Best Things to do in Arenal Volcano National Park in 2023
There are plenty of best things to do in Arenal Volcano National Park in 2023 (usually for tourists staying in La Fortuna). There is an amazing choice of outdoor adventures for the whole family. Discover the allure of the lush rain forests, see breathtaking waterfalls and underground caves. Extreme sports lovers can zipline, white water raft and rappel down sheer cliffs. For those who want something more relaxed, enjoy a kayak trip or a leisurely sail on a safari boat. Biking and horse riding is the perfect way to see the scenery and a rejuvenating soak in a natural hot spring pool will be the perfect end to a busy day.
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Nature and wildlife tours
After settling into your vacation accommodation, the first thing to do in Arenal is set off to explore the stunning diversity of wildlife and nature in the surrounding area. The region is famous for its seven species of night owls, some of which can be spotted on a unique night tour. Your guide will teach you all about these incredible creatures and their hunting and breeding patterns as you travel along backroads keeping an eye out for these exotic birds. After breakfast the next day, enjoy a trip to the beautiful La Fortuna Waterfall that cascades down the cliffs. There are 500 steps to reach the base and if you are fit, you can climb down and enjoy a swim in the natural pool under the Falls. Then hold your breath as you traverse the amazing hanging bridges that wind their way through the rain forest. Look out for wildlife, exotic birds and reptiles as you gaze down from a dizzy height. For thrill seekers, rappelling down the Spider Monkey Canyon makes an exhilarating day outing. You can also fly along ziplines and and take an extreme hike to explore the diverse nature of Costa Rica.
White water rafting
If white water rafting is on your bucket list of things to do in Arenal, then you will find a great selection of tours for all levels of experience. From beginners to class III and IV rapids, there are stunning rivers to navigate. Tours are run by professional guides who start by giving you a safety briefing and a paddling lesson. You will then get geared up and follow your guide on a wet and exciting ride. Learn the basic moves, commands and how to navigate and steer. When the water becomes calm, catch your breath and look out for amazing wildlife like sloths, toucans and monkeys. For more experienced rafters, the Sarapiquí River offers a series of 35 Class III and IV rapids with breathtaking twists and turns. Be prepared for a lifetime adventure! For less experienced rafters, the Rio Balsa trip will make you a fan for life. Some trips are accompanied by a photographer who will shoot a video of you screaming and gasping that you can take home to show off. Many trips include a well earned lunch or snack at a local restaurant after your water adventure.
If you feel that white water rafting may be a bit too adventurous for you, but you still want to experience the thrill of the river, then tubing is the thing to do in Arenal. Join a tour that drives into the depths of the rain forest and stops at the river banks. Here your guide will kit you out with the correct gear and give you a safety briefing and a quick lesson. Climb into your large, comfortable, single person tube and get ready to be carried along the river with the natural flow of the water. The trip is safe and you do not need to be super fit. As you drift along, look out for exotic wildlife on the banks, you can spot sloths, hanging monkeys and spectacular toucans. For the more adventurous, get wet and wild on the Class I or II rapids on the Balsa River. For this exciting ride your guide will give you instructions on the basic commends, steering techniques and moves. You will then follow him on a bumpy, adrenaline pumping ride down the rapids. Tubing tours can be combined with a visit to the Hot Springs, a chocolate factory or a ziplining experience. A delicious meal at a local restaurant ends the trips. Find the combination that suits you best!
There is no shortage of extreme sports adventures in Costa Rica and soaring on a zipline is the next breathtaking thing to do in Arenal. How about feeling like Superman or trying out the Tarzan Swing? Ziplines are strong cables that make their way across the jungle and are accessed via platforms allowing you to jump from one to another. You will be securely fastened to the cable with ropes and a safety harness and once you are over your fear of heights, expect a mind blowing experience as you soar over treetops and become one with the forest creatures. Join the Cloud Forest Tour and experience the Tarzan Swing and the Superman flight of over 2000 feet long. Sky Adventures Park offers a tour that has seven zip lines and a mega high cable at 656 feet above the forest floor. All tours are organised by professional guides and you will be given a safety briefing and a lesson before setting off. Combine your zipline experience with horse riding, white water rafting, tubing, canyoning or rappelling! There is no limit to how extreme you want to get. A well deserved and delicious traditional meal is usually part of the tour – check for details as each one is different.
