A Step-By-Step Guide To The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Last updated on August 13th, 2021 at 06:40 pm EST
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Get the Costa Rica info you need by browsing our article's TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- About the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
- Why we love the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
- Main trail information (from the park’s entrance to the waterfall trail)
- Waterfall trail information
- Main trail information (from the waterfall trail to the park’s exit)
- Bird-watching trail information
- Accessible trail information
- Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park: Number of bridges and bridge lengths
- Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park: Additional info and visit tips
About the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Of the many, many tours and activities that La Fortuna has to offer, few are visited more than the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, formerly known as the Arenal Hanging Bridges.
Not only are guided tours and unguided visits to the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park popular activities on their own, they’re also popular components of “combo tours” sold in La Fortuna. If you plan to participate in a variety of adventure or nature tours while in the area, you’ll probably end up visiting a hanging bridges park too. In the Arenal area alone, you can zipline, rappel, raft, hike around the Arenal Volcano during the day or night, go horseback riding, visit the La Fortuna Waterfall, participate in a coffee or chocolate tour, or soak in hot springs, and each of these activities can be combined with a visit to the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park to help you make the most of your limited travel time.
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Why we love the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
As an avid birder, Ricky loves the thrill of spotting a bird species he hasn’t yet seen in La Fortuna, which is always a challenge given that he’s seen and tracked more birds in the region than I could ever begin to count. Why does Ricky love the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park? Because it’s replete with tropical bird species. It’s also a lush and quiet area of La Fortuna where bird-watching is made easy by ample treetop canopy cover and suspension bridges that cut through it.
While I admit that I’ve enjoyed seeing beautiful, long-tailed motmots every time I’ve visited the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, I love everything else the park has to offer beyond great bird-watching. It provides scenic volcano views, several long suspension bridges that dangle over the depths of the rainforest, a gentle waterfall, and plenty of opportunities to spot resting wildlife. The first pit viper I saw in Costa Rica was asleep in a hole in a tree trunk and I’ve always had great luck spotting sloths snoozing in the leafy canopy that towers over the park’s trails.
As one of La Fortuna’s most popular attractions, the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park receives plenty of visitors. Surprisingly, though, it never really feels “too busy.” Strict capacity limits help with this and ultimately control the volume of travelers who visit the hanging bridges daily. Four different trail options that cater to different groups of travelers course throughout the park: the main trail, the waterfall trail, the accessible trail, and the bird-watching trail. These trails help disperse park guests and allow visitors of varying physical abilities to enjoy the experience of the hanging bridges.
Main trail information (from the park’s entrance to the waterfall trail)
The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park‘s main trail is the park’s most popular route. After you check-in at the park’s reception and you receive your entrance ticket (to be handed to the park employee at an entrance booth), the walk sets out into the forest. You’ll cross a number of non-suspension bridges first, including the Great Currasow Bridge, the Pecari Bridge, and the Jacamar Bridge, before you reach a fork in the trail. This is where the main trail meets the accessible trail. If you wish to take the accessible trail (see below for information about this trail), take the path to the right. If you’d prefer to stay on the main trail, take the path to the left.
As the main trail builds in elevation, you’ll come to the first suspension bridge in the park (the Arenal View Bridge), followed by another non-suspension bridge (the Monkey Ladder Bridge). Soon after, you’ll see a cut-off to the right for the bird-watching trail (see below for information about this trail). Stick to the main trail and you’ll be treated to the suspended Pilon Tree Bridge and the Waterfall Bridge. The latter of the two is the highest and second-longest bridge (second only to the last bridge located at the exit) in the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. From the Waterfall Bridge, you’ll be able to peer over the treetop canopy into the depths of the rainforest below and really appreciate the natural beauty that Costa Rica is blessed with. If you dare to look down, you’ll spot other hikers below, who hint at a section of trail to come.
Waterfall trail information
The waterfall trail is a side trail encountered partway along the main trail. From the main trail, after a downhill hike following the Waterfall Bridge, you’ll cross the non-suspension Keel-Billed Toucan Bridge before spotting a set of rainforest steps that branch off the main trail to the right. This set of steep steps is known as the waterfall trail. It leads the way over the Mistico Bridge to the park’s Blue Morpho Waterfall where you can stop for a few minutes and admire the cascade. The climb down takes roughly five minutes. Give yourself closer to ten minutes to make the climb back up to rejoin the main trail. If you’re not interested in seeing the waterfall or you’re not in a good physical condition to manage steep steps, skip the short waterfall trail altogether.
