Hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park

Last Updated: July 5, 2024

Looming over the town of La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s five active volcanoes. Originally thought to be dormant, this volcano unexpectedly sprang to life in 1968. For 15 days, the mighty Arenal showed the world it was very much alive, spewing lava, rocks, and ash over 15 square kilometers. That catastrophic eruption, which killed 73 people and buried three towns, was Arenal’s biggest. Since then, Arenal has had smaller eruptions, though its activity has slowed considerably since 2010.

In this post, we cover what you need to know to hike the two sectors of Arenal Volcano National Park. We include information on the newer La Peninsula sector as well as how to book a good guide.

Hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park


The 12,080 hectare (29,850 acre) Arenal Volcano National Park has more to offer than just a view of the volcano. The park has easy-to-navigate trails through secondary forest and former lava fields.

The most well-known trails with the best volcano views are at the main sector.

In 2017, the national park opened another sector. La Peninsula, with gorgeous views of Lake Arenal, is a wonderful spot for young children and those with limited mobility due to its paved trails. We will cover both sectors below.

Here is a picture of the trail map.

Trail Map Arenal Volcano National Park

Main Sector of Arenal Volcano National Park


We have hiked the park from this sector a handful of times and have always enjoyed it.

The main sector has two trails, which form a nice loop. We recommend doing the whole loop (about 5 km or 3.1 miles) so that you see the major points of interest.

After you pass through the ranger station and pay your entrance fee, you can keep driving past the first parking area to another parking area closer to the trailhead for Sendero Las Heliconias. This short, 600-meter trail leads to Sendero Las Coladas.

Sendero Las Coladas means the Flows Trail, and this 2 km (1.2 mile) stretch marks the location of the old lava flows from the eruption of 1992.

A short distance into this trail is an intersection with Sendero El Ceibo. El Ceibo is a 3 km (1.9 mile) loop off the main trail that takes you through thicker forest. It loops back to Las Coladas so is a good add on if you want to do a little more hiking. 

Trail Sign Arenal Volcano National Park
Intersection with El Ceibo Trail

Both Sendero El Ceibo and Sendero Las Coladas are fairly flat, with the exception of the climb up to the lava flows and viewpoint (more on this below).

Lava Rocks at Arenal Volcano National Park
Hardened lava flows from a big eruption in 1992. This is the last part of Sendero Las Coladas, leading to the viewpoint.

As you walk, you will be able to see how the forest has recovered from prior eruptions. Towering sugarcane turns to thick rainforest with epiphytes, vines, and bromeliads dangling from limbs. Although much of this is secondary growth as most plants and trees were destroyed, miraculously, some things managed to survive.

Of note are four large fig trees. It is thought that volcanic gases and heat rushing down the volcano during the eruption jumped over these lucky trees thanks to a small hill in the way.

There used to be a giant Ceibo tree for which the trail was named. This special tree was thought to be more than 400 years old. Sadly, the tree fell during a big storm in 2023. 

Ceiba Tree at Arenal Volcano National Park
The giant Ceiba tree that Sendero La Ceiba is named for (photo taken in 2019). 

Continuing on to the main attraction, the forested trail ends and leads to the lava flows. Here, you can walk on the decades-old volcanic rocks to enjoy a fantastic view of the volcano.

To reach the mirador from this point, you have to make a short, but steep, climb.

The national park has upgraded the trail over the years. Now, much of the ascent is done via a well-maintained metal staircase. There aren’t too many steps (around 25).

Stairs up to Arenal Viewpoint National Park
The new stairs up to the viewpoint

The stairs lead to a field of black volcanic rock (pictured above), and finally, a close up of Arenal Volcano.

Volcano View National Park
Arenal Volcano from the viewing area

From the lookout, in one direction you can see the western side of the volcano. In the other, you can see beautiful Lake Arenal.

Lake Arenal View
View of Lake Arenal

New Raised Platform and Viewpoint

On our last visit in April 2024, they were building a new viewing platform from another point along the main trail. As of July 2024, this is now in service. 

The sturdy metal walkway makes it easier to get a good volcano view. The walkway is about 60 meters (197 feet). This leads to a large circular viewing platform that can hold several people.  

Although there are some steps up, overall, this is a much easier option for viewing the volcano.

Large viewing deck overlooking Arenal Volcano
New vewing platform. Photo credit Sinart Digital


This park is known primarily for its fascinating geological history, but you can also see a fair amount of wildlife.

On our visits, we have seen white-faced capuchin monkeys, coati (a raccoon-like animal), Great Curassow (pheasant-like birds), several types of lizards, bats, and a variety of insects, including a wolf spider.

