Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, and Arenal Volcano

Is it Possible to See the Main Sights of La Fortuna in One Day?

La Fortuna in one day was my mission. But would it even be possible to see the main sights of La Fortuna in a single day? That was the question I needed to answer. Regardless, I only had one full day to explore the Costa Rican paradise of La Fortuna. So, during the planning stage of my trip to Costa Rica, I knew I would have to work some magic to ensure that I was able to see as much of La Fortuna as possible in a single day.

Místico Arenal Hanging Bridges
Místico Arenal Hanging Bridges - La Fortuna, Costra Rica

La Fortuna - Main Attractions and Sights

La Fortuna is known for its lush tropical rainforests, refreshing waterfalls, and majestic volcanos. In addition to these well-known attractions, La Fortuna is also an adrenaline junkie’s paradise with many different options for ziplining, whitewater rafting, ATV tours, and hiking. For those who prefer a more relaxing activity, there are countless natural hot springs and huge amounts of wildlife to both observe and photograph. So before I visited La Fortuna, Costa Rica, I had to come up with a plan to see as much of La Fortuna in one day.

My Plan to Explore La Fortuna in a Single Day

I am not typically into adrenaline activities, so I quickly eliminated ziplining and white water rafting. With only one day to spend in La Fortuna, there also wasn’t going to be much time to relax. So, I decided to focus my one day in La Fortuna on the town’s top three attractions.  Those three attractions were the Mistico Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, and Arenal Volcano. To complete my goal of seeing La Fortuna in one day, I was thrilled when I found a tour that would take me to all three of these places.

I booked the tour on Viator for a total of $150. All entrance fees were included in the tour, as was a traditional Costa Rican lunch. The nine-hour tour provided ample time to see the Mistico Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, and Arenal Volcano in a single day.

La Fortuna in One Day - Table of Contents

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A One Day Tour of La Fortuna with Green Vacations

The company that I chose for my tour was Green Vacations, Costa Rica. At 7:30 am, a van arrived at my hotel, and I was greeted by two wonderful people, Hector and Ericka. Hector was the driver, and Ericka was the guide.

Ericka explained that there would be a group joining me during the tour of the Mistico Hanging Bridges but that they would not be going to the La Fortuna Waterfall or the Arenal Volcano. I was thrilled to learn that I would be on a solo tour for two out of the three top attractions in La Fortuna.

Included in this tour was a delicious traditional Costa Rican lunch. The restaurant, El Coloso, is located in La Fortuna. The lunch options include a choice of beef, chicken, or fish and rice, beans, and a salad. This meal is known throughout Costa Rica as Casado. For vegetarians, the restaurant does offer meatless options.

The best way to see La Fortuna in a single day is by taking a tour. I highly recommend this tour and give Ericka and Hector my top praise and endorsement. 

Below is the link to this exact tour. Booking a tour using this link does not ensure that you will take the tour with Ericka and Hector, as the company has many tour guides. Please note that if you purchase a tour using my link, I will receive a small commission. This commission is at no additional cost to you.

Part of My Tour Group on the Bridges
Part of the Tour Group on the Mistico Hanging Bridges
Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, Typical Lunch, and Arenal Volcano Hike Tour
Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, Typical lunch and Arenal Volcano Hike - $172.00

This tour includes 3 different activities: The Volcano hike, La Fortuna Waterfall and Arenal Hanging Bridges. You will enjoy a secondary forest right in the base of the Arenal Volcano and a primary rainforest with great biodiversity in the hanging bridges, among this forest you will find yourself arriving at 15 different bridges in a variety of levels from the ground which will help you cross the area. Then,  La Fortuna Waterfall, you will go to the base where you can enjoy its water by swimming in its natural pool. Please note there are are 500 steps to descend and the same number to return to the car. Remember to bring towel and bathing suit.

Stop One: A Tour of the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

The first stop on our tour was the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges. As stated earlier, the $26 entrance fee is included in the cost of the tour. The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges feature 16 bridges that are part of a 2.5-hour hike through the rainforest. Depending on the weather, it is also possible to get photos of the Arenal Volcano. As you can see below, the weather did not quite cooperate during my visit.