Main trail information (from the waterfall trail to the park’s exit)
The first bridge you’ll cross after hiking (or skipping) the waterfall trail is the Ant Hill Bridge. Later, after crossing the Walking Palm Bridge, you’ll see a trail that leads to the left (in front of the Jumping Pit Viper Tunnel); the trail is the alternative access point to the bird-watching trail. If you had elected to take the bird-watching trail soon after you entered the park (after crossing the Monkey Ladder Bridge, as described above) you would exit the bird-watching trail at this spot. Follow the trail if you wish to explore the bird-watching route. Otherwise, keep straight to stay on the main trail (you’ll know you’re on the main trail if you walk over the Fer-De-Lance Bridge). As you near the end of the main trail (which mark’s the park’s entrance), you’ll find that the accessible trail joins the main trail from the right. Following this intersection, you’ll cross four more bridges, three non-suspension bridges (the Olingo Bridge, the Crested Guan Bridge, and the Tarantula Bridge) and one suspension bridge (the Tayra Bridge), before exiting the hanging bridges park.
In total, the main trail is approximately 3,200 meters long and takes roughly 90 minutes to complete if hiked nonstop. Guided hanging bridges tours, which include stops along the way for instruction and wildlife spotting, run for longer, typically 2-3 hours.
Bird-watching trail information
The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park‘s bird-watching trail can be experienced as an add-on to the full main trail (for optimal park exploration) or as a shortcut that avoids the section of the main trail that ascends to the highest part of the park. The best way to envision its design is to imagine the park’s trail system as a capital letter “A”. The two diagonal lines that form the letter’s two sides (an inverted letter “V”) are the main trail. The short line that cuts across the two lines (which turns the inverted letter “V” into an “A”) is the bird-watching trail.
In order to reach the bird-watching trail, you’ll need to set out briefly on the main trail first, then catch the bird-watching trail that cuts across the park and later reconnects with the main trail not far from the park’s exit. Just beyond the park’s entrance, you’ll find the bird-watching trail between the Monkey Ladder Bridge and the Pilon Tree Bridge. On the other side of the park, just before the exit, you’ll find the bird-watching trail between the Walking Palm Bridge and the Jumping Pit Viper Tunnel.
The best bird-watching in the park takes place along the bird-watching trail which courses through dense forest. In total, the bird-watching trail is approximately 2,500 meters long and takes roughly 1 hour to complete if hiked nonstop. Guided bird-watching tours, which include stops along the way for instruction and bird-spotting, run for longer, typically 2-3 hours.
Accessible trail information
Ideal for senior travelers or mobility-challenged individuals, the accessible trail is the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park‘s shortest trail. It provides a sample of what the park has to offer, including rainforest views, bird-watching opportunities, 6 non-suspension bridges (the Great Currasow Bridge, the Pecari Bridge, the Jacamar Bridge, the Olingo Bridge, the Crested Guan Bridge, and the Tarantula Bridge), and 1 suspension bridge (the Tayra Bridge).
A second suspension bridge is within close reach, though it’s off the accessible ground. Between the Jacamar Bridge and the Olingo Bridge, take the path you find on your left. The brief detour leads to the suspended Fer-De-Lance Bridge, which you can enjoy for a few moments before backtracking to the Olingo Bridge and continuing along the accessible trail.
In total, the accessible trail is approximately 1,500 meters long and takes roughly 20-30 minutes to complete if hiked nonstop. Guided hanging bridges tours, which include stops along the way for instruction and wildlife spotting, run for longer, typically 45 minutes.
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park: Number of bridges and bridge lengths
Are you asking yourself, “how many hanging bridges does the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park have?” or “how long are the hanging bridges at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park?” If so, we’ve got answers for you!
