A Step-By-Step Guide To The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Last updated on October 27th, 2022 at 03:37 pm EST
- Costa Rica in July: Costs, Weather, Wildlife, Roads, Tourism Closures And More! - October 26, 2022
- Mistico Park or Sky Walk/Adventures: Which Arenal Hanging Bridges Are The Best? - June 24, 2022
- Osa Peninsula Beaches In Costa Rica - June 14, 2022
Want to know our pick for the BEST HANGING BRIDGE in Costa Rica? It is featured on DIY Costa Rica!
Want to save money in Costa Rica?
Our sister site, Pura Vida! eh? Inc., has Mistico Park tour discounts. Con mucho gusto (you’re welcome) and pura vida!
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, bridge lengths, and bridge heights
- Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park: Additional info and visit tips
- Mistico Park discounts
- Arenal hanging bridges comparison
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.
Don’t miss our discounts for activities run at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, including the hanging bridges:
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 the 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 in the park, 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 many visitors. Surprisingly, though, it never feels super busy. Strict capacity limits are surely the reason; they control the number of travelers who visit the hanging bridges each day. Four different trail options that cater to different types 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 invite 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 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 Curassow Bridge, the Collared Peccary 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 encounter the first suspension bridge in the park (the Arenal Bridge), followed by another non-suspension bridge (the Monkey Ladder Bridge). Soon after, you’ll see a turnoff 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 Bully 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/Rainbow-Beaked 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 from a viewpoint. 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 Heart Of Palm/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, 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 hike. 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 on the main trail first, then catch the bird-watching trail that cuts across the park and later reconnects with the main trail just before the exit. Just beyond the park’s entrance, you’ll find the bird-watching trail between the Monkey Ladder Bridge and the Bully Tree Bridge. On the other side of the park, just before the exit, you’ll find the bird-watching trail between the Heart Of Palm/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 hike. 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, six non-suspension bridges (the Great Curassow Bridge, the Collared Peccary Bridge, the Jacamar Bridge, the Olingo Bridge, the Crested Guan Bridge, and the Tarantula Bridge), and either one suspension bridge (the Tayra Bridge) or two suspension bridges (the Tayra Bridge and the Fer-De-Lance Bridge) depending on the route taken. Note that the Fer-De-Lance Bridge is off the accessible ground. From the accessible trail, a brief detour leads to the Fer-De-Lance Bridge, which you can enjoy for a few moments before backtracking to the the accessible trail.
In total, the accessible trail is approximately 1,500 meters long and takes roughly 20-30 minutes to hike. 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, bridge lengths, and bridge heights
Are you asking yourself, “How many hanging bridges does the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park have?” or “How high/long are the hanging bridges at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park?” If so, see the lists below.
Suspension/hanging bridges at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
- Arenal Bridge (formerly known as the Arenal View Bridge): 75 meters / 246 feet
- Bully Tree Bridge (formerly known as the Pilon Tree Bridge): 53 meters / 174 feet
- Waterfall Bridge: 92 meters / 302 feet
- Anthill Bridge: 87 meters / 285 feet
- Fer-De-Lance Bridge: 48 meters / 157 feet
- Tayra Bridge: 97 meters / 318 feet
- Arenal Bridge (formerly known as the Arenal View Bridge): 55 meters / 180 feet
- Bully Tree Bridge (formerly known as the Pilon Tree Bridge): 21 meters / 69 feet
- Waterfall Bridge: 45 meters / 148 feet
- Anthill Bridge: 28 meters / 92 feet
- Fer-De-Lance Bridge: 24 meters / 79 feet
- Tayra Bridge: 24 meters / 79 feet
Non-suspension/hanging bridges (i.e., stationary bridges) at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
- Great Curassow Bridge: 8 meters / 26 feet
- Collared Peccary Bridge: 20 meters / 65 feet
- Jacamar Bridge: 18 meters / 59 feet
- Monkey Ladder Bridge: 5 meters / 16 feet
- Keel-Billed/Rainbow-Beaked Toucan Bridge: 10 meters / 3 feet
- Mystic Bridge: 10 meters / 33 feet
- Heart of Palm/Walking Palm Bridge: 15 meters / 49 feet
- Olingo Bridge: 17 meters / 56 feet
- Crested Guan Bridge: 11 meters / 36 feet
- Tarantula Bridge: 8 meters / 26 feet
- Great Curassow Bridge: 3.5 meters / 11 feet
- Collared Peccary Bridge: 8 meters / 26 feet
- Jacamar Bridge: 10 meters / 33 feet
- Monkey Ladder Bridge: 1 meter / 3 feet
- Keel-Billed/Rainbow-Beaked Toucan Bridge: 3 meters / 10 feet
- Mystic Bridge: 3 meters / 10 feet
- Heart of Palm/Walking Palm Bridge: 14 meters / 46 feet
- Olingo Bridge: 8 meters / 26 feet
- Crested Guan Bridge: 8 meters / 26 feet
- Tarantula Bridge: 1.5 meters / 5 feet
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park details:
Total number of suspension/hanging bridges: 6
Total number of non-suspension/hanging bridges (i.e., stationary bridges): 10
Total number of bridges (both types): 16
Total distance traveled over suspension/hanging bridges: 452 meters / 1,482 feet
Maximum height reached while traveling over suspension/hanging bridges: 55 meters / 180 feet
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: 20 Things To Do In Costa Rica Without A Guide, most hanging bridge 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 compared to its new signage.) Early morning bird-watching tours, late-afternoon twilight 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 in the mid-2000s. At that time, it didn’t matter what we wore for our hike, despite the trails being poorly maintained. When a new team took over the park in 2014 (and renamed the attraction the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park), a greater emphasis was placed on visitors’ safety. Many of the park’s older paths have been updated (see our photos below comparing an old trail to a 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 is 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 a rental car. (Ample free parking is available on-site). 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 on-site, don’t miss the Rufous Garden (just beyond the park’s entrance). It’s 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 on-site, you’ll find a souvenir store and a restaurant called the Sal & Pimienta Restaurant at the park’s reception. Both the store and the restaurant have unobstructed, 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 (operating under the name Paco’s Horses) runs a horseback riding tour on-site. Consider participating in this adventure if you wish to extend your time at the park.
Alternatively, the park’s position on the west side of La Fortuna near Arenal Lake means that it nears several of the Arenal area’s other top attractions, including the Arenal Volcano National Park, Arenal 1968, 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.
Mistico Park discounts
Arenal hanging bridges comparison
Are you trying to decide whether you should tour the hanging bridges at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park or the hanging bridges at Sky Adventures’s Arenal Park? If so, don’t miss our comparison of the two attractions in our related blog post:
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you visited the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park? What was your favorite part of the visit?