11 Awesome Things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica
Arenal, Costa Rica is a popular vacation destination, and for good reason. It has stunning lush landscapes, lots of exotic wildlife, and is home to the renowned Volcano, there are plenty of things to do in Arenal.
Located in the district of La Fortuna, Costa Rica. It is just a 3-hour drive from the San Jose International Airport making it easily accessible by car. If you don’t plan on renting a car, you can still access it by bus or shuttle, it just may take a bit longer.
While Arenal may not have any beaches, its various inland activities and other forms of water fun make up for it. It is also the perfect destination for anyone who isn’t looking for a hot vacation.
It is also the ideal region to visit during the rainy season, which occurs between May and mid-November, as this is when the area really comes to life with colorful foliage and the temperatures aren’t sweltering.
Arenal is perfect if you are looking to sit back and enjoy the natural beauty of the rain forest. It is also an epic location for anyone wanting to explore outdoors with adrenaline-filled adventures.
Arenal has it all.
- Here is a list of the best things to do in Arenal
- 1. Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge & Wildlife Refuge
- 2. Hot Springs
- 3. White Water Rafting
- 4. Mistico Arenal Park
- 5. Sky Adventures Arenal Park
- 6. Butterfly Conservatory
- 7. Arenal Volcano National Park
- 8. La Fortuna Waterfall
- 9. Spelunking at the Venado Caves
- 10. Windsurfing on Lake Arenal
- 11. Waterfall Repelling or Canyoning
Here is a list of the best things to do in Arenal
1. Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge & Wildlife Refuge
If you are a nature lover like myself, you won’t want to miss this one. The Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge Wildlife Refugee is one of the things to do in Arenal, that you can’t miss.
Have you ever wanted to sleep in an eco-friendly resort in the middle of the rain forest? Listening to all the sounds of the jungle at night is an experience everyone must try. It is crazy what the jungle sounds like if you just sit back and listen to it.
I love this Eco-Lodge because it places importance on environmental sustainability. I truly love Costa Rica for this, as the whole country takes pride in it. It was one of the reasons that made me live there for 6 years.
This eco-lodge has recycling programs, wildlife protection, and energy-saving practices. They also have a restaurant on-site that serves local cuisine made with organic ingredients.
You won’t want to miss out on the chance to try Costa Rican delicacies like gallo pinto (rice and beans) and sopa mariscos (tomato-based soup with seafood).
Gallo pinto is the local breakfast dish. Costa Ricans eat it every morning. It is the staple dish of Costa Rica. Sopa Mariscos is another classic that is enjoyed by all Ticos.
It is important to note that you don’t have to stay at the Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge & Wildlife Refuge overnight in order to access the restaurant or tours offered. Although, I highly recommend it to get the full experience.
If you don’t want to sleep in the jungle, they still offer some pretty unique tours, including one that takes guests to Arenal’s only frog sanctuary during the nighttime.
At the frog sanctuary, you will see several vibrant species of frogs and will also experience the distinct noises of the rainforest at night.
Your guide may even point out additional animals hiding in the darkness!
Flashlights are provided, and the sanctuary trails are flat to ensure safety.
2. Hot Springs
You can not come to Arenal, without doing the hot springs. It is a must!
A fun, rejuvenating and relaxing activity. The perfect place to spend a day, lounging around and enjoying cocktails.
There are several hot springs to chose from in the Arenal area, depending on your preferences.
The Tabacon Grand Spa houses one of the few completely natural hot springs in Arenal. It does not use any pumps or reheating systems and there are multiple pools to choose from, including one that is for adults only.
However, I have always used and gone to Baldi Hot Springs Hotel Resort & Spa. If you don’t want to sleep in the eco-lodge this is another option, slightly more upscale, but worth it.
This swanky resort has the most expansive hot springs facility in the area that includes pools of various sizes and temperatures.
The resort boasts amazing views of the Arenal Volcano, and at night, the springs are lit up with beautiful colors that give off a majestic and romantic feel.
