During a trip to La Fortuna, visiting the Arenal Volcano National Park has to be high up on your list of things to do. Whether it is volcano viewpoints, wildlife, or hiking trails, the National Park offers all of that and more.
This guide will go through a complete overview of Arenal Volcano National Park including the various hiking trails, the two sectors, and where to get the best viewpoints of the Arenal Volcano itself.
1) Arenal Volcano Background
Let’s start off with a quick background of the Arenal Volcano. For hundreds of years, Arenal volcano was thought to be dormant (and even extinct). However, on July 29th 1968, Arenal Volcano came to life and had a massive eruption.
The eruption lasted for several days covering the surrounding countryside with lava and ash. Villages were destroyed, crops were ruined, and many people lost their lives during this violent eruption.
Since 1968 the volcano has been quite active with its last eruption in 2010. Today, there are several areas surrounding the Arenal Volcano that offer maintained hiking trails and activities to take part of during a trip to Arenal.
One of these areas is the Arenal Volcano National Park (AVNP). At AVNP you will find two hiking sectors -> the Main Volcan Sector and the Peninsula Sector that can both be explored over the course of a day.
Beyond the hiking trails themselves, you can also find several volcano and lake viewpoint areas, as well as a variety of wildlife to look out for.
The Arenal Volcano National Park should not be confused with Arenal 1968. Both of these hiking areas are located right nearby one another but are managed by two different entities. To learn more about this other hiking area, check out the Arenal 1968 guide up on the site.
2) How to Get There
In general, the easiest way to get around Costa Rica will be by having your own rental car. This way you can go at your own pace, head to the attractions you want to on your schedule, and not need to worry about transportation in general.
There are no public buses that can get you to the national park, and most of the other attractions around La Fortuna like the La Fortuna Waterfall. Instead, you must rely on taxis, group/private tours, or having a car.
At the end of the day, a rental car would be my recommendation here as it does offer the most flexibility.
The drive from La Fortuna is just 20 minutes covering 10 miles / 16 km. If coming from that direction, the route is pretty simple. Head on Route 142 for about 9 miles, and then turn left onto Calle Real el Castillo.
About a mile down the road you will see the entrance to Arenal Volcano National Park (main sector) on your left hand side.
Note: this is the same way to get to the Arenal 1968, which is just prior to the national park.
The Peninsula Sector is another 10 minute drive away down a gravel road. Below on the map I have highlighted the drive between both sectors.
3) Where to Stay in La Fortuna
In and around the town of La Fortuna there are plenty of hotel options to choose from. Most of the resorts are not located within the town itself, but rather on the outskirts of town surrounding the volcano.
Below are three highly recommended options to choose from that surely will not disappoint. Since these are some of the more highly rated spots, you will want to book your room as soon as possible!
The Arenal Observatory Lodge is located as close as it gets to Arenal Volcano. The property itself has over 860 private acres of land full of walking trails, wildlife, and volcano viewpoints. If you are lucky enough to grab a room here, you will get to enjoy all of that and more during a visit.
One of the most popular thermal pools to visit in the area is located at the Tabacon Thermal Resort. It is by far one of the nicest and most relaxing thermal areas in the area. Instead of just taking a quick visit there, why not stay on the property itself!
A great overall option in the area is Hotel Los Lagos. Here you will find a whole variety of thermal pools, ziplining, wildlife, and some volcano views. The property itself is just so beautiful to walk around and enjoy during a stay.
4) Tickets, Entrance Fee & Hours
Arenal Volcano National Park Hours: the park is open from 8:00AM – 4:00PM, 7 days a week. However, the last entrance of the day is at 2:30PM. I would recommend visiting earlier on in the day before the trails and viewpoints get too crowded with visitors.
Arenal Volcano National Park Entrance Fee: it costs $15 USD (adults) / $5 USD (child) to visit the national park. This entrance fee covers both sectors of the park, however it is only valid for one day. That means if want to head to both parts of the park, you should plan to go on the same day to avoid paying the entrance fee twice.
