The Costa Rica Jungle Adventure Tour: Arenal National Park, Arenal Observatory, Rio Arenal

Should I book tours in Costa Rica?

On the second day of our stay in La Fortuna, we decided to book a tour with a vendor. Previously, we had found that excursions on our own and especially on foot from La Fortuna are rather difficult. Transportation outside of the regular buses – which don’t stop everywhere –  is also expensive. In addition, many admissions alone are so high thatgroup tickets are actually worth it.

Where can you book the Jungle Tour?

We booked the tour with a tour provider in Zeta Trece, the neighboring village of La Fortuna. Price $70 (+10% fee for credit card payment) per person. The tour operator told us that starting in the summer, there would be a 13% fee on all tours. Other participants of the tour had booked it through other providers or even their hostel. In the end, at the end everyone ends up in the same bus. One participant who had booked through her hostel paid only $65 for the identical tour there. 

The Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

What was the daily schedule of the Jungle Adventure Tour?

At 9:15 we were supposed to be at the agency we had booked with. The other members of our group were picked up directly at their hotels. Pickup at private homes – we were staying at Airbnb- was not possible. We were very punctual on site. But the bus arrived only at 9:45. Max used the time to get all kinds of information about Costa Rica from the agency owner

The bus we rode in was a minibus with easily recognizable lettering. The model was clearly aging a bit and estimated to be from the 70s or 80s. The crankshaft made funny noises when accelerating and the space was a bit cramped. Nevertheless, the good vehicle held out the whole day.After not even two kilometers, the bus driver suddenly put a Full braking. On a tree at a height of about ten meters, a sloth was sleeping. Our group of 17 people plus guides plunged death-defyingly across the country road and quite a few motorists had to brake in order not to run over a careless tourist. 

Arenal National Park

The 120km² of Arenal National Park lie around the volcano of the same name, Arenal. This national park is in turn embedded in a 2040km² nature protection zone, which is composed of 16 separate areas and extends along the volcanoes of Tilarán and Guanacaste.

We took a bus to a lodging facility somewhat reminiscent of a Boy Scout camp. It was right on a lake. Everything we didn’t need for the hike, such as our bathing suits, we could leave here. However, nothing could be locked.

From here we started a hike a bit up the mountain. The trail was easy to walk on and also relatively wide in most places. After he had stepped the week before here almost on a poisonous snake, our guide Wilmar warned us, however, to direct the eyes on the way.How little that is useful in case of doubt we found out a little later, when we had to climb a piece over scree to a lookout point. Between the stones sat there a somewhat forty centimeters large basilisk, on which probably each individual from the group would have stepped, had Wilmar not pointed to him.

At the lookout point, small lizards scurried about among the stones, kindly pausing briefly for a few photos. The lookout point was covered with large boulders. We sat down there to rest, took a few photos and our guide currently told us some about the history of the region and the volcano. The view of the volcano from here was awe inspiring. Then the descent began. This one took us on another, slightly wider route along a lake back to the building from the beginning.

Experiencing the mountain up close was impressive. The jungle in the national park is also very pretty and with a little luck you can see some animals. However, this part of the tour was not as spectacular as expected.

Those who have a car can also visit Arenal National Park on their own. The entrance fee is $15 per person. The trails are well signposted

Bathing in Arenal National Park

Back at the building there was the possibility to swim in the lake. There is also a Tarzan Rope. However, the water is bright green. Really inviting to jump in there we found it not. However, there is at least the infrastructure on site to change in peace. Showers are not there. 

lunch

For lunch, we had rice, vegetables, beans, and a ground beef stew, along with coleslaw and an undefinable fruit juice. For dessert we had fresh pineapple. Even Martina, the vegetarian on the team, got her fill.

During the meal, somecoatis roamed around the building and some turkey-sized birds eyed us from adjacent trees. 