Mistico Hanging Bridges
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

Before beginning the 2.5-hour loop, we had a few minutes to look around a garden that consisted of both native and non-native plants.  I tried not to include too many photos from the garden as some of the plants were brought in from other areas.  

Giant Leaves in the Mistico Hanging Bridges Garden
Giant Leaves in the Mistico Hanging Bridges Garden
Gardens at the Beginning of the Path - Mistico Hanging Bridges
Gardens at the Beginning of the Path

Below is a map of Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges.  To the right of the map is our guide Ericka.  Ericka did a fantastic job teaching us about the plants and animals of the Costa Rican Rainforest.

Our Guide in Front of the Map of Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges
Our Guide in Front of the Map of Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

The path at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges is easy to hike and fairly flat. People of all fitness levels and abilities are able to enjoy walking the grounds of Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges.

Path at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges
Path at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

A Tour of the Mistico Hanging Bridges

The main attraction of the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges are the bridges are surrounded by lush tropical rainforest. Throughout the two-mile walk, we crossed six large hanging bridges and ten additional smaller bridges. The hanging bridges do wobble quite a bit while walking across them. Thankfully, I am not afraid of heights. If I had been, hanging bridges would have been scary.

One of the Mistico Hanging Bridges
One of the Mistico Hanging Bridges

The reason for using hanging bridges is to get the visitors at or above the canopy of the rainforest.  Being up in the trees gives a much different perspective than walking at ground level.

A View from One of the Mistico Hanging Bridges
View From One of the Hanging Bridges

One thing I noticed was that there was almost no one else on the bridges. Ericka explained that before the COVID-19 pandemic, there would be traffic jams as the bridges had a capacity of 15 hikers at a time. I really appreciated being able to walk the bridge at my own pace without infringing on the enjoyment of other people.

Not only was I able to see the top attractions of La Fortuna in a single day, but I was able to see them without the pre-pandemic crowds.

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridge
Another Hanging Bridge

The photo below does a nice job of showing the importance of the bridges. I was standing on another bridge when I took this photo. You can see that the bridge above is almost at the top of the rainforests’ canopy.

Looking Towards One of the Mistico Hanging Bridges
Looking at the Hanging Bridge From Below

Animals and Insects Seen at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

When walking the 2-mile route, be sure to take your time. You will see wildlife everywhere. I photographed the hummingbird and butterfly within the first five minutes of our hike.

Hummingbird at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Hummingbird
Hummingbird Eating at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Hummingbird Eating
Butterfly at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Butterfly

A few minutes later, Ericka spotted this tiny caterpillar.  It was amazing that I was able to capture the little droplets of water on its furry body. Without a guide, I likely would have missed many of these amazing insects and animals. 

Interesting Caterpillar at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Interesting Caterpillar

Some other interesting animals that I was at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park included a snail, a giant wasp, and a large bee.

Snail on a Log at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Snail on a Log
Giant Wasp at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Giant Wasp
Giant Bee at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Giant Bee

Ericka used her expertise to put us in situations where we could view as much wildlife as possible.  There had been heavy rains overnight, and many of the animals had retreated to stay dry.  Below are a colorful bird and an adorable bat that were in trees near the path.

Colorful Bird at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Colorful Bird
Bat at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Bat

My favorite animal that we were able to observe was this adorable sloth. After spending a lot of time looking in the opposite direction, this sloth turned its head at just the right time for an adorable photograph. I felt extremely lucky that I was able to see a sloth during my one day visit to La Fortuna. Ericka explained that many people stay a week and don’t get to see a sloth in the wild.

Sloth in the Tree at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Sloth in the Tree

Interesting Plants at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

In addition to seeing many insects and animals, our walkthrough Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges took us past many interesting plants. One of the most common rainforest plants is Heliconia. There are over 190 different types of Heliconia found throughout the rainforests in North and South America.