Arenal Volcano National Park Tickets: once you purchase your ticket (at either sector), be sure to hold onto that ticket if you are planning to visit the other sector during that same day. The two sectors are located about 10 minutes by car (45 minute walk) from one another.
» Visit Arenal as part of a 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary that takes you around the country
5) Arenal Volcano National Park Trail Map
To better familiarize yourself with Arenal Volcano National Park, I thought it may be helpful to include a trail and viewpoint map for your reference.
On the top portion of the map you will find the main Sector Volcan and on the bottom you will find the Sector Peninsula.
In the next section I will break down the two sectors and you can refer to the map as you read through.
6) Arenal Volcano National Park Activities
Below is a quick background of both the Volcan Sector and Peninsula Sector hiking trails and viewpoints. Later on in the guide I will dive deeper into what each of these entails.
There are 3 hiking trails located in the Sector Volcan that can all technically be combined into one longer trail depending on your preferences. You will also find two main viewpoint areas.
Heliconias Trail: 0.4 miles / 0.6 kilometers – connects the first parking lot area to the second parking lot area.
Las Coladas Trail: 1.2 miles / 2 kilometers – connects the second parking lot area to Arenal Volcano viewpoint (#4 on map)
El Ceibo Trail: 1.9 miles / 3 kilometers – semicircular loop that veers off the Las Coladas trail, heads deeper into the rainforest, and then meets back up with Las Coladas.
During my time at the park I took part of the second two trails. Combined round trip, the total length was right around 3.3 miles (5.2 km) with about 400 feet (120 meters) of elevation gain.
Volcano Viewpoints: as you can see on the map there is a viewpoint area marked #4. As you approach the viewpoint you must follow the 1992 Old Lava Flow, a very unique portion of trail. Note: you will actually have two viewpoint areas here -> Mirador Colada and Mirador Volcan
Mirador Principal: another viewpoint area lays very close to the volcano itself. If you have a car, I would recommend just driving from the main parking lot to the parking lot right next to the viewpoint.
Los Miradores Trail: 0.75 miles / 1.2 kilometers – the main trail here takes you along a peninsula into Lake Arenal. Along the way you will get a couple lake viewpoints, an observatory tower, and the main viewpoint itself at the end of the peninsula.
El Tororoi Trail: 0.4 miles / 0.6 kilometers – this is an alternative route that heads further into the rainforest and includes some steps to climb and a bridge to walk over. You will feel a bit more part of the wildlife on this portion of trail.
I would recommend heading straight down the Los Miradores Trail to the end of the peninsula before turning around and taking part of the El Tororoi Trail on the way back up. If you don’t want to deal with stairs then it may be best to just leave El Tororoi off the hike.
Expect a there and back hike to be around 1.5 miles / 2.4 kilometers on the Peninsula Sector.
» If you enjoy this experience, you may also be interested in climbing to Costa Rica’s highest point. Learn more in the Cerro Chirripo guide up on the site.
7) Costa Rica Travel Insurance
Purchasing travel insurance is something that I cannot stress enough. When planning a trip to another country, things can go wrong at one point or another. Having a travel insurance plan can be extremely beneficial if you do get yourself into a tough situation.
A travel insurance plans covers you in case issues arise that would prevent you from taking the trip as well as issues that come up during a trip.
So, whether that means you missed a flight, lost an item, or get injured, travel insurance is there to have your back.
My go to travel insurance policy is through a company called World Nomads, which has one of the most comprehensive offerings you can ask for.
It doesn’t hurt to just take a look at some of the plans that they offer travelers. Feel free to head over to World Nomads and get your travel insurance today!
8) Arenal Volcano National Park Hike
Now that you have all the background information you need here for a visit, let’s get into the hikes (and viewpoints) that you can take part in for both sectors. I will start off with Sector Volcan before moving onto Sector Peninsula.
Main Volcan Sector
After paying the entrance fee and making it through the main gate, you will come across the first parking area. Unless you are trying to take part of the short Heliconias Trail (connecting the two parking lots), I would recommend driving a bit further up to the second main parking lot.
Las Coladas Trail
From the second parking lot you should clearly see the starting point of the Las Coladas Trail.
