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Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

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Charleston, South...
posts: 14
reviews: 38
Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

Hola amigos!

We are excited to have less than a month before we arrive in CR! We have one full day in the area, and I want to maximize the time. Seeking your advice on doing this itinerary - a la carte.

Volcano Hike

*It seems like there are a lot of tours available, but how easy is it to find trails to hike on our own?

*Do we need to pay a park fee?

*Most challenging/rewarding trails to seek - go! :)

Skytrek & Skytram – 3 hrs

*This looks to offer the most value of the Canopy Tours, and most intense. Have you done it? Am I off-base? It's pretty expensive to take a gamble on.

Hanging Bridges

*This seems like so much fun, but the tours are expensive. Is this something we could see without a tour? I'm more interested in the bridges than anything else, which may be funny to you.

*Is there a cost if so?

La Fortuna Waterfall

*I've seen mixed reviews – how far is it from other highlights? Can we drive there?

*Is the cost $10 pp? It seems I saw that on TripAdvisor.

EcoTermales Hot Spring

*We'd like to end our day here, I think. This seems to be the most low-key and less crowded of the hot springs. Is it truly a natural spring? And, is the restaurant onsite delicious?

Thanks, experts!

Molly

Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
posts: 5,220
reviews: 20
1. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

You have one full day in the area and way too much to do. If you want to end your day at Eco Termales you need to book reservations in advance including dinner. I suggest that you do that first.

If you have a rental car then you should book the 1st tour of the day at SkyTrek and drive yourself there. Ride the SkyTram to the top and take the ziplines back down. Visit their hanging bridges, called SkyWalk as part of a package ticket. Expect the whole deal to take roughly 4 hours.

Afterwards head to nearby Arenal Observatory Lodge for lunch and hike on their grounds or at the adjacent national park ($10 admission). I think you'll be ready to call it a day at that point but if you still have energy you can drive to the LaFortuna waterfall and hike down to the base of the waterfall ($10 admission).

If you don't have a car you should book one of the combo tours or the taxi fares will eat you alive. DeSafio Adventures has a 6 in 1 combo with lunch, dinner and hotsprings admission (but no zipline) for $150/pp for a 12 hour day. Sunset tours hsa a 14 hour combo that includes the waterfall, hanging bridges, lunch and dinner at Tabacon Hot Springs for $205/pp (but again no zipline). Lots of other combo tour options in town to check out, but if you wait til you arrive you'll be too late to book EcoTermales.

Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
posts: 6,429
reviews: 57
2. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

The trails in the Volcano NP are easy to hike on your own. There is an entrance fee, I think we paid 10 US$ pp but it was in 2008. The old lava field trail (sp) is quite demanding as it goes through , yes, old lava field. More info here http://www.parquenacionalvolcanarenal.com/

Hanging Bridges are opened to individual visitors. More info here http://www.hangingbridges.com/

You can drive easily to the waterfall. There is a parking place at the entrance. More info ah, just use google.

Eco termales has man made pools but in a very nature like way, plenty of vegetation. The spring water is truly heated by geothermal energy. The food at the restaurant was OK.

Charleston, South...
posts: 14
reviews: 38
3. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

Thank you so much for your responses!

@crfan You are right, sounds like I need a little more streamlining. I can't help it, I am too excited! Good call on the three part ticket at Sky - I didn't realize they had a package. Turns out that looks like our best bet. I'm also taking your advice on the Eco Termales, contacted them yesterday - and I'll check out the Observatory Lodge.

@xelas Thanks to you also - I appreciate knowing that the water is naturally heated; that's my main interest. I'll check out the lava field trail - that sounds pretty interesting. Is it close to the Observatory Lodge?

Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
posts: 6,429
reviews: 57
4. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

No, as I remember we started our hike from the parking lot. AOL is on the other side of the lava field trail, and much higher.

tennessee
posts: 88
reviews: 3
5. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

We self guided both times we were in Arenal. Tabacon far beats Eco Termales but only if you visit during the day. At night you can't see the beauty nearly as much. I don't really understand the hype of Eco Termales even though it is more cost effective. Tabacon is amazing, but like I said, you will only get your money's worth if you visit during the day. Camera ops everywhere! Sky Trek is phenomenal. The ride can't be beat in CR in my opinion. The trails at AOL are awesome.. We saw capuchins and howlers, coatis,an ant eater and a huge turkey like bird that scared the daylights out of us. Also a eyelash pit viper. The trails were easy but I was glad so I could concentrate on the jungle. Beautiful view of the lake and volcano from the restaurant. Ask for one of their lava drinks.. but again only at night! Soooo much fun.

Charleston, South...
posts: 14
reviews: 38
6. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

Thanks for the intel - we're going to go at night; I am looking for a more private, quiet experience. I didn't think about the view (since we'll be at night) - more just relaxing with the hub. Since Eco seems to only let a set number in, that was appealing.

What is your opinion on the AOL restaurant? It seems the food is no good - maybe just for evening drinks to watch the lava flow...or lunch time? Is it usually packed at night?

boston, ma
posts: 84
reviews: 1
7. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

I wouldn't get your heart set on the lava flows - Arenal hasn't made any noise since 2010. That said, you will still have an amazing time. Super cool area.

Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
posts: 6,429
reviews: 57
8. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

AOL is far away from La Fortuna and its restaurant caters mainly for its guests. It has best hiking and best wildlife in that area. There are several places in nearby El Castillo with food options.

Baton Rouge...
posts: 362
reviews: 52
9. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

Does anyone know if you have to set anything up in advance to hike the trails at AOL or if it's OK to just show up? We are not staying there, but I understand it has the best wildlife sightings in the area. Cost for a daypass?

Charleston, South...
posts: 14
reviews: 38
10. Re: Self-Guided Arenal Itinerary

That is a good question hummingbird, I've been wondering the same thing!