Alrighty – you’ve booked your Costa Rica adventure tour, you KNOW there’s no way you’re missing the Arenal Volcano National Park and now it’s just a matter of figuring out what to actually DO once you get there.
We’ve got you covered, thrill-seeker!
Here are 15 of the most amazing things to do in Arenal!
Walk Over Ancient Lava Fields
Walking trails in and around the Arenal Volcano National Park abound, with choices for leisurely strolls and hard-core hikes suiting various levels of fitness. Out of all of these, the La Coladas Walking Trail is undoubtedly the most iconic and comprehensive because it meanders through large sections of the pristine rain-forest and guides you over fascinating cooled lava fields. The trail is moderately easy and takes merely an hour or so but it does reward you with the most unobstructed views of Arenal Volcano. If you’d love a longer walk then take La Coladas and extend it to join Los Tucanes Walking Trail (2.5hrs), which takes you deeper into the rain-forest, all the way to the Arenal Observatory Lodge. This trail offers even more chances of spotting birds and other wildlife, especially if crowds (and noise) are minimal.
Swim Under The Overwhelming Spray of La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall is one of Arenal’s most celebrated sights and heading here with a picnic brunch and your swimmers is a great way to start your day. This has got to be the very best swim you can have in Costa Rica, especially on a blisteringly hot day. We offer a wonderful horseback ride to these waterfalls which adds a whole other element to the excursion – more on that at the end of the article.
Soar Like a Bird Above The Forest Canopy
Zip-lining and canopy walking over hanging bridges is the bees’ knees of Arenal and the one activity that’s offered in several places. Zipping at what feels like a million-miles-an-hour is the enticement for the fastest courses whilst slightly more demure options, that can be even more enjoyable, will also suit adventurous children. If it’s your first array into the adventure Costa Rica adventure vacation scene, do note that zip-lining, scary though it may seem, isn’t nearly as (arguably) daunting as rafting Class IV rapids and even canyoning, so it’s a great way to wet your adrenaline-feet in Costa Rica.
Visit a Turquoise River & Waterfall Right Nearby
The Rio Celeste Waterfall is the fervently protected jewel in the crown of the Tenorio Volcano National Park, right next door to Arenal. A 2/3-hr hike in the park dishes up superb nature-infused adventures and although you cannot swim here, like you can at La Fortuna, the visual spectacle alone is utterly worth your while. Do note that the ethereal colour of the Rio Celeste is due to a very unique mix of minerals which means if you visit during rainy season, it will not seem as bright, since the strong current and rainfall will disturb the sediment on the riverbed. The park is about an hour’s drive out of La Fortuna.
Take a Paddle to Lake Arenal and Enjoy Magnificent Volcano Views
On a crystal-clear day in Arenal, you simply can’t paddle past Lake Arenal, provider of startling volcano views. Take a kayak or a SUP board and spend as much time as you like frolicking about. The lake itself is expansive so you can be out here for hours on end yet given the sheer array of other phenomenal things to do, we usually find that a 2-hour outing is plenty for most people.
Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa
This place offers hands-down the best views of Arenal Volcano and boasts several hiking trails within its private reserve. The best part of the AOL is that although staying here is a bit of a dream, you don’t have to in order to hike here: just can pay the day-entry fee and off you go. The Observatory Lodge is revered for offering some of the best bird-watching trails in all of Arenal. This is also one of our favorite honeymoon sundowner spots in the country!
Soak In a Natural Thermal Pool
As you disembark your plane in Costa Rica and experience the at-times overwhelming heat and humidity, you’ll think everyone crazy for insisting you soak in a hot thermal pool in Arenal. But, trust everyone on this, it is one of the most exquisite experiences in the country. The volcanic region of Arenal boasts the best natural hot springs in Costa Rica in the country and, after a full-day out exploring, hiking, rafting and what-not, you will LOVE to soak your bones and muscles in the mineral-rich waters. This is seriously the best way to end each and every day in Arenal. To this end, consider staying in one of Arenal’s best hot-spring hotels: having private pools all to yourself is an unforgettable treat!
Catch Your Heart In Your Throat on a Raging River
White-water rafting in Arenal dishes up gorgeous Class II rapids (perfect for families) as well as Class IV drops, the kind that’ll have your heart firmly in your throat the entire ride. We’re particularly fond of the Balsa River because it offers the best family-friendly rafting experience with relaxing-enough rapids that allow you to take it easy and really soak up the surrounding wilderness. Riverside wildlife spotting in remote areas is ideal because animals are a lot more prone to come out of the thick foliage when they’re away from roads and inhabited areas and that’s what makes a ‘slower and tamer’ rafting excursion all the more rewarding. Arenal and La Fortuna is only one of several world-class whitewater rafting destinations in Costa Rica.
Boop Noses with Monkeys & Aid in Their Recovery
Very little compares to seeing monkeys, sloths, toucans and all other Costa Rican creatures in the wild (where they belong) yet the undeniable truth is that visiting one of Arenal’s wildlife refuges is a wonderful way to help local projects rescue and rehabilitate injured wildlife. Proyecto Asis is one such oasis and a place where you can volunteer a few hours of your day to help prep and feed for the menageries of animals that are living their best convalescence. Not only will you get to feed and boop noses with at-risk monkeys (the kids go bananas over this) but you’ll also fill your heart, knowing your entry fee contribution has gone to helping this amazing place. Read about 3 Brilliant Wildlife Refuges in Costa Rica.
