La Fortuna with Kids

Author: Dan Brewer

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Located in the shadow of the imposing and beautiful Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna is a popular stop for families visiting Costa Rica with kids. With an abundance of adrenaline-pumping activities such as ziplining, canyoning, tubing, jungle tours and more, La Fortuna is the adventure capital of Costa Rica. With so many adventure activities, you may be wondering if you can visit La Fortuna with kids?

The great news is that you can take an amazing family vacation to La Fortuna with kids. While it’s true that most things to do in La Fortuna with kids are designed for older kids, there are still many excellent family-friendly activities in La Fortuna for younger kids too.

A 7 year old boy rappels down a waterfall near La Fortuna, Costa Rica

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Recommended Age to Visit La Fortuna with Kids

We have been traveling the world with our kids since they were babies, and one thing we have tried hard to do is to match up the destination with the appropriate age of our kids. When we were researching visiting La Fortuna with kids, we discovered tour operators who allowed children aged 5 and up (some had additional restrictions such as minimum height and/or weight).

a family enjoying a kid-friendly rappelling tour in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

We visited La Fortuna, Costa Rica with our kids when they were aged 7 and 9. We found this to be a great time to visit La Fortuna with our kids as they were both mentally and physically capable of doing the best adventure activities.

Although you can enjoy many of the best things to do in La Fortuna with kids as young as 5, make sure your kids are capable of the activities you wish to do. Remember, La Fortuna isn’t going anywhere. You can always delay your visit to La Fortuna until your young kids are a little older.

visiting the Butterfly Conservatory is one of the most fun things to do with kids in La Fortuna

Top 10 Things to do in La Fortuna with Kids

1. La Fortuna Ziplining with Kids

Of all the adventure activities La Fortuna is known for, ziplining tops the list. With it’s incredible location at the base of the Arenal Volcano, there are many exciting places to go ziplining in La Fortuna. But can you go zip lining in La Fortuna with kids?

Two kids in full safety gear are ready to try ziplining on their La Fortuna family vacation

Yes! Thanks to some innovative technology, families can go ziplining with kids in La Fortuna at Sky Adventures. Located just south of the Arenal Volcano National Park, Sky Adventures offers a wide variety of adventure activities, including a sky walk canopy tour, a tram ride through the jungle, Tarzan swings, river rafting, and of course, the Sky Trek ziplining tour!

The reason we chose Sky Adventures in La Fortuna was the fact that kids aged 5 and up can go ziplining (with a minimum height of 120 cm / 47 inches). Unlike traditional ziplines, where the rider must use a gloved hand as a brake, Sky Adventures has two handles on either side of the ziplining wire, which riders can use as a brake. This is a much safer alternative for younger kids to try ziplining.

Two kids enjoy ziplining over the rainforest near Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Before you even begin ziplining, there is an easy to follow safety demonstration for everyone to watch, including young kids. This is followed by an exciting, scenic open air gondola ride up the mountain to a very short practice zipline, so everyone can practice their skills without any pressure.

Our kids, aged 7 and 9 got to ride tandem, as they were too light small to ride alone. They LOVED the opportunity to share this exciting ziplining experience together. If you are doing the Sky Trek ziplining tour with one child, they get to ride with a guide, allowing them to simply go along for the ride and enjoy every second of the ziplining experience in good hands.

Two kids go ziplining at Sky Adventures, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Sky Adventures features seven ziplines, with some reaching heights of 200 m, 750 m in length and speeds up to 70 km/h! Don’t forget to look around while on the zipline as you’ll get incredible vistas of Lake Arenal and the surrounding volcanic jungle landscape.

two kids (aged 7 and 9) enjoy ziplining in Costa Rica near the Arenal Volcano National Park

 Tips for parents ziplining with kids at Sky Adventures:

  • There are free lockers available to use at the entrance.
  • There is on-site parking for your rental car, but you can also book a ziplining package including transportation from La Fortuna.
ziplining with kids in Costa Rica near Arenal Volcano

Sky Adventures offers more than just ziplining for kids. They also have exciting tours featuring hanging bridges, canyoning, tubing and more!

