For the Bus Transportation from downtown San Jose to Arenal Volcano and from San Jose Airport to Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna we have Collective Shared Shuttles, Private Services and Adventure Connections (Shuttle & Tour) We are also including some Fantastic Videos of the area as well.
Please find right below complete information. You will be able to make reservations and pay online right away by clicking on the "BOOK NOW" button or if you have questions and comments please send them all by clicking on the "INQUIRE" button.
Special Low Rate:
US$45 per Adult / $30 per child (under 11 years old)
Morning Departure: 8:45am operated by INTERBUS
Afternoon Departure: 3:00pm Operated by INTERBUS
Service Description: (Shuttle San Jose to Arenal Bus)
Shared Collective Shuttles have 2 departures per day, in the morning and in the afternoon from San Jose to Arenal Volcano La Fortuna. This is a 3 hours drive from San Jose Airport area to La Fortuna Arenal. 30 minutes more if the pick up is from San Jose Downtown. The 8:45am and 3pm departures are operated by INTERBUS directly departure is from a location 5 minutes away from the airport terminal the Dennys Restaurant.
All reservations MUST be requested, paid and confirmed in Advance by email.
Shared Shuttles Drop off hotels List in La Fortuna Arenal:
Private Service Rate:
US$160 for the service from 1 up to 6 passengers / 3hrs drive
Service Description: (Private Service San Jose to Arenal)
This is a private service with your own driver and own vehicle door to door. At the time of your election our driver will go to the location of your preference to pick you up from there you will be assisted. If needed we will stop in a restaurant, supermarket or drugstore.
Rate for the service, not person. from 1 up to 6 passengers. Rates vary depending on your drop off location and if the service is operated between 6pm and 6am.
You will be drop off directly at the location of your preference. Advance reservations required
In case you are interested in traveling from San Jose to Arenal via La Paz Waterfalls and also visiting the Poas Volcano, we offer these services with the following rates:
Private Land Service via La Paz Waterfalls: $280 from 1 up to 6 passengers / 5hrs drive
Private Land Service via Poas Volcano & La Paz Waterfalls: $320 from 1 up to 6 passengers / 7hrs drive.
The distance from San Jose to Arenal is 137 km
How far is it from Arenal to San Jose: 3.4hrs dive
Arenal Costa Rica: Deals, Specials, Discounts
Use Promo code: ARENAL20 to get 20% off at the of the TOURS and ADVENTURES listed at the following link:
- White Water Rafting:
Class 3-4 Rafting Sarapiqui River Jungle Run
Details: Rate: $100 per person / Departs at 7am / Duration 8 hours / Snacks & Lunch Included
Class 2-3 Rafting Balsa River + Cultural Lunch
Details: Rate: $95 per person / Departs at 9am / Duration 7 hours / Snacks & Lunch Included
- New! Gravity Falls Waterfall Jumping:
Gravity Falls: Costa Rica’s MOST Extreme Tour
Details: Rate: $160 per person / Departs at 7am / Duration 6 hours / Lunch Included
- Lost Canyon Adventures:
Lost Canyon Adventures Canyoning Fortuna Rappel and Waterfalls.
Details: Rate: $140 per person / Departs at 9am / Duration 6 hours / Lunch Included
- Doka Estate, Poas Volcano & La Paz Waterfalls:
Transport + Adventure San José to Arenal: Doka Coffee Tour – Poas Volcano – La Paz Waterfall + Lunch + La Fortuna.
Details: Rate: $185 per person / Departs at 7am / Duration 7 hours / Lunch Included
Other Popular Routes from San Jose:
Other Popular Routes from Arenal La Fortuna:
Arenal La Fortuna to San Jose Airport
Arenal La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio
Arenal La Fortuna to Jaco
Arenal La Fortuna to Tamarindo
Arenal La Fortuna to Liberia
Arenal La Fortuna to Monteverde
Arenal La Fortuna to Santa Teresa
Arenal La Fortuna to Montezuma
Arenal La Fortuna to Papagayo
First impressions of La Fortuna may be somewhat lacking, what with all the tourists and uninspired cinder-block architecture. But, with time, this town’s charms are revealed. Horses graze in unimproved lots, spiny iguanas scramble through brush, sloth eyes peer from the riverside canopy and eternal spring mornings carry just a kiss of humidity on their breath. And always, there’s that massive volcano lurking behind the clouds or sparkling in the sun.
For most of its history La Fortuna has been a sleepy agricultural town, 6km from the base of Cerro Arenal (Arenal Hill). On the morning of July 29, 1968, Arenal erupted violently after nearly 400 years of dormancy, and buried the small villages of Pueblo Nuevo, San Luís and Tabacón. Soon, like moths to a flame, tourists from around the world started descending on La Fortuna in search of fiery night skies and the inevitable blurry photo of creeping lava. Since then, La Fortuna has served as the principal gateway for visiting Volcán Arenal. It’s still one of the top destinations for travelers in Costa Rica, even though the great mountain stopped spewing its molten discharge in 2010.
