things to do in arenal

The Best Things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica

Want to go on an adventure? Arenal, Costa Rica, is the perfect place for you! Considered the adventure capital of Costa Rica, Arenal is sure to satisfy your desire for a thrilling visit while you feast your eyes on the stunning and majestic landscape of the area.  There’s a host of attractions to see in the area, so here are the best things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica.

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Where is Arenal?

But wait! You may hear some calling the place La Fortuna and get confused. The two names are often used interchangeably La Fortuna is the town, while Arenal refers to the wider area where the majestic Arenal Volcano stands tall over the town. The restaurants, hotels, and tour operators are mainly found in La Fortuna, and other popular tourist spots like the Springs Resorts, Baldi Hot Springs, and the Nayara Gardens are nearby. On the other hand, the Arenal area is a remote area located a little further away from the town and houses the lake and the Arenal volcano. La Fortuna (& Arenal) is located just about 2 hours from San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica.  We’ll cover how to get to Arenal later in this article.

How long do you need in Arenal?

Most people will spend 3 nights in Arenal and La Fortuna. This will give you the opportunity to explore the area and see the best attractions in Arenal. We spent 3 nights here and then took the bus-boat-bus over to Monteverde. Here’s how to get from Arenal to Monteverde.

Where to Stay in Arenal

There are several options on locations to stay in the Arenal area. Many will choose to stay in the town of La Fortuna, alternatively there are some fabulous hot springs and thermo hotels a little way out and rural properties closer to the Arenal National Park.

The Casa Luna Hotel & Spa is a top rated eco-friendly hotel with both a spa and an outdoor pool. The hotel is set in the midst of glorious tropical grdens. All rooms have A/C, terraces, cable TV, a minibar and coffee maker. This is a fabulous option in La Fortuna. Check rates and availability here.

The Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa is one of the top-rated thermo-resorts to stay at in Arenal. Rooms and suites here have garden views, A/C, CableTV, minibars, and coffee makers. All rooms come with bathrobes, slippers, and free toiletries. Suites also have a seating and living area. You’ll get a welcome cocktail and unlimited access to the on-site hot springs – and they’re glorious! You can see photos of it all, including the swim-up bar here!

Pachechos Rooms offers clean, comfortable budget options in La Fortuna. This is a great homestay option, with a double room and private bathroom, right in the center of things. You can check availability here.

The Best Things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica

The Arenal Volcano is considered the youngest and most active out of all 67 volcanoes of Costa Rica. It ended its 400-year dormancy when it erupted in 1968, claiming the lives of 87 people. The rocks which came from the volcano sit at different locations within the area, and the lava flowing out of its crater attracted plenty of tourists to the area. Since its explosion in 1968, it continuously erupted and had mild explosive activities until it was declared dormant again in December 2010. Arenal National Park also houses the largest freshwater body in Costa Rica since its expansion to nearly three times its original size in 1979. Now, this iconic area has become an even more popular destination, with plenty of activities for you to enjoy like rafting, ziplining, canyoning, and even a hike around the Arenal Volcano!

Visit Arenal Volcano National Park

The Arenal Volcano National Park houses the iconic Arenal Volcano which used to have an average of 41 eruptions per day. However, since it went dormant in 2010, it now sits and quietly towers over the area and complements the picturesque landscape of La Fortuna. While hiking up the slopes of the volcano is not allowed, the park offers a wider variety of activities you can enjoy while admiring the view of the park. You can observe the high biodiversity of its rainforest ecosystem and hike through the trails of Sendero Colada and Tucanes, where you’ll be able to see the solidified lava from the previous Arenal volcano eruptions. The park also houses several hot springs you can relax in, an aerial tram or zipline that lets you look over the scenic landscape, hike up to the beautiful La Fortuna Waterfall and the Arenal Mistico Hanging Bridge, and cruise across the Lake Arenal.

  • Where is Arenal Volcano National Park? Arenal Volcano National Park is located 15 kilometers from La Fortuna, northwest of Costa Rica.
  • How much is it to visit Arenal Volcano National Park? The park has an entrance fee of USD15 for adults and USD5 for children.
  • How to get to Arenal Volcano National Park: From San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, you can use the Inter-American Highway west to San Ramon. You can then follow the highway north and pass through Los Angeles, La Tigra, and Chachagua to La Fortuna. After arriving in La Fortuna, take Route 142 to Tilaran. You’ll reach the Tourist Police Station and then turn two kilometers south. This trip will take you approximately two hours.

If you need to rent a car in Costa Rica we recommend Discover Cars for car hire.  You can search, compare and save up to 70%, with no hidden fees and free cancellation, it’s the perfect option! Get a price for a rental car in Costa Rica here.

In Costa Rica, use bookaway for private and shared shuttles – and to check bus schedules and prebook where possible – you can see all the routes and schedules, and prices for Costa Rica buses here.

