From rainforest walks to canopy tours, canyoning, waterfalls, and hot springs, Volcano Arenal's outdoor activities make it a top place to visit in Costa Rica.
Tall, impressive Volcano Arenal is at the top of everyone's list of places to visit in Costa Rica. Towering above the rainforest that surround its base and the beautiful Lake Arenal, Volcano Arenal's perfectly symmetrical conical shape makes it a stunning sight.
Map of Arenal Volcano and Lake in Costa RicaEven though Costa Rica's most active volcano is taking a rest lately from spewing lava, gas and ash nearly every day and night, standing close to an active volcano is still a thrilling experience. The much-loved volcano entered into an indeterminate resting phase in October 2010; however you can still sometimes hear the volcano's rumblings and see plumes of gas.
The area's scenery, easy accessibility, and grand abundance of outdoor activities make it a top place to visit in Costa Rica.
Don't miss these incredible tours during your Costa Rica vacation!
Arenal Hanging Bridges
Arenal Hanging Bridges tour at Volcano Arenal, Costa RicaThis is a fantastic rainforest experience, walking on gently rambling trails around gigantic trees and dense forest and then out across gorges and over treetops on hanging and fixed bridges. The Arenal Hanging Bridges tour consists of 8 fixed bridges, ranging in length from 8 to 22 meters (26-72 ft), and 6 hanging bridges between 48-98 meters long (157-321 ft). Built with the latest technology designed for safety, all of the bridges are made of galvanized steel and high-strength aluminum. The beauty of the project is its successful design blending with the natural environment and leaving the forest intact.
Located near Lake Arenal, the lake's dam and Arenal Volcano, trails cover a distance of 3.1 km (2 miles), and are built with paving blocks to prevent slipping. The trails are designed for all ability levels. The views of the Volcano from the hanging bridges over the forest are an unforgettable experience. Walk quietly and you will be able to see a wealth of wildlife, from tropical and migratory birds to monkeys and small mammals.
Arenal Sky Tram & Sky Trek
Enjoy an exhilarating tour with a bird's-eye perspective of the rainforest, Arenal Volcano and Lake. Go up the mountain on the Sky Tram aerial tramway and come back down the same way, or return by exciting Sky Trek canopy tour.
Sky Tram tour at Volcano Arenal, Costa RicaSky Tram carries you in open aerial tramway cars 1 km (3,280 ft.) up to an observation deck at the highest point of the Arenal Reserve for spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding rainforest, the Arenal Volcano and Lake. As the altitude changes, so does the vegetation. Your bilingual guide accompanying you will stop the tram to let you see and photograph animals or a particular scene. At times you will be 40 meters (131 ft.) above the treetops. On the observation deck, there are chairs and you can spend as much time as you like relishing the views before coming down. Sky Tram is a tour for all ages and even accommodates persons in wheelchairs. Ride the aerial tram down, or zigzag down the mountain on the canopy tour.
Sky Trek canopy tour at Volcano Arenal, Costa RicaSky Trek canopy tour starts from the observation deck with its system of 10 zip lines totaling 2.7 km (1.7 miles), with distances from 30-750 meters (100-2,460 ft.), and a maximum height of 200 meters (660 ft.). You'll be above the treetops safely flying over the rainforest holding onto a pulley with two handles, and enjoying panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano and Lake.
Arenal Hot Springs
Arenal Volcano hot springs, Costa RicaHot Springs at Arenal Volcano are one of the area's main attractions and are a great way to relax and view the volcano and rainforest. Being one of the country's most active volcanoes, Arenal produces a profusion of thermal springs, most with scenic views of the majestic volcano. Some springs feature hot and cold pools, some are romantic and tucked into lush jungle gardens, while others have water slides and swim-up bars.
Arenal Volcano Hiking
The mighty Arenal Volcano is the most active in Costa RicaWalk around and right up on the base of the mighty Arenal Volcano on this moderate 2-hour hike that begins on the active side of the volcano, and takes you through secondary and primary rainforest, over recent lava flows to the destroyed area now in the process of regeneration. You'll learn all about the history of this marvelous œmountain of fire from your naturalist guide, who also will point out interesting wildlife and plant life along the way.
La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall at Volcano Arenal, Costa RicaOne of Arenal's most popular excursions, La Fortuna Waterfall spills 70 meters (230 ft.) out of lush rainforest to a brilliant turquoise pool below. There is an observation point above, but to get to the waterfall pool and river, you'll walk down a steep 600-meter (0.38 mile) trail of stairs. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the entrance to the pool at the base of La Fortuna Waterfall. Although swimming is no longer permitted in the pool under the falls, you can swim in the gently flowing river a bit further down.
An option to get to La Fortuna Waterfall is by horseback riding. Enjoy a fun ride through forest and across small rivers, discovering the exuberant flora and fauna of the area, to get to the majestic waterfall.
Canyoning at Volcano Arenal, Costa RicaImagine being surrounded by lush rainforest at the edge of a deep canyon waiting to rappel down gushing tropical waterfalls! The Arenal Volcano area's rugged, mountainous terrain is ideal for incredible canyoning and huge, impressive waterfalls. Canyoning is a mixture of rappelling down waterfalls and hiking in a canyon. This tour combines rappelling, down-climbing and river tracing in a deep, tropical canyon. No experience is needed, just a good sense of adventure. Your guides will give you a thorough safety talk to explain important rappelling and down-climbing techniques, and you will use high-quality technical climbing gear such as a harness, helmet and gloves.
CaÃ±o Negro Wildlife Refuge
Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge is a top place for birds and wildlife in Costa RicaOften called the œeverglades of Costa Rica, CaÃ±o Negro Wildlife Refuge is a day trip from Arenal. Situated on a stretch of wetlands along the Nicaraguan border, the 9,969-hectare (24,620 acres) refuge is one of the best areas to see wildlife in Costa Rica, especially birds. The CaÃ±o Negro Wildlife Refuge follows the Rio Frio (Cold River) and eventually empties out into a grassy marshland. The full-day tour leaves the Arenal area early in the morning for a 1-hour drive to the town of Los Chiles, where you will board a motorized covered boat to travel up and down the river. The Rio Frio's abundance of fish, including snook, silver-gold tarpon and garfish, attract a huge number of birds, such as anhinga, roseate spoonbills, storks, ducks, kingfishers, herons and cormorants. You also can see many other animals along the river banks, including white-faced Capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, two and three toed sloths, iguanas, caimans, turtles and bats.
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By Shannon Farley