Certainly, the influx of tourism has altered the face, fame and fortunes of this former one-horse town. But the longer you linger, the more you’ll appreciate La Fortuna’s underlying, small-town sabanero (cowboy) feel.
Tel 2479-7019; www.ecocentrodanaus.com; admission with/without guide US$16/11, guided night tours US$35; h 8am-4pm Mon-Sat, 9am-3:30pm Sun, night tour 5:30pm) This reader recommended center, 2km east of town, has a well-developed trail system that’s good for birding, as well as spotting mammals such as sloths, coatis and howler monkeys. The price of admission includes a visit to a butterfly garden, a ranarium featuring poison-dart frogs and a small lake containing caimans and turtles. Reserve in advance for the excellent night tour.
Tel 2479-1616; www.arenalnatura.com; day/night/bird tours US$29/35/40; h 8am5:30pm) Located 6km west of La Fortuna, this is a well-manicured nature experience that includes frogs, turtles, snakes and crocs, all in their appointed places. The birdlife is also prodigious here. Excellent naturalist guides ensure that you don’t miss anything hiding in the trees.
La Catarata de la Fortuna
admission US$10; h 8am-5pm) You can glimpse the sparkling 70m ribbon of clear water that pours through a sheer canyon of dark volcanic rock covered in bromeliads and ferns with minimal sweat equity. But it’s worth the climb down and out to see it from the jungle floor. Though it’s dangerous to dive beneath the thundering falls, a series of perfect swimming holes with spectacular views tiles the canyon in aquamarine. This is also the trailhead for the hike to Cerro Chato.
From the turnoff on the road to San Ramón, it’s about 4km uphill to the falls. If you decide to walk up, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Cerro Chato as you hike through pastures and past the small Hotel s lining the road.
(Tel 2479-7150; www.bikearenal.com; rental per day/ week US$25/150, half-/full-day tour US$67/96; h8am-5pm Mon-Fri) This outfit offers a variety of bike tours for all levels of rider, including a popular ride around the lake and a half-day ride to El Castillo. You can also do versions of these rides on your own. Make advance arrangements for rental and an English-speaking bike mechanic will bring the bicycle to you.
Beneath La Fortuna the lava is still curdling and heating countless bubbling springs. There are free, natural hot springs in the area that any local can point you toward. If you’re after a more comfortable experience, consider one of the area’s resorts.
Eco Termales Hot Springs
Tel 2479-8787; www.ecotermalesfortunacr.com; adult/child US$34/29; h10am-9pm; c) S A large, forbidding gate leads to this recommended, reservation-only complex. Everything from the natural circulation systems in the pools to the soft, mushroom lighting is understated yet luxurious. Just 100 visitors per four-hour slot are welcomed at 10am, 1pm and 5pm. Dinner is served in the evening.
Paradise Hot Springs
paradisehotspringscr.com; adult/child US$23/15; h 11am-9pm) A relative newcomer to the spring scene, this low-key place has one lovely, large pool with a waterfall, and several smaller pools, surrounded by lush vegetation and tropical blooms. The pools vary in temperature (up to 40°C), some with hydro massage. Paradise is much simpler than the other larger spring settings, but there are fewer people, and your experience is bound to be more relaxing and more romantic. Lockers, towels and non-alcoholic drinks are included with admission.
There’s a nice restaurant if you want to eat or drink something more potent.
Springs Resort & Spa
Tel 2401-3313, in USA 954-727-8333; www.thespringscostarica.com; 2-day admission US$50; h 8am-10pm; c ) If you’re looking for a luxurious hot-spring experience, the Springs features 18 free-form pools with various temperatures, volcano views, landscaped gardens, waterfalls and swim-up bars, including a jungle bar with a water slide. The whole scene is human-made, but it’s lovely.
Tabacón Hot Springs
Tel 2519-1999; www.tabacon.com; day pass incl lunch or dinner adult/child US$85/30; h 10am-10pm) Some say it’s cheesy and some say it’s fun. (We say it’s both.) Broad-leaf palms, rare orchids and other florid tropical blooms part to reveal a 40°C waterfall pouring over a fake cliff, concealing constructed caves complete with camouflaged cup holders. Lounged across each well-placed stone like substance are overheated tourists of various shapes and sizes, relaxing.
The spa, 14km west of La Fortuna, is on the site of a 1975 volcanic eruption that killed one local. The former village of Tabacón was destroyed in the 1968 eruption, when 78 people were killed. Don’t sweat it: the mountain is once again dormant. For now.