Go Canyoning in Arenal

Enjoy a fun-filled and exciting adventure by going rappelling (canyoning) over waterfalls! Gear up with a harness and your best hiking or water shoes and prepare for a four-hour-long thrill. Don’t worry; while canyoneering is a fairly new sport that will have you climbing up waterfalls and hiking in jungles, you don’t need prior experience to enjoy it. You just need a thrill for adventure. This adventure will have climbing up three waterfalls, a rock wall, and a “monkey drop,” which will complete your hike. You can also have a hearty lunch composed of fresh salsas, salad, beans, rice, yucca, chicken, and other local delicacies after the activities.

  • Where to go canyoning (rappelling) in Arenal? You can go to the Lost Canyon to experience thrilling canyoneering.
  • How much is it to go canyoning (rappelling) in Arenal? Going canyoning in Arenal will cost you about USD99 to USD105. You can check prices and availability of Arenal Canyoning adventures here
  • How to go canyoning (rappelling) in Arenal: To go canyoning in Arenal takes about a 30-minute drive from La Fortuna.

Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall

Bask in the cool waters below La Fortuna Waterfall with a 15-minute hike. Prepare your swimsuits and get the best swimming experience at the base of the waterfalls. Hiking to see the 200-feet long La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the easiest activities you can do in La Fortuna, but there are more than 500 steps, so be sure to prepare your knees! Don’t worry, though! They have small rest areas in between, so you can catch a breath. The hike back up, (yes back up all those steps) on the other hand, will take about you 20 to 30 minutes. You can also check out the restaurant and the orchid garden you can go to after your swim. In the parking area, you can also check out the small café and souvenir store near the entrance. You can get to the La Fortuna Waterfall easily by joining this group.

La Fortuna Waterfall Arenal Costa Rica

Just past the La Fortuna Waterfall entrance; you can also check out the El Salto Waterfall. You can reach this near the small bridge built over the Fortuna River. El Salto Waterfall has both a swimming hole and magnificent waterfalls.

  • Where is La Fortuna Waterfall located? La Fortuna Waterfall is located about 5.5 kilometers outside of the city of La Fortuna, part of the Arenal Volcano National Park’s biological reserve.
  • How much is it to go to La Fortuna Waterfall? While parking is free, there is an entrance fee of USD18 for adults and USD5 for children.
  • How to get to La Fortuna Waterfall: To get to La Fortuna Waterfall, you can take a taxi from La Fortuna, which will cost you about USD15, or you can drive yourself there. Alternatively, join this tour and there’s no need for taxis or rental cars.

Go Whitewater Rafting at Arenal

Going White-water Rafting is definitely something you shouldn’t miss when visiting Arenal. Arenal’s rivers have rapids for everyone to enjoy, from class II, where you can bring your whole family, to class IV, where you can get the thrill you’re seeking. Costa Rica has 14 major river systems that flow out towards the Caribbean Sea, Pacific Ocean, lake Nicaragua, and the San Juan River, also sporting grand waterfalls and white-water rapids, making it the perfect destination for adventure-seekers and nature-lovers.

Visiting Arenal will not leave your adventurous heart disappointed as it offers white-water rapids ranging from class II to class IV!  Here are the rafting options around Arenal.

Rio Balsa

The Rio Balsa is one of the more popular rafting rivers in Arenal. It is a Class II and Class III rapid, making it accessible for people of all ages and skill levels. It is a mixture of exciting rapids, action, and calm floats through the charming landscapes of Costa Rican forests. It is also in close proximity to Arenal Volcano! Here’s more on rafting the Rio Balsa.

  • Where is Rio Balsa located? Rio Balsa is approximately 30 to 45 minutes away from La Fortuna/Arenal.
  • How much is it to go white-water rafting at Rio Balsa? White-water rafting in Rio Balsa will cost you around USD75. Check availability on Rio Balsa rafting here.
  • How to get to Rio Balsa: Most access to Rio Balsa is through tours, especially since a professional guide is needed to assure your safety, particularly if you’re a beginner.

Rio Sarapiqui

The Rio Sarapiqui, on the other hand, offers a more thrilling white-water rafting experience. It is a Class III and Class IV rapid and is considered one of the most exciting rafting spots in Costa Rica. The environment of Rio Sarapiqui has also become a perfect habitat for some species of monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, river turtles, toucans, iguanas, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and more, providing you an opportunity for wildlife viewing while rafting down the river. There’s more information here on rafting the Rio Sarapiqui.

  • Where is Rio Sarapiqui located? Rio Sarapiqui is located about 90 minutes from Arenal.
  • How much is it to go white-water rafting at Rio Sarapiqui? White-water rafting at Rio Sarapiqui will cost you about USD80 to USD100. Check prices of Rio Sarapiqui rafting here.
  • How to get to Rio Sarapiqui: To get to Sarapiqui, you can either take a 2-hour bus ride from San Jose, which will take you to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui and from there, you can take a taxi to reach Rio Sarapiqui. You can also take a taxi from San Jose, which will take you directly to Rio Sarapiqui. Or you can also drive from San Jose directly to Rio Sarapiqui.

