3 Days in Arenal Volcano National Park

By Viator, June 2015

4.5 88 Reviews | Add your review

The majestic gray cone of Costa Rica’s most famous volcano, Arenal, has the frustrating habit of veiling itself in thick clouds about 80% of the time. That’s why clever travelers plan to spend a few days in the region, patiently waiting for the mountain to reveal itself. Happily, Arenal’s rainforested skirts are replete with wonderful attractions.

While these adventures are all in the immediate area, there are dozens of day trips—from horseback rides to boat tours of Caño Negro National Park—that can be booked through your hotel. If you stay a week—or a month—there will still be plenty to keep you busy.

Day 1: Have a Soak and a Smile
It’s not just lava that pours from this living mountain. Arenal is famous for its hot springs, rich with healing minerals and often developed into fantastic wonderlands, most with remarkable volcano views. The most famous, and beautiful, is Tabacón, a steaming river that pours through fantastically landscaped environs. Less flush travelers could try wet-and-wild Baldí, with waterslides and a more festive feel; The Springs, built around landscaped cascades; or secluded Eco Termales, a quiet spot with five family-friendly pools. Budget travelers can ask about the free springs, but please beware of thieves, who’ll make off with absolutely anything left unguarded!

No matter which termales you choose, cool off with a drink and some healthy Tico cuisine at one of the fine restaurants in the adorably touristy town of La Fortuna, at the base of the volcano.

Day 2: Explore the National Park
The lava-strewn lunar landscape of Arenal Volcano National Park is largely off limits, what with the enormous active volcano that is its centerpiece. But it’s still well worth visiting on any number of tours. Most people do the short trails that start at the official entrance, on the road to El Castillo, spending two or three hours exploring the old flows and wildlife gradually returning to the region. You could combine the trip with one of the region’s excellent canopy or canyoning (waterfall rappelling) tours. You could continue on to the tiny town of El Castillo for dinner at Arenal Observatory, your best bet for viewing lava flows (geology and weather permitting) after sunset.

Strong hikers could spend all day in the national park, making the hike from either Arenal Observatory or La Fortuna Waterfall up to Cerro Chato, Arenal’s dormant twin, topped with a clear crater lake. Or, traverse the park; we recommend starting at the observatory, so you can finish your trip with a refreshing swim at the base of the beautiful blue waterfall.

Day 3: Take to the Lake

At the base of the volcano is Lake Arenal, an artificially dammed expanse of silvery freshwater, stocked with tasty guapote, or rainbow bass. You could book a fishing trip to catch your own, or simply enjoy the fine fish prepared at any number of gorgeous little restaurants that line the lakeshore. More adventurous lakelovers could try kayaking or even windsurfing (November through April only) on the lago, enjoying awesome volcano views doubled in reflection.

If you’ve rented a car, consider taking all day to meander around the lake, stopping to visit Arenal Hanging Bridges and some of the several art galleries, coffee shops, and other eclectic attractions en route. Please, however, don’t pet the pizotes (also called coatis), the long-tailed raccoons that accost cars in the hopes of potato chips and other snacks; as cute and tame as they seem, they do bite. Protip: Finish your visit to Arenal with a final trip to one of the hot springs.

Tours & Tickets

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Peñas Blancas Safari Boat Tour in Arenal

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 6 Reviews

Experience the Costa Rican rainforest by boat! On this full-day tour in Arenal, observe Costa Rican wildlife in its natural habitat as you cruise down the ...  Read more

Location: Arenal, Costa Rica
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $59.99

Best Canyoning in the Lost Canyon

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 4 Reviews

See another side of Costa Rica by spending 4 hours experiencing the best of this Central American country’s wildest nature. Get ready for adventure and go ...  Read more

Location: La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $94.99

Rio Balsa Whitewater Rafting Tour from La Fortuna

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 3 Reviews

Paddle through Class II and III rapids on this white-water rafting tour down the Rio Balsa in Costa Rica. On this 4-hour trip, your guide will lead you down ...  Read more

Location: La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Duration: 6 hours (approx.)

From USD $68.99

Río Celeste Waterfall Hike from Arenal

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 2 Reviews

Discover the celestial blue waters of Tenorio Volcano National Park on this day trip from La Fortuna. Trek through a jungle, learn from an expert guide about ...  Read more

Location: Arenal, Costa Rica
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $104.99

Costa Rica Gravity Falls Canyoning Adventure from La Fortuna

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 2 Reviews

Looking for an exciting twist on rappelling? Then sign up for this waterfall-jumping and canyoning adventure from La Fortuna, one of Costa Rica’s most extreme ...  Read more

Location: La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Duration: 6 hours (approx.)

From USD $124.99

Arenal Volcano and Tabacón Hot Springs Day Trip from San Jose

4.5 star rating: Recommended 28 Reviews

Don’t miss out on one of Costa Rica’s most popular activities — an Arenal Volcano and Tabacón hot springs tour! The day trip from San Jose includes a ...  Read more

Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
Duration: 13 hours (approx.)

From USD $139.99

Hanging Bridges Walking Tour in Arenal

4.5 star rating: Recommended 18 Reviews

See the rainforest from up above on this Arenal Hanging Bridges tour! Explore the famous Costa Rican rainforest in Arenal and walk along 15 different bridges ...  Read more

Location: Arenal, Costa Rica
Duration: 4 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $69.99

Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs Day Trip from Guanacaste

4 star rating: Recommended 16 Reviews

Start the day with an energizing breakfast. Catch impressive views of Arenal Volcano while surrounded by Costa Rica’s scenic landscape on this full-day trip ...  Read more

Location: Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $135.99

Horseback Riding to La Fortuna Waterfall

2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better 2 Reviews

See the lush landscapes of Costa Rica on horseback! On this 4.5-hour tour from Arenal, ride to La Fortuna Waterfall and take a swim in the natural pool while ...  Read more

Location: Arenal, Costa Rica
Duration: 4 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $75.99

Single-Track Mountain Bike Tour in Arenal Volcano

Challenge yourself on this half-day mountain-bike tour near the base of Arenal Volcano. On an intense 12-mile (19-km) single-track trail, follow an expert ...  Read more

Location: La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $74.99

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