Last updated on January 15, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Costa Rica

Where to stay in La Fortuna and around Arenal – Best 5 AREAS and hotels

If you are wondering where to stay when visiting Arenal Volcano then La Fortuna may be the place for you, especially if you are not renting a car in Costa Rica.

La Fortuna is a well-developed tourist center with a safe bus station and plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes, and even some nightlife, all within walking distance. Tour agencies are everywhere, so easy to organize hikes and activities.

If, however, you are looking for a more natural environment, possibly next to fabulous trekking areas or the lake then I would stay away from the rather commercialized La Fortuna.

In this guide, you will find the 5 best areas to stay in La Fortuna and nearby, you either want to relax in the middle of the unique Costa Rican nature or have some party time, you are on a family trip or you are looking for a romantic break away maybe with some natural springs.

I’ve got all the pros and cons mapped out, a few suggested quiet hotels, plus a quick comparison table to find your perfect place.

Where to stay in La Fortuna and around Arenal map - Best 5 areas
Where to stay in La Fortuna and around Arenal map – Best 5 areas

Where to stay in La fortuna – Key Points

Here is the quick comparative table. Click on the area name to jump to the full description including all the pros, cons, and a few suggested hotels and accommodations.

On a mobile, swipe left or right to see all the columns.

Area/TownIdeal forProsConsAccessibilityRestaurantsFamiliesNature of the area
La Fortuna TownFirst-time visitors, families, young travelersCentral location, Variety of accommodations, Vibrant nightlifeCan be very busy, Quite touristy, Limited natural surroundingsGood, especially with public transportWide range of dining optionsSuitableLimited natural surroundings
Fortuna WaterfallNature enthusiasts and waterfall loversClose to Fortuna Waterfall, Picturesque surroundingsLimited accommodations, No local dining options, isolated Requires transportationLimitedGreat for family outingsLush greenery and natural beauty
Palma – SpringsTravelers seeking relaxationNatural springs, sometimes in the hotelIsolated, No nightlifeClose to La Fortuna, may need a carResort dining options onlySuitable for grown-upFamous for natural springs
Barrio DoraFamilies or group of friendsBigger houses, Quiet area, Local experience20 minutes from the center, limited number of restaurantsWalking distance from town centerLimitedExcellent for familiesQuiet residential area
El CastilloRomantic couples, outdoor enthusiastsClose to nature, Unique eco-lodges, Rich in wildlifeLimited services, More remote, basic lodgingMay require 4×4 vehicleJust a bunch of local eateriesSuitable for couplesClose to Arenal Volcano, great for hiking and birding

If you are in a hurry, here are my 3 suggested places to stay in La Fortuna and around Arenal Volcano

Do you need a car to get around? The easy answer is no, especially if you plan to visit Arenal (direct bus from San Jose) and base yourself in La Fortuna. You will find plenty of tours that are going to pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation. Easy.

In saying that driving in Costa Rica is honestly not as complicated and if you decide to hire a car in Costa Rica, you will experience so much more. For example, you can trek the Arenal and the waterfalls when you want, avoiding the big organized groups.

I enjoyed so much my time with my rented car, free to discover unique and secret beaches, stop by amazing forest walks, and visit coffee plantations all at my own pace. Places inaccessible by public transportation.

I usually rent my cars through DiscoverCars, a website that compares local and international rental companies giving the best price with transparent information (attention to these insurance scams in Costa Rica). The $7/day full insurance is just the icing on the cake.

La Fortuna Town – Where to stay when visiting Arenal volcano first-time

  • Best for: First-time visitors, young travelers, adventure seekers, and nightlife.

Pros

  • Central location
  • Variety of accommodations
  • Vibrant nightlife
  • Wide range of dining options

Cons

  • Can be very busy
  • Quite touristy
  • It can be noisy
  • Limited natural surroundings

La Fortuna Town is surely one of the best places to stay when visiting Arenal Volcano, especially if you are traveling through Costa Rica with public transportation. In fact, the bus station is right in town and within walking distance from most accommodations.

