Located in northern Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica. There are countless tours that take place in the area surrounding the volcano, and for good reason! With access to the rainforest, waterfalls, a volcano, the country’s largest lake, and a diverse selection of hotels, it’s no wonder Arenal has become the adventure capital of Costa Rica.
Explore Arenal Volcano National Park.
Without a doubt, the most popular and well-recognized of Costa Rica’s volcanoes is Arenal. The Arenal Volcano is a symmetrical cone-shaped volcano that dominates the fertile landscape of Arenal Volcano National Park. Until recently, it was the country’s most active volcano with an average of 41 eruptions per day. Although the Arenal Volcano is currently in a resting phase, the region offers an abundance of exciting adventures. While you cannot hike up the volcano itself, we recommend hiking through Arenal Volcano National Park with a bilingual naturalist guide in search of old lava flow and wildlife. Slight changes in altitude create unique micro-climates and ecosystems through this region, making it home to a variety of exotic species.
Related Article: 9 Best Costa Rica National Parks & Reserves
Soak in Arenal Volcano All-Natural Hot Springs.
Soak your adventurous muscles in thermal pools of water. Arenal is also home to several hot springs. Formed when water is heated underground and bubbles to the surface, Costa Rica’s mineral waters have been used as therapeutic baths for more than two hundred years to treat rheumatism and other ailments. These natural wonders tempt even the most experienced traveler – for a good reason! What could be better than a relaxing warm bath, surrounded by jungle and shadowed by the beauty of the volcano after a day of adventure?
Related Article: Best of Costa Rica Hot Springs & Thermal Resorts
Discover the Forest Canopy by Aerial Tram or Zipline.
With incredible views overlooking the forest canopy, Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal, and the Talamanca Mountain Range, it’s no surprise that Arenal is one of the most popular destinations for ziplining and aerial excursions in Costa Rica. Take an aerial tram to the top of an observation point overlooking the scenic landscape for panoramic views of the region. From the observation point, set off on a zipline adventure for an unparalleled bird’s eye view of Arenal.
Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall.
The little farming town of La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano is named for its beautiful neighbor, the La Fortuna Waterfall. As one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, it’s appropriate that La Fortuna has become so well known! Luckily enough, it can only be arrived at by foot (a 15-minute hike) or horseback. From the lush rainforest greenery, La Fortuna plummets 200 feet to fall into a pool of crystal clear water. Don’t forget a swimsuit – the pool is delightfully cool on hot summer days!
Related Article: 5 Costa Rica Waterfalls You Must Visit
Arenal Hanging Bridges Hike
Hike through a private nature preserve along well-maintained trails and across a series of fixed and hanging bridges with views of Arenal Volcano. A naturalist guide will point out the flora and fauna of the area like monkeys, sloths, tree frogs, and more. Don’t miss the waterfall extension trail at the end of the hike!
Discover Lake Arenal.
At the base of Arenal Volcano sits Costa Rica’s largest lake, Lake Arenal. With the mighty volcano as its backdrop and the surrounding rolling hills and forests, Lake Arenal is truly a vision. Fishing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding are some of the most popular activities enjoyed from the lake. For the romantics, book a sundown dinner cruise for views you won’t soon forget. Even if you can’t fit a lake day into your itinerary, you can most certainly enjoy its added beauty to the scenery. Views of Arenal Lake can be admired from ziplines, hiking trails, and even en route to your hotel.
Visit the town of La Fortuna.
Arenal Volcano serves as the backdrop to the charming little town of La Fortuna. The town is centered around a colorful park with a beautiful church at its center. The town itself is only a few streets wide with tourist shops and restaurants lining the streets surrounding the town square. The town serves is a jumping off point for travelers looking to experience the plethora of activities available in the Arenal region.
Go Spelunking at Venado Caves.
You thought the landscape was beautiful above ground? The Venado Caves are an underground wonder-world of limestone channels nearly 20 million years old. This unique adventure will bring you 8,850 feet into the earth, where fossils and subterranean animals reside. Wade through an underground river to see stalactites, stalagmites, and a waterfall with a professional guide who explain the history of this unique ecosystem.
Related Article: Venado Caves Spelunking Adventure
Visit Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge.