Visit the Hot Springs of Arenal

One of the things La Fortuna and Arenal are known for is the hot springs. The underground thermal vents from the Arenal Volcano heat the natural springs and saturate the water with volcanic minerals, which are found to be therapeutic and have been used by indigenous tribes for years. Now, these hot springs have become a mainstay feature of Arenal that you definitely should not miss! If you want to tag on visiting the hot springs to other activities in Arenal, then this is a great option.

Tabacon Hot Springs, Arenal

In Tabacon, you can enjoy both a soak in the hot springs and also local delicacies through its on-site bar and restaurants. Tabacon was awarded a Certification for Sustainable Tourism and has become one of the nicest hot springs in La Fortuna.

  • Where Tabacon is located? Tabacon runs through a thermal resort and spa where you can also have access to other thermal pools, rivers, and waterfalls.
  • How much is it to visit Tabacon? Visiting Tabacon will cost you USD94 for adults and USD42 for children for a day pass which includes a meal.
  • How to get to Tabacon: The Tabacon hot springs are located approximately a 15-minute drive away from La Fortuna. If you’re coming from San Jose, it will take you about 2 to 3 hours to reach Tabacon.

Tabacon Hot Springs is also a great place to stay at Arenal – you can check room rates and options here.

Tabacon Hot Springs Arenal Costa Rica

Baldi Hot Spring, Arenal

The Baldi hot springs is a resort that boasts a collection of 25 thermal pools flowing from the base of the Arenal Volcano, coupled with an exhilarating view of the town. You can swim in the pools whose temperature ranges from 60°F to 100°F and enjoy a nice meal at the buffet and order a drink. The resort also has water slides, hot tubs, and hot springs.

  • Where Baldi is located? Baldi hot springs are located at the base of the Arenal Volcano.
  • How much is it to visit Baldi? You can visit Baldi with a day pass which includes a meal for USD60 to USD70 for adults and USD31 to USD35 for children.
  • How to get to Baldi: You can take an hour’s walk to Baldi from La Fortuna, or you can take a 5-minute taxi ride. On the other hand, from San Jose, you can take a 5-hour bus ride to Alajuela, Naranjo, then to Barrio Lourdes, then take a walk for another bus ride at Ciudad Quesada to La Fortuna, then take a taxi to Baldi. You can also take a taxi from San Jose directly to Baldi, which will take about two hours.

You can book a room at Baldi Hot Springs and truly relax during your time at Arenal – here’s the details.

Las Termalitas de Arenal

If you want to experience the same luxury but don’t want to spend too much, Las Termalitas de Arenal is the one for you! You can take a dip in nine different pools, enjoy water slides, and get a view of Arenal Volcano. You can also have picnics and grill your own food for you to enjoy (Be sure to bring your own charcoal! And you can also bring your own food and beverages).

  • How much is it to visit Las Termalitas de Arenal? Visiting Las Termalitas de Arenal will cost you USD8 for an all-day pass.
  • How to get to Las Termalitas de Arenal: From La Fortuna, you can take a 4-minute taxi ride to reach Las Termalitas de Arenal. If you’re coming from San Jose, you can take a 3-hour bus ride directly to Las Termalitas de Arenal or a 2-hour taxi ride.

Use the Free Hot Springs at Arenal

If you’re really on a tight budget vacation, however, that’s okay! Arenal still has free hot springs you can visit and swim to your heart’s content. These free springs are just a short walk away from La Fortuna and are perfect areas for you to relax your muscles. You may enjoy the springs either by yourself and/or your companions or share them with some other groups depending on the time you visit the springs. Remember to also bring your own food and some flashlights and headlamps if you plan to stay until dark.

  • Where are the Free Natural Hot Springs located? These free hot springs are just a short walk away from the town of La Fortuna
  • How to get to the Free Natural Hot Springs: From La Fortuna, you can head west towards Lake Arenal on Highway 142. After reaching Tabacon, you can cross the bridge over the river. If you bring a car, you can park it on the side of the road. Then head down the trail from the bridge.

Free Hot Springs Arenal Costa Rica

Visit the Rio Celeste from Arenal

Experience an interesting phenomenon when you visit the Rio Celeste Waterfall. Located at the Tenorio Volcano National Park, this 295-foot waterfall is sure to take your breath away. The waterfalls are a result of two rivers merging; here’s the interesting part: the rivers go through a chemical phenomenon where the brown water turns turquoise blue before it falls down the waterfall base! The 3.7-mile trail will first take you to view the Rio Celeste Waterfall (No swimming allowed!). Then, after climbing up a set of stairs, you’ll be able to see the diverging rivers. The hike will take about 3 to 4 hours, so be sure you are ready to take on the challenge! There are a series of options for visiting the Rio Celeste Waterfall and you’ll find the best of them here.