2. La Fortuna Canyoning with Kids

Another of the best adventurous things to do in La Fortuna with kids is canyoning. Costa Rica is the perfect location for this adrenaline sport, where participants follow a river down the slope of a mountain, rappelling down tropical waterfalls as they go. Due to the potential danger of this sport, it’s not usually for kids, but Pure Trek Canyoning has pioneered a way for kids as young as 5 to go canyoning in La Fortuna.

a 7-year old prepares to start rappelling in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

The Pure Trek Canyoning trip in La Fortuna begins with a fun, open air truck ride up a steep and bumpy  mountain road to the start of the rappelling course. Our kids loved this adventure, even before the canyoning began.

a family enjoying a canyoning adventure near Arenal Volcano National Park in Costa Rica

At the end of the fun truck adventure, everyone gets geared up for their canyoning journey. Pure Trek offers appropriate sized rappelling gear for all ages, even young kids. Our kids are pretty small for their ages and they were able to get geared up without issue.

The La Fortuna Canyoning trip features 5 rappels and 1 monkey jump. The rappelling begins with the scariest one of all – a 170 foot drop next to an incredible waterfall. It’s an exhilarating experience to lower yourself backwards off the platform so high up in the air!

a brave 9-year old girl begins rappelling in Costa Rica near the Arenal Volcano

As you rappel down the cliff face, you’ll start to get closer to the waterfall, until finally you meet up and get soaked! It’s incredible fun and is an experience you and your kids will never forget. I was so proud of my kids who overcame their fears and were able rappel down by themselves.

a young girl rappels through a waterfall in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

The towering first waterfall rappel is quickly followed up with a ‘monkey drop’, which is a quirky combination of a zip line, followed by a drop into a deep pool of water. Our kids loved the monkey drop, while Mom didn’t love it so much! Ha-ha!

A mom lowers herself off the canyoning platform in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

The La Fortuna canyoning trip concludes with 3 more waterfall rappels, each connected by a short, beautiful walk through the dense Costa Rican jungle. The remaining waterfall rappels range in height from 40 feet to 80 feet.

As parents, we were very concerned about canyoning in La Fortuna with kids, especially our children’s ability to rappel safely from such dangerous heights. Our fears were eased once we learned more about the safety measures implemented by Pure Trek Canyoning.

a 7 year old boy smiles as he rappels down a waterfall near Arenal Volcano

Each and every time a person rappels, there are two safety backstops – a Pure Trek guide at the top and at the bottom each has the ability to stop a rappeler from falling. For small kids, Pure Trek takes it one step further and actually control their rappelling decent the entire way down (without the kids knowing).

a young girl rappelling down a waterfall near La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Knowing that our kids were in good hands with redundant safety personnel, we were much more at ease going canyoning in La Fortuna with kids.

3. La Fortuna Tubing with Kids

Pre-kids, Celine and I have enjoyed tubing on lazy rivers around the world, so when we saw that we could take our kids tubing in La Fortuna, we immediately signed up. We figured that this would be another lazy float down a tranquil river, as many tubing trips around the world are, but tubing in La Fortuna turned out to be a little more exciting. In Costa Rica, we should have known tubing with kids would be more adventurous than elsewhere!

a happy girl enjoys the family-friendly tubing adventure in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

We booked our La Fortuna tubing tour through Arenal River Tubing and Hiking. We chose this tour company specifically because they offer La Fortuna tubing tours for kids aged 5 and up.

Our Arenal River Tubing bus picked us up at a convenient central location near the La Fortuna church and were quickly on our way towards the river. Our guide was very enthusiastic and you could feel his energy permeating through our group. Along the way our guide made several Costa Rica wildlife sightings and had the driver pull over so we could all get out and look.

a father and son enjoy tubing together in La Fortuna on their family trip to Costa Rica

The first wildlife spotting was very exciting – there were four toucans perched up high on a leafless tree next to the road. They were too far away to get a great picture with our iPhones, but the silhouette of the toucan’s trademark beak was unmistakable.

The second Costa Rica wildlife sighting was even more exciting – a sloth! As usual with sloth sightings, the sloth was perched way up high in a tree, but our guide was able to help us pinpoint the location of the sloth so we could all get a good look.

Once at the river, our guides outfitted us in helmets and life jackets. They had child sized safety gear, which made us happy. They even made a sports strap for my glasses out of duct tape, so I could keep them on throughout the journey down the river.

two kids prepare to go river tubing in Costa Rica near La Fortuna

The tubing trip down the Balsa River was so much fun. We spent approximately 90 minutes on our tubes floating down this incredibly scenic Costa Rica river surrounded by lush forest and jungle.

