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While researching places to visit in Costa Rica, one place kept coming up over and over again: La Fortuna Waterfall in the Arenal Volcano region. But the more research I did, the more I wondered if the physical demands of the visit were more than I was capable of handling. So here are my thoughts on whether to visit the La Fortuna Waterfall if you’re undecided.

Easily accessible and enjoyable without a guide, you may be wondering whether the La Fortuna Waterfall is worth visiting. After all, there are about 530 steps (in each direction!). So is it worth the climb? 

Is the La Fortuna Waterfall worth the climb? | The Common Traveler | image: La Fortuna Waterfall from top of hill | La Fortuna Waterfall by popular US international travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of La Fortuna Waterfalls.
View from the top of the stairs.

La Fortuna Waterfall

What is the La Fortuna Waterfall:

There are plenty of waterfalls in Costa Rica, so what makes La Fortuna so attractive? 

Located just outside the town of La Fortuna, easily accessible by private vehicle, is one of Costa Rica’s most famous tourist spots – the La Fortuna Waterfall (also called Rio Fortuna Waterfall). Located inside its own protected area, the waterfall falls about 250 ft. (70 m.) from top to base. Surrounded by beautiful jungle, the waterfall is one of the most picturesque spots with so many such spots in a country.

The appeal of this particular waterfall is that the flow is plentiful, year-round. Visitors can typically swim at the base of the waterfall, though they should remain away from the waterfall itself. Unfortunately, if you visit during the rainy season, as we did, you may not be able to swim due to the high volume of water creating dangerous conditions. 

Is the La Fortuna Waterfall worth the climb? | The Common Traveler | image: man climbing stairs in Costa Rican forest |  La Fortuna Waterfall by popular US international travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of some stairs in the Costa Rican rainforest.
You’ll see a lot of these!

The La Fortuna Waterfall is also popular because of the well-maintained steps leading down to the base. While there is no hiking involved, there are about 530 steps which must be climbed down, and unfortunately, back up. In addition, the trail features multiple stopping areas with seats and signs discussing flora and fauna that distract you along the way. 

Even though I’m not in great shape, I don’t have knee issues. It took me slightly over 20 minutes to go down the stairs to the base of the waterfall. Walking up, though, was another story! It easily took me over 45 minutes to come back as I had to keep stopping to catch my breath. So just take that into account when planning your trip. Bring water and take your time!

Is the La Fortuna Waterfall worth the climb? | The Common Traveler | image: information sign |  La Fortuna Waterfall by popular US international travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of an information sign.
Nature signs help distract and pass the time.

What facilities are available:

The $18 per adult ($5 per child) fee can be paid in both cash or credit card. (Fee as of 6/1/21)  Due to COVID restrictions, I recommend purchasing tickets in advance so that you can be guaranteed admission. There is no cost for parking. The admission fee covers the maintenance and protection of both the park and the environment.

The park’s main facilities can be found upon entering the grounds and crossing over a small bridge. Restrooms, showers, and changing rooms are available. Use the facilities upstairs as there are no facilities at the base of the waterfall. The showers were super cold, so you won’t be tempted to spend too much time – just enough to rinse off!

Lockers can be rented for those who wish to keep their belongings safe and not carry them. The lockers cost $2 to rent but require a $10 refundable deposit in addition to the fee. 

The on-site Rio Lounge restaurant sells water bottles, soft drinks, and snacks. In addition, the open-air dining facility serves several meal options, including sandwiches and heartier meals. When booking park reservations online, you’ll be asked whether you’re planning to eat at the waterfall. This is done to assist them in preparing for the crowd and to help them space out guests.

Is the La Fortuna Waterfall worth the climb? | The Common Traveler | image: stairs in Costa Rican forest |  La Fortuna Waterfall by popular US international travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of the Costa Rican forest.
Steps, steps, and more steps.

How Difficult is the La Fortuna Waterfall Hike?

Long-time readers of my website are familiar with the fact that I’m in my 50’s, have a heart condition, and am not in the best shape of my life. So the thought of climbing up about 530 steps almost made me decide NOT to visit the waterfall. I worried that I was too out of shape, that I would slow down my travel companions, that I would not be able to enjoy the waterfall.

My recommendation is to don’t do this on a day where you’ll be doing a lot of other climbing – for example, after I zip-lined, the guides suggested that I change my plans for another day as both activities included many steps. 

Is the La Fortuna Waterfall worth the climb? | The Common Traveler | image: seating area at the La Fortuna waterfall |  La Fortuna Waterfall by popular US international travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of some cement seating in the Costa Rican forest.
You’ll be grateful for seating areas!

What to Bring With You:

Anyone planning on visiting the La Fortuna Waterfall should bring the following:

  • A change of clothes (whether you swim or not, you’ll be sweaty!)
  • A bathing suit (if you plan on swimming)
  • Reef safe sunscreen
  • Environmentally-friendly bug spray
  • Water shoes (if you want to go swimming or on the rocks)
  • Towel
  • Water!

If you’re wearing your water shoes, I highly recommend something with good support due to all the walking. Keens and Merrell make my favorites. This is an excellent trip to invest in quality shoes.

Is the La Fortuna Waterfall worth the climb? | The Common Traveler | image: orchid plant on tree |  La Fortuna Waterfall by popular US international travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of an orchid plant tree.

What is the new Orchid Garden:

The Orchid Garden is a paved trail surrounded by trees and orchid plants. It is accessible without trekking down the steps, making it an option for those in your group that do not want to climb. 

Unfortunately, we visited in late May, when no orchids were blooming. So we’ll have to go back another time!

Is the La Fortuna Waterfall worth the climb? | The Common Traveler | image: La Fortuna waterfall view from below |  La Fortuna Waterfall by popular US international travel blog, The Common Traveler: image of the La Fortuna waterfall.
La Fortuna Waterfall view from down river.

Final Thoughts On Whether to Visit La Fortuna Waterfall:

As long as you’re prepared, the La Fortuna Waterfall is worth visiting if you don’t have too many mobility issues. You’ll have the opportunity to admire the flora and fauna of the jungle. While you can get a good view of the waterfall from above, you can feel its power at the base. I’m glad that I didn’t talk myself out of going!

Don’t feel like climbing all those steps but still want to see the Waterfall? Consider booking a zip-line over the waterfall. Mondo has two lines offering great views of the waterfall – though if you’re like me, you’ll be screaming more than admiring!

Have you visited the La Fortuna Waterfall? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Check out more Costa Rica tips and tricks:

Happy travels,
Annick, The Common Traveler

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Is the La Fortuna Waterfall worth the climb? | The Common Traveler shares all you need to know about the La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica, including facilities, and whether it really is worth climbing about 530 steps! #costarica #lafortuna #lafortunawaterfall |  La Fortuna Waterfall by popular US international travel blog, The Common Traveler: Pinterest image of La Fortuna Waterfall.

Have you ever hiked the La Fortuna Waterfall? Let us know in a comment blow!