Explore the extensive network of rivers and marshes on a day tour to Cano Negro National Wildlife. The refuge is a thriving habitat for a variety of aquatic bird species such as Jaribu storks, roseate spoonbills, and egrets. To see more wildlife, visit in the green season when the rivers swell and the animals are plentiful.
White Water Raft Near Arenal.
The Balsa River is one of the most popular rafting rivers in the area. With Class II and III rapids, it’s great for people of all ages and skill levels. The rafting portion lasts about two hours and has a fantastic forested landscape. The Sarapiqui River is a bit more challenging with Class III-IV rapids. Be on the lookout for wildlife as you paddle along the forested waterways!
Arenal Volcano Travel FAQ:
Arenal VolcanoThe Arenal Volcano is the most obvious star of the area, as it serves as the stunning background for your stay in Arenal. On a clear day, you can enjoy great views of the volcano from just about anywhere in the area. This massive volcano is not currently active, but nature and science lovers enjoy hiking around its base to learn about local ecology. Hikers of Arenal volcano are often hiking across old lava flows from past eruptions. It’s not possible to hike to the top of the volcano but a half-day guided hike is a great way to get to know this beheamoth wonder of nature.
Hot SpringsThe allure of volcano-fed thermal hot springs also play a big part in the Arenal volcano experience. There are several hot springs experiences offered in the Arenal area, all varying in quality. The Experts recommend one of three experiences:
- Tabacon Thermal Resort: Stay as a guest and you’ll receive unlimited access to the Tabacon Hot Springs, allowing you to enjoy them before and after the day trippers arrive. Couples will enjoy the adults-only Shangri-La section, which features romantic palapas, individualized service, and the famous Tabacon spa.
- The Springs Resort & Spa: Families flock to The Springs for the one-stop-shop Arenal vacation experience. The network of hot springs and pools at The Springs is conveniently adorned with a swim-up bar at the main pool and other small bar carts throughout the cleanly manicured grounds. More hot springs can be found at Club Rio, the outdoor adventure activity center at The Springs.
- Nayara Springs: Enjoy your own private thermal plunge pool at Nayara Springs, the adults-only sister resort to Arenal Nayara Hotel & Gardens. Perfect for honeymoons, celebrations, or simply indulging in one of Costa Rica’s best hotel experiences.
AdventureArenal is the adventure capital of Costa Rica. If you want to get your adrenaline fix in a visually stunning locale, the Arenal Volcano area offers the best variety of tours. Arenal is home to one of the best Zip-lining experiences in the county. There are equally thrilling Waterfall Rappelling tours, and Whitewater Rafting tends to be popular with all types of travelers. Hiking in Arenal will seem fairly moderate for advanced hikers, but the 500 steps at the La Fortuna Waterfall are no joke for most people! Don’t worry – the waterfall can be enjoyed from above thanks to the observation point near the entrance. Travelers with mobility restrictions can observe the waterfall from there and enjoy a snack at the café. Hiking the base of the Arenal volcano is a great morning or afternoon tour, and the Arenal Hanging Bridges hike offers a nature-focused experience. The blood-pumping part is walking across the bridges, which hang among the canopy, high above the floor of the secondary rainforest. Get to know Lake Arenal via kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Explore the area by mountain bike, with a number of a half and full-day tour options for experienced mountain bikers and leisure riders alike.
The Costa Rica Cooking class is also a popular way to enjoy a meal in the Arenal area.
- Papagayo: 2.5 - 3 hours
- Bagaces/Upala: 2 hours
- Tamarindo/Guanacaste Beaches: 3.5 hours
- Nosara/Punta Islita: 4 – 4.5 hours
- Monteverde: 3 hours by ground OR 45 minute boat ride + 1.5 hour ground transfer
- Jaco/Playa Herradura: 3.5 hours
- Manuel Antonio: 4.5 - 5.5 hours
- Central Highlands (San Ramon, Bajos del Toro, La Paz): 2 hours
- Tortuguero boat dock (Guapiles): 2.5 - 3 hours
- Pacuare River put-out (Siquirres): 2.5 - 3 hours
Suggested Itineraries: Costa Rica Family Adventure, Hot Springs Hideaway, Costa Rica Adults Only Romance, Active Costa Rica Adventure, Sloths and Treehouses
Approximate driving times from Arenal to popular Costa Rica destinations:
- San Jose: 2.5 - 3 hours
- Liberia: 2.5 - 3 hours