Festivals & Events
Fiestas de la Fortuna
(h mid-Feb) The big annual bash features two weeks of Tico-rules bullfights, colorful carnival rides, greasy festival food, craft stands and unusual gambling devices. It’s free, except for the beer (which is cheap), and you’ll have a blast trying to decide between the reggaetón go-go dancers and the live ranchero and salsa.
Although it’s no longer erupting, Volcán Arenal is the big draw here. But you don’t need a guide to take a hike into the upper reaches of the national park. It’s perfectly feasible to show up at the park and follow the well-marked trail system. Organized Arenal tours are often combined with a dip in the hot springs (US$25 to US$65 per person). Make sure you understand whether or not your tour includes entry fees to the park and hot springs.
It has become common in La Fortuna to sell tourists pricey tours to distant destinations, such as Caño Negro. If you’re short of time, this is a fine option, though you’ll save yourself a ton of money (and probably have a much better experience) if you actually go to the place and organize a tour upon arrival.
Commissions in La Fortuna amount to big money. Shop around before you book, and treat all unsolicited advice with a degree of skepticism.
Arenal Wilberth Stables
Tel 2479-7522; www.arenalwilberthstable.com; per person US$58; h 7:30am, 11am & 2:30pm) Three-hour horse-riding tours depart from these stables at the foot of Arenal. The ride takes in forest and farmland, as well as lake and volcano views. The stables are opposite the entrance to the national park, but there’s an office in town next to Arenal Resort Hostel .
Alberto’s Horse Tours
2479-7711, 2479-9043; per person US$65) Alberto and his son lead popular horse-riding trips to the Catarata de la Fortuna. It’s a three or four-hour trip, but you’ll spend about an hour off your horse, when you hike down to the falls for a swim or a photo op. Beautiful setting, beautiful horses.
(Tel 2479-8200; www.canoa-aventura.com; canoe trip US$67, full-day trip to Caño Negro US$113; h 6:30am-9:30pm) S This long-standing family-run company specializes in canoe and float trips led by bilingual naturalist guides. Most are geared toward wildlife and bird watching. One popular paddle is the full-day trip to Caño Negro.
Tel 2479-7262; www.waveexpeditions.com; cnr Calle 2 & Av Fort; river trips US$70-100, kayaking US$53; h 7am-9pm) Wave Expeditions runs the wild Toro and mellower Balsa rivers. You can also run the smooth Río Arenal on an inflatable kayak. Hiking, horse riding, caving, canyoning, and tortilla making are also available.
(Tel 2479-7645; www.costaricaraftingvacation.com; safari float trip US$80, Class iii/Class iV trips US$80/95; h 7am-7pm) This rafting specialist offers a few options in the area, including a gentle safari float trip on Peñas Blancas, as well as Class III and IV trips. It can also organize hiking, horse riding and kayaking on Lago Arenal.
Pure Trek Canyoning
Tel 1-866-569-5723, 2479-1313; www.puretrekcanyoning.com; 4hr incl transportation & lunch uS$98; h 7am-10pm; c ) S The reputable PureTrek leads guided rappels down four waterfalls, one of which is 50m high. Check in at PureTrek headquarters, located in a tree house 6km west of town.
Arenal Paraíso Canopy Tours
Tel 2479-1100; www.arenalparaiso.com; tours uS$45; h8am-5pm) A dozen cables zip across the canyon of the Río Arenal, giving a unique perspective on two waterfalls, as well as the rainforest canopy.
Tel 2479-7120; www.arenalecoglide.com; adult/student & child uS$55/45; h 7am-4pm; c) Opened in 2008, Ecoglide is the biggest canopy game in town, featuring 13 cables, 15 platforms and a ‘Tarzan’ swing. The dual cable safety system provides extra security and peace of mind.
Canopy Los Cañones
Tel 2479-1000; www.Hotel loslagos.com; adult/child uS$50/35) S Located at the Hotel Los Lagos, the Canopy Los Cañones has 12 cables over the rainforest, ranging from 50m to 500m long. The price includes admission to a frog farm, butterfly farm, hot springs and natural pools, which are all on the Hotel grounds.
Tel 2479-9526; night walks uS$55; h5:45pm) The Rojas Bonilla family has created this wild frog sanctuary, home to some 28 species of croaking critters. The frogs are just the beginning of the night walk, which continues into the rainforest to see what other nocturnal animals await. If you’re more of a morning person, you can do a bird-watching tour. Reservations are recommended.
Arenal Mundo Aventura
Tel 2479-9762; www.arenalmundoaventura.com; adult/child adventure tours uS$70/50, hiking uS$48/33; c ) An all-in-one adventure park, this place offers various guided hikes, rappelling and horse riding, as well as a canopy tour. It also hosts performances of indigenous Maleku dance and song. It is 2km south of La Fortuna, on the road to Chachagua.
