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Arenal Volcano National Park

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Arenal Volcano National Park is undoubtedly one of the most popular national parks to visit in Costa Rica. This park is centered around Arenal Volcano — the largest active volcano in Costa Rica — and is filled with tons of fun ways for visitors to get “up close and personal” with old lava flows and lava fields from previous eruptions, unique wildlife, and beautiful plants.
The major attractions in Arenal Volcano National Park — like Lake Arenal and La Fortuna Waterfall — as well as the thrilling activities to enjoy in the surrounding rainforest, like ziplining, hiking, and mountain biking, attract more than 1.5 million visitors every year!
Are you planning to visit Arenal National Park during your visit to Costa Rica? If so, you’re in good company! Discover everything you need to know about visiting this national park below — from the cost of admission to what to pack for a day of exploring the park — so you can be well prepared to enjoy all that Arenal Volcano National Park offers for tourists and locals alike.

Overview of Arenal Volcano National Park in Costa Rica

Before visiting Arenal Volcano National Park, here is some important information to keep in mind:


Arenal Volcano National Park is centrally located in the Alajuela Province of Costa Rica, making it easy to visit this national park, regardless of where you are staying. Arenal Volcano National Park is about a 2.5-hour drive from the airports in San Jose and Liberia and a 3.5-hour drive from Playa Flamingo, Playas del Coco, Tamarindo, and other Northern Pacific Coast beaches. Most locations in Costa Rica offer guided tours to Arenal Volcano National Park, so you don’t have to worry about transportation.
Arenal Volcano National Park has two sectors — the Volcano Sector (also known as the “Main Sector”) and the La Peninsula Sector. Though most visitors prefer to visit the Volcano Sector for up-close views of Arenal Volcano, the La Peninsula Sector offers beautiful vantage points of Arenal Lake. It provides some handicap-accessible trails — a rarity at Costa Rica’s national parks.
Downtown Fortuna (La Fortuna) is the nearest town to Arenal Volcano National Park and is about a 20-minute drive from the park’s main entrance.


The Volcano Sector of Arenal Volcano National Park is open daily from 8 AM to 4 PM, and the final admission to this sector is at 2:30 PM. The La Peninsula Sector is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM, but the final entrance into this portion of the park is at 4 PM.


The park entrance fee for Arenal Volcano National Park is $15 per adult and $5 per child. The day pass fee covers a one-time entrance, so if you want to visit both the Volcano and La Peninsula sectors, you’ll need to see both on the same day or purchase tickets for two separate days.

You can purchase tickets to Arenal Volcano National Park at the ranger station. You do not need to buy a tour to enter the park’s boundaries — although plenty of tours are available if you’d prefer a guided tour over self-guided exploration. Tours are also a great option if you visit Costa Rica without a rental car and still want to explore Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna, even if you aren’t staying in the area.

Popular Attractions in Arenal Volcano National Park

Just about anything you could dream of doing while in Costa Rica — you can do in Arenal Volcano National Park! These are just a few of the most notable attractions and activities you can enjoy within the park boundaries:


Hiking Trails

Hiking trails
There are several hiking trails in Arenal Volcano National Park that offer gorgeous views of Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal, and the Tilarán Mountain Range. Here are a few of the most popular trails:

La Fortuna Waterfall Hike

You have to visit La Fortuna Waterfall while in the Arenal area — it’s one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Costa Rica! While you can enjoy the cascading 200-foot waterfall from the observation point near the entrance, the best way to see La Fortuna Waterfall is by hiking to the base of the falls.
The La Fortuna Waterfall Hike is a short hike, but it’s not for the faint of heart — you must climb down (and back up!) a pathway of more than 500 stairs to reach the base of the falls. However, when you arrive at the waterfall, you’ll be able to snap a jaw-dropping photo before jumping into the adjacent natural pools for a refreshing swim. Admission to La Fortuna Waterfall costs an additional $18 per person on top of the entrance fee into the park.

