A local's guide to La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Local expert and Insight Guides trip planner Alain shares his best-kept secrets on how to make your stop at La Fortuna unforgettable
Horse riders on the road to Catarates del Rio Fortuna waterfall. Photo: Corrie Wingate/APA
Local horse riders on the road to Catarates del Rio Fortuna waterfall. Photo: Corrie Wingate/APA

When should we plan our holiday and why?

The best times to visit La Fortuna and Volcán Arenal are between March-April and September-October, when it is the sunny, dry season. From December-February the weather can be surprisingly hot too. During the rainy season, from May-August, it usually rains in the afternoons. Don't let this put you off though, the hot springs are unmissable in the pouring rain.

Where would you recommend we stay? 

It really depends, if you want an authentic, affordable place in downtown La Fortuna, I'd recommend Hotel Don Bosco. For a hotel with a little more luxury, as well as a great view, gardens, and hot springs, Arenal Springs Hotel is the place.

On the pricey side but so worth it is Tabacon Resort and Hot Springs. Home to both gorgeous rooms and the most beautiful hot springs in the whole area.

Where is a great place for dinner?

In La Fortuna, there are several choices of places to eat. Probably the best is Rancho Perla, a big wooden construction and a great garden on the outskirts of the town. Their prices are fair and the food truly delicious. When you're looking for a quick snack or light meal, Lava Rocks totally rocks. Go there for great burgers.

Behind the town's church, there is a small coffee shop called Down to Earth. Here you can find great coffee to drink in or take-away. I'd definitely recommend here for a quick pit-stop. 

Is there a ‘must-try’ dish while we’re in this region?

The highlight of this area is a tasty tuber called yucca. The yucca is an edible root (big and brown on the outside, white on the inside), which can be made into many different dishes. Try an enyucado: mashed yucca stuffed with meat or cheese.

Is there an ‘unmissable’ experience while we’re in this region too?

The one thing I'd recommend you do on your trip is visit the hot springs. There are many different areas to explore and some of them, like Ecotermales or Tabacon, are immersed in the tropical rainforest and truly unique.

If you're adventurous, try the waterfall rappelling in the Lost Canyon. It is an extreme activity that will take you to amazing landscapes and give you a pretty hefty adrenaline rush.

Costa Rica's Coast to Coast trip will take you to Volcan Arenal and La Fortuna. Explore the itinerary online now

Arenal Observatory lodge, Arenal Volcano.Arenal Observatory lodge, Arenal Volcano. Photo: Corrie Wingate/APA

Where is the most romantic spot?

The hot springs of Tabacon have a few scattered, secluded ponds that are surrounded by the most stunning gardens and natural rainforests. Their on-site spa also offers fantastic couple treatments.

Where can we hang out with locals?

There are a number of cultural tours in the area that will take you to local schools where you can spend time with children while they perform typical dances. These activities are beneficial for English practice and interaction with people from other cultures, both of which have proven to be very good for young people's development. As well as this, the school also benefits from the money raised by tourists visiting.

On a cultural tour, you'll also be taken to a traditional Costa Rican lunch where you can make your own tortillas.

Do you have any additional ‘insider’ tips?

The Arenal Volcano is as massive and impressive as the rainforests around it. They hold a great percentage of the Costa Rican biodiversity, which the country is world-famous for. Make sure you save time to hike in the surrounding national park, as well as admiring the views of the volcano itself.

What souvenir should we bring home from our trip?

Wherever you travel in Costa Rica, the main souvenir is undoubtedly coffee. Either in beans, ground, or coated with chocolate, it makes the ideal souvenir. In the La Fortuna area, you can also find delicious organic chocolate and yucca chips.

In terms of local arts and crafts, shop around for original works from the Maleku (an indigenous group from the north of Costa Rica), including masks, carved gourds, and pretty unique ceramics).

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Hot springs Volcano Arenal.Hot springs Volcano Arenal. Photo: Ryan/Flickr