El Salto, which is Spanish for jump, is a picturesque swimming hole with surrounding rock ledges and a rope swing just outside the town of La Fortuna in the Rio Fortuna.
The place is a hidden gem, and it has no cost, which is a bonus in an area full of pricey eco-travel establishments and tourist traps. It is also well-known among locals and can get crowded, especially on weekends. It consists of a wide swimming hole in the Rio Fortuna just after it passes beneath the Route 702 bridge, which is located a couple of minutes south of La Fortuna. Two waterfalls stream into a wide slow-moving area of river deep enough for those jumping from any of the rock ledges to land in safely.
The main attraction here is a rope swing about 15 feet above the surface of the water. While the rock ledges don't really get any higher than 8 feet or so, the rope swing is perched high enough that it makes an entertaining spectacle of those using it to fling themselves into the cool water below. Once in the pool, it's possible to swim behind the leftmost of the two falls or to drift slightly downstream to climb out of the water and follow the short trail back up. Those not feeling the pull of the jumps can enjoy the rock ledges around the pool, beside the small cascades just upriver and beneath the bridge, or slightly downriver where the flow calms in a wide canopy-covered canyon.
Be warned that the area can get crowded, and unfortunately it sees its share of litter. Costa Rica's varying conditions, especially surrounding Volcán Arenal, can cause wide fluctuation in flows and currents, and there are no lifeguards or safety mechanisms of any kind, so use your best judgement or ask some of the locals before making any leaps yourself.
Parking is free in narrow gravel pull-outs at either end of the bridge. The east side has the short dirt trail leading to the rope swing. Be careful when leaving the parking areas as they lie on a blind curve and traffic tends to speed by and across the narrow bridge.