El Ceibo Trail

El Ceibo Trail is under 1.5 miles long and is relatively flat and shaded, so it’s generally considered one of the easier trails in Arenal Volcano National Park. You won’t find any views of the volcano on this short trail, but you will see a giant Ceibo tree over 400 years old. You will also be able to spot wildlife on this trail, including monkeys, birds, frogs, and snakes.
Las Coladas Trail
Las Coladas Trail (Lava Flow Trail) connects to El Ceibo Trail and is about 1.2 miles long. During this hike, you’ll pass through the leftover lava rocks and existing lava flows from a volcanic eruption in Pueblo Nuevo and Tabacón in 1968. Since then, the secondary forest has been removed, so you’ll be able to see unobstructed views of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal at the end of the trail.
Arenal Hanging Bridges Hike
The Arenal Hanging Bridges Hike is a well-maintained 1.7-mile loop considered a moderately challenging trail. During this hike, you can see birds, monkeys, sloths, frogs, and lizards, and you’ll also be able to enjoy beautiful views of Arenal Volcano from the suspension bridges on a clear day.
Arenal Hanging Bridges Hike does cost an additional $28 per person, but it usually takes a few hours to complete if you stop to take photos of the wildlife, plants, rainforest, and spectacular views of the volcano. Though this is one of the most expensive trails near La Fortuna — it is worth the cost.


Hot Springs

Because of the volcanic activity in the region, Arenal Volcano National Park is filled with natural hot springs. Visitors love soaking in the mineral waters and therapeutic baths after a long day of hiking, white-water rafting, or adventuring in Arenal Volcano National Park.

Some of the hot springs in Arenal Volcano National Park, like Nayara Springs, are only accessible when staying at Arenal hotels — but most of the best hot springs in Costa Rica, like the ones listed below, are open to all visitors who purchase a day pass.

Tabacon Hot Springs

Tabacon Hot Springs is one of the only hot springs locations in Costa Rica that offers warm waters completely heated by hot lava — you will not find any pumps or re-heated water here. Though there are several pools tucked away in the rainforest at Tabacon Hot Springs, adults particularly love Shangri-La Gardens — a private, adults-only section designed to create an intimate, romantic experience.
The Springs Resort & Spa
The hot springs at The Springs Resort & Spa are divided into two sections — Los Lagunas and Perdido Springs. At Los Lagunas, you can soak in twelve pools of varying temperatures, shapes, and sizes — in fact, some pools even have multi-level features and waterfalls. At Perdido Springs, you can enjoy gorgeous views of Volcan Arenal, a swim-up bar, and a waterslide (perfect for visiting with kids!).
EcoTermales Hot Springs
EcoTermales Hot Springs is one of Costa Rica’s only hot springs not attached to a resort. EcoTermales offers four hot springs — one which includes a waterfall — and enforces a limited daily entry, so you will truly be able to relax without feeling swarmed with tourists.


Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal is the largest man-made lake in Costa Rica and has a stunning backdrop — Arenal Volcano! Spending time on Arenal Lake is a great way to stay cool during a hot day in Arenal Volcano National Park. These are some of the most popular activities to enjoy on the lake:
  • Kayaking — Rent a kayak (or SUP) and go kayaking on the lake to enjoy stunning views of Arenal Volcano. If you’d like a break from paddling, you can also take a refreshing swim in the lake.
  • Fishing — Though deep-sea fishing is popular on the coast in Costa Rica, you can also catch freshwater species, like rainbow bass, machaca, and blue tilapia, in Lake Arenal.
  • Boat Ride — Let someone else do the driving and enjoy a boat ride on Lake Arenal so you can soak up the stunning scenery in the surrounding rainforest.
If you’re looking for more fun ways to get out on the water near Arenal Volcano National Park, you can also embark on a safari float experience down the nearby Penas Blancas River or an adventurous white-water rafting trip down the Balsa River.


