A Step-By-Step Guide (Literally!) To Costa Rica’s Arenal Hanging Bridges

Interested in visiting some hanging (suspension) bridges while in Costa Rica? Consider visiting the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park (formally known as the Arenal Hanging Bridges) in La Fortuna (Arenal)!

Arenal Hanging Bridges Entrance

Arenal Hanging Bridges Entrance

Ricky and I’s most recent visit to the Arenal Hanging Bridges was another great one. As an avid birder, Ricky loves the thrill of spotting a species that he has not yet seen here in La Fortuna (no doubt a difficult feat, as he has seen and tracked more birds here than I could ever begin to count), so a trip to the hanging bridges is always exciting for him. For me, as much as I enjoy a nature trek for the pure fun and adventure of it, my main purpose in re-visiting sites like the hanging bridges is to be able to keep our informative comments and recommendations (for both bloggers and clients alike) accurate and up-to-date.

First Bridge

First Bridge

Once inside the forest, you will come to a number of non-suspension bridges (the first of which will be the tarantula bridge, followed by the crested guan bridge and the olingo bridge) before finding the next suspension bridge (the fer de lance bridge). After crossing, you will meet the jumping pit viper tunnel, continuing on across the walking palm bridge, the ant hill bridge, and the save the trees bridge. During this section of the trek, be sure to look up as you will catch a glimpse of the stunning waterfall bridge (the route’s highest point) well overhead.

Nikki - Arenal Hanging Bridges

Nikki – Arenal Hanging Bridges

The Highest Bridge

The Highest Bridge

For bird-lovers, there are two optional trails available leading visitors to the best areas for birdwatching on-site. The start of each trail can be found to the left of the main trail after passing through the jumping pit viper tunnel. The downside to taking either one of these trails? Both will lead you to the other side of the circular course causing you to miss the on-site waterfall and popular waterfall bridge. The advantage? For those travellers who wish to cut their time at the hanging bridges short (and/or for those travellers who wish to skip the uphill hike towards the site’s highest point), either of these birdwatching trails provides an out. Otherwise, for those of you like my husband who want it all – a great birdwatching experience and the opportunity to experience the hanging bridges tour in its entirety – consider taking either one of the special birding trails to and from the entrance after the tunnel, so you can return to the main course after spotting that special motmot and continue on your way to completing the entire course.

Ricky - Birdwatching at the Hanging Bridges

Ricky – Birdwatching at the Hanging Bridges

Ricky at the waterfall below the bridges

Ricky at the waterfall below the bridges

Alternatively, if neither of the special birdwatching trails are of interest to you, you might enjoy a brief trek off the main trail to the waterfall. The waterfall trail can be found after the ant hill bridge (to the left). Note: a 5 minute steep walk down to the waterfall is needed, requiring a hike back up to the main trail after your visit. Following your return to the principle course, the next 280 meter trek will be your most difficult, as the majority of this stretch is uphill (benches are provided along the side of the trail for those needing to stop and rest). Halfway through this challenging section of the hanging bridges you will cross the save the trees bridge, continuing on to the waterfall bridge where you will end your uphill battle. At this point you have trekked through more than 50% of the hanging bridges site – the remainder of which is comprised of flat and downhill sections.

View from the highest bridge

View from the highest bridge

The Arenal Hanging Bridges’ waterfall bridge is the site’s second longest suspension bridge (second only to the first bridge located at the site’s entrance). It is also your best opportunity to overlook the canopy below, take in the natural beauty that is Costa Rica, and reflect on how far you have come (literally, by hiking through the forest and finding yourself at the highest point, although the view is stunning enough that perhaps a metaphorical reflection could be evoked as well). For those who dare to look down, you can spot travellers hiking beneath you – each following in the footsteps you left for them about 20 minutes beforehand.

Hanging Bridges Hiking Path

Hanging Bridges Hiking Path

Following your visit to the waterfall bridge, continue along the trail towards the exit completing the tour circuit. The walk is not a difficult one, however beware of your footing. Downhill sections can make for a tricky trek (and a sprained ankle if you are not careful) as the trail is comprised of brick-like steps that are uneven and broken in places. Take your time, enjoy the lush scenes you will pass as you round-out your hanging bridge experience, and don’t forget to snap some spectacular shots of the Arenal Volcano from the look-out point at the exit before you leave.

*Discounts for hanging bridge tours are available through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated at: http://www.puravidaeh.ca/

Sky Walk Hanging Bridges Tour - Sky Adventures Monteverde

Click here to access discounts for Hanging Bridge Tours


QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Know the Arenal Hanging Bridges? What was your favourite part?

Pura vida!

10 responses to “A Step-By-Step Guide (Literally!) To Costa Rica’s Arenal Hanging Bridges

  1. I see you can do this tour by yourself but what is the fee? Seems a bit high for a “do it yourself” tour. Just curious. Thanks for your help!

  2. How long did you stay at the park? Would 6 hours be enough time to account?

    • anna kiser –

      Thanks so much for reading our post about the hanging bridges! 6 hours would be more than enough time, and in our opinion, too much time. When we visit the bridges on our own, we typically walk through in about 1.5-2 hours. Sometimes the visit takes longer, depending on the quality of birding (Ricky is a bird enthusiast, so it is not uncommon for us to spend 20 minutes standing in one spot looking through binoculars or listing to a particular “song”). Official guided park tours typically take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to complete, and that includes time for the guide to point out things of interest along the way. If you wanted to give yourself some “buffer” time, I would cap this at 4 hours at the very most; with 6 hours allotted for time spent in the park, you may find that the extra few hours would be better spent elsewhere. 🙂

      Pura vida!

  3. Hi, I saw Kate asked a similar question before but you provided a tour in your answer. Can we visit hanging bridges on our own without a tour?

    • jenny –
      Absolutely! The hanging bridges can certainly be visited without a guide. To confirm, the link we provided in our answer to Kate’s question is to an unguided option (it is not a tour – all “unguided” options allow travellers to simply visit sites on their own and pay their own entrance fee – no guided tour included). Reserving in advance allows you to access the Pura Vida! eh? discount for the site experience (ie. the entrance fee) and guarantees your space (in case availability is no longer available closer to your travel date, however for this particular option (http://puravidaeh.ca/2013/02/14/arenal-hanging-bridges-entrance-only/) the tour is not guided – it is a self-guided experience (ie. only the bridges entrance fee is included so travellers can walk around their bridges on their own).
      Pura vida! 🙂

  4. can you do the hanging bridges without a tour? and how much is entrance fee?

    • sandrabranum –
      The hanging bridges are BEAUTIFUL! One of the best ways to see the rainforest – with a bird`s eye view! They are not for the faint of heart however, that is for sure! 🙂
      Pura vida!

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