Heliconia at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Heliconia

Many plants in the rainforest have adapted in various ways to keep them alive. There was one plant that would literally wilt and close its leaves when touched. The plant below stores water in its flowers, similar to a sponge.

This Plants Stores Water and Can be Rung Out Like a Sponge
This Plants Stores Water and Can be Rung Out Like a Sponge

These Tree Epiphytes live in the branches of trees. When they release their seeds, they blow in the wind, and some latch onto trees. These plants do not hurt the tree.

Tree Epiphytes at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Tree Epiphytes

This palm tree flower looks like an exploding firework.  To the right is a vine named “Monkey Ladder” as it looks like a ladder that would be used by monkeys.

Palm Tree Flower at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Palm Tree Flower
Monkey Ladder at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Monkey Ladder

Throughout the walk, it never got old looking up at the canopy. There was so much vegetation, from the hanging vines to the beautiful leaves.

Hanging Vines in the Rainforest at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Hanging Vines in the Rainforest
The Canopy - Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
The Canopy

I was amazed by the amount of secondary vegetation living on the trees. Each tree had was home to many different ecosystems including moss, fungi, vines, insects, and animals.

Interesting Roots at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Interesting Roots
Vine Climbing Up a Tree at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Vine Climbing Up a Tree
Plants Hanging from the Tree at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Plants Hanging from the Tree
Invasive Moss on a Tree at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Invasive Moss on a Tree

Ericka pointed out this tree that had a wasp nest in its hollowed-out trunk. I asked why there was a straw sticking into the hive thinking, maybe one of the rangers had put it there. Ericka said, despite looking like a plastic straw, that it is 100 percent natural and was made by the wasps.

In Tree Wasp Nest at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
In Tree Wasp Nest
Entrance to the Wasp Hive at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Entrance to the Wasp Hive

Stop Two: A Tour of the La Fortuna Waterfall

Following the visit to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, the tour went from four tourists down to one, meaning it would now be a private tour. The other members of the group were dropped off in La Fortuna, and the tour became an individual tour. I was pleased that I would get to see the final two stops of my single-day La Fortuna Tour with just me my guide.

The next stop on the tour would be the La Fortuna waterfall, which is located at the bottom of 500 steps. When we arrived, Ericka told me to go change into my swimsuit while she signed us in. Before I could head to the waterfall, I had to sign a waiver that I did not have any heart problems and understood the risks of climbing up and down 500 steps. Admission to the La Fortuna Waterfall ($18) was included in my tour.

La Fortuna Waterfall From a Distance
La Fortuna Waterfall From a Distance

The Walk to La Fortuna Waterfall

The walk down to the La Fortuna Waterfall wasn’t bad as I was walking down 500 steps. Returning after swimming in the waterfall was much more difficult, and I had to stop many times to catch my breath. I do understand why they require the signing of a waiver, as this could be dangerous for anyone with a serious health condition.

Walking Down the Steps Towards the La Fortuna Waterfall
Walking Down the Steps Towards the Waterfall

Ericka accompanied me the entire walk down until we got to the viewing platform. If you look below, you see a man in a blue coat with a red stripe. This man is an employee who is in charge of safety and lets visitors know where it is safe to swim. I was happy to hear that we were able to swim in both the main waterfall and the calmer area downstream. Ericka hung out with some of the other guides while I had about 90-minutes to swim and look around.

The Platform Near the La Fortuna Waterfall
The Platform Near the Waterfall

Swimming Near the La Fortuna Waterfall

There were very few people swimming in the pool near the waterfall. The employee near the platform said the current was strong but that it was safe for swimming. I did not go in very deep, staying in areas where my feet touched the ground.

The water was not as cold as I expected and was quite refreshing after walking down 500 steps. I spent about 15-20 minutes in the pool in front of the La Fortuna Waterfall and then decided to go to the shallower area.

Getting Ready to Swim in the La Fortuna Waterfall
Getting Ready to Swim in the La Fortuna Waterfall

The lower pool had much less current and was suitable for children to swim. When I initially waded into the water, I saw a large school of fish swimming in the shallow water. I later learned that these fish were Silver Darting River Fish.

