Visiting Costa Rica’s Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park was one of the first places I visited in Costa Rica, and I found it to be a fun experience and cool way to get to know the rainforest!

mistico arenal hanging bridges park

Located 3.5 hours north of San Jose and only 30 minutes from the touristy town of La Fortuna, the popular nature preserve in northern Costa Rica is known for its wildlife, waterfalls, and the hanging bridges that offer cool photo opportunities.

Interested in coming here? Read on for everything you need to know about how to get here, prices, guided tours vs. visiting on your own, the best time to visit, and whether the cost is worth it.

Quick Summary: Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
-This is one of the best places to walk on hanging bridges in Costa Rica
-It’s located near La Fortuna, a few hours’ drive from San Jose or Liberia
-You can see monkeys, snakes, coatis, tropical birds, and sloths
-The trails provide a rainforest experience and views of the Arenal Volcano
-Visit on your own, or take a guided tour from San Jose or La Fortuna
-Current entrance fee is $32 USD for adults

hanging bridge

Why Should You Visit Mistico Arenal?

Costa Rica is known for its hanging bridges in the rainforest, and Mistico Arenal has a lot of good ones. The park has 16 bridges in total. Some are only a few feet off the ground, while others are quite high. 

Six are hanging bridges, suspended from above, that sway and wobble a little bit when you walk on them. Ten bridges here are more traditional, sturdy bridges that are bolted into concrete on either end and do not wobble at all. 

The swaying bridges don’t feel dangerous. The swaying is part of the fun! Even if you’re afraid of heights, it’s unlikely you will have any problems crossing the bridges in the park.

The longest bridge here is Tayra Bridge, which measures 368 feet (97 meters) long. The highest bridge is Arenal Bridge, which stands 180 feet (55 meters) above the ground. 

The park is a great place for bird watching, seeing sloths, multiple species of monkey, and other smaller critters. It also provides nice views of the Arenal Volcano on a clear day. And it’s not super expensive. 

For all of these reasons, I suggest that visiting Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is definitely worth it!

This is a protected preserve and a private commercial establishment, so it’s less “wild” than a national park. The wildlife and plant life here are managed, so you’re essentially getting a somewhat sanitized experience designed to cater to tourists.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Costa Rica has plenty of national parks where you can go out into the wild and get a true “deep in the rainforest” experience. Mistico Arenal is not that, but it’s still worth visiting.

Note that you may hear Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park referred to as Arenal Hanging Bridges or La Fortuna Hanging Bridges. I use these terms interchangeably in this article.

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Map

Here’s the official map of the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park grounds. This map notes the primary bridges, plus the largest waterfall and a couple of other points of interest.

Map legend: 
The bridges with an * asterisk are the hanging suspension bridges. All others are stationary bridges.
1 Rufus Hummingbird Garden
2 Great Curassow Bridge: length 8 m (26 ft) / height 3.5 m (11 ft)
3 Collared Peccary Bridge: length 20 m (65 ft) / height 8 m (26 ft)
4 Jacamar Bridge: length 18 m (59 ft) / height 10 m (33 ft)
5 Emergency Meeting Point 1
6 Arenal Bridge*: length 75 m (246 ft) / height 55 m (180 ft)
7 Monkey Ladder Bridge: length 5 m (16 ft) / height 1 m (3 ft)
8 Bully Tree Bridge*: length 53 m (174 ft) / height 21 m (69 ft)
9 Waterfall Bridge*: length 92 m (300 ft) / height 45 m (148 ft)
10 Rainbow Beak Toucan Bridge (aka Keel-Billed Toucan Bridge): length 10 m (33 ft) / height 3 m (10 ft)
11 Mystic Bridge: length 10 m (33 ft) / height 3 m (10 ft)
12 Blue Morpho Waterfall: height 21 m (69 ft)
13 Anthill Bridge*: length 87 m (285 ft) / height 28 m (92 ft)
14 Heart of Palm Bridge: length 15 m (49 ft) / height 14 m (46 ft)
15 Emergency Meeting Point 2
16 Fer-de-lance Bridge*: length 48 m (157 ft) / height 24 m (79 ft)
17 Olingo Bridge: length 17 m (56 ft) / height 8 m (26 ft)
18 Guan Bridge: length 11 m (36 ft) / height 8 m (26 ft)
19 Tarantula Bridge: length 8 m (26 ft) / height 1.5 m (5 ft)
20 Tayra Bridge*: length 97 m (368 ft) / height 24 m (79 ft)