Canopy Tours & Ziplining

Canopy tours and ziplining in Arenal National Park are a fabulous way to soar through the trees and see the rainforest, waterfalls, and national park from a unique perspective. There are dozens of tour providers that offer canopy tours in and near Arenal Volcano National Park.

Best Time to Visit Arenal Volcano National Park in Costa Rica

The best time to visit Arenal Volcano National Park is during the dry season, from December to April. During these months, you’ll have the best chance of clear skies, which means the hiking trails will be dry, and your views of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal from the trails will be unobstructed.
However, it is worth noting that if you’d like to see the waterfalls running — like La Fortuna Waterfall — you will have the best chance of seeing them running during the rainy season, from May to November. Just try to avoid the rainiest months (September and October).
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What to Bring to Arenal Volcano National Park

If you’re planning on a full day of adventure in Arenal Volcano National Park, we recommend bringing the following items with you:
  • Hiking Shoes — Bring your hiking boots, as well as any other necessary hiking gear, like trekking poles, on the trails with you. We also recommend bringing plenty of drinking water to stay hydrated and snacks to keep you fueled throughout the day.
  • Swimsuit — Whether you’ll be kayaking on Lake Arenal, swimming at the base of La Fortuna Waterfall, or soaking in the natural hot springs, there are plenty of reasons to bring a swimsuit to Arenal Volcano National Park. We also recommend bringing water shoes, a towel, and a comfortable change of clothes.
  • Sunscreen — Though much of this national park is shaded, it’s worth wearing sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. We also recommend bringing bug spray to avoid pesky bites from mosquitos and other insects inside the park.

Stay with Special Places of Costa Rica While Visiting Arenal Volcano National Park

Want to stay with us on the Northern Pacific Coast but still want to experience one of Costa Rica’s best national parks with a day trip to Arenal Volcano National Park? No problem! Special Places of Costa Rica offers the following tours to Arenal Volcano National Park that provide round-trip transportation from your vacation rental in Playa Flamingo, Playas del Coco, or other nearby beach towns:
  • Arenal Volcano Waterfall Rappel Tour — Embark on the adventure of a lifetime during this tour in Arenal Volcano National Park. You’ll be able to rappel down a 260-foot waterfall, zipline on seven cables through the rainforest, and take a horseback ride to a nearby village.
  • Arenal Volcano Nature Walk, Waterfall & Hot Springs Tour— On this tour, you’ll be able to spot wildlife, like sloths, lizards, and tree frogs, on a walk through a private rainforest reserve before visiting La Fortuna Waterfall and ending the day at EcoTermales Hot Springs.
  • Arenal Volcano Deluxe Combo Tour — This tour is the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation. You’ll start the day with a ziplining and canopy tour through Arenal Volcano National Park and end the day soaking in the gorgeous natural hot springs at Tabacon Resort.

If you need help booking one of these tours or a vacation rental for your upcoming trip to Costa Rica, please reach out to our team at Special Places of Costa Rica — we would be happy to help you!

Other Attractions

After you have visited volcanoes and national parks you may want to observe (or cool off in) some of the many beautiful waterfalls while in Costa Rica. Be sure to view our full list of things to do in Costa Rica to ensure you’re experiencing all of the main attractions while on your vacation.

The Alajuela province of Costa Rica is home to the Arenal Volcano National Park, a haven for nature lovers and avid hikers. With its breathtaking landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, and the majestic Arenal Volcano as its centerpiece, the park offers a plethora of hiking trails catering to all levels of experience. Seasoned trekkers or casual adventurers will both be wowed and entertained as there’s a trail waiting for everyone here. In this article, we’ll explore the best hiking trails in Arenal Volcano National Park, detailing their lengths, difficulty levels, and essential information to ensure you make the most of your hiking experience in this outstanding paradise.

