Fortuna (Costa Rica)
La Fortuna is in Plains of the North region of Costa Rica.
It serves as a starting point to Volcano Arenal and all the outdoor activities related to it. It is a nice little tourist base for adventure seekers.
Bus station is located in the centre, in front of supermarket MegaSuper. There are direct buses for San Jose at 12.45pm and 2.45pm. Buses to Upala (to visit Rio Celeste National Park) leave at 6.30am and 11.15am.
If you're coming from San Jose, lately only one direct bus daily has been running. The bus starts at 8:40, boarding starts at 8:25. Arrive early enough, otherwise you may have to stay for 4.5hours. One 10minutes stop is made in San Carlos terminal. However, buses frequently leave Terminal 7-10 to Ciudad Quesada, where an easy transfer to a bus to Fortuna can be made. Total cost is around 4000 ₡. Shuttle buses starts at 55$ including pick-up and takes around 3hours.
Centrocoasting is always a good resource for the latest on Costa Rican buses, so check there and arrive at any terminal early in the day.
The town is only a few blocks wide, so most hostels and restaurants are within walking distance. Taxis queue on the east side of the park in the town centre and tend to play fewer hijinks than San Jose taxis.
Most of the hot springs (and a growing number of hotels) are located west of the town along the highway and are harder to reach by walking. If the thermal waters of Arenal are on your itinerary, consider renting a car or be prepared to use taxis or ride share. Car rental offices are located in the city centre.
As of March 2020, Uber is widely available in La Fortuna and significantly cheaper than red taxis or private transfers. Uber appears to be widely available in both the city of La Fortuna and the surrounding areas near the main roads. Uber is considerably less expensive than red taxis (e.g., San Jose to La Fortuna is US$120 compared to US$240 for a red taxi, and a ride from the outskirts of La Fortuna to the center is US$4 compared to US$15-$20 for a red taxi). If you are going someplace off the main road (e.g., a farm or park in the mountains), check if an Uber will be available for the return trip by changing your pickup point. If Uber won't be available, get the phone number from the outgoing Uber driver or arrange for a roundtrip price, with the return paid in cash.
Apparently, Uber is technically illegal, so do not expect signs on the cars. If the car is ever stopped by the police, let the driver do the talking. The passenger does not have to roll down the window or talk to the traffic police - only the driver.
Many of the Uber drivers speak some English and will also do private transfers. If you get a good driver, ask for phone number or business card (tarjeta, pronounced tarheta) in case you need a ride somewhere else, because the price will be the Uber price, instead of the marked up price from a tour agency.
Volcano Arenal dominates the landscape to the southwest of town. Most of the sights in the area are rivers, streams, waterfalls, springs, and other things that come along with a big volcano.
Note that volcanoes attract clouds like a magnet, so the peak will often be obscured by clouds, especially in rainy season.
Much of the volcano is surrounded by rainforest, and some hotels are set back in the forest enough to be surrounded by interesting flora and fauna.
Plenty of typical tchotchke shops in the town centre.
Prices at souvenir shops appear to be relatively fixed. A tiny discount (10%) may be available if you ask.
La Fortuna has several supermarkets as well. Super Rosvil, just a few metres out of town on 172, seems to stock everything, including an impressive beer/wine/liquor aisle.
The number of restaurants in La Fortuna may seem to approach infinity.
Many hotels, hostels, guesthouses gear toward tourist. Cheapest hostels start from $7 (Apr'16).
There are direct buses for San Jose at 12.45pm and 2.45pm. Buses to Upala (to visit Rio Celeste) leave at 6.30am and 11.15am.
For those headed to Monteverde/Santa Elena, ask your hotel about "jeep boat jeep". Vans pick travelers up from their hotel and take them to a dock on Lake Arenal, where a 45-minute boat ride awaits. On the other side, a van will take you to your next hotel. As of 2019, this cost $25 and is faster than public bus between the two areas.