Hot springs spa tours
After a day of extreme adventure, the next thing to do in Arenal is relax your mind and body. The region is blessed by a series of natural hot springs that are accessible to visitors on private or guided tours. Set off to the Paradise Hot Springs Resort and be prepared for a day of pampering. It is the perfect get-away from the crowds and also makes a great romantic setting for a couple. Here you can soak in pools ranging from 95 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Your professional guide will explain how you need to start off in cooler water and as your body adapts, move to the warmer pools. How about a hydromassage for back, legs and feet or a revitalising dip in a jacuzzi? You can relax on the reclining bed in a private open hut and soak up the serene atmosphere of the landscaped gardens while soft music wafts over the venue. Try out the Palma Real, the Los Papiros and the Pangea thermal pools and then stand under a waterfall and allow the naturally warm waters to soothe and relax your entire body. When you are fully rested, enjoy a delectable traditional meal and sip an exotic fruit drink decorated with colorful flowers and miniature umbrella.
Day trips from La Fortuna
You will never run out of day trips to enjoy from La Fortuna or Arenal and booking your place for a few of these exciting adventures is the next thing to do in Arenal. Start off with a day trip to the Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall and the Arenal Volcano. This tour gives you the best experience if you have limited time. Walk over the breathtaking bridges that span the rain forest and look out for exotic wildlife. At the Waterfall, you can swim in the warm natural pool at its foot as the water cascades downwards. Then hike to the base of the Volcano and learn all about the lunar landscape of lava fields. If you enjoy extreme water sports, how about a white water rafting day trip along Class II and III rapids? Join your guide, have a safety briefing and a lesson and set off on a wild and wet adventure down the Rio Balsa. If you want even more adrenaline pumping fun, enjoy a full day zip lining experience combined with rafting. For something more laid back, there is a Safari Floating Trip where you will leisurely glide down the river looking out for exotic creatures. For those who enjoy going underground, spend a day at the Venado caves exploring caverns and underground rivers and be awed at the amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations. There are even more things to do in Arenal! Explore Nicaragua on a day trip or enjoy bird watching in the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. To finish off your trip, visit the Arenal Wilberth Stable where you can ride a trusty steed and see the magnificent landscapes of Volcano, Lake and rain forests with friends and family.
Arenal hanging bridges
Want to experience the forests of Costa Rica from high up but are too afraid of zip lining? Don’t feel left out - the Hanging Bridges have been constructed to give you the same experience and not stop your heart! Living high up in the treetops are sloths, monkeys, ant eaters, snakes, amphibians and exotic birds and you can get to see them in their natural habitat. The bridges span the thick jungle foliage for a distance of 1.6 miles. There are 16 beautifully constructed suspension bridges that sway high above the ground and traverse rivers, rocky cliffs, open plains and offer stunning views of land, waterfalls and volcanos. The walk across the bridges is leisurely and you need not be super fit, just wear comfortable walking shoes and take along a bottle of drinking water. Your guide will point out all the important features, help you spot animals and birds hidden in the trees and update you on the natural history of the region. Stop at the viewing platforms and be awed at the panoramic views, watch the cascading water of the Falls and snap some photos to show off at home. This attraction is ideal for families with children.
