This Small Town in Costa Rica Is Home to Emerald Pools, Spectacular Waterfalls, and T+L Readers' Favorite Resort in Central America

La Fortuna is the ultimate wellness destination in Costa Rica.

There may be no better place to enjoy some time in nature’s bliss than La Fortuna. The charming town, tucked away in the northern jungles of Costa Rica and beneath the marvelous Arenal Volcano, is an experience for the senses.

Unsurprisingly, this has made it one of the most visited places in the region and it has something to offer everyone. "La Fortuna's spectacular landscapes make it a haven for nature lovers and thrill seekers alike, boasting unique flora and fauna, a variety of lively wildlife, and exciting outdoor adventures," said Emmanuel Burgio, one of Travel + Leisure’s A-List advisors and founder of Blue Parallel.

<p>Lauren Reyes/Travel + Leisure</p>

Lauren Reyes/Travel + Leisure

Beyond the exhilarating adventures, La Fortuna has grown in popularity as a wellness destination. By embodying the pura vida spirit (meaning pure life) the country is known for, its relaxing atmosphere and enriched landscape create an ideal setting for nourishing your health. It’s no wonder the country is also home to one of the Blue Zones, where people are healthier and tend to live the longest.

If you’re ready to embrace the Tico (Costa Rica native) attitude and uncover their secrets to a happier, worry-free way of life, you’ll love this guide to La Fortuna.

Related: 12 Reasons Why Costa Rica Is One of the Best Vacation Destinations in the World

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

  • Stay at T+L readers' favorite resort in Central America for 2023, Nayara Tented Camp.

  • Soak in the health benefits at one of the many mineral-rich natural hot springs.

  • Make the trek down to swim in the emerald pools of the La Fortuna Waterfall.

  • Discover nature’s healing powers with a forest therapy session.

  • Try the local cuisine by ordering casado, a staple in the Costa Rican diet.

<p>Courtesy of Nayara Tented Camp</p>

Courtesy of Nayara Tented Camp

Best Hotels and Resorts

Nayara Tented Camp

For a luxury stay in the jungle, check out Nayara Tented Camp. For the third consecutive year, T+L readers named it their favorite resort in Central America in the 2023 World’s Best Awards. The cleverly designed glamping experience features a private terrace and plunge pool that's perfect for unwinding.

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

With 42 guest suites surrounded by 900 acres of tropical rain forest, Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa is the perfect hideaway for guests to relax and indulge in local flavors at the many on-site restaurants and bars..

The Springs Resort & Spa

For a combination of relaxation and adventure, you’ll want to stay at The Springs Resort & Spa. The 165-acre property sits on a mountain ridge, providing unobstructed views of the picture-perfect Arenal Volcano and valley below. You won’t be bored here, thanks to the multiple natural hot springs, waterfalls, and its own adventure center.

Amor Arenal

You’ll fall in love with La Fortuna at Amor Arenal, a rustic luxury resort that's perfect for couples. Enjoy the surrounding tropical forest from your private cabin or outside in your own heated whirlpool. Daily yoga, a meditation deck, and jungle trails on the property are some standout amenities.

Nayara Gardens

Another favorite of T+L readers in the 2023 World's Best Awards and a WBA Hall of Fame honoree, Nayara Gardens is a five-star resort with sweeping views of Arenal Volcano, and each charming casita features its own private garden with an outdoor shower.

<p>Niki Harry/Getty Images</p>

Niki Harry/Getty Images

Best Things To Do

Visit La Fortuna Waterfall.

With an impressive 246-foot drop, La Fortuna Waterfall is arguably one of the most visited in Costa Rica and shouldn’t be missed. A trek down 500 steps will get you to the waterfall's base. There, you can take a dip in the emerald pools near the powerful cascade. If you want something calmer, check out the nearby riverbank.

Explore the trails around Arenal Volcano.

La Fortuna has many great trails that can be explored on foot, mountain bike, or horseback. Burgio told T+L, "Keen hikers will enjoy the 1968 path to the famous Arenal Volcano, a three-mile hike that takes around two hours to complete, with incredible views of the volcano and lava fields."

Embark on an adventure tour.

Looking for an adrenaline rush? Check out Sky Adventures Arenal Park, which has more than 10 attractions to choose from, including zip lining, hanging bridges, and more. Destination experts from TravelLocal told T+L, "The adventure park is a must-visit attraction that will leave you speechless with its views."

Take a wildlife tour.

Costa Rica is home to more than five percent of the world’s biodiversity, making it the ultimate wildlife destination. Guided walks are a popular way to uncover what hides in the lush jungle in the mornings, or you can learn about the nocturnal critters at night. Check out EcoCentro Danaus, a biological reserve known for its tropical birds and frogs.

Join a coffee and chocolate farm tour.