Desafio Adventure Company
Tel 2479-0020; www.desafiocostarica.com; Calle 2; tours uS$65-85; h 6:30am-9pm) Desafío has the widest range of river trips in Fortuna, including paddling trips on the Río Balsa, horse-riding treks to Volcán Arenal, adventure tours rappelling down waterfalls, and mountain-bike expeditions. It can also arrange your transfer to Monteverde by horse, boat or bike.
Tel 2479-9133; www.aventurasarenal.com; Av Central; hiking from uS$51, horse riding from uS$66; h 7am-8pm) Operating for over 15 years, this outfit organizes a variety of local day tours on bike, boat and horseback. It also does trips further afield, including to Caño Negro and Río Celeste.
Jacamar Naturalist Tours
Tel 2479-9767; www.arenaltours.com; Av Central; h 7am-9pm) Recommended for its variety of naturalist hikes, including Arenal and Cerro Chato. It does adventure tours too, including canyoning and ATV riding. It’s located on the ground level of Hotel Arenal Carmela.
Tel 2479-9800; www.sunsettourcr.com; Calle 2; h 6:30am-9pm) Recommended for high-quality tours with bilingual guides. Offers canyoning, kayaking and trips around the region, including to the Venado Caves.
There are loads of places to stay in town. In the low season room rates plummet by as much as 40Tel . If you have your own transport, consider staying at the Arenal Observatory Lodge Tel lodge 2479-1070; www.arenalobservatorylodge.com; day pass uS$6, museum admission free; p ) or closer to the volcano in the small town of El Castillo, as you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds and a more rustic vibe.
Sleeping Indian Guesthouse
Arenal Hostel Resort
Tel 2479-9222; www.arenalHostel-resort.com; Av Central; dm/s/d/tr/q US$16/48/58/75/88; paiWs) Offering the best of Hostel and resort, this welcoming place is arranged around a landscaped garden, complete with hammocks, small pool, party-place bar, and volcano view. All rooms are clean, spacious and air-conditioned, with en suite bathrooms. Service is top notch, if a tad impersonal.
Pay attention: Arenal Hostel Resort and Arenal Backpackers Resort do essentially the same thing, but they are not actually the same place.
Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna
Tel 2479-9129; www.Hostel backpackerslafortuna.com; dm/s/d/tr US$14/44/52/69;) This is the most ‘grown-up’ Hostel in town. The rooms are done in whites and beiges, and the courtyard is lush, lovely and strung with hammocks. Guests are invited to go down the street to the sister property, Arenal Hostel Resort to join the party (swimming pool, bar) and then to return here for quiet, comfort and a good night’s sleep.
The Hostel s in this town are not very creative with their names. This place should not be confused with La Fortuna Backpackers, which is a different beast altogether.
Arenal Backpackers Resort
Tel 2479-7000; www.arenalbackpackersresort.com; Av Central; dm US$15-16, tents s/d US$25/35, d with/without bathroom US$56/45;) The original Hostel-Resort in La Fortuna, this self-proclaimed ‘five-star Hostel ’ with volcano views is pretty cushy. Sleep on orthopedic mattresses and take hot showers in your en suite bathroom (even in the dorms). Somewhere between dormitory and Hotel is the covered tent city: raised tents have air mattress and electricity (but no proper walls, so you’ll hear your neighbors loud and clear).
The main attraction is the landscaped pool with swim-up bar, where backpackers spend lazy days lounging with a cold beer. You’ll be in a traveler’s party bubble here. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
La Choza Inn
Tel 2479-9361; www.lachozainnHostel.com; Av Fort btwn Calles 2 & 4; incl breakfast dm US$10, s/d US$35/50, air-con US$10; p i W ) With all the budget ‘resorts’ in town, it’s refreshing to find a charming, old-fashioned, family-run inn, where kids and puppies interact with the guests and where facilities are basic but the staff is always accommodating. Take your pick from the dark, palm-wood dorms or the attractive doubles boasting Arenal views from the balconies.
Hotel Pepito’s Place
Tel 2479-9238; pepitoplace.com; Calle 2; d incl breakfast US$50; p a i W ) Lovely blooming flowers deck the 2nd-floor terrace, inviting you into this cute motel -style lodging. Inside, you’ll find good value and personable service. Spotless rooms are painted in pastel s, with beds dressed in tasteful quilts and walls hung with tropical paintings. The place is small, however, and once you leave your room you’re as good as on the street.