Tabacon hot springs
A visit to the Tabacon Hot Springs is a not-to-be-missed thing to do in Arenal. These natural springs are located close to the famous Arenal Volcano and can be visited on a day trip for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. As the hot steaming water runs off down the mountain it absorbs the natural therapeutic minerals from the volcanic rocks and forms into pools at the base. The pools range in temperature from 77 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit and offer health-enhancing properties. The gardens are magnificently landscaped with lush green vegetation, cascading waterfalls and picturesque winding paths that lead to hidden pools. Walk over the wooden bridges to reach the pool and be prepared for a long and relaxing soak! Professional heath experts will explain how you need to start in the cooler pools and then advance to hotter ones as your body adapts. The main pool is picture-postcard perfect with azure crystal clear waters, a swim-up bar and stunning views of the Volcano. For a real wake-up, try the cold spring that is hidden away in a shady secluded spot.
La fortuna waterfalls
You’ll never run out of options if you’re searching for beautiful natural sights and another magical thing to do in Arenal is take a tour to La Fortuna Waterfall. This waterfall is very accessible, making it ideal for families with children and people who are less fit, as you don’t need to hike for miles to get to see the spectacular display. Stand in awe as you watch the water crashing down the sheer grey cliffs of the dormant Cerro Chato Volcano from a height of around 200 feet. The falls are surrounded by dense, lush green vegetation and shrouded in clouds of mists that rise into the air adding to surreal effect. You can get to the Fortuna Waterfall by car, it is located only 3 miles from La Fortuna. When you arrive, there are a number of fabulous ways to explore. Take a hike or a horseback ride through the surrounding forest. Then get close to the Waterfall itself, there is a long staircase of rocky steps that take you all the way down to the bottom. Wear walking shoes to be comfortable. Rest benches are found along the way so you can go as far as you want and at your own pace. The view point called the Mirador allows anyone of any fitness level to appreciate the beauty. If you go all the way to the bottom, you can take a dip in the natural pool.
Immersing yourself in the culture of Costa Rica is the next awesome thing to do in Arenal. There is a stunning choice of cultural and themed tours to suit all tastes and age groups. Set off with the family and take part in a fun cooking class with a local Costa Rican family. Learn about Pura Vida, the expression that defines the way of life, a philosophy and a slogan all-in-one. Your guide will introduce to the local family and you will get started by picking fresh produce from the garden. Then learn how to make empanadas, fried plantains or a stew called guisado. Practice your Spanish as you all have a blast and eat your delicious meal! Your next adventure is a visit to the local farm of Don Luis Varela where you will take part in the daily routine of milking cows and working the land. For party animals, the famous BBQ with moonshine is a must. Enjoy a night out with locals under the stars, eat, drink and soak up the vibe! Handmade corn tortillas and chimichurri will be served with the BBQ meat. Then add a dessert – some famous Costa Rican chocolate. Join a coffee and chocolate tour and learn about the planting, harvesting and production processes. Sip some of this traditional drink and sample loads of delectable organic chocolate – the best on the planet.
4WD and ATV tours
If you don’t mind getting dusty and covered in mud, a fun 4WD or ATV drive is the next thrilling thing to do in Arenal. Enjoy an outdoor adventure on the rugged back roads, ideal for all ages and levels of fitness. Meet your personal and professional guide and get geared up with safety helmets. You will have a safety briefing followed by a slow test drive on an open field where you can learn to navigate your quad bike. Once you are ready, set off and follow your guide through the tropical rain forest. Cross streams and bounce over rugged rocky outcrops. Take the twists and turns and hang on as you get splashed with water or mud. This is an adrenalin rush of note and fun for all. When you get tired, stop and wash off the mud in a river or natural pool. Then jump back on and continue your trip. You can also stop at the tourist observation points to snap photos of the Volcano or Waterfalls. Some adventures are combined with a delicious meal at a local family home. Check the details of each tour to find the one that suits you best.