I did make a bit of a mistake when venturing into the rapids to see if they would carry me down the stream. For a brief moment, I got pulled under the water and had to kick as hard as I could to keep my head above the water. Thankfully, I escaped with only a few mouthfuls of river water. During my brief incident, there were multiple people around who asked if I needed help and offered to swim over to me.

If you visit the La Fortuna Waterfall, please be careful if you go into the rapids. The current was much stronger than I expected, and I felt lucky I escaped with breathing in a little water and slightly hurting my pride. 

The Lower Swimming Area at the La Fortuna Waterfall
The Lower Swimming Area at the La Fortuna Waterfall
Another View of the Lower Pool - La Fortuna Waterfall
Another View of the Lower Pool

Stop Three: A Tour of Arenal Volcano National Park

The third and final stop of the tour was the Arenal Volcano National Park. As we arrived at the national park, I still had plenty of energy. I was worried that I was going to be exhausted after visiting the three main attractions of La Fortuna in one day.

This portion of my tour was once again an individual tour, as the rest of our tour group had been dropped off in La Fortuna. As we drove towards the entrance, Ericka explained some information about the recently active Arenal Volcano.

The Arenal Volcano is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. It was believed from around 1500 to 1900 that the Arenal Volcano was dormant. Then, in 1968, the volcano had a violent eruption.

Arenal Volcano continued to erupt from 1968 until 2010. Unlike many volcanoes, the eruptions from Arenal did not occur at the cone, rather erupting from multiple vents leading from the base of the volcano towards the cone.

As a result of the constant eruptions from the lava vents, the Arenal Volcano has large lava fields that are great for hiking. My trip to Arenal Volcano National Park included hiking on one of the largest lava fields. Admission to the national park ($15) was included in my tour.

Entrance to Arenal Volcano National Park
Entrance to Arenal Volcano National Park

Entering Arenal Volcano National Park

As I entered the park, Ericka began showing me a giant 3-D model of the Arenal Volcano. A few minutes passed, and one of the rangers came up to us asking if we wanted to see a Viper. Just past the entrance, a beautiful yellow Viper was relaxing in a tree. I was able to get a great photo using my zoom lens.

Also, the ranger pointed out that there was a flower that was blooming that only blooms one day per year. Below, you will see the photo of the white lily that just happened to bloom during the one day I visited.

Arenal Volcano National Park Model
Arenal Volcano National Park Model
This Lily Only Blooms One Day Each Year
This Lily Only Blooms One Day Each Year
A Viper at Arenal Volcano National Park
A Viper at Arenal Volcano National Park

Hiking to the Lava Field

As Ericka and I began to walk the path towards the lava field we saw a beautiful Central American Rainbow Lizard run across the path. Throughout the three stops on this tour, I constantly was viewing wildlife in its natural habitat.

Central American Rainbow Lizard
Central American Rainbow Lizard

As Ericka and I began walking towards the lava field, the vegetation quickly started changing. At first, it was similar to the rainforest that we had walked through earlier in the morning. But as we continued into the higher elevations, the vegetation switched to a really tall grass. This change was due to the lack of soil mixed in with the volcanic rock.

Tall Grass on the Path to the Observation Point
Tall Grass on the Path to the Observation Point

During our walk, I photographed the tree below. The lighting was perfect to see the bite marks from ants and insects that eat or harvest the leaves.

An Interesting Tree
An Interesting Tree

The ferns below were near the lava fields. They appeared to look similar to what might be seen in the desert rather than the rainforest.

Interesting Ferns
Interesting Ferns

Eventually, the path turned to lava and volcanic rock.  You can see that there is very little vegetation growing since there is almost no soil.

Lava Deposits on the Path
Lava Deposits on the Path
Another Portion of the Path
Another Portion of the Path

The Arenal Volcano Observation Point

At the top of the trail is an observation point. Signs show how far the lava reached during the various eruptions. Be sure to take some time looking up towards the Arenal Volcano and also towards Arenal Lake.

