Hiking Arenal Volcano was something I was really drawn to when researching Costa Rica. I was oblivious to the fact that you cannot actually hike to the summit of the volcano, as it is incredibly dangerous and sandy, giving no grip or traction. But don’t fret, the area still has some amazing short hikes in Arenal that you can partake and the views of the enormous, active Arenal Volcano will surely stick with you for a lifetime.
The Best Hikes in Arenal, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
The 2 Volcano Hike Tour
$50 usd per person – 8.30am to 7pm
This is my favorite day trip to Arenal available for tourists, as it was great value for money and you got to do so much in one full day. Also, if you’re looking for one of the most scenic and diverse hikes in Arenal – this is it.
Starting at 8.30am, your guide picks you up at your hostel/hotel and take you to the first jungle hiking trail. Here you go into their national park private trail and climb what’s called the ‘Jaguar Trail’.
This is an intensive, humid and uphill hike through the forest to the base of the old lava flows of Arenal Volcano. On a beautiful clear day you’ll be able to see the whole volcano looming over you, however, be aware that most days there is a lot of cloud cover in the area especially in the rainy season. Few people will see the top of the volcano at all. This doesn’t mean the view isn’t spectacular though!
After clambering back down, you can go swimming in a little lake underneath that has a tarzan swing and tree to jump off (so you really do feel like you’re in the Jungle Book!) and lies directly below the volcano. Lunch is served up in the hut next to the lake where you can chill out for about 45 minutes and rest your legs.
The tours next stop is the Arenal Observatory Lodge, which is usually $15 entry (but is included), and a great place to take beginner level trails if you wanted to come back on your own. I would suggest going here even if you don’t take this tour, as they have epic views and an awesome waterfall you can swim in.
Last but not least you are taken to the thermal springs (free ones I discuss in my other La Fortuna blogs) for a drink at dusk. This is a huge, fulfilling day and a must do!
You can book through Arenal Jungle Tours on +506 2479 0012 or find them on the main strip. Almost every hostel or hotel can book it for you as well.
Although not in the actual area itself, this is one of the most popular day tour in Arenal. The misty blue river weaves through the jungle and the intermediate, muddy hike to the Rio Celeste waterfall is insanely beautiful. There are heaps of tours that go here and you can do it self-guided (pick up/drop-off) or guided. Guided tours are about $70.
Again, you can book through Arenal Jungle Tours on +506 2479 0012. I met the owner of this company and they are all locals who have a true passion for the area.
Self Guided Hikes -Cerro Chato & 1968 Trails
Self guided hikes are one of my favourite past times, but unfortunately they are limited in the Arenal Fortuna area. You used to be able to climb Cerro Chato volcano (the dormant one next to Arenal), but the trails have since been officially closed. I hear from a little birdy that you can still access the trails and just jump a fence – but it is super steep and a little dangerous especially as rangers don’t check these trails. At the top of this epic 2-hour-each-way climb you will find a bright green lagoon that is swimmable and much needed to cool off after the hike up.
I was unfortunately very sick with a flu the day I wanted to try my luck and do Chato but I’ve heard amazing things. Entry points are on the Arenal Observatory Lodge ($15) and Green Lagoon Lodge ($10-15). Their trail entries are still marked and it is at your own risk. Don’t be fooled into paying for a tour to this trail as it is closed and only for the risk takers. The absolute LATEST you should ever start this hike is 1pm. You cannot do this in the dark.
I also did the 1968 trails and they were great fun. You pay $12 at the gates and are given a map and walking stick. The forest trail is beautiful, so make sure you do that, it also has natural paths made from the lava flows of the 1968 eruption, hence the name. I loved this hike and it was all complete (both loops) in under 2.5 hours.
Finally, you can also head to the El Silencio trails which are another privately run trail that takes about 2 hours. I have heard mixed reviews on this and I was convinced 1968 was much better for the money