Chocolate and Coffee tours
Costa Rica produces some of the most iconic coffee and chocolate in the world and a tasting trip is a mouth-watering thing to do in Arenal. Take friends and family and enjoy a day outing learning all about this important aspect of the economy and the local life. And, of course, eating loads of chocolate is a must! Meet your professional guide and set off to the coffee plantation. On the way you will learn all about the history of coffee and its importance in daily life. When you arrive, learn more about the planting and harvesting of the beans and production of coffee and chocolate. You will see all the processes unfolding in front of you, from seed to coffee cup. Then you will learn all about the making of chocolate from the grinding of the seeds to the delectable rich dark bar. On some tours you can even get hands on and make your own bar of chocolate. Then try the Goddess Drink - a pure 100 percent chocolate delight only for the brave. Some coffee tours combine with other adventures like white water rafting, a safari float or white water tubing. Choose a combination that will thrill you and your group.
Horseback riding tours
Exploring the stunning Costa Rica landscape on horseback is an unforgettable thing to do in Arenal. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rider, your guide will find a trusty steed that suits your abilities. The ride can be a slow walk, a trot or a canter to suit your group. Enjoy a ride to the beautiful La Fortuna Waterfall as you meander through the rain forests, cross the awe-inspiring Hanging Bridges and stop at the Pino Blanco Waterfall lookout. Pass through the Maleku Indian Cultural Rescue Center and learn about the culture, traditional dress and crafts of these Costa Rican ancestors. Another tour takes you to the fabulous Hot Springs where you can disembark and enjoy a relaxing soak in the warm therapeutic mineral waters. For a top rated expedition, head to the Arenal Volcano on a trip that teaches you about the natural landscape and wildlife while offering panoramic views of the Volcano and rain forest. You can also choose to ride at the Arenal Wilberth Stable. This tour takes you past craters made by ancient volcanic activity and across pastures filled with exotic birds like toucans. Don’t miss out on exploring on horseback!
Canyoning and climbing tours
If you’re in the mood for a thrilling adventure there are lots of things to do in Arenal. Canyoning and climbing are for the fit and brave – so get out there for an amazing experience. Join a canyoning tour with a professional guide and set off into the lush dense rain forests. When you arrive you will hike to the starting tree platform at the cliff face. You will be given all the gear you need, a safety briefing and a lesson on techniques. After being geared up, start rappelling down the side of the cliff. Now that you have a taste of the fun, try the canyon waterfall rappel which has four descents of almost 200 feet. Combine the experience with zip lining across the canyons and then rappelling down to the canyon floor. Feel like Tarzan as you plunge with the waterfalls and soar like a superman. Try out the famous Monkey Drop that will leave you gasping. At the Lost Canyon, you can rappel down the Big Boy, a drop of 200 feet against a waterfall, ending with a splash into a cooling natural pool. An adrenalin rush doesn’t get better than this!
After ziplining, rappelling and canyoning, you may want to find a thing to do in Arenal that is more relaxing. A kayak tour is the perfect adventure and is ideal for children and those who are less fit. You do not need to be experienced as your guide will give you starter lesson on basic techniques and the paddle can go at a pace that suits your group. Kayaking on Lake Arenal offers fantastic views of the Volcano as well as the opportunity to spot amazing wildlife. This man-made lake attracts thousands of migrating birds every year and is a vitally important feature of the Costa Rican landscape. Your guide will point out Flycatchers, Kingfishers, Great Blue Heron and Aninga as you paddle along. If you want to get a little wet and wild, join a kayak tour on the Sarapiqui River. Kayak classes last for one, two or three days depending on the level of skill you want to achieve. You can then try out Class II river rapids with the help of your guide. Learn how to manoeuvre on cross currents, hole surf or roll!
