A Step-By-Step Guide (Literally!) To Costa Rica’s Arenal Hanging Bridges
NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on May 29th, 2017.
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)!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Know the Arenal Hanging Bridges? What was your favourite part?