The bridges are noted with colorful signs throughout the park.

jacamar bridge

Which of these is the best hanging bridge in the park? That may depend on personal preference, but I liked Arenal Bridge the most, since it’s the highest and one of the longest, and it has a view of the volcano.

The park has three primary walking trails. The “Main Trail” is 2 miles long and features 16 bridges, plus a tunnel and a waterfall.

The Accessible Trail is a mile long and has 6 fixed bridges, plus 2 optional hanging bridges.

The Bird Observation Trail (or Bird-Watching Trail) is also 2 miles long, with 16 bridges. 

There’s also a side trail called the Waterfall Trail that leads to the impressive Blue Morpho Waterfall, at 69 feet high the biggest waterfall in the park. It takes 10-15 minutes to do the roundtrip walk to the waterfall.

Review: My Visit to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

I visited on a guided tour as a day trip from San Jose. We arrived around 10 am and found minimal crowds.

This was in early December, before the dry season had fully arrived, so we didn’t have to deal with hordes of tourists on the bridges.

Walking across the hanging bridges was fun. They wobbled a bit more than I expected, but they’re narrow enough that you can grab on to the sides to steady yourself.

The bridges do have capacity limits for safety reasons. Only one bridge was crowded enough that I had to wait in order to cross.

Being in the tropical rainforest was a different experience. We paused to check out the foliage and plant life as we walked the trails.

Of course we had to take the waterfall detour. Who’s going to pass up the chance to see a waterfall?

blue morpho waterfall

The Blue Morpho Waterfall is 69 feet tall and has a convenient viewing platform for photos and selfies.

As you walk around, keep your eyes open for wildlife both big and small. Interesting sights can be found all over — in the forest canopy, the undergrowth, and on the forest floor.

Plenty of monkeys live in these trees. They were the first animals we spotted!

monkeys rainforest canopy

One of the coolest animal species we saw was one of the tiniest: leaf-cutting ants. You’ll likely see trails of thousands of ants marching in formation, carrying large pieces of leaf back to their homes.

leaf cutting ants

My favorite wildlife sighting was the coati. Also known as coatimundi, the coati is a small mammal with a long tail that can be longer than its body. 

I spotted coatis near the park entrance, on the park road itself (chasing after our car), and just outside the park at a pullout where several cars had gathered. 

coatis costa rica

Some of the coatis were obviously being fed by humans, because they felt comfortable approaching all the people around.

Another attraction I enjoyed was the Pollinators Hotel. It’s well known that bees are vital to the environment, and they’re losing their habitat.

Mistico Arenal Park set up this Pollinators Hotel. It’s basically a wooden house with all sorts of crevices and nooks for various pollinators to set up nests.

pollinators hotel

The park says this home is used by not just bees, but also wasps, beetles, flies, and butterflies.

The hotel has a metal roof, which is crucial, because finding totally dry places to set up nests in the rainforest is difficult.

Overall, we spent a couple hour inside the park, and I found it to be well worth the money.

How to Get to Mistico Arenal Park

The hanging bridges are located in Costa Rica’s northern highlands. This area is about 3 hours north of San Jose’s Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), and 3 hours southeast of Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, also known as Liberia Guanacaste Airport (LIR).

park entrance

You can visit Mistico Arenal as part of a group tour from La Fortuna or San Jose. Or, if you have a rental car or grab a taxi, you can drive right there and explore the site on your own.

