La Fortuna waterfall is a stunning, thundering waterfall located in Costa Rica that makes for a very fun and easy half day trip from La Fortuna.
Deemed as the adventure capital of Costa Rica, La Fortuna is filled with tons of options and activities that would fulfill any traveler's wanderlust. With Arenal Volcano National Park, river rafting tours, hanging bridges, zip lining, ATVs and soaking in the plethora of hot springs all at your disposal, it’s easy to overlook the La Fortuna Waterfall as a destination while visiting the La Fortuna area.
Having said that, when I visited Costa Rica in April of 2022 I didn’t have huge expectations for the La Fortuna waterfall before my trip. Only having one night in La Fortuna, we decided to rule out bigger trips like river rafting and zip lining, and decided to give the waterfall a visit in the morning before driving to Manuel Antonio. After visiting the La Fortuna waterfall, it really stuck out as one of the highlights of my trip to Costa Rica. Here’s all the info you need to know before visiting the La Fortuna waterfall.
ENTRANCE, PARKING & TICKETS
Visiting the waterfall requires a ticket for entry that you can buy at the entrance for $18 USD, $5 USD for children. When I visited, the line to get a ticket only took a few minutes, but it was a fairly crowded experience. After paying for your ticket you will receive a wristband and have to sign a waiver. As of April 2022, masks were required in the outside entrance area.
Operating hours in the park are from 7:30am - 5pm, with the last entrance at 4pm.
There is a free parking lot in front of the ticket entrance. It is not the biggest parking lot, and it can get quite crowded, so it is best to arrive earlier in the day. If the parking lot is full you will have to wait until cars leave before getting a spot.
After you enter, there are several gift shops and bathrooms. There are no bathrooms once you begin your descent so keep that in mind if you need to go, or if you want to change into your swimsuit (I highly suggest taking a dip!).
HIKING TO THE WATERFALL
Beyond the bathrooms and souvenir shops, there is an initial viewing platform of the waterfall where you can see it at near eye level pouring out from the jungle.
You then descend down nearly 500 stairs in the jungle to the base of the waterfall. The stairs are well maintained with railings and sturdy footing. Walking down the stairs took about 10–15 minutes. Wildlife is possible to see on this walk but I didn’t see much.
One you reach the bottom, there is a platform lookout right at the base of the thundering waterfall. This has a great view of the waterfall with a protective railing, offering a good photo spot. But if you want to get right up next to the falls, you can walk another 30 feet or so and onto the rock area that leads right up to the water. Here you are off the trail and will be scrambling on rocks. This area is the best spot for photos as you have the freedom to create your own angles and can get right next to the falls without any railings in the way. This is where you’ll see a lot of people taking the classic Instagram photos.
If you are brave enough you can take a swim in the water. My friend and I decided to take a swim and after we got our photos, we stripped down to our swimsuits and (slowly) got into the water. It is surrounded by slippery rocks so be careful when getting into the water. The water was freezing, to a near shocking degree. This made it hard to catch my breath once I went in, but my adrenalin kicked in and kept me afloat. The power of the waterfall can really be felt when you are in the water, as it constantly pushes you back out. You have to keep swimming if you don’t want to be cast back to the rocks, so it’s a bit of an intense experience, but a very memorable one for me.
As I swam in the cold water, trying to catch my breath, I looked up and thought where the heck am I? It felt like I was in a movie, with this giant waterfall raging behind me and the enchanting jungle fully surrounding me. It was truly a magical experience and very refreshing.
After I dried off, the real workout began, as walking back up the 500 stairs in jungle humidity is no joke. I took a few breaks as my legs were burning, and even passed up a few older people who were taking breaks. Take your time. After enduring that super sweat session walking back up I felt very accomplished once I reached the top.
After a few souvenir purchases and a quick change in the bathroom, my friend and I hopped back in our rental car and set out to Manuel Antonio as part of a 10 Day Road Trip Around Costa Rica.
If you are in La Fortuna while visiting Costa Rica, hiking to the La Fortuna waterfall needs to be at the top of your list.