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park details:
Great Currasow Bridge (non-suspension): 8 meters
Pecari Bridge (non-suspension): 20 meters
Jacamar Bridge (non-suspension): 18 meters
Arenal View Bridge (suspension): 75 meters
Monkey Ladder Bridge (non-suspension): 5 meters
Pilon Tree Bridge (suspension): 53 meters
Waterfall Bridge (suspension): 92 meters
Keel-Billed Toucan Bridge (non-suspension): 10 meters
Mistico Bridge (non-suspension): 10 meters
Ant Hill Bridge (suspension): 87 meters
Walking Palm Bridge (non-suspension): 15 meters
Fer-De-Lance Bridge (suspension): 48 meters
Olingo Bridge (non-suspension): 17 meters
Crested Guan Bridge (non-suspension): 11 meters
Tarantula Bridge (non-suspension): 8 meters
Tayra Bridge (suspension): 97 meters)
Total number of suspension hanging bridges: 6
Total number of non-suspension hanging bridges: 10
Total number of hanging bridges at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park: 16
Total hanging bridges distance: 574 meters
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park: Additional info and visit tips
Experience the hanging bridges with or without a guide.
As we mention in our related blog post Self-Guided Adventures: Things To Do In Costa Rica Without A Guide, most hanging bridges attractions in Costa Rica, including the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, can be experienced with or without a tour guide. Though we support going with a tour guide (don’t miss our related blog post Costa Rica Guided Tours: Are They Necessary, Valuable, And/Or Worthwhile? to learn why), having one isn’t required for regular day visits as the park’s trails and bridges are well marked (see our photos below for a comparison of the park’s old signage to its new signage). Early morning bird-watching tours and night tours, however, require a tour guide.
Regardless of whether you plan to go with or without a guide, book your visit to the park in advance.
The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park strictly enforces capacity limits. You must book your visit in advance (even if you don’t plan on taking a guided tour) in order to ensure you’ll be allowed to enter the park when you arrive. Note that you do not need to specify which trail(s) you want to hike when you book your visit in advance. You simply need to provide the park with the date and time you intend to arrive.
Wear completely closed footwear and beware of your footing.
We first visited the Arenal Hanging Bridges over a decade ago. At that time, it didn’t matter what we wore for our hike and the trails were poorly maintained. Since then, however, the team that took over the park in 2014 (the same team that renamed the attraction the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park) has placed a greater emphasis on visitors’ safety. Many of the park’s older paths have been updated (see our photos below comparing the old trail to the new trail) and all visitors are now required to wear footwear that completely covers their feet. The use of Keen-type sandals that expose sections of skin are not permitted, so plan your footwear accordingly. It’s also important to choose footwear with treads. Though well maintained, the park’s flat trail paths are slippery when wet, which can make hiking inclines and declines a bit tricky for some folks. Come wearing your best footwear and prepared to watch your footing as you hike.
Drive, park, relax, dine, and view.
Situated an approximate 25-minute drive outside of downtown La Fortuna, the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park caters to travelers who have access to their own rental car (ample free parking is available onsite). If you don’t have a rental car, several tour operators in La Fortuna run guided tours to the attraction complete with round-trip transportation between the park and La Fortuna hotels. Round-trip transportation can also be booked through the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park directly.
If you’re looking for a place to relax at onsite, off the main trail, just beyond the entrance, is a path that leads to the park’s Rufous Garden–a quiet and relaxing retreat set back from the park’s reception where the natural sounds of the rainforest can be appreciated.
If you long to shop or dine onsite, you’ll find a souvenir store and a restaurant called the Sal & Pimienta Restaurant near the park’s reception. Both the store and the restaurant have front-row seats to the Arenal Volcano, so don’t forget to snap some spectacular shots of the park’s panoramic volcano view before you leave.
Make a day out of your visit.
In addition to the hanging bridges, which are the park’s top attraction, the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park offers a horseback riding tour on-site. Consider participating in this adventure if you wish to make a day out of your visit to the park.
Alternatively, the park’s position on the west side of La Fortuna near Lake Arenal means that it nears several of the Arenal area’s other top attractions, including the Arenal Volcano National Park, the 1968 Trail, the Silencio Trail, the Arenal Sky Adventures Park, and a variety of hot springs attractions. Consider planning a full day of activities on the west side of La Fortuna by visiting one or more parks or trails in the region.
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