You will also be located near several tour operators who can help you organize thrilling experiences such as zip-lining, white-water rafting, and volcano hiking. From La Fortuna, you can easily explore the Arenal Volcano National Park or soak in the nearby hot springs.

Food lovers will be delighted by the wide array of dining options available in La Fortuna. The local Costa Rican cuisine is delicious and great value for money too.

Then you can find any other types of food, including American pubs and eateries, Italian restaurants, Sushi bistros and I could keep going. Anything fancy will come at a higher price, especially when you start going for craft beers ($6-10/pint)

Coffee enthusiasts can explore charming cafes serving locally sourced coffee. Red Frog, just outside the center of La Fortuna, is a must-visit for both the food and the locally roasted coffee. The smell around will wake you up in the morning.

If you’re looking to experience the local nightlife, La Fortuna won’t disappoint. Whether you’re looking for a laid-back pub or a high-energy dance club, you will find that in town.

The Magma Club has weekend parties with doors opening at 10 pm. Charlies is another club that serves food too. And other places are opening up, and closing down, so ask around what is on fashion once you are in town.

You will find a few shops and super/mini markets around. If you happen to be there on Friday, plan a visit to the local Farmers Market (La Feria), close to the bus station.

Whether you’re on a budget or looking for luxury, La Fortuna has a wide range of accommodations. From hostels and budget hotels to boutique resorts, you’ll find the perfect place to rest after a day of exploration.

Staying in La Fortuna has also its own drawbacks the first of which is that you may feel this town has been rather commercialized.

It’s all about tourism and how to engage travelers in activities, during the day and the night too. Which is great if this is the main reason you decided to make it to La Fortuna.

Also, be selective with your accommodation because the few clubs and pubs open till late can be noisy with the loud music. If you are up for a quiet night, you should check out my suggested accommodations.

Here are 3 of the best accommodations in La Fortuna:

Country Inn ($$$): Tropical oasis near attractions, comfortable rooms with scenic views, friendly staff, delicious breakfast, and serene pool area.

Hotel Secreto ($$): A hidden gem with friendly staff, stunning volcano views, and a lovely pool. Modern rooms and great breakfast.

Arenal Poshpacker ($): Lively hostel in Fortuna with pool, garden, and tours. Social atmosphere, friendly staff, comfy rooms, and convenient location.

The Arenal Volcano
The Arenal Volcano

Fortuna Waterfall – Best place to stay in La Fortuna for hiking

If you feel

  • Best for: Nature enthusiasts and waterfall lovers

Pros

  • Close to Fortuna Waterfall
  • Picturesque surroundings
  • Great for family outings
  • Opportunities for hiking
  • Lush greenery and natural beauty

Cons

  • Limited accommodations
  • No local dining options
  • Requires transportation
  • Not suitable for nightlife
  • More isolated from other attractions

Nestled just 5km south of La Fortuna, the area surrounding Fortuna Waterfall offers an enchanting escape into Costa Rica’s natural beauty.

The star attraction in the area, Fortuna Waterfall, is a stunning 70-meter cascade surrounded by lush tropical forest. A hike down to the base offers a refreshing swim and unparalleled photo opportunities.

There is a healthy entry fee of around $20 and considering the 400 steps built and maintained to reach the falls, it’s totally worth it. This is, in fact, probably one of the easiest-to-access waterfalls in Costa Rica, which means it can be quite busy too, of course. Try to make it there very early 7:30-8 am or later around 4pm (they close at 5 pm)

If you stay in the area you can also think of starting a few trails without the need of any transportation, basically directly from your backyard. You should plan the trek to the Escondidas Falls (Cataratas Escondidas).

They are surely not as impressive as the Fortuna Falls but they are free to access and there are a few water holes to have a dive.

You can also think of hiking up to the Chato Volcano but be aware that the trail is steep and slippery, besides muddy during the rainy season (the dry season is best). For these and other hikes, you should download the Maps.me App on your mobile, it works much better than Google Maps when it’s down to walks.

