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La Fortuna Waterfall

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This waterfall is a spectacular 200 feet in height and is located only about 4 miles outside of downtown La Fortuna.  Due to its relatively easy access, the waterfall is very popular and attracts the most visitors of any waterfall in Costa Rica.

La Fortuna waterfall at the start of dry seasonLa Fortuna Waterfall

The waterfall is located in the Fortuna Waterfall Ecological Reserve.  Also inside the reserve are a butterfly garden, an orchid trail and a wonderful restaurant that is a great place for lunch and refreshments after completing the hike back up from the waterfall.

The cost to enter is $18 USD for adults and $5 for children.  All of the entrance fees are invested back into supporting the Ecological Reserve.

Operating hours are 7:30am to 4:00pm, 7 days a week.

Compared to other waterfalls in Costa Rica, La Fortuna is only average in terms of height and is dwarfed by the highest waterfall in Costa Rica, 600 foot tall Diamante Falls located east of Dominical, located on the southern Pacific coast. 

Stairs down to the butterfly garden at the La Fortuna Waterfall and Ecological ReserveEntrance to the Butterfly Garden

The butterfly garden is a small square area set aside that contains many different types of flowers that attract several different species of butterflies.

Blue butterfly at the La Fortuna butterfly garden

The orchid trail is an easy circular path walk that takes you down slightly through the jungle and shade canopy where there are several different types of orchids growing everywhere.

The orchid garden walkwayOrchid Trail

  The walkway is paved with stones and in very good condition.

An orchid clings to a tree

This area of Costa Rica receives over 100 inches of rain per year and is the perfect climate for orchids to thrive under the shade canopy of the jungle.  The day we visited, it was raining but was hardly reaching us because the jungle was so dense.

A yellow orchid clings to the side of a tree

The trail down to the La Fortuna waterfall fall starts just on the other side of the restaurant entrance.  The path is all paved with a combination of stones, cement and steps.  There are a few short bridges and also hand rails where needed.  It is a total of about 500 steps down which means 500 steps back up.

La Fortuna waterfall stairsJust a Few of the 500

The weather can be warm and very humid so make sure that you bring water.  Depending on the time of the year it can also be very wet.  While the tree canopy blocks a lot of the rain, the heavier downpours can still soak you.  Recommendation is to bring some type of lightweight rain gear.  Hiking boots, tennis shoes or hiking sandals with a good non-slip tread are the best footwear.  Slip on sandals are not recommended.

Some of the 500 stairs at La Fortuna Falls

Near the bottom is a great viewing platform and the perfect place for a family picture.

View of La Fortuna falls from the lower platformLower Viewing Platform

There are several pools that you can swim in.  The one directly below the falls is not one of them and should be avoided.  The others are off to the left.  Caution ! - depending on the time of the year, and the amount of recent rainfall, the current can be very strong and the water is very cold.

La Fortuna waterfall lower poolLower Pool


At the main check in area, you can buy souvenirs.  Once you enter and walk over the main bridge, there will be restrooms, lockers and changing rooms just before the restaurant.  The are no additional restrooms along any of the trails.

The on site restaurant and bar, the Rio Lounge, is the perfect place to eat after visiting the La Fortuna waterfall.  It has a large and spacious covered patio seating area that overlooks the jungle below.

Entrance to the Rio LoungeRio Lounge

The food was amazing food and the drinks top notch.  We had the ceviche with plantains and avocado along with a margarita.

Ceviche and plantainsCeviche and Plantains

How to get there

The La Fortuna waterfall is located about 3-4 miles southwest of the town of La Fortuna and inside of an ecological reserve.  Enter "La Fortuna Falls Ecological Reserve" into Googlemaps or Waze for navigation or use the link below.  The road is paved and in good condition with 2 lanes.  The drive is an easy one.

Googlemaps PIN to La Fortuna Falls Ecological Reserve

La Fortuna Waterfall - When to go

Since this is the most popular waterfall in Costa Rica, I would recommend avoid visiting during the 2 weeks around Christmas, Semana Santa (the week before Easter) and the first two weeks of July.  The best time to visit is during the week.  The most popular months to visit are from December through April.  Once the heavier rains start in May, the crowds diminish, especially in September and October when the heaviest rains can occur.

Tour busses also frequent the La Fortuna Waterfall and Ecological Reserve and usually arrive mid-morning to early afternoon.  Some days have more than others but the best bet is to arrive either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.


The road to La Fortuna falls is paved and 4wd is not required.

As you approach the Ecological Reserve, the parking lot is located on the left.  This is for both cars and busses.  The parking lot will hold about 30 or so cars depending on how many tour busses are there.

On the south end of the parking lot towards the trees is the check in area.  Then there is a bridge that takes you over a ravine towards the butterfly garden, orchid trail, restrooms and Rio lounge.  The stairs that take you down to the waterfall are on the far side of the Rio lounge and on the left.

You will need to be in decent physical shape to be able to make it down and back up the 500 steps.  By no means do you have to be an athlete, but the combination of moderate physical activity, heat and humidity can take its toll on some.  If you have any issues with your feet or knees, this could be a tough, long walk.  The good news is that you can go at your own pace and the path to the waterfall is very safe.

The walk down takes about 15-20 minutes at a leisurely pace and at least double that for going back up.  Don't be in a hurry though.  There are several spots along the way to stop and take pictures.

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