Best Arenal Volcano National Park Hikes

Arenal Volcano National Park is renowned for its distinctive conical peak, providing a majestic backdrop to diverse hiking trails. These paths meander through thick rainforests brimming with colorful vegetation and animals, across clear streams, and exposing ruins from the volcano’s previous eruptions. Each step offers panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano and the surrounding landscapes, creating an immersive and unforgettable adventure for those seeking the wonders of Costa Rica’s natural treasures.


Arenal Volcano Trail

A woman standing in front of a beautiful volcano in Costa Rica.
The Arenal Volcano Trail has a moderate difficulty level and will take you through lush rainforests.

A well-liked option for those looking for a moderate climb with a spectacular sight of the famous Arenal Volcano is precisely the Arenal Volcano Trail. This well-maintained path winds through lush rainforests and offers glimpses of wildlife along the way. While the trail is relatively short, its moderate difficulty level makes it suitable for hikers of various fitness levels.

Trail distance: 3.4 miles (5.5 km) round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Important Tips: Start early to avoid the midday heat and increase your chances of spotting wildlife, pack sufficient water, sunscreen, and insect repellent, and check with park rangers for any trail updates or closures. Remember to bring sturdy hiking shoes, as some sections can be uneven.


La Fortuna Waterfall Trail

A serene waterfall nestled amidst vibrant green trees in Costa Rica.
There is a beautiful 230-foot waterfall at the end of La Fortuna Waterfall Trail.

For a refreshing hike leading to a stunning reward, La Fortuna Waterfall Trail is a must. This moderately challenging trail takes you through dense rainforest, unveiling the captivating 230-foot La Fortuna Waterfall at the end. The trail involves some steep sections, so wear appropriate footwear and be prepared for a bit of a workout.

 Trail distance: 1.5 miles (2.5 km) round trip

 Difficulty: Moderate

Important Tips: Swimming is allowed at the base of the waterfall, so bring a swimsuit if you want to take a dip. Be cautious on the descent, as the path can be slippery, and consider carrying a packed lunch to enjoy by the waterfall.


Cerro Chato Trail

The Cerro Chato Trail is the perfect choice if you’re up for a more strenuous adventure. This challenging hike takes you to the dormant Cerro Chato volcano, rewarding you with breathtaking views and the opportunity to swim in the volcanic lagoon at the summit.

 Trail distance: 5 miles (8 km) round trip

 Difficulty: Challenging

Important Tips: Start early in the morning to allow enough time for the ascent and descent. Bring a waterproof bag to protect your belongings during the swim. Due to the trail’s difficulty, it’s advisable for experienced hikers. The trail is steep and muddy, so proper hiking gear, including trekking poles, is recommended.


Las Heliconias Trail

A man crossing a suspension bridge amidst lush jungle foliage.
Make sure to bring a pair of binoculars on the Las Heliconias Trail because the park is home to various bird species.

For a family-friendly hike with a blend of nature and cultural exploration, Las Heliconias Trail is an excellent choice. This trail takes you through a secondary forest, offering opportunities to observe wildlife and learn about the indigenous Maleku people. The relatively flat terrain makes it suitable for hikers of all ages.

 Trail distance: 2.5 miles (4 km) round trip

 Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Important Tips: Engage with the park’s knowledgeable guides to gain insights into the local flora and fauna. Bring binoculars for birdwatching, as the park is home to various bird species, and wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes suitable for easy walking.


Heliconias – El Silencio Trail

A woman in a pink shirt stands on a path, gazing at a mountain in the distance.
Heliconias is named after the beautiful heliconia flower, which you may see on this trail.

The Heliconias – El Silencio Trail is a hidden gem that offers a peaceful and educational hike suitable for all ages. This easy trail provides an opportunity to explore the park’s biodiversity with well-marked paths and informative signage. As you meander through the lush vegetation, keep an eye out for the vibrant heliconia flowers, after which the trail is named.