This is one of the best areas to stay in La Fortuna for unique lodges and eco-resorts that blend seamlessly with the natural surroundings. You can truly find some amazing accommodations, like the ones I suggested below.

There are not as many dining options in this area. I recommend just a couple of restaurants, Luna Grill and Yellow Tree, that serve fresh, organic, and locally sourced meals.

While the area’s remote location adds to its charm, it also means accessibility can be more challenging. In a few words, you need a car or you should arrange transportation from/to the town with your host.

Here are 2 of the best hotels closed to the waterfall:

Tifakara Boutique Hotel ($$$$): Nestled near Arenal Volcano, this charming hotel offers exceptional service, lush gardens, refreshing pool, and memorable wildlife encounters.

Waterfall Lodge ($-$$): Immersed in nature, near waterfalls. Charming rooms, attentive staff. Great base for activities. Flexible, sustainable, and picturesque.

La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

Palma – Best area to stay in La Fortuna for Natural Springs

  • Best for: Travelers seeking relaxation and natural beauty

Pros

  • Famous for natural springs
  • Many hotels include spring access
  • Close to La Fortuna
  • Peaceful and relaxing

Cons

  • Limited tourist amenities
  • Fewer dining options
  • No nightlife
  • More suited for relaxation than adventure

Palma, located just 7km west of La Fortuna, is renowned for its unique and abundant natural springs, heated by the nearby Arenal Volcano, providing a warm and soothing experience.

The Springs contain minerals with healing properties that can relieve arthritis, stress, and skin conditions. At least this is what the locals say. Always hard to say if this is true, however, I am certain you will love them after a day of hiking.

Many resorts and accommodations offer direct access to these natural springs. Some even provide private springs within the villa or room, allowing you to indulge in this luxurious experience at your leisure.

Palma’s proximity to La Fortuna means that you can easily explore other attractions like the Arenal Volcano and Fortuna Waterfall, making it a convenient base for a diverse Costa Rican adventure.

Most resorts will be happy to organize any kind of trip for you. However, to have a cheaper deal you may want to head into town at any of the tour operators.

You would need to have your car if you want to move around as you wish, otherwise, you can ask your host to organize transportation. Typically a taxi to the town center costs around $5-10 based on the time of the day/night.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations for Natural Springs in La Fortuna:

The Springs Resort & Spa ($$$$-$$$$$): A hidden gem with exceptional service, stunning volcano views, and a range of activities for an unforgettable stay. Even more famous after the Kardashians’ stay

Manoa Resort & Hot Springs ($$$-$$$$): Lush grounds, hot springs, stunning volcano views, great breakfast, comfy beds, luxurious suites, and attentive staff

A closeup of common basilisk in the area of the Hot Springs
A closeup of common basilisk in the area of the Hot Springs

Barrio Dora – Where to stay in La Fortuna for families

  • Best for: Families or group of friends

Pros

  • Bigger houses
  • Quiet area
  • Local experience
  • Next to supermarkets

Cons

  • 20 minutes from the center of La Fortuna
  • Limited number of restaurants

Barrio Dora is a neighborhood east of La Fortuna, around 15-20 minutes walking distance from the town center.

It is a nice and quiet residential area, with a lovely local feeling, where you can find a good selection of all-inclusive houses, with 2 or more bedrooms which work great if you are traveling with kids or in a group of friends.

You will be also next to the Pali supermarket, with probably the best price for groceries in La Fortuna, besides a good selection of ingredients.

There are also a bunch of local restaurants in the area, however, for a bigger selection you need to head more toward the center. One place you should check out is the Panadería Nutripán, a local bakery with a limited however excellent supply of products, very yummy.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in La Fortuna for families:

Rincón del Arenal ($$): Amid lush landscapes, cozy and well-equipped 2BR apartment. Responsive host, convenient location near attractions and amenities

Casa JADE ($$$): A hidden gem, 2BR up to 7 people, offering well-equipped, spacious rooms with mountain views, private pool, and welcoming hosts.

