(2021) Must-Know Info About La Fortuna Costa Rica From Longtime Residents

Last updated on January 6th, 2021 at 01:55 pm EST

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We love La Fortuna Costa Rica

Though we’ve spent more than a decade exploring nearly every corner of Costa Rica, La Fortuna is our absolute favorite destination in the country. It’s also one of two places in Costa Rica that we’re proud to call home, and we’ve done so (off and on) since 2007. We’ve experienced just about everything there is to do in La Fortuna, we’ve dined at restaurants and stayed at hotels all over town, and we formed some of our best friendships and business partnerships with the area’s locals. To say the least, we’re advocates of the Arenal area at large and we’re certain we know the region better than most other travelers. Especially those who drop in, spend a few days, and go on to create (or worse, sell) online “La Fortuna city guides” that don’t offer much beyond links to hotel booking sites that provide monetary kickbacks to the guide’s creators.

Fortunately, we won’t subject you to that kind of city guide. Google (and other search engines) can provide you with the names of most La Fortuna-area businesses if you want or need them. Also, there are several ways you can secure bookings for hotels in Costa Rica (e.g., through online booking websites or through Costa Rican hotels directly); you don’t need to click on a blog link to do that. What we’re guessing you actually want is a resource that can provide new and sound information about La Fortuna Costa Rica that’s based on knowledge and firsthand experience acquired over several years, ideally compiled by individuals who have long had (and continue to have) close ties to the town. If so, keep reading below and know that we’re grateful you prefer valuable content.

La Fortuna basics: What to expect

A sample of our personal photos from around La Fortuna:

Atmosphere and presence of tourism

First, let’s address the giant elephant (tapir?) in the room: La Fortuna is touristy. You’ll find a ton of tourism development in and around town, from hotels and restaurants to adventure centers and tourism offices. You’ll also find a ton of variety within each of these categories, from small hostels to exclusive resorts; fancy places to eat and inexpensive, family-style soda restaurants; large-scale adventure parks and small, intimate-feeling attractions; and reputable tour operator offices and street-corner salespeople. Though the abundance of tourism that exists in La Fortuna repels some travelers, most others are drawn in by the ample opportunities there are to craft an ideal vacation. Regardless of whether you’re on a budget or on your dream honeymoon, you can build your ideal Costa Rica vacation with the diverse tourism options that flood La Fortuna Costa Rica.

Despite the big role that tourism plays in La Fortuna, the destination has a small-town vibe. Most locals who don’t work in tourism work in agriculture and tend to the farms and fields that sprawl out over the Arenal area at large. Nearly everyone in town goes to bed early so they can rise early, either to head off to work or to participate in early-morning activities when wildlife-viewing is optimal, the temperature is comfortable, and rain clouds haven’t yet rolled in. La Fortuna’s nighttime scene is rather lackluster (you’re more likely to see people bustling around town between 7:00-8:00am than 7:00-8:00pm), and the few low-key bars you’ll find around town are most often frequented by tourists.

Also around town are a collection of establishments that give La Fortuna a mixed urban-rural feel. In La Fortuna’s 20-block, rectangular core, you’ll encounter shops bursting with commercial souvenirs, local residents selling lottery tickets on street corners, trendy cafes serving cups of authentic Costa Rican coffee, oversize billboards that advertise the area’s most popular experiences, and a rodeo stadium that hosts cultural civic festivals. The town also has banks, ATMs, gas stations, medical clinics, pharmacies, a police station, a fire station, a post office, laundromats, a Catholic church, grocery stores, and several other services you might want or need to access during your visit.

Language: Is English spoken in La Fortuna?

English (broken) is widely spoken in La Fortuna. Though most Costa Ricans aren’t bilingual, the majority of locals who work as tour guides, restaurant wait staff, and hotel reception staff in La Fortuna are able to converse in Spanish and English. Many other individuals who work in the tourism industry, including drivers and hotel cleaning staff, as well as other townspeople, such as individuals who work at banks, pharmacies, and grocery stores, have at least a basic understanding of English. Since La Fortuna’s economy relies heavily on tourism, tourists (and the practice of the English language) is welcome in La Fortuna.

Accommodations

A sample of our personal photos from some of the La Fortuna hotels we’ve stayed at:

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