Continue – end of the half-day tour

With the meal already half-day tour ended and we were loaded back into the bus. We are very glad we didn’t book just the half day tour, because we found the first half day the least rewarding

Arenal Observatory

The Arenal Observatory is part of a hotel complex. There is a museum and an observation deck here. From the observation deck you have a beautiful view over the cloudy Arenal, the tropical rainforest in front of it, but also over the Laguna de Arenal. The view is madness. Below the viewing platform is the garden of the complex. When we arrived, some birds were feeding on a tree stocked with fruit. Most of the animals were Oropendola, a genus of large birds that flip off the branch as they make their mating call. They are very funny to watch. Some other small birds had extremely iridescent colors, including some in bright blue. Then we continued through the gardens of the complex. Here, all sorts of flowering plants are planted with some distance between them, so you can easily observe the birds in between. We were also lucky to see some different species of colibris. On the trees at the edge at the moment many Oropendola kept falling from the branches.

On one tree, a young venomous snake had coiled up at the edge of the path.

Bathing in the waterfall

After that, we went on to a waterfall. The waterfall is pretty, not exceptionally large but if you are already in the area, certainly worth a detour. Again one had the possibility to bathe, whereby the water basin was not large enough and had too many stones under water to swim properly. No one lasted longer than five minutes in the water. 

Suspension bridge

Afterwards we went briefly to a suspension bridge. we didn’t really have to, but no one could resist at least trying it out, jumping once and taking a few photos

frog pond

After that, we continued to a frog pond. On the way there, we saw a trogon (A type of quetzal, national bird of Cuba) in the trees.

The frog pond is nothing more than a small overgrown pool in the middle of the forest, accessible by a well-paved path. At the frog pond we saw two red-eyed tree frogs. Remember to turn off the flash of your camera when photographing them, because they have very sensitive eyes and can go blind from the bright light. Even the much weaker autofocus assist light of another tourist drove one of the frogs into flight.

After visiting the frogs, we headed back to the observation deck, where we had the rare good fortune of admiring a sunset on the flanks of Arenal

For whom is the Jungle Adventure Tour suitable?

The Jungle Adventure Tour is suitable for people who have some fitness and are good on their feet. However, the physical demands are doable for less athletic people – as long as they don’t go too fast on the first climb at Arenal. For people with walking impairments, the first part of the excursion is not suitable. Also small children I would not take to such an excursion – on the one hand itis too boring for small children, on the other hand it is often difficult for children to be quiet when observing animals. In addition, there is the danger that just small children romp around and step off the path on poisonous snakes.  

What Should You Take to the Jungle Tour?

  • Water – at least 2 liters per person
  • Swimwear and possibly water shoes
  • Snacks
  • Mosquito repellent (this may only be used outside of national parks so spray beforehand!)
  • Camera

Is a jungle tour in La Fortuna worth it and what is the price/quality ratio?

The tour costs between $65 and $75. All attractions on the tour, however, can be visited alone.Only lunch at Arenal Park is available exclusively to groups.

Admission for individuals to Arenal National Park is $15 per person

The rides with a shuttle provider (Hop On / Hop Of) cost about 15$ per person (Where we could not find out if the shuttle service is currently still available). The lunch would cost about 8$ per person. The entry to the Arenal Observatory costs about 9$ per person. Thus, the costs without a car amount to about  47$. Alone we would have visited certainly these attractions so also not and without guide and the nice group, they would have been partly also rather boring.

So we had a nice day and even met some new people.

It was not as much adventure and action as we expected, but we had a nice day. Therefore, our conclusion is a clear thumbs up! – However, we wouldn’t recommend the half-day tour to anyone, because you miss the biggest highlights. 

Summary:

  • Price: $65 – $75 (half day approx. $45)
  • Time: 9:15 am – 7:30 pm (approx. 10h)
  • Languages: English, Spanish
  • Group size: approx. 20 people
  • Other: Half day option until approx. 15:30
  • Attractions:
    • morning: Arenal National Park
    • .
    • afternoon: Arenal Observatory, Rio Arenal.
  • Inclusions: All admissions, guide, transportation, lunch
  • Target group: Youth and adults
  • Aspiration level: Half an hour uphill walk should be able

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