Trekking to the Arenal Volcano
Trekking to the Arenal Volcano

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El Castillo – Best area to stay for couples when visiting Arenal Volcano

  • Best for: Outdoor enthusiasts, bird watchers and romantic couples

Pros

  • Close to nature
  • Unique eco-lodges
  • Rich in wildlife
  • Near Arenal Volcano
  • Great for hiking and birding

Cons

  • Limited services
  • More remote
  • Maybe Requires 4×4 vehicle
  • Justa bunch of local eateries

El Castillo, a small village by Lake Arenal, is a haven for those who seek an authentic connection with nature. You will have the lake in front of you and the volcano right on your back, standing out like a beacon.

Accommodations here are often eco-friendly lodges that offer a tranquil retreat. Imagine waking up to the distant calls of howler monkeys and sharing your breakfast with hummingbirds. It’s not just a possibility; it’s a daily occurrence in El Castillo.

Once in the area, you should check out the Butterfly Conservatory, home to Costa Rica’s largest collection of butterflies. Here, colorful butterflies don’t just flutter by; they become your companions. The nearby Serpentarium offers a chance to get up close with some of Costa Rica’s intriguing reptiles.

Adventure is not a mere option but a way of life in El Castillo. From hiking and horseback riding to kayaking on Lake Arenal, the outdoor activities are as diverse as the landscape itself.

The natural springs, rustic and untouched, are not just for relaxation but for rejuvenation. Dining is not just about eating but savoring the local flavors, prepared with care and served with genuine warmth at the few excellent local eateries.

El Castillo is one of the best places to stay when visiting Arenal Volcano for romantic couples looking for a peaceful and secluded destination, far from the busy La Fortuna but still accessible for a night out. However, do not expect any luxury. It’s more down to basic lodging.

You will need a car to stay in this area and possibly you need to rent a 4×4 if traveling in the wet season.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in El Castillo:

Sunset Inn ($): Stunning views, hearty breakfasts, and outdoor activities. Peaceful getaway with well-equipped rooms.

Los Tucanes Lodging ($-$$): Nestled in stunning surroundings with volcano views, this lodging offers cozy rooms, friendly staff, and a tranquil escape.

The Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake next to El Castillo
The Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake next to El Castillo

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days is enough in La Fortuna?

Spending 2-3 days in La Fortuna allows enough time to explore the main attractions, including the volcano and hot springs.

Is La Fortuna and Arenal the same area?

La Fortuna is a town near Arenal Volcano, so they are closely related but not exactly the same area.

Is La Fortuna worth going to?

Yes, La Fortuna is worth visiting for its stunning Arenal Volcano views, hot springs, and various outdoor activities.

Is Arenal or Monteverde better?

Both are great; Arenal offers volcanic landscapes and hot springs, while Monteverde is famous for cloud forests and wildlife.

Where did the Kardashians stay in Arenal?

The Kardashians chose The Springs in Arenal, Costa Rica for their reality show, a luxurious hot-springs resort with rates over $500 a night.

Is Arenal worth visiting Costa Rica?

Yes, Arenal is a must-visit and stay in Costa Rica for its iconic volcano, hot springs, and opportunities for adventure.

What is the closest town to Arenal Volcano?

La Fortuna is the closest town to Arenal Volcano, serving as a gateway for tourists visiting the area.

I am fine with hiking. Can you suggest a surfing town?

I have a few. Tamarindo is the best for beginner surfers with some nightlife too. I love Santa Teresa because of its setup, immersed in nature. Jaco is the place to be for nightlife and some surfing after the hangover. Finally, Uvita is the place to disconnect from life by the beach. These are great spots to start surfing in Costa Rica.

Volcan Arenal rises out of the jungle and dominates the landscape near the town of La Fortuna
Volcan Arenal rises out of the jungle and dominates the landscape near the town of La Fortuna
Hiking the surrounding area of La Fortuna over hanging bridges
Hiking the surrounding area of La Fortuna over hanging bridges
El Ceibo Tree a giant of the jungle in the Arenal volcano jungle
El Ceibo Tree a giant of the jungle in the Arenal volcano jungle
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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