Located 6km from La Fortuna, awe-inspiring Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s top natural attractions. Especially popular with travellers looking for high-octane experiences, the area is a stunning place to enjoy the likes of canopy zip-lining and canyoning, best followed by chilling out in one of several sublime hot springs. Are you planning to go here? Then read the 10 best Arenal Volcano tours.
Best Arenal Volcano tours and activities
Whether you prefer to get your kicks on dry land, or love taking to the water in truly exhilarating style, Arenal Volcano tours and activities are nothing but diverse, and rewarding with it.
Alongside volcano hikes, white-water rafting, and forest canopy tours, the region also has plenty to satisfy foodies and culture vultures. We're talking immersive coffee tasting tours, and exploring local markets.
To help plan your trip, read on to find out about the best Arenal Volcano tours and activities.
#1 Go ziplining through the jungle
If you have a head for heights and a hankering for adventure, taking a ziplining trip through the forest canopy is one of the best Arenal Volcano tours. There really is no more exhilarating way to experience Costa Rica’s breath-taking beauty.
And the good news is, travellers to Costa Rica’s Arenal area are spoiled for choice. Many zipline operators offer a mix of practice cables for newbies and wires that run for kilometres.
For example, Go Adventure Arenal — La Fortuna’s original ziplining operation — has nine cables, along with a 40m abseiling experience, aerial tram and on-site horse-riding.
Travelling with kids? Ecoglide Arenal Park, 3.5km west of La Fortuna, offers twelve cables, thirteen platforms and a Tarzan swing located in a park beneath the volcano. With a mini cable for practice, this place has all ages covered.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to add some romance to your ziplining experience, Sky Adventures is one of the few places you can go ziplining at sunset. They also have an awe-inspiring aerial tram and hanging bridges (great for wildlife-watching), and a seven-cable canopy tour.
For on-site canopy tours, you could consider staying in Hotel Los Lagos, 6km northwest of La Fortuna. The hotel’s Canopy Los Cañone's boasts a dozen cables and 13 platforms that cover almost 3km.
#2 Go extreme with white-water rafting
As with ziplining offerings, rafting trips around Arenal Volcano are available for various ability levels, which means you don’t have to be a hardcore white-water rafter to enjoy the region’s waterways.
For a gentler introduction, canoe and kayak specialists Canoa Aventura run full-day paddles in Caño Negro. Their "safari float” down the forest-fringed Río Peñas Blancas — by raft or kayak — is also fun and family-friendly.
If you're in the market for a more high-octane white-water rafting experience, you’ll find that in Arenal, too, courtesy of Costa Rica Descents. Run by two brothers who got their white-water wings rafting in the Rockies, they offer La Fortuna’s only Class V outfitter.
If you’re fit, over 18, and have previously done Class IV rafting, you’ll love their adventurous Class V Balsa River trip.
With a challenging descent into a lush rainforest canyon, this full-day trip also includes a stop at El Salto — a natural water park replete with waterfalls, pools and a rope swing. From here, you’ll head to the yet-more challenging rapids of the Upper Balsa.
Costa Rica Descents also run gentler family-oriented trips on the Class II–III Río Sarapiquí and Río Balsa.
#3 Take it next level with canyoning
Combining rock-climbing, scrambling, abseiling and hiking, going canyoning is one of the most unique and unforgettable Arenal Volcano tours.
As one of the longest-standing operators in the area, our experts recommend Pure Trek Canyoning. Their half-day, expert-led canyoning tour will take you deep into the on-site canyon to tackle a series of waterfall rappels and rock climbs. The freefall “Monkey Drop” into a pool is an undeniable highlight.
When you're not climbing, leaping or scrambling, keep an eye out for the likes of toucans, sloths and monkeys. This top Arenal Volcano tour offers wildlife and wild adventure in equal measure.
Alternatively, if you fancy combining rafting and canyoning on a full-day tour, Desafío’s Mambo Combo Rappel and Raft excursion has you covered.
Travelling with kids? Pure Trek Canyoning have special gloves, helmets and harnesses for children. They also employ a special technique to lower children safely — the guide remains in total control.
#4 Explore the beautiful waterfalls
It’s true to say that the area around Arenal Volcano is blessed with an abundance of natural attractions, among them dozens of waterfalls that seem to be conjured from the pages of a picture book.
