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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Pssst… visiting La Fortuna? We have a ton of information-packed content to help you plan your trip to this area, including:
- 11 Incredible Things to Do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica’s Adventure Capital
- Arenal 1968: The Best Arenal Volcano Hike in La Fortuna
- Catarata del Toro: Explore Costa Rica’s Most Stunning Waterfall (+ Best Hidden Gem)
- Mistico Hanging Bridges: Walk Amongst the Treetops of La Fortuna
- Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park: The Most Colorful Waterfall in Costa Rica
- La Fortuna Waterfall: Swim Under One of the Most Gorgeous Cascades in Costa Rica
- Ecotermales Hot Spring: La Fortuna’s Luxury Spa for Less
How to Get to El Salto Rope Swing
The El Salto Rope Swing is located here, 1.6 km (about 1 mile) south of downtown La Fortuna 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.
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).
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.
If you’re like me and basically the polar opposite of a daredevil, it’s still definitely worth a visit 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.
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:
I rocked this one at the river and here’s a great option for men.
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
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?
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!
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!
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.
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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