On first appearances, the small Costa Rican town of La Fortuna doesn’t look like much, but it certainly packs a punch in the outdoor adventure stakes.
Volcano hikes, swimming in a volcanic crater, canyoning, waterfall rappelling, mountain biking, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and whitewater rafting are among the activities on offer from La Fortuna.
Check out the best adventure activities in Costa Rica for your next adrenaline rush.
My favourite activity in La Fortuna was waterfall jumping and rappelling at Gravity Falls.
Gravity Falls is located about a 40 minute drive from La Fortuna. First you head out for about 20 minutes before a stop to gear up – which includes a harness, lifejacket and helmet. Then it’s a bumpy but short 4WD drive ride out to Gravity Falls, followed by a 10 minute walk to tackle your first rappel and then make your way through the canyon.
The first rappel is challenging as you get used to the gear and controlling the rappel. But once you get the hang of it, it’s fun to slide down past a waterfall (but more physically demanding than I thought it would be). Then you’re released from the rope for a dip in the waterhole below before joining your rappelling mates for some cliff jumps.
The Gravity Falls activity takes you through a series of cliff jumps – the first one from a couple of metres up, but gradually the jumps get higher and more challenging. One jump is called the technical jump because you have to jump in the spot indicated by the guide due to rocks either side, but it was easy enough. Another jump puts you into a whirlpool where one of the guides pushes you under a waterfall and you pop out in front of it – it feels like you’re in a washing machine.
Then you climb up a rock face with a small waterfall, while attached to a rope. I found this quite hard, worried I would slip and fall, but we all made it. Then you rappel down the other side.
All up, you’re in the canyon for about two hours. By the end of it, you’re pretty tired and feel you got your money’s worth.
The Gravity Falls Waterfall Jumping activity was fun, a little bit challenging and I would definitely recommend it. It’s a little on the expensive side though. The cost of the activity was $130 USD.
If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper option, Desafio Adventures also offers the Lost Canyon Adventures Canyoning Activity for $100 USD. This activity is similar but with smaller rappels than Gravity Falls and is a good introduction to canyoning.
La Fortuna Waterfall
While on the topic of waterfalls, the 70 metre La Fortuna waterfall can be visited independently if you’re looking for a swim. It’s about 6km from the centre of La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano, and is perfect for a dip on a hot day. Be warned there’s a few hundred steps down to the waterhole – and what goes down, must come up. Entry to the La Fortuna Waterfall is $12 USD, which goes towards conservation efforts in the area. There are toilet facilities and a restaurant at the waterfall. You can take a taxi out there by yourself and expect to pay about $20 USD return or tour agencies offer packages starting from $50 USD which includes entry and transport.
You can also visit the waterfall as part of the hike offered to Cerro Chato – the volcanic crater next to Arenal Volcano. Unfortunately, the Arenal Volcano is off limits to hikers as it’s considered too dangerous, but the next best thing is a volcanic crater you can swim in.
The hike up to the Cerro Chato crater is challenging and takes about four hours return. It’s a very steep uphill climb most of the way on a jungle trail.
Owing to volcanic activity in La Fortuna, there are hot springs everywhere. The hot springs in La Fortuna are housed within hotels and resorts – so there’s a fee for entry – expect to pay around about $30 USD. One of the most popular spots is the Baldi Hot Springs.
Lake Arenal activities
If you’re after another relaxing but fun activity, head out to Lake Arenal for a spot of stand up paddleboarding or kayaking. Lake Arenal has great views of the volcano and surrounding jungle.
For more of an adrenaline rush, you can give whitewater rafting a try. The rafting location is about a two and a half hour drive from La Fortuna, and the activity goes for about two hours over a series of rapids.
Prices for whitewater rafting vary depending on the level of difficulty.
Things you should know
- Costa Rica is an expensive country compared to other Central American countries. But don’t let that deter you – the activities are well worth the experience and are lots of fun.
- There are a number of English speaking travellers in Costa Rica so you should get by fine with English but a little Spanish may be helpful in supermarkets and local restaurants.
- It’s not permitted to climb Arenal Volcano due to safety concerns, but the nearby Cerro Chato is a challenging hike up to a volcanic crater if you’re aiming to get near a volcano during your trip to Costa Rica.
- Pack enclosed shoes that you’re not afraid to get wet. You’ll need them for rappelling and canyoning and also the hot river.
- La Fortuna offers activities ranging from relaxing excursions to Lake Arenal to challenging adrenaline filled sessions for the adventurous so you should be able to find activities to suit your tastes and budget.
- US Dollars is mostly accepted across Costa Rica, but it’s handy to have some Costa Rican Cordobas on you.
- While you shouldn’t drink the water in other Central American countries, Costa Rica is more developed and it’s ok to drink the tap water.