El Salto Rope Swing: La Fortuna’s Swimming Spot You Don’t Want to Miss

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La Fortuna is absolutely packed with things to do- from soaking in luxurious hot springs, to zip-lining through lush jungle, and exploring enormous volcanoes. But you have to pay for almost all of the activities here- even ones that are generally free in other countries, like hiking or enjoying natural waterfalls.

Great news, though- the El Salto Rope Swing is the perfect place to spend an afternoon, taking in the views of the El Salto Waterfall, swimming through the river’s turquoise waters, and soaking in local culture- all for FREE! So pack up your swimsuit and don’t forget a towel- here’s everything you need to know about the El Salto Rope Swing.

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How to Get to El Salto Rope Swing

The El Salto Rope Swing is located here, in La Fortuna, one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica.

It’s found 1.6 km (about 1 mile) south of the town’s downtown area along Road 702, right under a bridge. There’s room for a handful of cars on either side of the bridge and usually an “unofficial” parking attendant by one of the parking sections who will watch your car for a few colones.

Woman hiking down to El Salto Rope Swing

If you can swing it (pun obviously intended!), I’d actually just recommend walking there from your accommodations or taking a short Uber ride- there’s really not that many spaces to park, especially if you go during a particularly busy time, and it’s a flat and easy walk, with awesome views of the Arenal Volcano the whole way!

To get to the rocks that overlook the waterfalls and swimming area, you have to climb down a short trail on the east side of the bridge, about a hundred feet in length. But a word of warning- it’s rather slippery and steep in a few places, so I’d recommend wearing some kind of hiking sandals here, like Tevas (here’s the pair I have and here’s the kind my husband, Justin, has).

Woman watching man swing on the El Salto Rope Swing

What to Expect from El Salto Rope Swing

After you climb down onto the rock area, the Tarzan rope swing will be to your left, where you can swing out over the water and drop approximately 20 feet into the azure water below.

And if cliff jumping is your thing, there’s rocks immediately to the right and a couple other cliffs which you can scramble to by the El Salto Waterfall where people were jumping off. Honestly, it seemed like primarily locals were the ones doing most of the jumping, with a few visitors here and there, brave enough to try the rope swing.

If you do either, be extremely careful about where you jump in, talk to the locals about which spots are deemed okay to jump in, and do so at your own risk (there’s no lifeguard on duty here)- there’s several places where there’s ominous-looking rocks and logs right under the surface where we saw some of the locals just barely miss as they dove into the water.

Man jumping off the rocks at El Salto Rope Swing

If you’re like me and basically the polar opposite of a daredevil, it’s still definitely worth including El Salto Rope Swing in your Costa Rica itinerary just to relax on the rocks, watch those brave souls do tricks on the rope and dive into the water, and people-watch the very eclectic mix of folks here. Plus- you can still enjoy swimming in the water even if you don’t want to make the harrowing plummet from the rocks into the river.

To do so, head back to the main dirt path you took to reach the rocks and follow it further away from Road 702 several hundred feet. You’ll eventually reach a steep hill, with a rope tied to some trees to the left of the trail to aid your climb down the slippery dirt.

Once you’ve reached the bottom of the hill, follow the path to the right and you’ll reach the rocks lining the shallow bed of the river. From here, you can climb in and find the right spot to just relax in the cool water.

El Salto waterfall in La Fortuna

What to Bring to the El Salto Rope Swing

While you don’t need a ton to enjoy El Salto Rope Swing, here are the things I’d be sure to include on your Costa Rica packing list and bring to this awesome spot:

Bathing suit

I rocked this one at the river and here’s a great option for men.

Water shoes

Again, I swear by my Tevas hiking sandals (like these for women and these for men), which conveniently double as water shoes while you’re climbing on stabby river rocks

Woman wearing Teva hiking shoes

Quick dry towel

These take up almost no space in your luggage and are super convenient to have with you when traveling!

Food and drink

There’s no vendors here, so bring whatever you’ll need. Beer seemed like quite the popular choice here! Or alternatively, by the trailhead, there’s a sign that Pizza Ranch actually delivers to El Salto Rope Swing- so riverside pizza party, anyone?

Rechargeable headlamp

We visited in the afternoon right before sunset and it was the perfect way to wind down before heading to dinner. But there’s no lights along the jungle trail or most of the road itself back to town- so bring a rechargeable headlamp so you can see where you’re going.

Justin actually fell into a pothole and broke his kneecap while walking along a dark road in Cuba and had a rather harrowing journey back to recovery. So let’s make sure your kneecaps stay in one piece during your time in Costa Rica!

Cash

If you’re planning on parking here or if you want to pick up some yummy, fresh fruit from one of the vendors close to town along Road 702!

Dry bag

A dry bag is the perfect solution to carry all the items mentioned above and, more importantly, protect your electronics and other belongings from that beautiful blue water.

Woman sitting and overlooking El Salto Waterfall in La Fortuna

Tips for the El Salto Rope Swing

  • To be perfectly clear, El Salto is just a river under a bridge on the highway. Granted, there’s one of the many incredible waterfalls in Costa Rica here, with brilliantly-colored water and dramatic rock cliffs, but… it’s still just a river under the highway.

    There’s no changing rooms, bathrooms, or facilities of any kind here– so plan accordingly and wear your bathing suit under your clothes!
  • The current in the river is pretty strong, so if you’re not a confident swimmer, I wouldn’t recommend jumping in or trying to splash around here. If you still want to find a way to cool off, there’s plenty of rocks that you can sit on by the riverbed and stick your feet in the water- no scary currents involved.

El Salto Rope Swing was one of my favorite things to do in La Fortuna– and did I mention it’s totally free? Are there any other cool free places to enjoy in the Arenal area? Let me know in the comments below!

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