A farm tour is a delicious way to seep into the rich history of Costa Rica. The cacao bean, where chocolate originates, has been a sacred crop for generations. In La Fortuna, North Fields is a locally owned plantation that will guide you through its farm-to-table process. The tour includes tastings of their organic chocolate and cups of coffee.

Related: 20 Best Things to Do in Costa Rica 

<p>Lauren Reyes/Travel + Leisure</p>

Lauren Reyes/Travel + Leisure

Best Wellness Experiences

Forest Therapy

Inspired by the Japanese practice called shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing), certified guides lead participants through the experience by helping them relax and connect with themselves. Studies have found this can reduce stress, improve mood, increase attention, and more. In La Fortuna, Mistico Park offers forest therapy sessions where travelers can benefit from nature's healing powers.

Natural Hot Springs

According to Burgio, "A [trip] to La Fortuna would not be complete without visiting one of the many hot springs in the area, which get their thermal waters directly from the Arenal Volcano." The mineral-rich waters are great for stress, anxiety, inflammation, and more. The stunning EcoTermales offers 13 pools in varying temperatures that you’ll want to enjoy the entire day.

Outdoor Yoga Class

Honor your body with movement while surrounded by nature with an outdoor yoga class. Check out Espacio Intuitivo for a jungle yoga tour — the grounding experience starts with a short hike, followed by a yoga session and meditation practice beside a natural waterfall.

Spa Treatments

Kick off your wellness with a restorative full body massage or cleansing facial. For a luxurious experience, Burgio suggests the spas at Nayara Tented Camp and Nayara Gardens. Each property has an "award-winning spa with treatments incorporating local ingredients like organic coffee, chocolate, and volcanic mud."

Wellness Retreat Experiences

If you’re looking for a completely transformative experience and a new perspective on life, consider immersing yourself in a full-on wellness retreat. For a tropical reset, check out the wellness retreats at Essence Arenal, which offers a range of options focused on yoga, detoxing, and more.

<p>Lauren Reyes/Travel + Leisure</p>

Lauren Reyes/Travel + Leisure

Best Restaurants


Travesía is a casual spot serving elevated dishes. It's best known for its mixed meat platter. On it, you’ll get an assortment of mouthwatering steak, chicken, shrimp, and more. If you still have room for dessert, try the popular lava cake or croissant bread pudding (or both).

Soda Víquez

When in Costa Rica, you should try a soda, a small cafe serving traditional Tico cuisine. Soda Víquez is one of the best (if not the best) in La Fortuna. Tip: Order the casado, a staple in the local diet. The well-balanced dish is served with beef, chicken, or fish plus sides of rice, beans, plantains, and veggies.

Don Rufino

For an upscale experience, make a reservation at Don Rufino. For more than 10 years, the restaurant has earned an outstanding reputation in La Fortuna for serving various cuisines with a Costa Rican flair. The ceviche and roast chicken wrapped in banana leaves are crowd favorites here.

Organica Fortuna

For a health-conscious meal, check out Organico Fortuna. As its name suggests, the charming cafe only uses organic and locally grown ingredients. It serves fresh sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. Plus, vegans, vegetarians, or those who need gluten-free options will have no trouble finding something here.

Pollo Fortuneño

Centrally located in the heart of La Fortuna, Pollo Fortuneño is a fun, open-air eatery serving modern Latin American cuisine. It has an extensive menu, and the colorful dishes are a gastronomic experience. Make sure to try the rotisserie chicken and the chifrijo, a traditional dish that combines rice, beans, chicharrón (pork belly), and chimichurri sauce.

<p>alexeys/Getty Images</p>

alexeys/Getty Images

Best Time To Visit

La Fortuna is a warm destination year-round. It has two seasons: the rainy season from May to November and the dry season from December to April. Being a tropical climate, unexpected rain showers are possible no matter the season.

You'll want to visit in the dry season for the best chance of sun and blue skies, but these months also come with higher crowds. If you'd prefer peace and quiet, the shoulder season months of May and November may be a better option.

Related: The Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Good Weather, Wildlife, and Affordable Prices

How to Get There

There are two international airports you can fly into: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San José or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia. Both are equal distance from La Fortuna and accessible by rental car, private transfer, shared shuttle, or public bus. The San José airport is the biggest of the two, with more airline options, while Liberia is typically less crowded and has shorter customs lines. The drive takes approximately three hours from the airport, but is very scenic.

How to Get Around

The attractions in La Fortuna are spread out. This makes having a rental car the most convenient way to get around. If you didn’t reserve one at the airport, renting one in town is possible. Another option is Uber or red taxi; both are easy to find around town, but the former is usually cheaper. In addition, many tour operators offer shuttle services to and from hotels, so you should have no trouble getting to any excursions.

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