ATV: Best of the area’s operators is Original Arenal ATV ((tel) 2479-7522; www.originalarenalatv.com), which offers a 2 1/2-hour ATV tour along the area around the lake and national park. The cost is $99 per person, or $130 for two people riding tandem. Another option is La Pradera ((tel) 2479-9597; www.lapraderadelarenal.com), which offers a 3-hour adventure through the forests and farmlands around La Fortuna. The cost is $95 per ATV.
Canopy Tours & Hanging Bridges: You have numerous ways to get up into the forest canopy here. Perhaps the simplest is to hike the trails and bridges of Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges ★ ((tel) 2479-1170; www.misticopark.com; daily 7:30am–4pm; $26 adults, $16 ages 11-18, free ages 10 and under). 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. Additionally, night tours depart at 6pm every evening ($49 adults, $39 ages 11-18, $23 ages 10 and under).
Another option is the Sky Tram ★★ ((tel) 844/468-6759 in the U.S., or 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 hike a series of trails and suspended bridges. In the end, you can hike down, take the gondola, or strap on a harness and ride the zipline down to the bottom. The zipline tour, called Sky Trek, features several very long and very fast sections, with impressive views of the lake and volcano. The cost is $81 for the combined tram ride up, a guided hike to the trails and hanging bridges, and the zipline tour back down. It’s $46 to ride the tram round-trip. The tram runs daily from 7:30am to 3pm. Sky Tram also has a butterfly and orchid garden. The same company also runs similar tours in Monteverde.
Ecoglide ★ ((tel) 2479-7120; www.arenalecoglide.com) and Arenal Canopy Tour ((tel) 2479-8712; www.arenalcanopy.com) are two other good zipline operations close to La Fortuna.
Canyoning: 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 Canyoning ★★★ ((tel) 866/569-5723 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2479-1313 in Costa Rica; www.puretrek.com; $101/person) and Desafío Adventure Company ★★★ ((tel) 855/818-0020 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2479-0020 in Costa Rica; www.desafiocostarica.com; $99/person) are the primary operators in this area. 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. Both companies offer various combination full-day excursions, mixing canyoning with other adventures, and tend to have two to three daily departures.
Desafío also has a more extreme canyoning option: Gravity Falls ★★★. Although it features only one major rappel, this tour consists of a series of leaps from high rocks into river pools below. 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, or you can try Captain Ron ((tel) 2694-4678; http://arenalfishing.com), who runs a variety of fishing tours on the lake. Or try www.getmyboat.com. 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 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. You can also book with Grupo Rio del Arenal ★ ((tel) 2479-1912; www.gruposriosdelarenal.com), which runs a 2 1/2-hour tour on its private land—a mix of farmland and forest, with terrific views of the volcano. Two tours leave daily at 8:30am and 1:30pm; cost is $65 per person. Alternative tours are offered at nights and during full moons.
El Silencio Mirador y Senderos ★ ((tel) 2479-9900; www.miradorelsilencio.com; daily 7am–7pm; $8) is a great place for hiking outside 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.
For a more strenuous hike, climb Cerro Chato ★★, a dormant volcanic cone on the flank of Arenal with a beautiful little crater lake. Desafío Adventures Company ★★ ((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, though you can do it on your own from either La Fortuna Waterfall or the Arenal Observatory Lodge.
La Fortuna Falls: Leading the list of side attractions in the area is the impressive Río Fortuna Waterfall ★★ ((tel) 2479-8338; daily 8am–5pm; www.arenaladifort.com; $11 entrance), about 5.5km (3 1/2 miles) outside of town in a dense 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. 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.
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 2479-9020 in Costa Rica; www.bikearenal.com) offers top-notch bikes and equipment and a wide range of tour possibilities.
Hardcore bikers come for the Vuelta al Lago ★, a 2-day race around the lake ((tel) 2695-5297; www.vueltaallagoarenal.com).
Whitewater Rafting, Canoeing, SUP & 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 may be the best bet. A half-day float trip on a nearby river costs around $70 per person; a full day of rafting on some rougher water costs around $99 per person, depending on what section of river you ride. Both companies also offer mountain biking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), 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 $57 to $155 per person.
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.