Rio Celeste Arenal Costa Rica
  • Where is the Rio Celeste Waterfall located? The Rio Celeste Waterfall is located within the Tenorio Volcano National Park, west of La Fortuna.
  • How much is it to visit Rio Celeste Waterfall? A visit to Rio Celeste Waterfall will cost you around USD14 to USD19; this includes the parking fee, entrance fee, and if you opt to, boots you can rent. Here are the options for visiting the waterfall at Rio Celeste.
  • How to get to Rio Celeste Waterfall: To reach Rio Celeste Waterfall, head east to Highway 142 until you reach Highway 4. Turn left and keep going forward until you pass through the town of San Rafael de Guatuso and reach Katra. After Katira, go left for about 6 kilometers until you reach the 4-way intersection. From the intersection, turn right until you reach the park.

Visit the Butterfly Conservatory near Arenal

Having a butterfly flutter its wings around you already feels magical; even more so if you’re surrounded by even more butterflies! Here at the Butterfly Conservatory, you will be able to witness up close the mesmerizing beauty of butterflies. At the Butterfly Conservatory, you will get the chance to learn more about the preservation and growth of the rainforest where butterflies and other species have made home. The Butterfly Conservatory also holds the largest exhibit of butterflies in Costa Rica and can provide you with various interesting trivia and information on butterflies. Apart from the butterflies, you can also visit its six-domed habitats, an insect museum, a ranarium, and the several trails it has through its botanical garden and along the river that runs through the conservatory.

  • Where is the Butterfly Conservatory located? The Butterfly Conservatory is located in El Castillo, a small town at the eastern end of Lake Arenal.
  • How much is it to visit the Butterfly Conservatory? Visiting the Butterfly Conservatory will cost you USD14 for adults and USD10 for children. The conservatory is a non-profit organization and runs solely on the entrance fee.
  • How to get to the Butterfly Conservatory: To reach the Butterfly Conservatory, you can take an hour-long bus ride from Arenal to El Castillo and then a short walk to the conservatory. You can also get on a taxi for a 30-minute drive which will take you directly to the Butterfly Conservatory.

Go Hiking Around Arenal Volcano National Park

To get the best experience at the Arenal Volcano National Park, hiking is a must! Through hiking, you will be able to feast your eyes on the hardened lava and rocks from Arenal Volcano’s previous eruptions, which have become complementary exhibitions in the lush greenery landscape of the forest. Be sure to visit around February to April during Arenal’s dry season so you can get the best experience hiking these trails; during the rainy season, the trail can get slippery and inaccessible.

Here are a few trails you can hike up when visiting Arenal Volcano National Park.

Hiking Arenal Costa Rica (2)

Los Heliconias Trail, Arenal Volcano National Park

The Los Heliconias trail is your introduction to the hiking trails of the park. This fairly easy-to-navigate narrow trail begins at the ranger station and will lead you to the Las Coladas trail. Through this trail, you will be able to pass through lush and newer greenery that has grown over the eruption in 1968. You will be able to see a varying array of plant, insect, and animal species such as orchids, butterflies, and bird species like hummingbirds, magpie-jays, and oropendolas. The trail is about 1 kilometer long and will take you approximately 25 minutes to complete.

Las Coladas Trail, Arenal Volcano National Park

To get up close and personal with the majestic Arenal Volcano, going through the Las Coladas trail should be your way to go. It is considered one of the top hiking spots for those who want to view the volcano closely. Hiking the trail will begin at the ranger station and will allow you to set your sight on the Tilaran Mountain Range. The trail ends at the base of the volcano, where you can also walk over the hardened lava from the volcano. However, the viewing is only limited to 20 minutes, so be sure to capture the grand view along with the other species you might catch, such as lizards and other habitats. The trail is 2 kilometers long and will take about an hour to finish.

El Ceibo Trail, Arenal Volcano National Park

Just a bit further into the park’s forest, you’ll find the El Ceibo trail. The El Ceibo trail is an extended loop trail that begins at the Las Coladas trail and will also end at the Las Coladas trail. Through this trail, you will be able to see the more than 400-year-old Ceibo tree standing tall over this secondary forest. Hiking this trail will also allow you to see the diverse wildlife and plants living in the forest. The trail is 1.8 kilometers long and will take you around an hour and a half to complete.

  • Where is Arenal Volcano National Park? Arenal Volcano National Park is located 15 kilometers from La Fortuna, northwest of Costa Rica.
  • How much is it to visit Arenal Volcano National Park? The park has an entrance fee of USD15 for adults and USD5 for children.
  • How to get to Arenal Volcano National Park: From San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, you can use the Inter-American Highway west to San Ramon. You can then follow the highway north and pass through Los Angeles, La Tigra, and Chachagua to La Fortuna. After arriving in La Fortuna, take Route 142 to Tilaran. You’ll reach the Tourist Police Station and then turn two kilometers south. This trip will take you approximately two hours.

Apart from these trails, you can also check out other trails at the Arenal Volcano National Park like the Los Miradores, Los Tucanes, the Arenal Observatory Lodge, Lava Vieja trail, Cerro Chato, and the Main Lookout. If you’re looking for an easy Arenal National Park hike for all the family, then this is a great option.