Easy Hop now offers shuttle rides from Downtown La Fortuna to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, with optional stops along the way at famous attractions like La Fortuna Waterfall, Baldi Hot Springs, Rainforest Chocolate Tour, and North Fields Coffee Tour.

La Fortuna is a good homebase since it’s close to so many natural attractions. La Fortuna is a small town, but gets a lot of tourists, so it has both local charm and tourist amenities. 

You can call for a taxi from Mistico, or arrange for one to meet you there at a specific time. Expect to pay a minimum of $20-30 USD each way for a taxi ride to and from the hanging bridges. 

Mistico Arenal Logistics: Entrance Fee, Hours, Best Time to Visit

Let’s talk about the specifics of getting inside the park. First off, it’s important to know that visitors must wear closed-toes shoes. No sandals allowed! 

That’s because there can be a lot of walking involved, and rain can make the paths a little slippery.

The park has a free parking lot for guests who choose to drive.

mistico arenal walking trails

Mistico Hanging Bridges Entrance Fee

As of 2024, the entrance fee for Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is $32 USD for adults, $26 for seniors over age 65, and $21 for teenagers age 11-18. Kids 10 and under get in for free. Taxes are included.

Visitors do need to book tickets in advance via the official website

Hours of Operation

The La Fortuna hanging bridges are open from 6 am to 4:30 pm daily. Most guests will need between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours in the park to explore the various trails. The last admission of the day is at 3:50 pm.

You can join a guided tour with a park employee at no additional cost. Tours begin at 6 am and run every hour until 3 pm. There’s an extra tour time slot at 6:30 am, and another at 3:30 pm, which is the last of the day.

Or, you can simply walk around the park at your own pace, without joining the official tour. The benefit of having a guide is that he or she can help point out wildlife and other interesting features in the park. But a lot of people do their own thing, so it’s up to you.

What’s the best time to visit Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges?

Costa Rica weather varies depending on which part of the country you’re in.

In the rainforest area of La Fortuna, where the hanging bridges are located, the dry season is summer, which is roughly mid-December through April. The rainy season lasts from May to early December. 

Crowds pick up here during the dry season. But coming during the rainy season isn’t necessarily fun either.

For these reasons, I recommend the shoulder season of April or early December.  These months will have smaller crowds and usually still have decent weather.

As for time of day, the earliest time slots are always good for avoiding tourists. Tours run as early as 6 and 6:30 am, so if you’re willing to get an early start on the day, you may be rewarded with a more peaceful, less-crowded atmosphere.

Guided Tour Options for the La Fortuna Hanging Bridges

guided tours hanging bridges

The park itself offers five special guided tours, all of which you can book via their homepage. These are more expensive than the basic admission ticket. Here’s a summary of the special tour offerings.

Mistico Night Walk ($61 USD): A 2.5-hour walk with a nocturnal naturalist guide, with a chance to look for frogs, snakes, lizards, owls, and other night creatures.

Twilight Walk ($61 USD): Similar to the Night Walk, the Twilight Walk starts before sunset, giving guests a chance to see the park in light and in dark, while searching for wildlife.

Natural History Walk ($48 USD): A guide will offer insights about the ecosystem and the species within as you explore the park. Guides are great at spotting wildlife.

Arenal Bird Watching Tour ($61 USD): Mistico Park is a birding paradise, with hundreds of species. The naturalist guide will help you locate as many different birds as possible.

Pacos Horseback Riding ($66 USD): The horseback riding offer is cool because guests get to ride through the pastures above the rainforest trails, providing views that folks on the regular tours don’t see.

As for guided tours led by outside companies, Viator has the best selection of tours offered by local companies. Here are some of your best tour options for visiting Mistico Arenal, from either San Jose or La Fortuna.

