La Fortuna Waterfall: Swim Under One of the Most Gorgeous Cascades in Costa Rica

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La Fortuna is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica, with lush rainforests, abundant wildlife, and dramatic waterfalls. In fact, one of the country’s most breathtaking cascades is nestled into the jungle right outside of the town- the La Fortuna Waterfall, which plunges 75 meters (246 feet) into a turquoise pool below.

If you’re looking to take in some of Costa Rica’s most gorgeous natural scenery or just looking for an epic way to cool down on a hot day, grab your swimsuit- here’s everything you need to know about visiting La Fortuna Waterfall. 

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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:

How to get to La Fortuna Waterfall

The La Fortuna Waterfall is conveniently located here, in the locally-owned and operated Ecological Reserve Fortuna Waterfall. While there’s no public transit that goes here, it’s just 5 km from La Fortuna’s downtown area, close enough to bike to or take a fairly inexpensive Uber (around $10) from most hotels. Alternatively, if you’re driving, there’s a nicely paved road the entire time (no need for 4WD) and a large parking lot. 

How much does it cost to visit La Fortuna Waterfall?

The entry fee to see the La Fortuna Waterfall is a bit steep, in my opinion- $18 USD per adult or $5 USD for children. This includes admission to the waterfall, an orchid garden, and use of clean bathroom and shower facilities at the reserve.

Given the price point, I was a bit on the fence about visiting- but between its convenient proximity to the town, the absolutely breathtaking landscape, and the fact that the money goes back to conserve this little slice of heaven, I ultimately think it’s worth it

Couple walking in front of La Fortuna waterfall

When to visit La Fortuna waterfall

The La Fortuna Waterfall is open every day from 7 AM to 5:00 PM, with the last entry allowed in at 4 PM. Visiting the waterfall is one of the most popular things to do in La Fortuna, so it’s supposed to get insanely crowded by about 10 AM every day.

If I had one tip about visiting, it would be to get here early. My husband, Justin, and I got to the parking lot around 6:55 AM and only had two other people at the waterfall almost the entire time we were there!

Woman swimming in front of the La Fortuna Waterfall

What to expect when visiting La Fortuna waterfall

From the ticket office, it’s about 1 km (0.6 miles) out-and-back to the waterfall. To start your hike, you’ll get a wristband from the ticket office and walk through the entryway, past the bathroom and shower facilities, where you can change into your swimsuit if needed. Beyond that, there will be a viewing platform with a spectacular view of the waterfall to your right.  

La Fortuna waterfall from the upper viewing platform

Continuing on, you’ll get to the second most-famous part of the reserve- the infamous 480-step stairway down to the falls. Until a couple of years ago, the stairs were all dirt, but now, they’re incredibly well-maintained, constructed out of metal and concrete, with a sturdy railing and plenty of benches to take a breather.

So while much to-do is made about the stairs, they really are not that bad (it equates to about 180 feet of elevation gain) and shouldn’t be that much of an issue for most travelers that are in decent shape. Plus, there’s really goofy motivational signs every hundred stairs with quotes from Gandhi and other inspirational figures to keep your spirits high as you conquer your climb!

Woman walking down stairs at La Fortuna waterfall

At the end of your descent, you’ll walk across a bridge and reach a platform where you can walk down onto the rocks right in front of the waterfall. From here, the view of the waterfall is absolutely beautiful- the curtain falls dramatically from above into the sapphire water, with luscious greenery clinging to the cliffside.

You’re welcome to swim in the pool below the waterfall, but word of warning- it’s REALLY cold and the current from the waterfall is quite strong, pushing you back against the rocks lining the shore.

While we were here, Justin tried to capture some photos of me attempting to look like I was serenely floating in the pool below the falls (gotta do it for the ‘gram!), but between the churning water going up my nose and my flailing limbs trying to keep my body afloat in the intense current, I looked more akin to a drowning rat than one of those dreamy Travel Girls you see on social media. So TL;DR: I wouldn’t recommend getting into the water unless you’re a confident swimmer and even then, I’d recommend hanging out by the shore rather than attempting to get close to the cascade.

Woman wading in the rapids near La Fortuna Waterfall

Once you’ve had your fill here, you can climb the few steps back onto the platform and, to your left, there will be a shallow stream fed by the waterfall’s pool.  This is a much more pleasant place to swim than under the waterfall itself- it’s much calmer and not quite as cold, with little silver fish darting through the azure-hued water. A lifeguard is usually on-staff here, if you want to visit with kiddos or are concerned about safety.

Note that if you’re visiting during the rainy season (May through November), the current of the waterfall can get really strong, such that swimming under the waterfall itself and even the little stream area may be prohibited, due to safety concerns. In times of super high precipitation, the water can even turn a murky brown color, due to all of the churned up mud- so it may be best to skip La Fortuna Waterfall if you’re visiting during an incredibly rainy period.

Once you’re done enjoying the stream area and you head back up the stairs (you can do it- Gandhi and I believe in you!), remember to stop by the garden (it’ll be to your right after you finish the climb) before you leave, which boasts hundreds of beautiful orchids and attracts butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

Tips for La Fortuna Waterfall

  • Bring water. While the stairs to and from the waterfall are certainly surmountable, you’re still climbing about 480 steps in a hot and humid jungle. So be sure to bring along a refillable bottle of water so you can stay hydrated. And bonus- the tap water in La Fortuna is safe to drink!
  • Wear water shoes. True story- a couple weeks before our trip to Costa Rica, I was hiking barefoot through a waterfall in Hawaii and wound up losing a toenail to mean ol’ river rock I stubbed my toe on. Learn from my incredibly gnarly mistakes- wear water shoes, especially when you’re climbing on the wet and slippery rocks along the waterfall’s shore and in its pool. Justin and I wore our Tevas (his and hers) almost the entire time we were in Costa Rica, as they double as hiking sandals and water shoes. Score!
Couple holding hands in front of La Fortuna waterfall
  • Check out El Salto Rope Swing. If you’re on a budget and can’t stomach the $18 fee for the La Fortuna waterfall, try the El Salto Rope Swing instead. It’s a beautiful double waterfall right outside of town that you can swim in and, for braver souls than me, even cliff dive into- for more information on this awesome spot, check out our post all about it here!

I hope you have as much fun at the La Fortuna Waterfall as I did. Let me know what you thought about the waterfall (and those dreaded steps) in the comments below!

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