Volunteer at Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center

In Arenal, you can volunteer at the Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center. The center offers various flexible volunteer and immersion programs for those who are interested in helping. They offer an individual program that focuses on helping the center prepare the meals for the animals, feed them, clean their enclosures, and/or clean and repair these enclosures, and make environmental enrichment toys for the animals. The center also has a Family volunteer program which will provide your family an opportunity to immerse themselves within the community by learning about their culture and supporting the wildlife. This program also allows you to learn a bit of the Spanish language!. You can choose either an 8-day learning service or a 10-day conservation program.

If you’re someone who’s looking for more experience and gaining knowledge, the center also offers an International Veterinary Program that focuses on acquiring skills relative to the dairy and beef cattle industries. Through this program, you can visit small and large farms where you can practice, work, and learn more about the tropical production systems. This program lasts for eight days.

All volunteer programs provide you with accommodation through a host family.

  • Where is Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center located? The Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center is located within the tropical rainforest at the Arenal Volcano Area.
  • How much is it to visit Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center? Visiting the Center will cost you USD35 for adults and USD 20 for kids aged 5 to 9 for a regular tour. For a tour coupled with volunteer work, it will cost you USD58 for adults and USD35 for kids aged 5 to 9. Staying at the Center for a night costs USD142 for adults and USD102 for kids aged 5 to 9.
  • How to get to Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center: From La Fortuna, you can take a 30-minute taxi ride directly to the center. The center themselves could also arrange for your pick-up by taxi or you can drive there in a rental car.

Visit the Arenal Observatory

The magnificent Arenal Volcano towers over the town of La Fortuna and is a popular destination spot for tourists from all over the world. Getting to know more about this iconic volcano will help you understand what role it played in the development of the town. So head over to the Arenal Observatory, where you can witness the volcano from different angles, the gardens and hanging bridges, the waterfall, and the River Data. A naturalist guide will provide important information about the area and its habitats. Through the Observatory museum, you’ll get to know more about the history of the Arenal volcano and the area surrounding the Arenal Volcano National Park. The Observatory Museum also offers various activities such as a 2-hour film viewing about the history of the Costa Rican Electrical Institute’s Arenal Hydroelectric Project and witnessing the current seismic activity of the Arenal Volcano. The easiest way to visit the Observatory is to join this group.

After your visit to the museum, you can go for a dip at the natural thermal river and bathe in volcanic mud – Costa Rican cocktails are also on offer at that point!.

  • Where is the Arenal Observatory located? The Arenal Observatory is located at the base of the Arenal Volcano, offering the best view of both the volcano and the lake.
  • How much is it to visit Arenal Observatory? It depends how you visit – you can join this hike and visit the Observatory at Arenal
  • How to get to Arenal Observatory Lodge: From San Jose, you can take the Inter-American Highway (Hwy 1) to the town of San Ramon. Pass through La Tigra to reach La Fortuna. After arriving at La Fortuna, head towards the Tabacon Hots Springs, Lake Arenal, and the Arenal Volcano National Park. Before reaching Lake Arenal, you will reach a police station on the right and a marked turn-off on the left for the entrance to the national park. The lodge and the park share the same route for the main entrance.  If you don’t have private transport, then this tour will pick you up from your hotel and take you through the scenic greenery surrounding Arenal Volcano and the Observatory Museum, and then drop you off back at your hotel.

Water sports on Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal is not only for the eyes; it is also available for adventure, especially since it is also considered the largest body of water in Costa Rica. When visiting Lake Arenal, you can try out different water sports -from stand-up paddling (SUP) to kayaking and kitesurfing. Check the options available for Lake Arenal Watersports here.

  • Where is Lake Arenal located? Lake Arenal is located at the base of the Arenal Volcano north of Costa Rica highlands.
  • How much is it to enjoy water sports at Lake Arenal? The entrance fee to Lake Arenal, through the Arenal Volcano National Park, is USD15 for adults and USD5 for children. At the same time, the water sports range from USD60 to USD70.
  • How to get to Lake Arenal: From La Fortuna, you can take a 2-hour bus ride to Tilaran, then from Tilaran, you can take a taxi to Lake Arenal. You can also take a taxi directly to Lake Arenal from La Fortuna.

The sheer amount of adventure activities available here in Arenal makes it a fabulous place for an adventurous family holiday, as all of these activities are great for the entire family!

Go Ziplining at Arenal

A Costa Rican visit is not complete with a ziplining adventure! Ziplining through Arenal will take you through its green forests and mountain ranges, giving you both the thrill and the view. Ziplining can also allow you to sightsee and encounter local wildlife such as colored birds and insects residing in the forests. This is an amazing way to see Arenal National Park.

  • Where can you go ziplining in Arenal? You can go to Sky Adventures Arenal Park for a thrilling ziplining experience. The Sky Adventures Arenal Park is located near the Arenal Volcano, giving you the best view of both the volcano and the lake.
  • How much is it to go ziplining in Arenal?: Ziplining in Arenal will cost you from USD50 to USD84. You can check the prices and availability here.
  • How to get to ziplining in Arenal: From La Fortune, it takes about 30 minutes to reach Sky Adventures Arenal Park by taxi.