Despite the visions we had of a leisurely float down the river, this La Fortuna tubing tour took us through many Class II rapids. There were plenty of tranquil sections on our trip, but there were many rapids as well.

two kids on a tubing tour near La Fortuna Costa Rica

The waves in the rapids were big enough that it added a true element of excitement, but not big enough to be terrifying or dangerous. The rapids were so much fun, we all laughed and smiled non-stop throughout our trip.

We genuinely liked the safety protocols Arenal River Tubing had for our kids. First of all, each kid’s tube was tethered to a parents tube, so they were never more than 1-2 feet away from a parent at all times.

Tubing with kids - La Fortuna Costa Rica

In addition, our two tubing guides were darting around the river in kayaks, and they did an exceptional job keeping us in the safest parts of the river. They’d even go so far as to give us a tow when needed.

a 7-year old boy having a great time on a tubing tour on his family vacation to Costa Rica

Our guides were adept at spotting wildlife and made sure the kids got to see. Along our tubing trip we saw a heron, an osprey, a very large male iguana, a kingfisher, a turtle and even a caiman sitting on a rock in the shallows.

Along the way, our guides found a great spot along the shores to stop and prepare us a snack. The tropical fruit, cookies and candy went along way to restore our energy levels and get us through the final leg of our kid-friendly tubing trip.

our tubing guide prepares a riverside snack of mangoes, pineapple and cookies on top of his kayak

We had an incredibly fun time tubing in La Fortuna with our kids. It was a great surprise that it was more exciting than we had envisioned!

4. Butterfly Conservatory

After a few days of adventure activities, we needed to tone it down a bit. One of the primary reasons we came to Costa Rica with kids is to experience the incredible natural environment and wildlife this amazing country has to offer.

There are plenty of jungle tours, sloth tours, etc. to choose from in La Fortuna, but we have these activities planned when we visit Corcovado National Park with kids later in our trip. So, we chose to visit the Butterfly Conservatory to see the incredible butterflies and frogs found in Costa Rica.

It’s about a 45 minute drive from La Fortuna to the Butterfly Conservatory. You pass through the Volcan Arenal National Park along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife – we saw several coati on the side of the road, and a bunch of howler monkeys in the trees.

a group of howler monkeys we saw on our way to the La Fortuna Butterfly Conservatory

The road to the Butterfly Conservatory is nicely paved the whole way, with the exception of the final road, which is in pretty rough shape with large potholes. We had an SUV rental car and made it ok – I’d be worried if I was in a sedan.

We arrived at the Butterfly Conservatory a little early, but we didn’t care as we were transfixed by the amazing views of the Arenal Volcano. It’s been cloudy most of our visit to La Fortuna with kids, but for a few magical moments, the sky cleared and we could see the cone of the Arenal Volcano. So cool!

the view of the Arenal Volcano from the La Fortuna Butterfly Conservatory in La Fortuna

The fun begins immediately upon entering the Butterfly Conservatory; there’s a huge taxonomy display of the bugs, beetles, butterflies and spiders found throughout Costa Rica. I couldn’t believe the number of massive beetles in Costa Rica, while our kids were creeped out by the tarantula.

a display of the beetles of Costa Rica at the Butterfly Conservatory near La Fortuna

There’s a very interesting live butterfly life cycle display, which staff members are happy to walk kids through. It’s quite amazing – they start with the caterpillars who are ready to build their chrysalis. Once their chrysalis is built, it’s put on display so we can see the various stages of the caterpillar to butterfly transformation. There were several butterflies emerging from their cocoons while we were there – amazing!

As you leave the main reception of the Butterfly Conservatory and begin walking through the lush jungle gardens, take a moment to appreciate that this land was a cleared cow pasture in 2001. It’s incredible to see how thick and lush nature has returned in just over 20 years!

a young girl holding a butterfly at the conservatory near Arenal Volcano National Park

The extensive butterfly exhibit is the first stop on your tour through the Butterfly Conservatory. There are four separate butterfly enclosures, each representing a major ecosystem within Costa Rica.

There were so many butterflies flying around the Butterfly Conservatory buildings – it’s hard to take them all in! Our kids love the opportunity to get up close to the many incredibly beautiful species of butterflies in Costa Rica. All of our favorite Costa Rica butterflies were on display, including the Owl Butterfly and my personal favorite, the Blue Morpho.