Looking for an ideal thing to in Arenal for the whole family? A float trip makes a wonderful and relaxed day outing. Floats are large blow-up rafts that can hold a group of people and require little or no paddling skill or high levels of fitness. In fact, you just relax and your guide does all the paddling! You will experience the beauty of the lush jungles, lakes and rivers from the water, a totally different and unique adventure. Meet you guide and head to the Peñas Blancas River for a slow float of about 4 hours. You will be given life jackets, although the chance of needing them is minimal. Take your seat and set off down the river. The serene natural setting offers opportunity to spot tropical wildlife like mammals, reptiles and colorful birds. Your attentive guide will point out animals that you may otherwise miss. Some trips include a hike to the Waterfall or a swim in the natural pools. Most trips include a delicious traditional lunch or snack. Choose the one that suits your itinerary and time restraints.
Costa Rica is not only about lush forests and Volcanos. Hidden deep underground are the astounding Venado Caves that make a fabulous thing to do in Arenal. If exploring deep and dark caverns filled with bats is for you, head for the Venado Caves Underground Experience. Your personal guide will take your group on an exclusive trip through the labyrinth of tunnels, caves and caverns. Light does not penetrate here, so you will have a flashlight to show the way. Walk along the trails and climb through the narrow rocky tunnels. You will see ancient underground rivers and sea beds, which have been exposed after millions of years. See the awe-inspiring rock formations with names like The Coral, The Altar and The Papaya. Astounding formations of stalactite and stalagmites fill the huge caves and are home to a huge colony of bats. Also inhabiting the cave are spiders and crabs – be warned! Stop and see prehistoric marine fossils and snap a photo to show off to those not brave enough to join you. When you reach daylight again you will be treated to a snack of delectable fresh tropical fruits.
If the word Safari reminds you of the African bush, you may not know that sailing on a Safari Boat is another cool thing to do in Arenal. The Safari Boat Tour is ideal for visitors in Arenal and La Fortune and offers a leisurely sail down the magnificent Peñas Blancas River under the watchful eye of an expert guide. This trip is ideal for families with children, elderly people and those who are not fit, as no skills are required. In fact, you relax on the large rubber raft boat while your guide does all the hard work. Meet your guide and set off to the river bank where you will be a given a life jacket. Don’t worry, the chances of having to use it are minimal! Climb aboard and set off at a slow, mellow pace. As you admire the stunning scenery around you, your guide will teach you all about the animals and plants of the rain forests. Keep your eye out for monkeys, tortoises and exotic birds. You guide has a keen eye and will point out creatures that you may miss. This is the perfect way to explore the beauty of Costa Rica and rejuvenate your mind at the same time. After the trip, you will be treated to refreshing drinks and traditional Costa Rican snacks.
For bike riding fans, there are plenty of exciting things to do in Arenal. You can choose a leisurely ride for beginners or an intense ride if you are fit and ready for a challenge. Start off with a Road Bike Tour around Lake Arenal, perfect for beginners and intermediate riders. You will ride on a paved road along the north side of the Lake. The views are amazing and you can look out for tropical creatures like monkeys and exotic toucans. This road has very limited traffic and is safe for families with children. An optional boat ride across the Lake can be arranged too. For serious riders, set off on the Single Track Tour near the base of the Volcano. It is a challenging 12 mile ride on a rugged trail of puddles, rivers, rocky outcrops and exposed tree roots. Follow your guide and watch the trail! If you do have a moment to pay attention to the surroundings, you will see panoramic views of the mountain and may even spot wildlife like deer, coati and moose. The ride ends with a refreshing drink and snacks. Head to Hot Springs when you are done to soothe your sore muscles!
Learning about the preservation of wildlife is an interesting thing to do in Arenal. The Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center hosts volunteer and community programs around the topic of wildlife in Costa Rica. Make a day outing of it and visit this amazing venue. You can take a tour with an expert guide who will teach you all about the center, its vision and work. Follow him around the trails and see exotic animals up close. At each enclosure you will learn fascinating facts about the animals. If you want to become more involved, volunteer for a day and help with the work, food preparation, feeding and rehabilitation of the animals under the watchful eye of your guide. You can also take a quick class to learn some Spanish – a great help to get around Costa Rica and communicate with the locals. This is a great experience for the whole family and especially for children who have an interest in animals.