The one common theme in Costa Rica is the sheer amount of greenery and nature that you will constantly come across. Visiting AVNP is no exception. Right off the bat you will be immersed in the flora and fauna surrounding you in every direction.
The walking trail itself is easy to follow and is made up of dirt for the most part. Be careful though as it can get muddy after rainfall!
El Ceibo Trail
After just about a half mile of walking, you will reach an intersection. To your right will be the El Ceibo Trail and straight ahead is the continuation of the Las Coladas Trail. Remember these two trails do meet up right before the main viewpoint area later on.
When I visited I decided to head on the El Ceibo Trail on the way there, however you can easily do so on the way back instead. You can also choose to not take part of the El Ceibo portion of trail at all. And instead simply head back and out on the Las Coladas Trail.
The El Ceibo trail will get you further into the rainforest with more greenery, beautiful trees, and some animals running through from time to time.
This is a circular loop here and there is just one easy trail to follow all the way through before meeting back up with the Las Coladas Trail.
About half way through though you will be welcomed to one of the most famous trees in the area – this Ceiba tree is nearly 100 feet high and is over 400 years old! It is quite the sight to take in as you look up at this one of a kind tree.
After taking in the tree, continue along the trail through the forest until you reach the intersection with the Las Coladas Trail.
Mirador Colada & Mirador Volcan
At this intersection you will see a sign pointing you up the 1992 Old Lava Flow rocks towards the lookout area. This section will require a bit of technical uphill as you are walking on the actual lava flow rocks.
Up top though you will be welcomed to the Mirador Colada overlooking the Arenal Volcano out in the distance. Take a look behind you as well, as you get to enjoy some views of Lake Arenal in the other direction.
If you reach the viewpoint and the volcano happens to be covered in clouds, my advice would be to patiently wait a bit in the hopes that it clears out. The clouds move fast here and you don’t want to leave before it potentially opens up.
Note: there is an additional viewpoint area nearby called Mirador Volcan if you want to continue to follow the Old Lava Flow trail.
Once back down from the lava flow portion of trail, you will be back on the dirt path of the Las Coladas Trail. From here you can just continue straight back through the rainforest and to the entrance point.
After getting back to the parking lot area, instead of driving out of the park, you can visit the Mirador Principal. Here is the closest viewpoint to the volcano itself. I would advise making the drive here instead of walking as it will save you some time.
After finishing up your time at the Volcano Sector, you can then head off to the Peninsula Sector if you would like to continue exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park.
The drive between the two is pretty simple. You will make a left turn out of the entrance, and then a quick right turn onto the gravel road following the signs to the Peninsula Sector.
Note that the road between the two is not paved. You will not need a 4WD or anything like that but just note that it will be a gravel road.
Los Miradores Trail
At the entrance of the Peninsula Sector you will be welcomed to a nice paved pathway of the Los Miradores Trail straight ahead. Also, at the entrance you will see the El Tororoi Trail to the left hand side.
If you want to take part of both trails, I would recommend first taking part of the Los Miradores Trail so you can take in the lake viewpoints out in front of you. On the way back you can circle onto the El Tororoi Trail.
Once on the main trail though, you will continue along the pathway where you will enjoy a couple of great viewpoints of Lake Arenal out in the distance.
As you continue your way along you will come across the observatory tower. By heading to the top of the tower you will get some beautiful views of the Arenal Volcano in one direction and the lake in the other.
After heading down from the tower, it is just a short walk until you reach the tip of the peninsula. From this viewpoint area you will be sitting right on the lake with the Arenal Volcano as your backdrop.
El Tororoi Trail
From the lake, you can backtrack on the same path you came in on before coming across the entrance to the El Tororoi Trail on your right hand side.
Head down the staircase from there, where you will be welcomed to forested greenery in all directions. It is a beautiful stroll through the rainforest as you head on the trail and across the pedestrian bridge.
After crossing the bridge it is then a little bit longer until you reach the main entrance of the Peninsula Sector and end your time at Arenal Volcano National Park.
That wraps up your guide to the hikes and viewpoints of Arenal Volcano National Park. If you have any questions or comments about the park, feel free to add them in below.