Sitting pretty at the top of the waterfall tree is the dramatically sited La Catarata de La Fortuna (La Fortuna Waterfall), located 4km southwest of town.
On arrival, a path leads from the ticket booth down to the base of the pools. It’s a 600m drop through lush rainforest, with the thin-but-forceful stream pushing through a narrow opening in the rockface.
If you’d prefer to view the falls from a distance, a signposted mirador can be found 200m along the trail. This offers stunning views across the valley and its heavily forested floor to the finger of the cascade.
However you opt to see La Fortuna waterfall, it’s best to wear waterproof shoes, and be aware that the paths can be slippery.
Beyond visiting La Fortuna waterfall, hiking along the blue-hued Rio Celeste also rewards ramblers with views of an epic waterfall. You can swim here, too.
More waterfall wonders await at the Arenal Observatory Lodge and Spa. Just 15-minutes’ walk from reception, the Danta Waterfall is arguably the most impressive, and certainly the most visited.
In addition, the grounds boast trails to three other waterfalls. Note, though, that two of these can only be seen during or after rainy periods, so check before setting off.
#5 Take a thrilling ATV jungle tour
When it comes to a fun, family-friendly way to see the area, going on a thrilling ATV jungle trip is one of the best Arenal Volcano tours.
If that sounds like something you’d like to try, our experts recommend Jacamar Naturalist Tours' 2-hour ATV trip along a jungle trail that traverses rainforest and rivers.
With opportunities to be wowed by Arenal’s near-perfect conical peak along the way, your tour guide will point out local wildlife en route to Maleku village, home to a group of indigenous people.
Note you need to be over sixteen to drive your own ATV on this trip. Four+ year-olds can ride as passengers.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to focus your trip on the volcano, the two-hour Original Arenal ATV Tour takes you totally off-road to the craters created by the 1968 eruption.
Along the way, you’ll also see a remarkable river with volcanic mud, visit a viewpoint to observe Arenal Lake, and learn about local agriculture.
Mainly, though, you’ll be blown away by epic views while traversing extraordinary terrain.
#6 Relax in one of the hot springs
Due to the region’s volcanic activities, it’ll come as no surprise that the Arenal area is renowned for its natural hot springs.
Several of them line the road from La Fortuna to Arenal, all set around a variety of pools fed by thermally heated underground streams. While the majority of agencies in town sell tickets and transportation to the springs, you can easily visit them independently.
In addition, some hotels have worked hot springs into their landscaped grounds, which are also open to non-guests (for a fee).
Here’s our run-down of the best hot springs to visit around Arenal Volcano — take your pick from swanky complexes, to lesser-visited sites beloved by locals.
The glitziest of the main hot springs, and the destination for most tourists is Balneario Tabacón.
Fed by a magma-boiled underground thermal river, the water temperature here ranges from 27°C (80°F) to about 42°C (108°F).
The complex comprises fifteen mineral-rich pools, most of which are secluded among rich vegetation. Several are set beneath waterfalls, so you can position yourself under the cascades for a massage.
Baldi Hot Springs
While Baldi Hot Springs lacks the classy touches of its rival, it’s significantly cheaper and offers many of the same facilities as Tabacón. It's also more accessible for those without transport.
Baldi's delights include 25 steaming pools, among them Roman-style baths and waterfall-fed pools. Meanwhile, younger visitors will love the three waterslides.
Fronted by imposing wooden gates, the exclusive-looking Ecotermales Fortuna has five cascading thermal pools of varying temperatures set in idyllic forested surrounds.
It’s stylishly low-key, and only 100 people are allowed in during any of the allotted times, so be sure to book ahead in high season.
Termales Los Laureles
Termales Los Laureles is the least expensive official hot springs in the Arenal area, and popular with Ticos.
Four simple pools (one with slides) are set around a very ordinary garden, but the volcano views are sensational. Why not bring your own food and booze and make a night of it?
Travel tip: discover more about the best hot springs near Arenal National Park.
#7 Take a hike around Arenal Lake
Many of the area’s activities unsurprisingly revolve around Arenal Lake. At 85 square km, this is Costa Rica’s largest lake, with a hydroelectric project at its western end a key driving force in the country’s admirable green energy policy.
