One of the most popular excursions in Costa Rica is the hanging bridges, and Arenal Mistico offers tourists a phenomenal experience high in the treetops.
About Mistico Hanging Bridges
Arenal Mistico Hanging Bridges are located about 30 minutes west of La Fortuna. The park, formerly known as Arenal Hanging Bridges, is one of the most extensive hanging bridges attractions in all of Costa Rica.
Mistico Park was originally owned by a husband and wife who inherited the land near Arenal from their parents. They wanted to make sure the extensive wildlife and views were preserved and also available to the public. In the early 20th century, the first bridges were constructed.
Today, with the same ecotourism focus the original owners had envisioned, visitors can hike the wildlife trails and experience the hanging bridges 250-300 feet in the air.
This is one of the best hanging bridges in the country in my opinion, and I love supporting the park because it is locally owned and operated.
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Location – Getting There And Away
Getting to Arenal Mistico is fairly easy. Just head west on the main road out of La Fortuna towards the laguna. This is the same road you will use to get to the hot springs such as Baldi, Kalambu, Volcano Lodge and Springs and Tabacon. This is also the road many people use to head to Guanacaste and other Pacific Beaches after visiting La Fortuna.
When you arrive at the boat ramp parking area, you will make a right turn. There is a an immediate right that dead ends, and you do not want to take that road. Follow the main road about 10 minutes up the hill and you will find the park.
If you are not driving, you will need to take a taxi or Uber to the location. Many large tour buses also frequent the park, and it is easy to find tours that include transportation- just check the main city center in La Fortuna.
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What To Expect
As soon as you arrive at the main entrance to the park, you will find that the star of the show is the view of the Arenal volcano. Make sure to snap a picture under the arc as you arrive, and take a moment to enjoy the breathtaking views.
As you enter you will pay your admission fee. Children 0-10 are free which is awesome, and they even have strollers for rent at the entrance.
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There is then a huge map of all the bridges and trails that you can take in addition to walking the bridges. There is a really cool wildlife loop where you can often see many species of wildlife, along with spectacular flora and fauna. More on that below.
The park has both self-guided and tour guide options, and it is really up to you which you choose. We often do self-guided because there are so many official tour guides that we can usually just overhear what they are saying to their own groups as we move through the park.
You can also visit see several waterfalls that cascade into the Arenal River at the edge of the property, and the Rufus garden is gorgeous to walk through.
Check our top 7 picks for best volcanoes to visit in Costa Rica.
What makes Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park unique from other bridges in the area (namely Sky Trek Adventures) is the wildlife viewing.
The best time to view the wildlife is in the early morning. This is because more animals are out and about, but also because as the park gets busier, there are more people making noise and the wildlife is scared off.
Note that the park offers twilight tours and night tours outside of the regular operating hours.
It’s also harder to see wildlife in the rain, and it generally rains in the afternoon, so I recommend either choosing a clear day if possible or going in the morning.
You can see the following wildlife (not guaranteed, but these animals are generally around the area):
- Bell Bird
- Emerald Toucanette
- Bell bird
- Turkey hens
- Other migratory birds depending on the season
- Tree frogs
- Poison dart frogs
- White tailed coati
- Jaguar and Puma (please note these are extremely rare.
There are miles and miles of paved hiking trails throughout the park. The main trail is 2 miles long and offers a maximum 6% grade, so it isn’t steep hardly at all. This trail includes the hanging bridges, a waterfall view and a tunnel which is super fun.
The accessible trail is about 1 mile long and includes 6 fixed hanging bridges.
The bird observation trail is 1.6 miles and also includes all 16 bridges.
The trails are concrete, and near the steeper parts there is a wooden railing to grab on to. One thing I don’t love about these trails is that they get slippery when wet. I especially love to wear my Keen shoes, but they slide a lot on the terrain so I don’t recommend them here.
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About The Hanging Bridges
The hanging bridges offer incredible views of the forest canopy. While on the bridges you won’t always have a great view of the volcano.
There are 16 hanging bridges at the park, 10 fixed bridges, and 6 of them are suspension bridges.
The hanging bridges are super high off the rainforest floor but don’t feel like it. The bridges are made of metal, which a grated bottom and chain-link sides built up about 4 feet. This makes it easy to look down on the forest and also out to see the treetops and birds while you are walking.
The bridges wobble a bit, but more than one person can be on them at a time, and they aren’t super unsteady.
I do not do well at all with heights, but the bridges felt safe to me and I didn’t feel like I was too high off the ground even though I was.
What To Bring
You will want to have a small pack here and bring the following items:
- Closed toed shoes (required)
- Water bottle
- Mosquito Repellent
- Rain Jacket in rainy season (the bridges do not shut down for rain)
- Binoculars (optional but highly recommended for seing more species of birds)
Cost Of Entrance
Here are the entrance fees for self guided tours in 2022:
- Adults $26
- Teens $16
- Seniors: $21
- Children 0-10: Free
If you are Costa Rican national and can show your ID at the park entrance, there is a significant discount on the rates.
You don’t have to book your entrance in advance, you can pay at the door. You can also purchase advance tickets on the Arenal Mistico Hanging Bridges website.
The park also offers night tours, twilight tours, and guided tours. These should be booked in advance.
I visited the park as part of a tour of accessible Costa Rica, and the park is a great option for those in wheelchairs are there is a trail and several bridges made to be accessible to all.
This means that there is also an opportunity for a stroller to come through, but I would use a jogging stroller as opposed to the umbrella stroller many people travel with.
If you aren’t bringing a stroller to Costa Rica you can rent one at the entrance. The longest trail is 2 miles long, but if you want to do several trials you can be walking up to 3.5 miles.
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