The La Fortuna Butterfly Conservatory showcases the many beautiful species of Costa Rica butterflies

The staff at the Butterfly Conservatory were excellent with our kids, taking lots of time to stop and talk to them and educate them about butterflies in Costa Rica. The best part was when the staff would safely put a butterfly into our kids hands – a big thrill for them given we never let them pick up butterflies in the wild.

helpful and friendly staff at the La Fortuna Butterfly Conservatory teaches two children about the butterflies of Costa Rica

We were all very excited for the next exhibit – the frogs of Costa Rica. Our family loves frogs and were thrilled to see the La Fortuna Butterfly Conservatory has a wide selection of all of the popular Costa Rica frogs, including the poison dart frog, and the Blue Jeans poison frog.

a green and black poison dart frog on display at the Butterfly Conservatory near Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

They also had Red Eyed Tree Frogs, which are a highly recognised symbol of Costa Rica – everyone loves them! The Red Eyed Tree Frogs are nocturnal, which means they were happily sleeping away during our visit. Although it would have been fun to see the bright red eyes on the frog, I was genuinely impressed the staff didn’t wake the frogs for our amusement. I wish more places would be as responsible with the animals.

a Blue Jeans Poison Frog on display at the Butterfly Conservatory in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

After the frog exhibit, we enjoyed the Rainforest River Walk through the Butterfly Conservatory. This short jungle walk followed a small stream for a good portion of the trail. The jungle was so lush and beautiful – amazing given how young it is. Our favorite part of the jungle hike was stopping to watch the Leaf Cutter Ants. If you are lucky enough to spot them too, be sure to follow their trail!

a child enjoying a jungle walk at the Butterfly Conservatory in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

We ended our visit to the Butterfly Conservatory with a stop at the Volcano View Gazebo. True to its name, you can see the Arenal Volcano from the gazebo, but the clouds had rolled back in. Even without the volcano view, there was ample reason to hang out for a while – the surrounding gardens are all plants which attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The flowers did their magic and we got to see an abundance of brilliant colored hummingbirds.

the hummingbird garden at the La Fortuna Butterfly Conservatory attracts many beautiful birds

The Butterfly Conservatory is a wonderful thing to do with kids in La Fortuna, especially if your family enjoys wildlife as much as we do. 

5. Explore Downtown La Fortuna

Spending time in La Fortuna with kids doesn’t have to be 100% adventure activities. At some point, you and your kids will need to take a breath and slow down a bit. A great way to do this is to take some time walking around La Fortuna.

The main areas of La Fortuna are not very big, just a rectangle of 6 blocks by 3 blocks. Within central La Fortuna area you’ll find a dense concentration of tour companies, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Your kids will have great fun in the souvenir shops, but after a few, they all start to look the same. There is a really nice park with a fountain and many flower gardens just across the street from the church. It’s worth a few minutes to take a walk through and enjoy the many beautiful tropical flowers. 

The beautiful park near the church is worth a visit when visiting La Fortuna with kids

More Fun Things to do with Kids in La Fortuna

As you can see, we packed a lot of kid-friendly activities into our 3 days in La Fortuna with kids. If we had more time on our family vacation to La Fortuna, we would have loved to share the following adventures with our kids:

6. Rio Celeste Full Day Tour

We got a glimpse of the Rio Celeste water color when we were driving from the Riu Guanacaste all-inclusive resort to La Fortuna. You have to see the water color of the Rio Celeste to believe it!

The Rio Celeste waterfall near La Fortuna, Costa Rica

7. Rainforest Chocolate Tour

We did a chocolate tour while visiting Minca, Colombia with kids a few years ago, so we took a pass this time around. All kids love chocolate, so why not treat them to a fun chocolate tour in La Fortuna?

kids love chocolate tours

8. Horseback Riding to the Fortuna Waterfall

We love to go hiking with our kids everywhere we travel to, but you literally have to pay to go hiking anywhere near La Fortuna. We’d have normally hiked to the Fortuna Waterfall given it’s close proximity to town, but we took a pass as it was quite expensive. Given you have to pay to see this beautiful waterfall, why not make it an adventure and go on a horseback trip instead?

a family-friendly horseback tour to the La Fortuna Waterfall

9. Sloth Tour

Sloths are the star wildlife attraction in Costa Rica. With visits to Corcovado National Park and Manuel Antonio Park in our Costa Rica itinerary with kids, we didn’t go on a sloth tour in La Fortuna. But, everyone needs to see a sloth in Costa Rica, so join a sloth sightseeing tour if you have the chance!

one of the best things to do in La Fortuna with kids is to go on a sloth tour

10. Waterfall, Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs Tour

Perhaps one of the best tours for kids in La Fortuna is a combination tour which offers many of the best things to do in the Arenal Volcano area. This very popular, family-friendly tour visits the La Fortuna waterfall, hikes through lava fields, a visit to a hot springs resort and lunch in an aboriginal village. A great day of family activities in La Fortuna!