Observation Point Looking Towards Arenal Lake
Observation Point Looking Towards Arenal Lake
Looking Towards Arenal Volcano
Looking Towards Arenal Volcano
Sings Showing the Eruption Zones
Signs Showing the Eruption Zones
Additional Signs With Arenal Lake in the Background
Additional Signs With Arenal Lake in the Background

The observation point was at the midpoint of the trail.  It took around 30 minutes to walk back to the starting point.  I found walking down the trail to be more difficult than walking up.  Thankfully, Ericka suggested I grab a walking stick before we began our hike.  The walking stick made it much easier to navigate the steep declines.

Lunch During the Tour at Restaurante El Coloso

Lunch at Restaurante El Coloso was included in the price of my tour and provided a chance to try some of the delicious Costa Rican cuisine. For lunch, I was given the option of beef, chicken, or fish, which was served with rice, beans, and a salad. This meal is called “Casado” and is commonly served throughout Costa Rica.

To drink, I had a delicious strawberry natural fruit juice. It is sort of in between a smoothie and a regular glass of juice. Lunch was fantastic and quite filling. I would recommend Restaurante El Coloso even if you are not going on the tour.

My Lunch at Restaurante El Coloso
My Lunch at Restaurante El Coloso

Video Highlights of My Tours

Mistico Hanging Bridges

La Fortuna Waterfall

Tours and Packages that Include the Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, and/or Arenal Volcano

The tour that I took is posted at the top of this page. If you are interested in other tours that include these destinations, you can find them listed below. Please note that as an affiliate of Viator, I will receive a small commission if you book using my link. This commission is at no additional cost to you.

Prices are accurate as of March 2024.

Arenal Selfguide Tour - Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall and Vocano Park
Arenal Selfguide: Mistico Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall & Volcano Park - $99.00

Enjoy of this Admission Tickets to La Fortuna Top Places to visit.

Spend a full day exploring Costa Rica’s notoriously active crater on this 3-in-1 Arenal combo adventure. Hike through the jungle surrounding Arenal Volcano on a series of nature trails and hanging bridges, and trek down to the base of La Fortuna Waterfall to appreciate the height and power of the cascade and swim in a natural pool. Finish with a majestic perspective as you explore the lava fields of former eruptions and look for native wildlife along the trails of Arenal Volcano National Park. Experience three different Arenal adventures in a single day Hike through the rain forest on nature trails and suspended bridges Climb the steps down to the base of La Fortuna Waterfall for impressive views and a swim Trek through lava fields and enjoy views of Arenal Lake on a hike around the base of the volcano.

La Fortuna Hiking Tour
Hiking Lovers (Hanging Bridges + La Fortuna Waterfall + Volcano Hike) - $181.12

Do you really love hiking trails? We have combined three of the best hikes in Arenal into one nature-packed tour.

Mistico Hanging Bridges from La Fortuna
Mistico Hanging Bridges Park from La Fortuna - $82.00

Admire the Forest from a different angles, thanks to the structure of the bridges, walk through a primary Rainforest trying to find the most wildlife possible, and enjoy what mother nature has to offer here in Costa Rica

Volcano Hike, Mistico Hanging Bridges and Sloth Watching Experience
Volcano Hike-Mistico Hanging Bridges and Sloth Watching Experience in La Fortuna - $138.14

We visit the highlights of La Fortuna(Hanging Bridges and Volcano Hike).

We also make sure you see a Sloth.

Arenal Horseback Riding to La Fortuna Waterfall
Arenal Horseback Riding to La Fortuna Waterfall - $96.10

Ride through the tropical rain forest and among a great variety of flora and fauna, to the majestic La Fortuna Waterfall.

Arenal Volcano Hike from La Fortuna
Arenal Volcano Hike from La Fortuna - $71.42

Adventure yourself on the 1968 trails on the Arenal Volcano. While walking, you will have the opportunity to observe a variety of plants, wildlife, volcanic rock formations and Lake Arenal. This is a very historic walk since you will learn about the Colossus of Arenal which has a direct influence on the economy and local culture.

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