Arenal Volcano National Park is especially known for birds because of its varied habitat.

The rare Bare-necked Umbrellabird and Three-wattled Bellbird can be spotted here. On one of our visits, with the help of our fantastic guide, we were able to see the Common Potoo for the first time, which was very exciting. These are somewhat rare and are extremely difficult to spot by design. They are often found perched at the top of a dead tree but are gray and blend in almost perfectly to their surroundings.

Common Potoo at Arenal Volcano National Park
Common Potoo camouflaging perfectly into a tree

La Peninsula Sector of Arenal Volcano National Park

La Peninsula Sector is a separate ranger station and the newest addition to the park. To reach it, drive past the main entrance and take a sharp right at the first fork, almost like you are reversing direction. The ranger station is a few minutes down the bumpy dirt road.


La Peninsula is notable because it is a handicap-accessible trail.

The trail is 1.3 km (0.8 mile), with a short side trail off the main one, which loops out into thick forest. Although the trail is paved, it is narrow and feels immersed in the jungle. When we visited, we had our son with us, who was 1.5 years old at the time, and this was the perfect hike for him.

La Peninsula Trail at Arenal Volcano National Park
Main trail at La Peninsula Sector (paved the whole way)

From the ranger station, the trail leads to various lookouts to Lake Arenal and its small islands that peer out of the water.

About halfway through, you come to a lofty viewing tower. A climb up the few sets of metal stairs to the top will earn you a nice view of the lake and Arenal Volcano. The volcano view is farther than from at the main sector but still very nice.

View of Arenal Volcano from La Peninsula Sector
View of the volcano and lake from the tower

Continuing on, the trail keeps going gradually downhill and leads to the shores of the lake. There’s a nice area here right over the water for taking pictures and you can rest on a bench under the shade of a tree.

La Peninsula Trail, Arenal Volcano National Park
La Peninsula Trail ends at the lake before turning around to go back to the ranger station


In the short time we spent at La Peninsula, we saw quite a bit of wildlife. Because this trail doesn’t see too many visitors, birds and animals can be easier to spot.

We came across a Great Curassow waddling across the trail, as well as a Keel-billed Toucan (the toucan species with the brightly colored beak). The highlight was definitely the small group of collared peccaries (wild boar-type animals) that we snuck up on coming down the trail near the lake.

Keel-billed Toucan at Arenal Volcano National Park
Keel-billed Toucan on the small side trail at La Peninsula

Park Information


Foreigners: $17 adults, $6 children ages 2-12, free for children under 2.

Nationals and Residents: ₡1,130 colones adults, ₡565 children ages 2-12.

IMPORTANT: Tickets must be purchased online in advance through Costa Rica’s park system website (SINAC).


Open 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Last admission: 2:00 p.m.

Arenal Volcano National Park is open every day of the year, including holidays.

Information on Booking a Guided Tour of Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano National Park can be done self-guided. Just get a trail map from the ranger station when you check in and follow the well-maintained trails.

However, we recommend a guide to learn about the history of the volcano since there is no visitors’ center or information along the trail. The guide we have gone out with on one of our visits was a local who knew so much about the history and geology of the volcano and also about the birds and animals we saw. If you would like to book a guided tour with this company, we would be happy to help you with the arrangements. Booking through us costs the same and helps support our website!

Cost of Guided Tour of Arenal Volcano National Park (Main Sector)

Group Tour (12 people max): $80 per adult, $40 per child ages 4-11, free for children 3 and under.

Private Tour (only your family/group): $125 per adult, $63 per child ages 4-11, free for children 3 and under.


Round-trip transportation from your hotel or vacation rental, bilingual naturalist guide, entrance fee, and water.

Times Offered

8:00 – 11:00 a.m. only


3 hours (approximate)

Booking a Guided Hike of Arenal Volcano National Park
Our wonderful naturalist guide


Arenal Volcano is a must-see attraction for those journeying to the highlands of Costa Rica. Although the volcano can be seen all around town, it is truly fascinating to be able to walk the hardened lava flows and see the mighty volcano close up.

Last Updated: July 5, 2024

Have you hiked around Arenal Volcano? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Looking for more information to plan your visit to La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano? Check out these posts:

La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination – Our destination guide for enjoying everything La Fortuna has to offer. Includes activity and restaurant recommendations.

La Fortuna Hotel Guide – Read our recommendations for the best places to stay for hot springs and volcano views.

Monteverde: A Forest in the Clouds – If you’re pairing a visit to the volcano with time in the cloud forests of Monteverde, you’ll want to read this post.