Visit Mistico Hanging Bridges, Costa Rica

Visiting the Mistico Hanging Bridges will give you the feeling of standing above the forests of Costa Rica. The Mistico Hanging Bridges will let you immerse yourself in the diverse wildlife of Costa Rica, which includes epiphytes, birds, mammals, and butterflies, and witness the rich beauty of Arenal. The park has 15 bridges, and 6 of them are hanging that you can cross, and about 5 miles worth of trails you can hike. If you’re a nature lover, you should definitely not miss this.

Mistico Hanging Bridges Arenal Costa Rica
  • Where is Mistico Hanging Bridges located? The Mistico Hanging Bridges is located west of Arenal Volcano and north of Lake Arenal, situated between two different ecosystems and both highland and lowland rainforests.
  • How much is it to visit Mistico Hanging Bridges? The entrance fee to the Mistico Hanging Bridges ranges from USD21 to USD27 for different age groups. You can buy tickets to Mistico here (there’s free cancellation, so if you need to change anything you’re covered.)
  • How to get to Mistico Hanging Bridges: From La Fortuna, it only takes about 30 minutes to reach the Hanging Bridges by taxi.

Take a Cooking Class in La Fortuna / Arenal

A good trip isn’t complete without tasting local dishes made by the locals themselves, but in La Fortuna, you can also try out your hand at cooking these Costa Rican dishes by attending a cooking class. Immerse yourself in the rich culture of Arenal with an authentic cooking experience with dishes like picadillo, tortillas, guisados, and other signature Arenal dishes. After getting the cooking done, you can enjoy the taste of your masterpiece! There are more details here.

  • Where can I take cooking classes in La Fortuna / Arenal? La Fortuna offers various cooking classes in the area. You can check out a Costa Rica Cooking Class located near the El Salto waterfall, just nearby downtown La Fortuna.
  • How much are cooking classes in La Fortuna / Arenal? The prices of cooking classes in La Fortuna / Arenal start at around USD55.

See Sloths in Arenal

Apart from butterflies and birds, Arenal is also home to sloths. It’s only in Arenal that you’ll be able to see both species of sloths: two-toed and three-toed sloths. Both species thrive in Arenal due to its perfect climate conditions allowing the sloths to survive and live harmoniously in Arenal’s jungle ecosystem. If you’re looking for a SPECIFIC sloth experience in Arenal, then this is a fabulous option.

  • Where can I go see sloths in Arenal? La Fortuna / Arenal has various spotting areas where you can witness sloths along with other habitats of Costa Rica’s forests.
  • How much is it to see sloths in Arenal?  The starting price for sloth sightings is around USD10. This is an estimated price as sloth sightings can also be included in some of the activities mentioned in some of the activities we’ve included in this article. Alternatively, if you’d like to look specifically for sloths, then this is a highly recommended experience.
Sloths in Arenal Costa Rica

Hike to Cerro Chato Volcano

Sitting quietly next to the iconic Arenal Volcano is another volcano worth your attention. The Cerro Chato volcano is a dormant volcano sporting a glorious green lake in its cater. The hike up the volcano is considered one of the riskiest in La Fortuna as it was steep and slippery, the trails have recently been closed for safety reasons. The access points from the Green Lagoon Lodge and Arenal Observatory were closed down by the government. However, some are still using the trail from the Green Lagoon Lodge and the Arenal Observatory Lodge.   You may be able to book this hike, but you’ll need to confirm that the trails are open. You can hike the Chato valley with this group.

The hike up the Cerro Chatto will take you about an hour and a half to two hours and will take you to witness the grand scenery of the Costa Rican cloud forest. You will also be rewarded with the forest’s flora and fauna and the stunning green lake in the crater.

We did this hike in 2017 and it was a pretty unforgettable experience for us, that’s why we include Cerro Chatto in the list.  If you’re not too much of a hiker, we suggest not to hike this trail, it is tough. But if you are up for the challenge, be sure to wear your best hiking shoes, bring plenty of water, and wear comfortable clothes,

  • Where is Cerro Chato located?: The Cerro Chato volcano sits quietly on the right side of the iconic Arenal Volcano.
  • How much is it to visit Cerro Chato? If you’re going to access the trail from the Green Lagoon Lodge, it will cost you USD12. If you access it from the Arenal Observatory, it will be USD8. This 10 hour guided hike is hardcore, but amazing (we did it!)
  • How to get to Cerro Chato: From La Fortuna, you can take a taxi directly to Cerro Chato for about 30 to 40 minutes. You can also walk to Cerro Chato from La Fortuna, which will take about 2 hours.

Check out this guided tour for a 10-hour adventure to witness the beauty of Arenal through the narrow trails of Cerro Chato. You’ll have the chance to swim in the charming green lake and enjoy a hearty lunch before going back down to the Observatory Park.