Tel 2479-8521; www.gringopetes.com; Calle 7; dm US$7, r US$20-24; p i W ) The purple place is one of the cheapest in town. The rooms are completely bare save the colorful paint job and some rustic tree-trunk bunk beds. But you’ll find everything you need, including a communal kitchen, hammocks hanging in the garden and volcano views. If it’s full, they’ll send you a few blocks away to Gringo Pete’s Too
La Fortuna Suites
Tel 8577-1555; www.lafortunasuites.com; d incl breakfast US$96; p a W ) Here’s a chance to luxuriate in some high-end amenities at midrange prices. We’re talking high-thread count sheets and memory-foam mattresses, custom-made furniture and flat-screen TVs, gourmet breakfast on the balcony and killer views. Despite all these perks, guests agree that the thing that makes this place special is the hospitality shown by the hosts.
Hotel Monte Real
Tel 2479-9357; www.monterealHotel.com; Av Arenal btwn Calles 3 & 5; incl breakfast standard/premium r US$62/90, ste US$112; p a W s ) A smart modern motel property on the edge of town, next to the Río Burio. This excellent location combines the convenience of town with the nature and rusticity of the forest – meaning lovely gardens and wildlife at your doorstep. Spacious rooms have Spanish-tile floors, stained-wood ceilings and sliding-glass doors; spring for a superior for a private balcony with volcano views.
Hotel Arenal Rabfer
Tel 2479-9187; www.arenalrabfer.com; Calle 1; s/d/tr/q incl breakfast US$62/75/87/101; p a i W s ) Arguably the most architecturally appealing of the downtown options, with a striking shingled 2nd floor. Set up around a pebbled pool area and shady palm garden, the rooms are spacious with high slanted ceilings and fresh coats of paint. The whole place is immaculate. Located on a quiet side street, two blocks from the action.
Hotel Las Colinas
Tel 2479-9305; www.lascolinasarenal.com; Calle 1 btwn Avs Central & Arenal; incl breakfast s/d/tr economy US$49/63/79, standard US$72/82/102; p a i W ) Stay here and you’re likely to spend most of your time on the 2nd-story ‘terrace garden’, with ample sun lounges and spectacular views of the volcano. The rooms are simple but stylish, with tile floors and cherry-stained furnishings. The economy rooms on the 1st floor are dark, so you’ll pay more for the sunlit standard units with balconies.
West of Town
The road to the Arenal turnoff is lined with places to stay, ranging from quaint cabinas to luxurious lodges. Most of the area’s high-end accommodations are located along this stretch. It’s not particularly convenient if you don’t have your own transportation.
Roca Negra del Arenal
Tel 2479-9237; www.Hotel rocanegradelarenal.com; d/tr/q US$60/70/80, breakfast US$6; p a W s ) Plenty of feathered and furry friends roam the grounds at this gem of a guesthouse, located 2km west of town. Along with the ever-charming owner, they make for quite a welcome party. There are seven spacious rooms, each with stained-wood accents, huge tile bathrooms and semi-private terraces facing the garden (complete with rockers).
But what makes this place so special? It’s the paradisiacal setting. The luscious tiled pool and Jacuzzi are surrounded by tropical gardens that are bursting with blooms and buzzing with bees and birds. If you came for R&R in exotic environs, look no further.
Hotel Campo Verde
Tel 2479-1080; www.Hotel campoverde.com; s/d/tr/q incl breakfast from $75/90/110/130; p i W ) An absolutely y darling family-owned property, located 9km west of town. Canary-yellow wooden bungalows have vaulted beamed ceilings, a two-queen bed, lovely drapes and chandeliers, and a sweet tiled patio blessed with two waiting rockers. Book the wooden bungalows furthest from the road at the foot of the mountain, where the views are unbeatable.
Erupciones Inn B&B
Tel 2479-1400; www.erupcionesinn.com; d incl breakfast US$80-90; p a W ) You can admire Arenal from every single colorful cabina at this riverside property 11km from La Fortuna. Take a seat on your private patio and take it in. Otherwise, the cabinas are a bit tired, but service is sweet and the recent change in ownership means that an overhaul is in the works.
El Silencio del Campo
Tel 2479-7055; www.Hotel silenciodelcampo.com; d/tr/q incl breakfast US$195/220/245; p a s ) This lovely lodge has 24 stand-alone cabins that are luxurious without being showy. The property’s pièce de résistance, though, is the hot spring. For guests only, it has half a dozen decadent pools in a range of temperatures. Guests can also experience life on a working farm (try your hand at milking a cow) and feast on fresh eggs for breakfast.
El Silencio del Campo is about 4km west of town.
Nayara Hotel , Spa & Gardens
Tel 2479-1600; www.arenalnayara.com; r/ste incl breakfast US$280/390;) This intimate and indulgent Hotel , 6km west of town, has amassed a slew of awards for its Asian-inspired architecture, minimalist decor and richly romantic setting. The 24 rooms have exquisite furnishings and bedding, rich woods, high-tech gadgetry, an outdoor shower and a private outdoor Jacuzzi where you can soak up views of Volcán Arenal. Exquisite.