Trail distance: 2.2 miles (3.5 km) round trip

Difficulty: Easy 

Important Tips: Head to the park’s visitor center to gather information about the flora and fauna you might encounter, and bring a camera to capture the colorful heliconias and other plant life.


El Ceibo Trail

A large tree, Ceiba, among other trees.
Encounter the towering Ceiba tree on the El Ceiba trail.

This path is a captivating route where hikers can encounter the towering Ceiba tree, a symbol of the tropical forest’s vitality. As hikers traverse the trail, they are treated to panoramic views and the soothing sounds of the surrounding environment, showcasing a hint of what makes Costa Rica unique: its beautiful wildlife and natural diversity.

Trail distance: 15 miles (2.5 km) round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Important Tips: Wear sturdy hiking shoes, bring plenty of water, and embark on the journey with a camera to capture the breathtaking flora and fauna.


Las Coladas Trail

Las Coladas Trail offers a mix of geological wonders and scenic beauty. Named after the volcanic rock formations, or “coladas,” created by past lava flows, this moderately challenging trail unveils the intricate geological history of the region. The trail takes you through both primary and secondary rainforests, offering a diverse range of plants and wildlife.

Trail distance: 2.8 miles (4.5 km) round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Important Tips: Bring a hat and sunglasses for sun protection, as parts of the trail are exposed, and take your time to appreciate the unique geological features along the way.


Lookout Point Trail

A misty volcano surrounded by lush vegetation and trees, concealed by a blanket of clouds.
Lookout Point Trail offers an easy hike that takes you to a panoramic viewpoint of Lake Arenal.

If you’re short on time but still crave a rewarding experience, the Lookout Point Trail is the perfect choice. This easy trail takes you to a panoramic viewpoint that offers breathtaking vistas of Lake Arenal, the volcano, and the surrounding landscape. Ideal for a quick morning or afternoon hike, this trail is accessible to all skill levels.

Trail distance: 1.5 miles (2.4 km) round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Important Tips: Carry a pair of binoculars to observe the diverse bird species that inhabit the area. This trail is particularly suitable for sunrise or sunset hikes for a magical experience. Check the weather forecast for clear views before embarking on this short yet scenic trek.


Lava Flow Trail

The Lava Flow Trail offers a captivating exploration of the geological wonders shaped by the volcano’s past eruptions. As hikers venture along the path, they are immersed in the hauntingly beautiful landscapes marked by solidified lava fields and remnants of Arenal’s volcanic activity. The journey unveils both the destructive and transformative forces of nature, making it a must-visit for those seeking an up-close encounter with the volcanic history of Costa Rica.

Trail distance: 11.8 miles (1.9 km) round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Important Tips: Proper hiking gear and adherence to park guidelines are advisable for a safe and enriching experience.

Operating hours and entrance fees

Adults must pay $15 plus tax, while minors must pay $5 plus tax. Every day from 8 am to 4 pm, the main tourist center is open. Daily hours for the Peninsula sector are 8 am to 5 pm; the final entrance is at 4 pm.

Bonus Tip

A volcano towering over the water with a forest of trees below it.
Take nothing but memories and leave nothing but footprints at Arenal Volcano National Park.

A wide variety of hiking paths appropriate for different tastes and levels of fitness may be found in Arenal Volcano National Park. From the awe-inspiring Arenal Volcano Trail to the challenging ascent of Cerro Chato, each trail offers a unique experience amidst Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity. Before embarking on your hiking adventure to climb Arenal Volcano, ensure you are well-prepared with the right gear, knowledge, and respect for the natural environment. Learn more about hiking in Costa Rica here! Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints, and let the trails of Arenal Volcano National Park leave an indelible mark on your heart. 

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If you are looking for a place to stay on your next visit to Costa Rica, let Special Places provide you with an amazing vacation rental. Click here to find a dreamy stay in our properties and even find fantastic tour options to enjoy.

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