Get Your Chocolate Fix
Just between us, the chocolate feasting to be had in Arenal is probably reason enough to book a Costa Rica adventure vacation. After all, every endurance athlete knows that chocolate is the best refueling snack of them all! Given the wonderful organic chocolate produced in the region, you should probably go a little beyond a simple feast here: take an interactive chocolate workshop and you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how chocolate is processed AND get to feast at the end. A win-win! Farm experiences are among the most eco-conscious activities you can partake in when visiting Costa Rica.
There are plenty of tours to choose from but we are kinda addicted to the Rainforest Chocolate Tour. Something about ‘eat all the chocolate you want’ suggestion at the end…
Saddle Up, Cowboys and Girls!
Horseback riding is very much part of Tico culture so, rather than being a ‘tourist gimmick’ created specifically for foreigners, it can be considered an authentic cultural experience. Aside from simply swapping your motorized (or foot-drawn) transport for a 4-hoofed beast (like at La Fortuna Waterfall) you can also take sensational tours through remote trails. You can ride your steed to the Rio Celeste, you can combine a half-ride, half-whatever else you fancy (like zip-lining, whitewater rafting and hot-springs) or take a whole day out on a customized itinerary that is perfect for experienced riders. If you’re a particularly avid and experienced rider, you can also ask us about multi-day horse treks, among the most unique and exceptional activities to do in all of Costa Rica, not only Arenal.
Take a Cooking Class
There’s no better way to eat like a local in Arenal than by learning to cook like one. Authentic cooking classes are very popular here and we’re finding more and more guests want to include a half-day immersive class to really get the comprehensive Tico experience here. There are a ton of hands-on culinary options here, including tortilla-making, chocolate workshops and everything from traditional appetizer to 3-course-meal creations. The great thing about Costa Rica cooking classes and that they showcase the most organic produce grown locally so you get an insight into the health-giving properties of the food, the culinary culture of the county and end up feasting your tastebuds like nothing else!
Check out these four totally unique cooking classes in Costa Rica.
Go Canyoneering For a Day…and DO.IT.ALL.
Can’t decide which of the amazing Arenal adventure activities you want to do? How about doing them ALL?! A full-day canyoneering excursion in Arenal will get your heart pumping like nothing else and, as long as you can manage to take your eyes off the stunning canyon, you’ll also soak up outstanding landscape views. The ultimate adrenaline-junkie fix, canyoning combines hiking, rappelling, cliff jumping and even some rock scrambling to create a 4-in-1 adventure sport that is out of this world. Much like the rafting choices, canyoning options are also numerous so you can all Rambo on extreme tours, or opt for a beginner’s course, depending on your skill levels and thrill-addiction.
Enjoy a Relaxing Swim and Rope-Jump, FREE OF CHARGE!
Sometimes, even an adventure-filled vacation needs to include a little down-time but rest assured that in a place like Costa Rica, that ALWAYS comes with some kind of action. Just a 15-min walk out of La Fortuna Town is where you’ll find Salto, a glorious section of river you can access free of charge. Locals head here to freshen up and rope-swing on a hot day and it makes for a beautiful way to pass a few relaxing hours. It Isn’t quite as magical an experience as swimming under the La Fortuna waterfall but hey, it’s convenient and free of charge so what’s not to love about that? Plus, you can go totally lazy-bum for the afternoon and take a taxi out here (all the drivers know it). Simply nominate a pick-up time (1.5hrs should be enough) and you don’t even have to walk. A great ‘last day in Arenal’ activity! Just a word of caution, though, as this stretch of river is set in a canyon: do not head here if it is or has been raining and, if it starts to rain, leave immediately, as the river level can rise incredibly fast. Just use common sense and enjoy.
Take a 4X4 Tour to El Castillo (and stay the night)
El Castillo is one of the quaintest villages in the Arenal region but often gets overlooked because you need a 4WD to reach it. For those willing to go that extra mile, though, the experience is very rewarding and is a stunning way to get well off the tourist trail (and away from the crowds). A handful of beautiful eco-lodges means you can head up here (only 11 miles away from La Fortuna) for a couple of days if you wish, and explore this lesser-known area. A butterfly conservatory and ‘eco-zoo’, where you’ll find a great collection of amphibians and reptiles, provide plenty of distraction if you don’t want to tackle any of the (many) hikes on offer. The best reason to come to El Castillo, however, is that the charming town offers arguably the most jaw-dropping and unobstructed views of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal.
Here at Costa Rica Rios, we offer an amazing array of adventure sin Arenal, all of which can be customized and tailor-made to suit your wishes. Check out the best Arenal Activities we have on offer and the wonderful Arenal Hotels we recommend staying in – various options means budget travelers, families and honeymooners will also find something to suit them.
Contact us to know more.