If you do decide to stay here all meals are included.
You don’t need to be an overnight guest of the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel Resort in order to access the pools, day passes are available and can be purchased online.
Make sure you plan at least half a day to spend here. Jumping from pool to pool, you won’t be disappointed.
Also, did I mention Baldi has some great waterslides and a small water park? So when you get bored of relaxing in the hot springs you can get your blood flowing goes down the water slides.
3. White Water Rafting
There is no better adrenaline rush than white water rafting. This is a must for things to do in Arenal.
If you are seeking an adventure-packed activity, that is equal parts fun and daring, you have to try white water rafting. Costa Rica is the ultimate country to try out this thrilling water excursion.
The abundance of rain during the wet season allows the rivers to swell. This creates great rapids, not only in the rainy season but throughout the entire year.
The Arenal is the perfect spot in Costa Rica, to give this sport a try.
Arenal has three main rivers that each cater to a different style of rafting- therefore this is an activity that can be enjoyed by all levels of rafters.
The Penas Blancas River is slow-moving and makes for excellent for leisurely floating to enjoy the sights of the rain forest, while enjoying a drink, but not really a white water rafting river.
For true adventure seekers, you will want to head to the Balsa and Toro Rivers.
They have fast-paced rapids that will excite all levels of white water rafters.
Several tour companies offer white water rafting excursions in Arenal, some of which combine multiple adventure activities for a full day of outdoor entertainment.
Many of these tours also include a lunch and cold drinks so you won’t have to worry about bringing anything but sunscreen and appropriate attire.
Be aware that you will get wet and might even fall out of the raft. So it is wise to bring along a dry bag to protect your belongings and phone.
4. Mistico Arenal Park
Another must-do activity, while you are in Arenal, is Mistico Arenal Park. Experience the rainforest from a unique perspective by walking across hanging bridges. Mistico Park features around 3.1 kilometers of trails to explore that include 15 bridges, 6 of which are hanging. It is perfect for nature lovers.
You never know what you may see when wandering the trails and the bridges. They provide a birds-eye view of the beautiful forest, making it easier to spot exotic animals like monkeys, coatis, and birds.
Guided tours of the trails are available throughout the day and provide guests with in-depth information about the high density of biodiversity in the rainforest.
Mistico Park also offers bird watching tours, in which trained guides will lead you through the forest to watch bird species such as Guans, the Rainbow Beak Toucan, and the Northern Emerald-Toucanet.
The guides even bring along specialized equipment for bird watching so you can rest assured that you will be able to see some feathery friends up close.
There are two versions of the tour available, one that is 1.9 miles and a shorter version that is 1 mile, making it accommodating according to your schedule.
It is the perfect tour to get a little exercise and enjoy nature.
5. Sky Adventures Arenal Park
It’s not a trip to Costa Rica without taking a ride down a zip-line. The Sky Adventures Arenal Park is packed with thrilling experiences that include rope swings, treetop walks, and of course, zip lines!
To reach the ziplines, you will take an open-air gondola to the top of a mountain, then you’ll be safely strapped into a harness and ready to take part in the high-speed zipline course.
The zipline cables reach amazing lengths and stretch across canyons, treetops, and depending on the weather, sometimes even clouds!
Sky Adventures Arenal provides pick up and drop off from nearby hotels. There is also a restaurant on the property for hungry visitors.
They also have GoPros available to rent, so you can document your escapades as you soar through the rainforest.
6. Butterfly Conservatory
Butterflies are magical creatures. There is something about them, that just makes you happy. So why not come face to face with hundreds of beautiful butterflies at the Butterfly Conservatory.
This conservatory is dedicated to the preservation, growth, and study of the rainforest with a special focus on butterflies and other tropical species that live in the Arenal region.
Here you’ll find the largest exhibition of butterflies in Costa Rica and will be provided with an abundance of interesting information on this delicate species.
It’s a great place for people of all ages. Besides butterflies, some of its features include six domed habitats, an insect museum, and many trails. You could easily spend a couple of hours viewing everything.