South of Town
Just a few kilometers south of town, a partially paved road trundles to the base of Cerro Chato, and Hotel s now dot either side of it. Even further flung is the village of Chachagua, 12km south along the road to San Ramón. Crisscrossed by local rivers, this authentic, agrarian, market pueblo (small town or village) is an antidote to the touristy brouhaha of La Fortuna.
www.costaricavillasjosipek.com; per person incl breakfast US$34; p a W s ) Just north of the village of Chachagua, these immaculate, simple, wooden cabins with full kitchens and volcano views are surrounded by private rainforest trails that penetrate the Bosque Eterno de Los Niños. Your hosts, Suhey and Edgar, are delightful, as is the sly sloth that inhabits the guarumo tree near the lobby. On the grounds, you can take an 1100m stroll through the Jardín Botánico Josipek (admission US$10), which includes rose gardens, rainforest and medicinal plants, as well as a contemplative labyrinth.
Hotel Cerro Azul
Tel 2479-9212; www.ranchocerroazul.com; d/tr/q US$72/86/100; p a W ) Five cute, shingled cabins face the parking lot but back up to the forest, with private porches overlooking the trees. A 200m trail leads to the rushing river, with the volcano beyond. The cabins have woody interiors and stylish details. Think simple, natural, beautiful, and comfortable.
Tel 2479-9522; www.cataratalodge.com; s/d/trinclbreakfastUS$71/77/92;) Set at the base of Cerro Chato and surrounded by forest, this place is ideal if you want to get away from it all (but not too far away, as you’re still just 4km from town). The digs are decent little Spanish-tile and wood rooms, with hammocks strung on the terrace. The restaurant is also recommended.
Our only complaint is that we’re not sure what makes this an eco-lodge. Sure, they care about the environment and they obviously talk the talk, but do they walk the walk?
Chachagua Rainforest Hotel
Tel 2468-1010; www.chachaguarainforestHotel.com; d/bungalows incl breakfast US$236/290;pnaWs) Situated on a private reserve that abuts the Bosque Eterno de Los Niños, this Hotel is a naturalist’s dream. Part of the property is a working orchard, cattle ranch and fish farm, while the rest is humid rainforest. Explore it on hiking trails or on horseback. The rooms are nice but arguably overpriced, while the stylish, spacious bungalows are gorgeous as all get-out.
Drive 11km south of La Fortuna. On the south side of Chachagua, fork right off the main road and follow the signs on a 2km dirt track that may require a 4WD in the rainy season.
Casa Luna Hotel & Spa
Tel 2479-7368; www.casalunaHotel.com; s/d incl breakfast US$135/145; p a i W s ) The snazziest joint on this rustic road, this walled-off complex initially seems like a gated community. But, once inside, you’ll see that the landscaped gardens and adobe-style lodgings are lovely. Wooden doors open into 36 elegant, split-level duplexes with tiny private patios. There’s a full menu of spa treatments (facial/massage from US$25/50), and guests rave about the attentive service.
Unless you’re eating exclusively at sodas (cheap lunch counters) you’ll find the restaurants in La Fortuna to be more expensive than in other parts of the country. If you’re cooking for yourself, stock up at the Mega Super (Map p249; Av Arenal; h 7am-9pm Mon-Sat, to 8pm Sun) near the bus station or Super Cristian 2 (Map p249; cnr Av Central & Calle 1; h 7am-9pm), west of town.
Tel 2479-7239; Calle 1 btwn Avs Central & Arenal; mains US$4-6; h 7am-8:30pm; W ) We know it’s bad form to start with dessert, but the irresistible sweets at this popular spot are beautiful to behold and delicious to devour. The savory menu features burritos, casados (set meals) and other excellent traditional fare. There’s also a full menu of hot and cold coffee, including some tempting specialty drinks (Mono Loco = coffee, banana, milk, chocolate and cinnamon).
There’s a dash of urban-coffeehouse atmosphere here. Must be the writing in the milk foam.
Tel 2479-7133; cnr Calle 1 & Av Arenal; mains US$6-10; h 7am-10pm) Insanely popular among travelers, this friendly spot takes tipica (typical Costa Rican food) and adds something to it. Soda Viquez has a tasty, saucy steam table but also makes chicken, beef and fish six different ways if you choose to order off the menu. Prices are reasonable, portions ample.
Soda la Hormiga
Av Arenal; mains US$3-5; h 6am-8pm) Locally beloved and set conveniently next door to the bus station, this open-air lunch counter is one of the quaintest, cheapest sodas in town. It does all the casados, as well as big breakfasts and burgers.