For most visitors, though, Arenal Lake means a different kind of energy. This is Costa Rica’s prime windsurfing and kitesufing site, with Tilarán, on the western side of the lake, being the focal point for activities.
The wind peaks come between mid-December and February, so aim for the late-season months if you’re looking to learn.
Fishing is another key activity on Arenal Lake, with many visitors hoping to hook the hard-fighting guapote. Lake Arenal Fishing, for example, runs conventional fishing, fly-fishing and kayak-based fishing trips that last either five or seven hours.
Several operators run kayak tours and paddle-boarding excursions. Arenal Kayaks come especially recommended for their variety of offerings. You can fish, watch birds, or explore coves and lagoons, all the while watching out for howler monkeys along the shoreline.
For a sublimely scenic experience take a Sunset and Moonshine Cruise on Lake Arenal. Not only does this deliver dramatic views of the volcano in the shifting light, but you'll get to see an abundance of birdlife along the way.
#8 Coffee and chocolate tours
If you’re a fan of rich coffee and even richer chocolate, you won’t want to miss sampling the region’s most celebrated produce during your trip.
For foodies, it’s fair to say that visiting a coffee and/or cacao farm makes for a truly memorable Arenal Volcano tour experience.
Such activities also offer a rewarding way to put some of your sustainable travel goals into practice. Most tours are run by small-scale farmers, which means your experience directly supports the local economy.
Many tours can be taken from La Fortuna. For example, family-run North Fields offer a shuttle service to their farm from La Fortuna hotels (four shuttles daily; book via their site).
The tour itself involves a guide showing you round the farm explaining the whole bean-to-cup and bean-to-bar process. The trip wraps up with a fun tasting session — expect to be asked to work out which chocolate has the highest cocoa content.
A similar experience is offered on the Don Olivo Chocolate Tour, which (unsurprisingly) has more of a chocolate focus.
That said, you’ll also learn about — and taste — coffee, sugar cane, fruits and vanilla. Oh, and you might just spot a few sloths along the way.
Talking of sloths, to enjoy the best of both worlds (local wildlife and produce) at one fell swoop, Arenal Jungle Tours run a trip that combines sloth observation with a coffee and chocolate experience.
With a dedicated Sloth Watching Trail in the farm, this tour is sure to satisfy all ages.
#9 Go hiking
Hikers and walkers of all fitness levels will be pleased to learn that the Arenal Volcano region boasts trails to suit all kinds of travellers.
These include everything from well-maintained, short accessible paths to fine viewing points, to otherworldly treks across terrain created by lava flow.
If you’re travelling with kids, need an accessible option, or want a rewarding introduction to the area, try the Peninsula Trail in Arenal Volcano National Park. A flat, 1.3 km path leads you to an observation tower overlooking the volcano.
Given its ease, the Peninsula Trail is a pretty rewarding route, with plenty of wildlife likely to make an appearance along the way. Expect to see the likes of oropendolas and tanagers up in the trees, and agoutis scampering across the ground.
Keen to get closer to Arenal Volcano? You'll want to walk the Las Coladas trail — a 2km, mostly flat hike that leads to a 1992 lava flow (it's also known as the lava flow trail).
After passing through a canopy of towering cane, you’ll come to the first of two volcano observation areas. Climb the staircase for a prime viewing position before walking on the old lava flow and continuing to the second (even better) volcano viewing point.
#10 Explore local markets around Arenal
While in the Arenal Volcano area, don’t miss the chance to buy local produce and crafts at a market.
Pretty much every Costa Rican community and town hosts a local Feria (Fair) or Feria del Agricultor (Agricultural Fair). Essentially, this is a farmers’ market that sees local producers sell their goods at a focal point in town.
With Costa Rica being a top eco-tourism destination, many of these markets now also offer the likes of craft, pottery and jewellery.
The La Fortuna Feria comes highly recommended for visitors to the Arenal Volcano area. It’s held from 7am-5pm on Mondays and Fridays in front of the bull running stadium by the football pitch.
Elsewhere in the area, Cinco Esquinas Farmers’ Market is a friendly community-run affair, and a great place to pick up local organic produce and handicrafts.
Located just outside the village of Tilaran to the west of Arenal lake, it's held from 9am-1pm on the first and third Sunday of the month.
Travel tip: to make your trip all the tastier, read up on eating and drinking in Costa Rica.