From San JoseArenal Volcano Hanging Bridges & Hot Springs Tour. There are lots of “hanging bridges tours” from San Jose, but most do not go to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. This is the tour to choose if you want to visit Mistico. I took this tour and enjoyed the morning hanging bridges hike, followed by some spa time at the hot springs. Check pricing and availability.

From La FortunaMistico Park Hanging Bridges Guided Tour. This tour leaves from La Fortuna and included a local guide to provide information as you walk around the park. The naturalist guide will help you find birds and wildlife on the trails. Check pricing and availability here.

arenal volcano
Cloudy view of the Arenal Volcano from the Mistico parking lot.

FAQs About Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

Is Mistico Arenal worth visiting?

Yes, I definitely think so! It’s a good way to see the rainforest and potentially see a lot of wildlife in a short time.

Mistico Arenal isn’t necessarily overflowing with wildlife, but you should expect to see some monkeys and birds, and possibly agoutis, coatis, and snakes.

How much time do you need in the park?

Most people spend about 2 hours here. You could zip through in an hour if you’re really short on time.

Or you could spend 3 hours if you plan on walking every trail and spending time to take lots of photographs and look closely for wildlife.

Does Mistico Arenal have bathrooms?

Yes, there are bathrooms at the entrance, near the parking lot and front reception desk.

Is there a place to eat here?

Yes, the park has a cafe that serves food, and it has great views of the Arenal volcano! 

You can even order a package deal that includes regular admission, plus lunch and a bottle of wine in the restaurant.

Food is not allowed on the trails. This isn’t a strenuous hike where you burn a lot of calories, so leave the snacks at your hotel or in your car.

What kinds of birds can you see here?

More than 350 species of resident and migratory birds pass through Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. November to April is the time to see the largest number of migratory species inside the park.

Be sure to visit the Bird Observation Trail for the best chance of seeing resident bird species such as Rufous Motmot and Scrub Euphonia, and migratory species like the Wood Thrush and various eagles.

Other birds often spotted inside La Fortuna Hanging Bridges include Rainbow Beak Toucan, Northern Emerald-Toucanet, guans, owls, bellbirds, jacamars, and hummingbirds.

What kind of wildlife can you see at the La Fortuna hanging bridges?

Spider monkeys are the most common critter seen throughout Mistico Arenal Park. They’re not too difficult to find, since they’re often making noise, walking on limbs, or swinging between branches.

You can also sometimes see sloths, though you may have to look carefully to spot the brown tufts of fur among the tree branches.

Make sure to keep your eyes on the ground as well! In addition to the leaf-cutting ants I encountered on the trail, you may catch a glimpse of frogs, tarantulas, or snakes such as pit vipers.

And then there are my favorites, the coatis. These critters are seen running around on the rainforest floor and even in the parking areas.

What do I need to bring to Mistico Hanging Bridges Park?

A pair of good walking shoes is the number one item to wear. Beyond that, you don’t need to bring a whole lot aside from a camera, rain jacket (unless visiting during the dry season of December to April), and possibly insect repellent. 

What are the best hanging bridges in Costa Rica?

The country has lots of different hanging bridges. Which ones are the best? In La Fortuna, there are two great options: This park — Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park — and Sky Adventures (Arenal Park).

The city of Monteverde has two good hanging bridges attractions as well: Selvatura Park and Sky Adventures (Monteverde Park).

What else is there to do in La Fortuna?

The Arenal volcano itself one of the biggest attractions in La Fortuna. It’s an active volcano that stands 5480 feet high and has experienced several small eruptions (mostly just gas and smoke), the last coming in 2010.

The Tabacon Hot Springs Resort & Spa is another awesome stop. I loved my day visit here. The natural hot springs felt soothing after the long walks at the hanging bridges.

And the La Fortuna waterfall is a scenic and popular natural wonder. If you have a few days in La Fortuna, visit them all!

For somewhat related reading, here’s my experience finding sloths in the wild in Panama City.

What would you most be excited to see at Mistico Arenal Park?

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