The swimming hole at the La Fortuna waterfall

Where to Stay in La Fortuna with Kids

With a massive stratovolcano, lush jungles and a ton of exciting family-friendly adventure activities, visiting La Fortuna with kids makes a lot of sense. Given the Arenal Volcano was (up until recently) one of the most reliably active volcanoes in the world, La Fortuna has been a top tourist destination in Costa Rica for a long time. As such, there are tons of great places to stay in La Fortuna with kids.

Although there are many good family-friendly hotels in La Fortuna we elected to rent a house with a pool just outside of town. When we travel with kids, we prefer vacation rentals over hotels as we value the kid-friendly amenities such as kitchens and laundry facilities.

our kids loved the pool at our rental house in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Cooking our own meals and having clean clothes is nice, but having separate bedrooms is the primary reason we rent vacation homes. Having their own bedrooms helps everyone get a good night’s sleep, which goes a long way to ensuring happy, fun-filled days in Costa Rica!

Where to Eat in La Fortuna with Kids

We visited La Fortuna with kids for 3 full days. Having a rental home, we used our kitchen facilities to have a healthy breakfast and pack a good lunch for the day. With two healthy meals under our belt each day, along with ample fresh air and exercise, this allowed us to reward ourselves with a great meal at one of the many kid-friendly restaurants in La Fortuna.

La Fortuna Lounge and Grill

We discovered this kid-friendly La Fortuna restaurant as it was a few minutes away from our vacation rental. This excellent BBQ restaurant is a few minutes outside La Fortuna, but it’s worth the journey. 

A true smokehouse BBQ restaurant, the La Fortuna Lounge & Grill offers a wide variety of BBQ favorites such as ribs, beef brisket, sausage, chicken and more. I am a huge BBQ fan and have very high standards and I’m very pleased to say that we all loved our meals at the La Fortuna Grill.

the La Fortuna smokehouse restaurant is a great family restaurant

Celine had the beef brisket and I had pork ribs, both served with sweet potatoes and homemade tortillas. They have a kids menu as well. Our kids ordered brisket burgers with fries, which they devoured. When traveling with kids, it’s often hard to find quality kids food at restaurants, but the La Fortuna Grill is an exception. The kids food here was excellent.

As a bonus, the La Fortuna Lounge & Grill has some fun toys for the kids to play with, including a trampoline. It’s a great incentive to get them to eat their meals, then they get to play.  

bbq pork ribs at the La Fortuna Lounge and Grill

Chipotle Tex Mex

After a fun day of tubing near La Fortuna, we wanted to make sure we had a filling meal for the kids. When traveling with our kids, this usually means a pizza feast, but to our surprise they told us they wanted to try this Mexican restaurant we found near the main park in town.

The Chipotle Tex Mex restaurant has no affiliation with the global franchise of the same name – it’s just a simple, tex mex restaurant in La Fortuna with really good food.

kids love the fruit smoothies at kid-friendly restaurants in La Fortuna

They have simple kids menu at Chipotle, including quesadillas and chicken fingers, but our kids decided to split a hamburger off the adults menu. The restaurant was nice enough to cut it in half and serve it, and the French fries, on two separate plates.

Celine and I absolutely love authentic Mexican tacos, so we were happy to see a large selection on their menu. We became hooked on Tacos Al Pastor when we visited Playa del Carmen with kids, so Celine ordered some and was not disappointed. I ordered a variation of Tacos al Pastor, which was very good, but not as good as Celine’s.

Tacos al Pastor at a family-friendly restaurant in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

We hope you found some inspiration for your families visit to La Fortuna with kids! If you’d like to follow along on our family vacation to Costa Rica, our next stop was the Corcovado National Park with kids with a quick one-night stop at the Best Western All-Inclusive Resort in Jaco.

Pura Vida!

Costa Rica Family Vacation Ideas

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Dan Brewer is an intrepid family travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world's most captivating destinations. With 58 countries under his belt and a sense of wanderlust that knows no bounds, he has made it his life's mission to share his travel experiences and insights with fellow families who love to travel.

When Dan isn't traveling with his wife and kids, he's either out enjoying the Canadian Rockies he calls home or working on one of his three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Travel Banff Canada and Ultimate Sports Road Trip).