El Salto (Free Swimming Hole)

The weather in La Fortuna typically ranges from mildly warm (on overcast rainy days) to sauna like temperatures during the months of March and April. With that kind of heat cooling off isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Air conditioning is nice, but nothing can beat cooling off the old fashioned way–jumping in the water. In the La Fortuna area there is a swimming pool and most of the Hot Springs have cold pools. The real local’s way to cool off however is to go to “El Salto” (translated literally as “The Jump”).

Rope swing

Rope swing

El Salto is a spot in Río Arenal just outside of La Fortuna down river from the La Fortuna Waterfall. It’s a popular spot with locals and tourists alike. To get to El Salto you need to head out of town heading towards the entrance to Cerro Chato and the La Fortuna Waterfall.

El Salto is basically a ten to twelve foot deep hole at the base of two small waterfalls in Rio Fortuna. The waterfall on the right is the larger of the two and also where the pool is at it’s deepest. If you have some goggles, underneath this waterfall you can often find an array of fish. There is also a cool rock out-cropping next to this waterfall that you can get to when the river is not too high. (Only attempt this if you are a strong swimmer). To get there you should swim up in the area between the two waterfalls where the current isn’t as strong. Get as close as you can to the edge of the waterfall and them swim hard straight across the face of the fall. You’ll see that there is a space under the rocks there where it is shallow enough to sit. From there you can dive down to check out the fish quite easily. I do not recommend this if the river is high, and please be careful of the currents around the waterfall that you don’t get sucked in/under the waterfall.

El Salto

View from behind the left fall

Another cool spot that is easier to get to is around the left waterfall. To get there you can also swim up through the center of the pool, but when you get to the rocks go left. On that side of El Salto it is more shallow. Approach the edge of the left waterfall, and then duck underwater, swim a few feet, and you’ll be able to pop your head up behind the waterfall. There is a little rock outcrop there where you can even sit and enjoy the view.

The ‘main attraction’ at El Salto is the rope swing. If you go all the way up on the tree roots, you can drop into the river from about 25-30 feet in the air. The pool is deep enough in almost all spots that you won’t touch the bottom. The only spot you might touch, is if you let go as you’re still swinging out and end up over near the far edge. Otherwise, just make sure there’s no one in the drop zone, and have fun. Especially on weekends you can watch the locals come to show off doing flips and tricks off the rope that will leave your jaw dropped.

Just a cautionary note, while crime isn’t as big of an issue in the La Fortuna area as it is in other tourist areas, thieves are known to prey on people at El Salto. No one will assault you or anything like that, but don’t leave your bags unattended and don’t leave anything valuable in your car either.

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