Visit El Castillo from Arenal

Take a break from the thrilling adventures Arenal has to offer and have a quiet stroll through the quaint town of El Castillo. From El Castillo, you can visit the Butterfly Conservatory, the Arenal Eco Zoo, and the iconic hanging bridges of Costa Rica. You can also check out La Ventana, which offers Mexican, Latin, Central American, and, of course, Costa Rican cuisine.

  • Where El Castillo is located? El Castillo is located very close to Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal, 10 kilometers away from the Rainforest Highway situated between La Fortuna and Nuevo Arenal.
  • How much is it to visit El Castillo? El Castillo offers a varying array of activities and food for you to enjoy, so be sure to bring enough so you can enjoy your trip. The estimated starting price is around USD10 for entrance fees to some of the activities in the town.
  • How to get to El Castillo: From La Fortuna, you can take the bus directly to El Castillo, which is about an hour. You can also take a 30 to a 40-minute taxi ride.

Learn About Costa Rican Chocolate

Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to Costa Rica’s cacao plantations. You can learn about the history of ancient Mayan hot chocolate drinks and cacao production. You can also experience some parts of the production through an immersive tour of the process of making sweet cocoa powder. Considered a portion of food for the Gods, cacao used to be one of the leading exports of Costa Rica. There’s more about Costa Rican chocolate here.

  • Where can you learn about Costa Rican Chocolate? You can experience this immersive tour through Rainforest Chocolate Tour, which is located just 5 to 10 minutes away from La Fortuna.
  • How much is it to learn about Costa Rican Chocolate?  The rates for this activity are USD26 for adults, USD21 for students, and USD18 for children. You can check availability and book your places learning about Costa Rican chocolate here.
  • How to get to Rainforest Chocolate Tour: Rainforest Chocolate Tour is only about a 30-minute walk from La Fortuna and a 4-minute taxi ride from La Fortuna.

Go Spelunking at Venado Caves from Arenal

Check out the stunning underground of La Fortuna by visiting Venado Caves. The Venado Caves are filled with nearly 20 million-year-old limestone channels and different house fossils and subterranean animals. The caves are 8,850 feet deep, and through the cave, you can access an underground river and see varying stalactites, stalagmites, and an ethereal waterfall. Through an hour and a half spelunking activity, you get to explore the eight-chamber wonder and see the various species like frogs, bats, spiders, and fish that lives underground. Whether you like underground places or not, the Venado Caves will surely hook you with its fascinating take on nature. This is a great way to see the Venado caves!

  • Where are Venado Caves located? The Venado Caves are approximately 45 minutes away from the town of La Fortuna.
  • How much is it to visit the Venado Caves? The cost to visit Venado Caves is around USD28, which already includes the entrance fee, the guided tour, boots, and flashlights.
  • How to get to the Venado Caves: From La Fortuna, you can take a 4.5-hour bus ride which will first take you to Ciudad Quesada, then to Venado. After reaching Venado, you will make a 30-minute walk to reach the Caves. You can also take a 50-minute taxi ride which will take you directly to Venado Caves.

Visit Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge from Arenal

See more of Arenal’s wildlife by visiting the Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge. Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge is considered to be the third most important wetland in the world. The refuge was named a Wetland of International Importance in 1991 and is a designated World Protected Are. The Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge is home to various rare species of plants, animals, and birds. The refuge is also considered ecologically diverse, housing a variety of flora and fauna and considered to be a crucial migratory route for birds coming from the north. It’s quite difficult to reach Cano Negro, and the easiest way to visit is to join a tour from Arenal – this one is fabulous.

  • Where is Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge located?: The refuge lies close to the border of Nicaragua, north of Costa Rica.
  • How much is it to visit Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge? There is no entrance fee, but if you’re planning to do some activities such as fishing, a USD50 license is required, which you can get from the ranger station at the Cano Negro village.
  • How to get to Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge: You can take the bus from La Fortuna to Guatuso. Then, after reaching Guatuso, you can ride the taxi directly to the refuge. This trip will take about an hour or two. Alternatively, join this group and take a boat ride on the water at Cano Negro

Take a Night Jungle Tour of Arenal

Another way to appreciate the natural beauty of Arenal is during the night, especially since more than half of the species in Arenal jungles are nocturnal. (If you’re going to Tortuguero, – our guide to what to do there is here – then you must do the night tour there too!)  You can go for different activities during the night; you can opt to go on Ecocentro Danaus Night Tour, which will allow you to see Arenal’s nocturnal species, you can also go for a night hike through the El Silencio Nature Reserve, and an Arenal Oasis frog watching night tour where you can catch Costa Rica’s nocturnal amphibians and other animals. 