The Butterfly Conservatory is a nonprofit organization and is maintained solely by its entrance fee.
7. Arenal Volcano National Park
Without a doubt, Arenal is best known for its famous andesitic stratovolcano. The Arenal Volcano has a height of approximately 5,437 feet, is conically shaped, and sits on fertile lowlands making for a beautiful scenic landscape.
Up until 2010, it had been Costa Rica’s most active volcano for 43 years but has since entered a resting phase. This means you are now less likely to see lava, but it is still a spectacular sight.
Prepare to have your breath taken away upon first sight of the spectacular Arenal Volcano, as it truly resembles a scene out of Jurassic Park.
While you can’t climb to the top of the volcano, there are many trails to explore, along with other activities to take part in at the Arenal Volcano National Park like horseback riding.
Keep an eye out while visiting as you may come across howler monkeys, parrots, and snakes- just to name a few of the animals found in the park.
Due to the large size of the park, it is recommended to set aside a full day to explore it, that way you won’t feel rushed and can really immerse yourself in the natural beauty.
8. La Fortuna Waterfall
The La Fortuna Waterfall is an iconic attraction in Costa Rica and is a part of the Arenal Volcano National Park. So it is a good idea to plan both the Arenal National Park and this activity on the same day.
This majestic waterfall is often found on ads promoting travel to Costa Rica and is very recognizable.
It sits at the base of the dormant Chato volcano and has around a 70-meter drop.
To access the La Fortuna Waterfall, you must hike down a stair set of 500 steps that takes around 15 minutes, a great extra workout for the day.
Unfortunately, due to the strong current and jagged rocks, the waterfall’s pool is not safe for swimming. However, there are safer pools downstream that are excellent for swimming, and they have sandy bottoms and crystal-clear waters that allow you to see little fish!
Also, don’t forget to bring your camera with you to the La Fortuna Waterfall, as it makes for a perfect photo op!
9. Spelunking at the Venado Caves
It is one of the most unique things to do in Arenal would be spelunking around the Venado caves.
The Venado Caves are over 6 million years old. They are home to majestic waterfalls and lots of fauna like spiders, insects, fish, and even four species of bats.
There are ten caverns within the Venado Caves that total over 2,700 meters in length, and each one has a significant amount of headroom, so visitors won’t feel cramped.
Tours are available seven days a week and include everything you need for a safe and fun expedition.
However, it is advised to bring comfortable sneakers, insect repellants, and a change of clothes, as you may get dirty!
If you have ever had the desire to go cave exploring then spelunking is what you have been looking for.
10. Windsurfing on Lake Arenal
Escape the Costa Rican heat and take a dip in Lake Arenal. This lesser-known attraction is the largest lake in the country and sits at the base of the Arenal Volcano.
Why not take advantage of this beautiful spot and learn to windsurf? Lake Arenal is the perfect spot to learn because there are little waves to battle, so all you have to worry about is getting the hang of catching the wind.
Trust me though it is a lot harder than it looks.
Lake Arenal is beautiful, after your windsurfing lessons, you will want to camp out and spend the day here. You can explore the trails around the lake and enjoy a nice picnic with the Volcano in the background.
11. Waterfall Repelling or Canyoning
I’ve saved the best for last. Why not add waterfall repelling to your things to do in Arenal? It is a fun accelerating activity trekking through waterfalls and repelling down the base of them. Not only is it active and adrenaline-pumping, but it is also the perfect activity for those hot days.
When you are done sitting around the hot springs and exploring the beautiful nature that Arenal has to offer, why not do something a little more adrenaline pumping and jump down the face of waterfalls.
Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this article on awesome things to do in Arenal.
If you are planning to head to the beach while you are in this beautiful country be sure to visit the best beach towns in Costa Rica. Arenal is an amazing location, but you can’t come to Costa Rica without visiting the beaches
Also, be sure to check out these essential items not to forget when you are packing for Costa Rica