Anch’io Ristorante & Pizzeria
Tel 2479-7024; Av Central; mains US$1018; h noon-10pm) If you have a hankering for pizza, you can’t do better than Anch’io, where it is cooked in a wood-fired oven, the crust is crispy thin and the toppings are plentiful. Start yourself off with a traditional antipasto. Accompany with cold beer or a bottle of red. Add super service and pleasant patio seating, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Calle 1 & Ave Fort; sushi & rolls US$7-10; hnoon-10pm) When you’re surrounded by mountains and cattle farms, who’s thinking of sushi? Well, think of it. The fish is fresh (you’re not that far from the ocean) and the preparations are innovative. The ponzu roll (tuna with sriracha, avocado, cucumber and chives) is a favorite. Sit at an outside table and enjoy the view of Arenal while you feast on raw fish.
Tel 2479-9145; cnr Av Fort & Calle 1; mains US$6-26; h11am-late) This landmark has been around so long that its palapa (thatched palm-leaf roof ) is almost as big an institution as the volcano it mimics. It has a small bar and acquires a drinking crowd at night, but tourists consider it a lunch and dinner option too. Look for well-prepared roast and grilled-meat dishes, pastas, sandwiches and a few veggie options.
Tel 2479-7365; www.lavaloungecostarica.com; Av Central btwn Calles 4 & 2; mains US$8-12; h 11am-10:30pm; p W v ) This hip, open-air restaurant is a breath of fresh air when you just can’t abide another casado. There is pasta, burgers and five kinds of tacos, as well as bigger plates. Both food and service are variable, but the picnic tables and palapa roof create a cool, rustic vibe. Add occasional live music and you find you can’t help but go back.
If you prefer breakfast or a light lunch, go across the street to Gecko Gourmet (Map p249; Tel 2479-8905; cnr Calle 2 & Av Central; mains US$4-8; h 8am-6pm wed-Mon; v ), which is under the same management. It serves sandwiches, salads and icy blended-coffee drinks.
Soda La Parada
Tel 2479-9547; www.restauranTel aparada.com; Av Central; mains US$5-19; h 24hr) Facing Parque Central and all the street action, this popular soda does a brisk trade in, well, everything, from decent pizzas to satisfying tipica. Prices are high for a soda – how much are you willing to pay to beat the midnight munchies?
Restaurant Don Rufino
Tel 2479-9997; www.donrufino.com; cnr Av Central & Calle 3; mains US$16-40; h 11am11pm) In almost every way, this indoor-outdoor bar and grill is light years ahead of the competition. The highlight of the menu is the grilled meats, which include rib eye, filet, peppercorn tenderloin medallions, and a porterhouse with gorgonzola sauce. If you’re cutting back on red meat, look for crab risotto, ginger-glazed grilled tuna, and chicken in coconut curry.
The vibe is trendy and the place is hopping. Reservations recommended.
Around La Fortuna
Tel 2479-7038; mains US$6-8; h 7am9pm)Take a break from the hustle and bustle of La Fortuna to have lunch at this friendly place, 2km west of town. It’s essentially a soda, with big breakfasts and excellent casados, as well as burritos, burgers and some very tempting desserts. Portions are big, prices are small.
Tel 2479-1912; mains US$14-30; hnoon-10pm) Turn off the highway and drive about 1km up a steep, rough dirt road to arrive at this spectacularly situated steak house (tricky in the dark, so arrive before the sun goes down). You’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous view, followed by an amazing meal. In addition to the meats, there is heavenly homemade bread, fantastic ceviche and tantalizing desserts.
The steaks come from free-range cattle that graze on grass in the pastures below the restaurant. They also raise lambs, chickens and pigs. Veggies come from the organic greenhouse.
Drinking & Nightlife
One Love Lounge
You can’t miss this place, west of town, with its magic-bus facade. La Fortuna’s favorite bar has a new roots-reggae theme. Sometimes there’s live music and sometimes there’s DJ Tio Matteo, but there are always good vibes and lots of love. On Friday and Saturday nights you can catch a free lift from the church at 9:45pm, 10:45pm or 11:40pm.
Tel 2479-9690; men’s cover charge US$4; h8pm-3am wed-Sat) This club is reportedly Costa Rica’s biggest discotheque outside of San José. It’s about 5km west of town, though it’s virtually abandoned except on weekends: don’t bother showing up until after 11pm unless you want to dance to the cumbia alone.
Calle2;h5pm-2amwed-Sat)La Fortuna’s raucous bar with an attached disco fronts the bullring and attracts an ever enthusiastic local following. The age demographic here ranges from 18 to 88. That’s almost always a good thing.
