect spot to put up your drone. To make sure you aren’t disturbing other visitors, arrive at the La Fortuna viewpoint just after opening at 7AM.

The Orchid Trail

Just past the viewing platform, you can choose to start your hike to La Fortuna Waterfall or take a very short detour to follow the Orchid Trail. This scenic trail loop will take you through an orchid garden consisting of up to 200 native orchid species planted along the path.

The walk takes about 5-10 minutes to complete (including stops to admire the flowers) and is worth seeing. 

The end of the trail loops back to the start of the descent to La Fortuna Waterfall, so it’s super convenient and a great addition to your visit to Waterfall La Fortuna Costa Rica.

Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall surrounded by greenery
The Orchid Trail

La Fortuna Waterfall Hike

First off, I wouldn’t call the La Fortuna Waterfall hike a ‘hike’ per se. What I imagine when I think of a hike is dirt or rocky trails, steep elevation and hard work. Although you will be descending and ascending 500 stairs, it will be a very easily navigable climb on a paved surface

The La Fortuna Waterfall Stairs

stairs after hiking to the waterfall in La Fortuna
500 steps to La Fortuna Waterfall!

After strolling among the beautiful orchids, make your way to the top of the stairs down to Catarata La Fortuna. Here you will follow the well-built and well-maintained staircase of 500 steps downwards.

Make sure to enjoy the surrounding rainforest on your way down and keep an eye open for native Costa Rican wildlife like coatis and sloths. 

Depending on your fitness level, you may want to stop at the very nice rest areas with benches that are located every 100 steps or so. Take a seat, grab some water from your reusable water bottle and enjoy being in nature (I certainly did this on the way back up!). Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, after all.

wooden carved seating area in the jungle
Seating Areas on the hike up from the falls

After crossing a bridge or two and several sets of stairs, you will make it to the bottom of the waterfalls. The La Fortuna Waterfall hike length is about 15 minutes on the way down depending on how many times you enjoy the rest stops.

The trip back up the stairs will take upwards of 20-30 minutes.

The Base of La Fortuna Waterfall

Now it is time to ascend a couple of steps to the paved viewing platform at the base of the falls. Here you can really feel the strength and glory of nature as the 246-foot waterfall rushes into the strikingly blue lagoon below. 

Yes, you can walk down to the waterfall lagoon and stand amongst the rocks on the edge of the pool, but it’s important to note two things:

  • The rocks at the base of the La Fortuna Waterfall are slippery! Please be careful or simply wear a good pair of grippy water shoes. I wear these water shoes.
  • You are not allowed to swim in the lagoon directly below the La Fortuna Waterfall. There is a lifeguard on duty that will get testy if you try to wade too far into the water. Don’t worry though, you can swim a short distance further downstream.

Swimming at La Fortuna Waterfall

clear pool for swimming at La Fortuna Costa Rica Waterfall
Swimming Lagoon

Can you swim in La Fortuna Waterfall? The answer is yes and no.

While you are able to swim while visiting Catarata La Fortuna, you aren’t allowed to swim directly under the waterfall. About a 30-second stroll down the river, you will find a clear, refreshing swimming hole with waters directly from the waterfall and Arenal River itself.

It’s a great way to cool off after your descent down the 500 steps. 

There is a small sandy beach at the swimming hole and there are small hooks provided to hang your bags, clothing items and towels while you enjoy the water. Note, there are small silver dart river fish in the freshwater pool, but no worries, they are super friendly!

What to Bring to La Fortuna Waterfall

There are a few important things you should bring with you on your visit to Waterfall La Fortuna. On my visit, I got really good use out of my grippy water shoes and was happy I brought a quick-drying microfibre towel and mosquito repellent. Plus, I always bring my purifying reusable water bottle with me on my full-time travels. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.

Here are some other essentials to bring to La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica:

signage with the rules for visiting La Fortuna Costa Rica

Catarata La Fortuna Practical Information

Below you will find the answers to a few common questions about La Fortuna Waterfall.

The La Fortuna Waterfall hike is just over 500 paved steps downhill. It takes approximately 15 minutes one way. Depending on your fitness level, it may take you a bit longer to climb the stairs on your return to the visitor’s centre.

The La Fortuna Waterfall height is 246 feet or 75 metres.

Yes, there is a 25-space paved parking lot available free of charge.

Yes, washrooms are available while visiting La Fortuna Waterfall at the top before descending the 500 steps down. Make sure to go before your visit!

Yes, there is a restaurant on-site called the Restaurant Rio Lounge. The restaurant offers Costa Rican and Western cuisine and is open 9AM – 5PM daily.

No, adults cannot visit the waterfall for free. Entrance fees are $18 USD for adults, although children under 8 can enter free of charge.

Yes, you can visit the waterfall without a tour. Simply purchase the skip-the-line tickets or purchase your tickets directly from the Catarata La Fortuna Costa Rica visitors centre. Then, you can follow the well-directed path down towards the falls.

Yes, but not right under the waterfall. You can swim at the waterfall in La Fortuna a 30-second walk downriver in a beautiful clear lagoon.

Yes, La Fortuna Waterfall is most definitely worth visiting. As one of the top things to do in La Fortuna and one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica, it should be at the top of your list!

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