Aside from the impressive volcanic activity, the area around Arenal Volcano is packed with other natural wonders.
ATV -- Original Arenal ATV (tel 2479-8444; ww.originalarentalatv.com) offers a 2.5 hour along the area around the lake and national park. The cost is $99 per person or $130 for two riding tandem. Another option is La Pradera (www.lapraderaarenal.com) which offers a 3 hour adventure through the forests and farmlands around La Fortuna. The cost is $85 per ATV.
Canopy Tours & Canyoning -- You have numerous ways to get up into the forest canopy here. Perhaps the simplest is to hike the trails and bridges of Misitco Arenal Hanging Bridges ★ (tel. 2479-1170; www.misticopark.com). Located just over the Lake Arenal dam, this attraction is a complex of gentle trails and suspension bridges through a beautiful tract of primary forest. It’s open daily from 7:30am to 4pm; though night tours are available which leave at 5:30pm. Admission is $36.
Another option is the Sky Tram ★★ (tel. 2479-4100; www.skyadventures.travel), an open gondola-style ride that begins near the shores of Lake Arenal and rises up, providing excellent views of the lake and volcano. From here, you can hike their series of trails and suspended bridges. In the end, you can hike down, take the gondola, or strap on a harness and ride their zip-line canopy tour down to the bottom. The zip-line tour here features several very long and very fast sections, with some impressive views of the lake and volcano. The cost is $93 for the combined tram ride up, a guided hike to the trails and hanging bridges, and the zip-line tour back down. It’s $44 to ride the tram round-trip. The tram runs daily from 7:30am to 3pm. These folks also have butterfly and orchid garden exhibits on-site.
Ecoglide ★ (tel. 2479-7120; www.arenalecoglide.com) is another good zip-line canopy tour operation close to La Fortuna.
If you’d like a bigger rush than the canopy tours offer, you could go “canyoning” with Pure Trek Canyoning ★★★ (tel. 866/569-5723 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2479-1313; www.puretrek.com) and Desafío Expeditions ★★ ★(tel. 855/818-0020 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2479-0020 in Costa Rica; www.desafiocostarica.com). This adventure sport is a mix of hiking through and alongside a jungle river, punctuated with periodic rappels through and alongside the faces of rushing waterfalls. Pure Trek’s trip is probably better for first-timers and families with kids, while Desafío’s tour is just a bit more rugged and adventurous. The former charges $101. The latter charges $99. Both of these companies offer various combination full-day excursions, mixing canyoning with other adventure tours, and tend to have two to three daily departures.
In 2015, Desafio added a new more extreme canyoning option called Gravity Falls. Although it features only on major rappel, this tour consists of a series of leaps off of high rocks into river pools. The cost is $125.
Fishing -- With Lake Arenal just around the corner, fishing is a popular activity here. The big fish to catch is guapote, a Central American species of rainbow bass. However, you can also book fishing trips to Caño Negro, where snook, tarpon, and other game fish can be stalked. Most hotels and adventure-tour companies can arrange fishing excursions. Costs run around $150 to $250 per boat, and a full day goes for around $250 to $500.
Hiking & Horseback Riding -- Horseback riding is a popular activity in this area, with scores of good rides on dirt backroads and through open fields and dense rainforest. Volcano and lake views come with the terrain on most rides. Horseback trips to the Río Fortuna waterfall are perhaps the most popular, but remember, the horse will get you only to the entrance; from there, you’ll have to hike a bit. A horseback ride to the falls should cost between $30 and $45, including the entrance fee. Alternately, you can check in with the folks at Cabalgata Don Tobias (tel. 2479-1780; www.cabalgatadontobias.com), which runs a 2 1/2-hour tour on their private land—a mix of farmland and forest, with some great views of the volcano. Two tours leave daily at 8:30am and 1:30pm, and the cost is $65 per person.
El Silencio Mirador y Senderos ★ ((tel) 2479-9900; www.miradorelsilencio.com) is a great place for hiking outside of the national park. This private reserve has four well-marked and well-groomed trails, one of which takes you to a patch of the 1968 lava flow. There’s a pretty pond, and excellent views of the volcano, as well. It’s open daily from 7am to 7pm, and admission is $8.
If you’re looking for a more strenuous hike, sign up to climb Cerro Chato ★★, a dormant volcanic cone on the flank of Arenal with a beautiful little crater lake. Desafío Expeditions ★★ (tel) 855/818-0020 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2479-0020 in Costa Rica; www.desafiocostarica.com) leads a 5- to 6-hour hike for $85, including lunch.
La Fortuna Falls -- Leading the list of side attractions in the area is the impressive Río Fortuna Waterfall ★★ (tel. 2479-8338; www.arenaladifort.com), about 5.5km (3 1/2 miles) outside of town in a lush jungle setting. A sign in town points the way to the road out to the falls. You can drive or hike to just within viewing distance. When you get to the entrance to the lookout, you’ll have to pay a $11 entrance fee to actually check out the falls. It’s another 15- to 20-minute hike down a steep and often muddy path to the pool formed by the waterfall. The hike back up will take slightly longer. You can swim, but stay away from the turbulent water at the base of the falls—several people have drowned here. Instead, check out and enjoy the calm pool just around the bend, or join the locals at the popular swimming hole under the bridge on the paved road, just after the turnoff for the road up to the falls. The trail to the falls is open daily from 8am to 5pm.
It’s also possible to reach the falls by horseback. Most tour operators in town, as well as the waterfall folks themselves, offer this option for around $45. The tour generally lasts around 3 to 4 hours.
Mountain Biking -- This region is very well suited for mountain biking. Rides range in difficulty from moderate to extremely challenging. You can combine a day on a mountain bike with a visit to one or more of the popular attractions here. Bike Arenal ★ (tel. 866/465-4114 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2479-7150 in Costa Rica; www.bikearenal.com) offers up an excellent collection of top notch bikes and equipment and a wide range of tour possibilities.
Hardcore bikers will want to come in March for the Vuelta al Lago ★ (tel) 2695-5297; www.vueltaallago.net), an annual 2-day race around the lake.
White-Water Rafting, Canoeing & Kayaking -- For adventurous tours of the area, check out Desafío Expeditions ★★ (tel. 855/818-0020 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2479-0020 in Costa Rica; www.desafiocostarica.com), or Wave Expeditions ★★ (tel. 888/224-6105 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2479-7262 in Costa Rica; www.waveexpeditions.com).
Both companies offer daily raft rides of Class I to II, III, and IV to V on different sections of the Toro, Peñas Blancas, and Sarapiquí rivers. If you want a wet and personal ride, try Desafío’s tour in inflatable kayaks, or “duckies.” For families, a gentle safari float on the Peñas Blancas is probably your best bet. A half-day float trip on a nearby river costs between $70 per person; a full day of rafting on some rougher water costs around $89 per person, depending on what section of river you ride. Both companies also offer mountain biking and local guided trips.
A more laid-back alternative is to take a canoe tour with Canoa Aventura (tel. 2479-8200; www.canoa-aventura.com), which offers half-, full-, and multiday excursions on a variety of rivers in the region, which range from $49 to $155 per person.
Stand Up Paddling (SUP) is a booming sport and fitness craze, and you can practice it on the lovely Lake Arenal, in the shadow of the lake’s namesake volcano, with the folks at Desafío Expeditions.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.