Calle1btwnAvsCentral&Arenal;US$23 .50; h 10am-9pm) A branch of Costa Rica’s favorite juice bar is tucked in across the street from Hotel Las Colinas, and it does wonderful alchemy with fruits and veggies, including a mango-strawberry-pineapple smoothie, a watermelon-passion fruit milkshake, and the delicious watermelon-strawberry-lemon combo.
Local artisans converge on the Lava Lounge in the evening to display exquisite beaded, silver and braided bracelets, earrings and necklaces. They’ll be lined up and waiting by the front door almost every night.
Neptune’s House of Hammocks
(Tel 2479-8269; hammocks US$50-170; h 8am6pm) On the road to La Catarata de la Fortuna, it sells soft drinks and hammocks. Take a breather and try one out.
Handmade Art Shop
Tel 8611-0018; Calle 1; h 10am-6pm) There’s no shortage of souvenirs for sale in La Fortuna. But this unique shop is something special, carrying an excellent selection of arts and crafts by local and national artists. You’ll find representative pieces from Costa Rica’s many subcultures, including Boruca masks, Rasta handicrafts, lots of macramé and some lovely handmade jewelry.
Arenal Rocks Internet (Tel 8854-2892; Av Central; per hr US$1 .20; h 8am-11pm) Located under the Hotel Arenal Carmella .
Expediciones Internet (Tel 2479-9101; cnr Av Central&Calle1;per30/60minUS$0 .80/1 .20; h 7am-9pm Mon-Sat) Most tour operators in town also provide internet access, but if you’re not interested in hearing a sales pitch, there are no hassles here .
Centro Médico Arenal Vital (Tel 2479-7027; www.secmesa.com;Calle1;h24hr)Located in the Hotel Las Colinas building, this private clinic is open 24/7 and has English-speaking staff .
Clínica Fortuna (Tel 2479-9142, 2479-9501; Calle 3 btwn Avs Volcán & Fort; h8am-8pm Mon, 8am-10pm Tue-Thu, 24hr Fri-Sun) For minor injuries and illnesses .
BAC San José (cnr Av Fort & Calle 3)
Banco de Costa Rica (Av Central)
Banco Nacional (cnr Calle 1 & Av Fort)
Banco Popular (cnr Av Central & Calle 5)
Correos de Costa Rica (Map p249; Av Fort; h8am-5:30pm Mon-Fri, 7:30am-noon Sat)
Getting There & Away
Most domestic buses stop at the Centro Comercial Adifort (Map p249; Av Arenal) . Keep an eye on your bags, particularly on the weekend San José run .
Ciudad Quesada (Auto-Transportes San José– San Carlos) US$1 .60, one hour, 14 departures per day from 4:30am to 7pm . San José (Auto-Transportes San José–San Carlos) US$4 .25, 41⁄2 hours, departs 12:45pm and 2:45pm . Alternatively, take a bus to Ciudad Quesada and change to frequent buses to the capital .
Tilarán, with connection to Monteverde
(Auto-Transportes Tilarán, departs from the Parque Central) US$2 .60, 31⁄2 hours, departs 8am and 4:30pm . To reach Monteverde (US$3 .60, six to eight hours), take the early bus to Tilarán, where you’ll have to wait a few hours for the onward bus to Santa Elena .
Several tour companies offer horse-riding trips between La Fortuna and Monteverde . The trip (which also involves a boat ride) takes five to seven hours and costs about US$85, including separate transport of your luggage . Desafio Adventure Company can make these arrangements, as can any of the Monteverde horse-riding companies (see p199) .
The fastest route between Monteverde–Santa Elena and La Fortuna is the jeep-boat-jeep combo (US$25 to US$40, three hours) . The ‘jeep’ is actually a minivan with the requisite yellow ‘turismo’ tattoo . it’s still a terrific transportation option and can be arranged through almost any Hotel or tour operator in either town . The minivan from La Fortuna takes you to Laguna de Arenal and meets a boat that crosses the lake, where a 4wd taxi on the other side continues to Monteverde . This is increasingly becoming the primary transportation between La Fortuna and Monteverde as it’s incredibly scenic and reasonably priced and it’ll save you half a day of travel over rocky roads .
Biking is a reasonable option to get around town and reach some of the top tourist attractions . The challenging 7km ride from town to La Catarata is a classic . Make advance arrangement to rent a bike from Bike Arenal and they’ll drop it off at your Hotel .
La Fortuna is easy to access by public transportation, but nearby attractions such as the hot springs, Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal and Laguna de Arenal demand lots of waiting, cursing and walking . Luckily, you can rent cars in town . Adobe Rent a Car (Tel 2479-7202; www.adobecar.com; Calle 1; h 7am-7pm)
Alamo (Tel 2479-9090; www.alamocostarica.com; cnr Av Central & Calle 2; h7:30am5:30pm)