  • Where can I go take a night jungle tour of Arenal? There are various places where you can go on night jungle tours in Arenal. You can head to Penas Blancas River. You can also head to Ecocentro Danaus, just 5 minutes away from La Fortuna.
  • How much is it to take a night jungle tour of Arenal? A night jungle tour of Arenal will cost you about USD25 to USD35. – Check availability and options for Arenal night jungle tours here.
  • How to get to the locations for a night jungle tour of Arenal: To get to Penal Blancas River from La Fortuna, you can take the bus to reach San Jose, and from San Jose, you will ride another bus which will take you to San Isidro de El General. From there, you can take a taxi to Penas Blancas River. To reach Ecocentro Danaus, you can take a 6-minute taxi ride from La Fortuna.

Where to Get the Best Views of Arenal Volcano

If you want to relax and just enjoy the glorious view of the Arenal Volcano, here are a few places you can go to.

  • The Arenal Volcano National Park offers one of the greatest views of the Arenal Volcano via an easy hike up the trail.
  • Lake Arenal is also a place to go to if you want the best view of Arenal Volcano. You can also enjoy various activities such as Kayaking, SUP, and Kitesurfing.
  • The Hotel Magic Mountain not only offers spacious rooms and houses a large pool, on-site bar, and restaurants but also has the best view of the Arenal Volcano.
  • The Lost Iguana Resort and Spa, located within the jungles of Costa Rica, has two large pools and spacious rooms, and of course, the magnificent view of the Arenal Volcano.

If you prefer to take a gentle walk to get great views of Arenal Volcano, then take a look at this walk.

Map of Things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica

Map of things to do in Arenal Costa Rica

You can also see our map of things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica here.

How to Get to Arenal & La Fortuna

La Fortuna / Arenal is located about 80 kilometers northwest of the San Jose airport within the Alajuela province.

Fly to La Fortuna

If you want to spend the least amount of time to get to Arenal, then go by air from San Jose to La Fortuna. It will only take you about 30 minutes and cost you around USD50 to USD60 per person.

Get the Bus to Arenal and La Fortuna

You can also take local transport to reach Arenal / La Fortuna; taking the local bus is also the greener alternative. There are plenty of direct buses from San Jose, which leaves at 6:15 a.m., 8:40 a.m., and 11:30 a.m., and then connecting busses through the Ciudad Quesada.

How to go from San Jose to Arenal

How to go from Tortuguero to Arenal – our guide of the best things to do in Tortuguero is here

How to go from Jaco to Arenal – here’s the best things to do in Jaco

How to go from Tamarindo to Arenal – our guide of what to do in Tamarindo is here

How to go from Liberia to Arenal

How to go from Monteverde to Arenal

How to go from Puerto Viejo to Arenal – our guide on what to do in Puerto Viejo is here.

How to go from Manuel Antonio to Arenal – here’s the best things to do in Manuel Antonio

Take a Shuttle to Arenal and La Fortuna

You can also take shuttle buses that pass through the routes of San Jose to Arenal, Liberia to Arenal, and Tamarindo to Arenal. You can check shuttle bus rates to Arenal here.

Rent a Car and drive to Arenal / La Fortuna

Renting a car is the easiest way around Arenal. However, most trips from different locations to Arenal will most likely take about 3 to 5 hours. The trip from San Jose to Arenal takes about 3 to 4 hours. When coming from Tamarindo, you should first head to Liberia, and from there, you can make your way around Lake Arenal to reach the entrance of the Arenal Volcano National Park; this trip will take about a 3.5 to 4-hour drive.

If you need to rent a car in Costa Rica we recommend Discover Cars for car hire.  You can search, compare and save up to 70%, with no hidden fees and free cancellation, it’s the perfect option! Get a price for a rental car in Costa Rica here.

If you’re coming from Jaco, you can drive to San Ramon and follow the same road from San Jose until you reach La Fortuna, which will take you about 4 hours. Located 5 hours away from Arenal, the road from Manuel Antonio to reach Arenal passes through Jaco, Orotina, and some parts of San Jose. If you’re coming from Monteverde, you will pass through Tilaran, which sports a bumpy unpaved road (a 4 x 4 vehicle is recommended for this route). (Our guide on the best things to do in Jaco is here.)

The shortest route is from Liberia, where it will only take you about two and half hours to reach Arenal.

Travel Tips for Exploring Costa Rica

Final Words on the Best Things to do in Arenal Costa Rica

This host of activities found in Arenal / La Fortuna is a sign that you definitely should not miss going here, especially if you’re an adventure junkie seeking new and thrilling experiences! From hiking, and white-water rafting, to meaningful volunteering and learning about the rich culture of Costa Rica, Arenal is a good place to stay for a couple of days to unwind from the stress of your daily life. Take a break and breathe in the fresh air of the jungles surrounding La Fortuna / Arenal and bask in the magnificent and stunning view of the scenic landscapes and iconic volcanoes in the area. Relax your muscles in natural hot springs and experience the natural nightlife of the area with night jungle tours.

Arenal is just the perfect place to be, particularly when you’re traveling with a group. But if you’re traveling alone, that’s okay too! You’ll have more of the mouth-watering sweet chocolates of Costa Rica for yourself.

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