The Best of La Fortuna: Volcanoes, Thermal Baths and Wildlife Galore

Tropical, lush, and teeming with wildlife – Costa Rica is one of my most favorite places in the world. Brad and I recently returned from two weeks in Costa Rica – one week in La Fortuna and one in the Osa Peninsula and it was a perfect tropical getaway.

La Fortuna is a small town northwest of the capital, San Jose. Located in the valley of the volcano Arenal and surrounded by jungle, filled with tropical birds and sloths lounging languidly in the trees, La Fortuna is like a jungle fairytale come to life.

Cabin, Rancho Cerro Azul
Our beautiful jungle cabin

Where to stay: Rancho Cerro Del Azul. This place was wonderful, a total jungle paradise. The property backs up into the jungle and has tons of wildlife. We loved walking the private hiking trail to the La Fortuna river and looking for monkeys. Great deck and hammock. Beautiful high ceiling wooden cabin. Great breakfast in open air cafe overlooking the jungle. Great coffee, good pancakes, loved the jungle sounds. Very pretty bar and lovely, friendly staff.

Jungle Cabin

How To Spend Your Days in La Fortuna: 

Wake up early to make the most of your days in La Fortuna and watch the jungle come alive! In the early morning and again at twilight, the jungle around Rancho Cerro Azul bursts into life – bright green parrots soar through the skies, toucans pause in trees outside your deck singing their high pitched songs, and howler monkeys shriek their presence with their deep throaty calls. Sometimes we jetted off into the jungle, binoculars in hand to find the howler monkeys. 

Head to an early breakfast for great coffee and more wildlife viewing. We had breakfast most mornings at our hotel’s restaurant Ginger, overlooking the jungle. The pancakes, fresh fruit and strong, rich, coffee were my favorite. It was a beautiful start to the day. Breakfast was not included, but was budget friendly.

Jungle Flower, Ginger Restaurant
Jungle flower table setting at breakfast

Because the afternoons can get very warm in La Fortuna, we either did our activities early in the morning, or later in the day. We spent entire afternoons lounging in our hammock, sipping wine and sparkling water, spotting toucans and parrots and a host of other brightly colored tropical birds flit from tree to tree.

Brie Hammock La Fortuna
Wake up, get breakfast, hop in the hammock!

The jungles of Costa Rica are so saturated with color it’s like looking through a filter at a rich technicolor world. Plants and flowers are vibrant greens and reds and neon pinks.  Bright yellow and turquoise butterflies flutter through the foliage and parrots soar across azure sky in pairs, landing on the tip top of trees and canoodling. Seriously, parrots cuddle. It’s wonderful. In the evening, on the way back to our cabin after dinner, the air was filled with a rich, fragrant scent from blooming flowers.

Jungle Cabin and Horse, La Fortuna
View from our deck

Visit the hot springs:  There are dozens of hot springs to try in La Fortuna, dotting the foot of the volcano. Our favorites are Ecotermales, Tabacon and Paradise.

Waterfall Ecotermales La Fortuna
Beautiful Ecotermales

Ecotermales: a magical, jungle paradise. I often find myself dreaming about this place. Picture: lush pools of increasingly warm temps, glittering waterfalls, stone lounge chairs submerged in the steaming pools and fresh fruit cocktails, all set in an idyllic, jungle oasis. It is the most magical at nighttime, as the jungle sounds come alive, and steam from the natural springs wafts into the night sky.

Eco Termales Brie

Rio Cholin: Free natural jungle hot springs. This gem was Brad’s favorite. Just past Tabacon, pay the parking guard two bucks and walk down the road to a series of natural hot springs in the jungle. Take a moment to breathe in the lush surroundings and pretend that you are in a scene from the Swiss Family Robinson! While luxuriating in the waters, we even spotted a massive green iguana enjoying the water himself! Tip: Head to the springs early in the morning to have them all to your yourself.

Brie and Brad Rio Cholin
Natural Hot Springs

Returning from the springs, we ran into this beautiful girl!

Pizote!
Hello gorgeous!

This is a pizote, a relative to the raccoon. Pizotes are playful, a little mischievous and completely lovable! We have been in love with them for years, after spotting the resident pizote “Pancho,” at Lomas Del Volcan on our first stay in La Fortuna.

Tabacon: Gorgeous, sprawling, lush hot springs. This place is a splurge, but glorious.

Paradise: This beautiful hot springs is relatively budget friendly and quiet.

Tips: Always keep an eye out for wildlife. If you see a tour bus pull over and follow them! We got the best pictures of a beautiful sloth with her baby. Visited her four more times during the trip!

Sloth, La Fortuna

Lomas Del Volcan: The first time we visited La Fortuna, we stayed here at this hotel and thought that it was the most beautiful jungle setting that we had ever seen. Now – it is still lovely, but the owners built a restaurant so the unimpeded view of the volcano from the cafe is blocked.

Volcano views at Lomas Del Volcan
Volcano views at Lomas Del Volcan
Pool Lomas Del Volcan
Views from the Lomas Del Volcan pool

Where to Eat: Our favorite place was Tiquicia, a lovely open air restaurant with fresh Costa Rican food, about two minutes from Rancho Cerro Azul. Great cocktails, great mojitos, situated right next to a river. Very friendly, welcoming service. We loved the shrimp ceviche, and the arroz con pollo. We spent several leisurely evenings savoring our meals, sipping our cocktails and listening to the sounds of the jungle. We also liked Chipolte Tex Mex in town for great quesadillas and margaritas for less than 6 bucks. Ginger or Yellow Bark in town was good for laid back breakfasts of french toast and omelets though our favorite breakfasts were at our hotel – the view could not be beat.

Other things to do in La Fortuna:

Volcano Hike – we went on this and the view is nice, butI would advise to skip it. You can see better views of the volcano and more wildlife at other places.

Zip lining and ATVing – fun! went on our previous trip. Ziplining through the rainforest was my favorite.

Final Word: Go to La Fortuna for the gorgeous jungle hot springs, volcano views, amazing wildlife and to completely and totally disconnect, relax and rejuvenate in a jungle paradise. Laying in my hammock, listening to the howler monkeys, watching tropical birds and kaleidoscopic butterflies flit between the trees and flowers is a memory I will visit often in my dreams. At one point we lounged on our deck during a tropical rainstorm. I hope that you have a chance to visit as well!

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