With an abundance of outdoor activities, not to mention amazing access and views to one of the most perfectly formed volcanos in the country, it’s no surprise that Arenal and La Fortuna is at the top of most Costa Rica itineraries. Well known as an outdoor adventurers playground, there is a ton to do for all ages here. As most visits to the area are short, it’s important to determine in advance just what you want to do while you are in town. To help guide your planning process here are the top activities we think all families should check out.
Walk Among the Trees
Experiencing Costa Rica’s hanging bridges is a must do. It is one of the quintessential traveler photos of the country and for good reason. They are super cool! There are two main options for walking above the trees in the Arenal/La Fortuna area, Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park and Sky Walk.
The hanging bridges at Mistico are our top choice for visitors with a 2 mile trail taking in 6 hanging bridges. The Hanging Bridges trail is even more fabulous when paired with a naturalist guide. I promise your experience will be much greater with a guide than it would be on your own. The guide is able to point out sleeping sloths hidden high in the tree tops, find the howler monkeys making a ruckus in the distance and so many hidden snakes and birds that you just wouldn’t see on your own.
Soak in Hot Springs
One of the best things to do in Arenal after a long day out (or as its own all day adventure) is to spend some time at one of the many local hot springs. There are small springs more suited for couples as well as large all inclusive springs perfect for the entire family. Some hot springs consist of hot thermal water being pumped in from underground into man made pools with concrete floors while others provide a more eco-friendly natural setting with free flowing springs and dirt/rock floors.
After visiting a few different springs, my pick would be to splurge on Tabacon Hot Springs if it’s in your budget and you have a good half day to spend at hot springs. This luxurious property will spoil you with tons of natural hot springs pools of varying temperatures (the hottest ones we found in Arenal) set in a beautiful natural setting.
Zip Through the Forest
One of the other main activities that people associate with Costa Rica is zip lining. While we did not participate in it ourselves (Hello scaredy cats!), we talked to several families during our visit who highly recommended zip lining at SkyAdventures. If zip lining is not your thing, you can still head over to take a ride in the gondola up to the top of the rain forest and walk along their hanging bridges. Note that kids must be a minimum of 47 inches to participate in the zip lining. Parents need stomachs of steel!
View Arenal Volcano on Horseback
Crossing cool streams or rocky lava fields, horseback riding in Arenal/La Fortuna means you can take in the scenery easily, all while making the journey one of the most memorable parts of the adventure. From day tours into the Arenal Volcano National Park to horseback riding through the forest, this is a wonderful way to get a more in depth look at the landscape as well as partake in one of Costa Rica’s pastimes. The Springs Resort and Arenal Observatory Lodge offer horseback riding on their property if you want a short ride with experienced guides.
The Springs Resort also offers day passes to their Club Rio which includes the opportunity for tubing down the river, rappelling, horseback riding, lounging in hot springs and more.
Get Your Legs Moving
Guided hikes through Arenal Volcano National Park are a highlight, but for families looking for a little less of a hike, and a little more fun, a visit to the La Fortuna Waterfall is a wonderful adventure. Hiking down the 500 steps is pretty easy, except all the while you know you have to climb back up later! It’s made easier with benches every so often to rest. Take your swim gear and a packed lunch to spend a good deal of time playing in the waterfall pool and river along the side.
Volunteer with Animals
If you have serious animal lovers and like to help out in places when you travel, consider a volunteer package at the Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue Center. They offer both short term (for the day) or longer term volunteer opportunities. Volunteers help with the care and feeding of the animals that are recused in the wild due to injury or other problems. You can see spider monkeys, sloths, raccoons and more. We found this to be a great way to get to know the animals of Costa Rica more personally as well as get to spend a day with locals chatting and learning more about their country and culture. If your kids aren’t that interested in ‘working’ while on holiday, but you haven’t gotten your fill of the wildlife, stop into the wildlife refuge at The Springs Resort.
Eat Local Food
Costa Rica is an easy place to eat for families as long as you like beans and rice! The staple foods here tend to be quite plain and simple, which is pleasing to most of the littles. Take time to eat at the local sodas, which are essentially family-owned restaurants similar to what the 50s diners are to Americans. Most sodas serve up traditional Costa Rican food like marinated beef, fried chicken, grilled fish with a plate of caramelized plantains and rice and beans. Apart from these traditional meals, make sure to stop into a Costa Rican favorite POPS for dessert. The cas flavored ice cream here is a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
Have you been to Arenal & La Fortuna? What were your favorite things to do?
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