One activity that many people want to do on their trip to Costa Rica is walk along hanging bridges. Trekking through the forest canopy and viewing it at eye level is an amazing experience. Hanging bridges can be found in many parts of Costa Rica, but the most elaborate are in the towns of La Fortuna and Monteverde. In this post, we will cover one popular option in La Fortuna called Mistico Hanging Bridges Park.
Mistico Park, formerly known as Arenal Hanging Bridges, is located about 25-30 minutes from the center of La Fortuna.
Once you drive the curvy road (Route 142) west from town and reach Lake Arenal, it is off to the right. You’ll turn down a hill after the dam and then drive up a steep (paved) private road to get to the entrance. Here, you’ll get a good view of Arenal Volcano on a clear day.
Since these bridges are a bit far from town, it is helpful to have a rental car. Taxis can be expensive for such a long ride.
Guided tours are also available from local operators and usually include round-trip transportation from your hotel or vacation rental.
Mistico Hanging Bridges Park
Mistico Hanging Bridges Park is immense. The property consists of 617 acres (250 hectares) of land, much of which is thick rainforest.
Because of its location, there is a high diversity of wildlife. Mistico sits where the flat plains of the Caribbean Lowlands meet the Tilaran mountain range. This means that you can find birds and animals common at both lower and higher elevations. Read more in the Wildlife section, below.
As the name implies, Mistico Park is a bit commercial feeling but not too much like a theme park.
At the entrance are a couple of large buildings and a big parking lot. You’ll need to get in line to purchase tickets, or at least check in for previously purchased tickets. There is a fairly large restaurant, bathroom facility, and small gift shop as well.
One you get on the concrete paths and start walking, things feel a lot less manmade and more in touch with nature.
The main trail at Mistico, which most people use, makes a loop and is about two miles (3.2 km) long. It crosses 16 bridges (more on these below) and now has smooth concrete paths. Between bridges, the trail cuts through sections of mature rainforest.
Along the trail, Mistico Hanging Bridges Park has placed many informational signs. These help you understand a bit about the plants, wildlife, and forest lifecycles. They are especially helpful if you don’t have a guide.
For example, near the beginning of the trail, there is a large structure made of old logs called the Pollinator Hotel. Signs explain how bees and other insects are essential for a healthy rainforest and how the structure helps them find appropriate, dry shelter. Later you’ll find signs about different trees and animals that are common in the area.
There’s also a pretty garden towards the beginning of the trail. This area has some flowers, ornamental plants, water features, and a few tables.
Overall, the trails are very easy. Later in the walk, they do get a little steep but there are places to rest along the way, if needed.
The highlight of Mistico is, of course, the hanging bridges. In total, there are six elaborate hanging bridges and ten smaller fixed bridges. Each hanging bridge differs in length and height.
The hanging bridges are all closed in on the sides up to about four feet (1.2 meters). This makes you feel safe, like you won’t fall off, but still lets you have a great view of the forest.
The bridges do sway or rock a little when you are walking on them, mostly in the middle part of the bridge, but not a lot. They seem very secure.
The first hanging bridge you come to is Arenal View Bridge. It is 246 feet (75 meters) across. This one is the highest of them all, standing at 147 feet (55 meters) off the ground. In the middle of this bridge, you get a good view of Arenal Volcano.
Next, you’ll come to Pilon Bridge, which is 174 feet (53 meters) long and 69 feet (21 meters) high.
Shortly after that one, you will walk across Waterfall Bridge at 300 feet (92 meters) long and 148 feet (45 meters) high. We didn’t really see a waterfall from this one; it was more of a stream far below.
After a steep part of the path down, you’ll next cross Anthill Bridge. This is 285 feet (87 meters) wide and 92 feet (28 meters) tall. From here, you can see the rushing water from a small river below.
You’ll then go through a tunnel (Jumping Viper Tunnel) and across Fer-de-lance Bridge. This hanging bridge is 157 feet (48 meters) long and 79 feet (24 meters) high.
Finally, it is Mistico’s longest hanging bridge. Tayra Bridge is named after a sleek weasel-like animal. It has an impressive length of 368 feet (97 meters) and is 79 feet (24 meters) off the ground. Once you cross this one, you’ll be back at the reception area on solid ground.
What You’ll See at Mistico Hanging Bridges
Sometimes it can be a challenge to see wildlife at Mistico Hanging Bridges. This is because it is a very popular attraction, and the trails start to get busy around mid-morning. Noisy groups often spook the animals.
Even so, if you look carefully and don’t go too fast, you can still find lots of wildlife. On our visits, we have seen snakes, coati (a racoon-type animal), many tropical birds, and a lot of interesting insects.
On our most recent visit, we even spotted a mother and baby peccary. These animals are sort of like wild boars. They were cutting across the trail after a noisier group went past. We were walking quietly and slowly, and they hardly noticed us.
Forest and Volcano Views
Even if you aren’t so lucky with the wildlife, you are sure to see some stunning mature trees, interesting plants, flowers, fruits, and seeds during your walk.
There are also some nice views of Arenal Volcano from the property. One, mentioned above, is as you cross the first large hanging bridge, and the other is at the main reception and parking area.
One of the great things about Mistico Hanging Bridges Park is that it is handicap accessible, so everyone can enjoy it. They have a trail that is one mile (1.5 km) long made from non-slip concrete that only has a gentle slope.
Along the way, there are no stairs. You can cross six fixed bridges and two optional hanging bridges on this route.
Planning Your Visit to Mistico Hanging Bridges
Avoiding the Crowds
As we mentioned above, the facility can get busy with large groups. Tour vans and buses start to arrive in greater numbers around 9:00 a.m.
If you are looking for a quieter experience, we would recommend going early in the morning (they open at 6:00 a.m.) or later in the afternoon. These are also the times when more birds and mammals are active in the forest.
Children (ages 11-18): $16
Children (10 and under): Free
Seniors (ages 65+): $21
You can purchase entrance tickets online on Mistico’s website.
They also have guided tours and other tour options as well. During slower times of year, you can just show up and buy tickets at the entrance.
Open every day from 6:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Last entrance: 3:50 p.m.
What to Bring
Closed toe shoes (mandatory – they do not allow sandals)
Comfortable, lightweight clothing
*Note: For parents with young kids, they have jogging strollers that you can rent.
Hanging bridges are a highlight of any trip to Costa Rica. From the fantastic canopy views to the wildlife along the trail, this activity is one to remember. Mistico Hanging Bridges Park is one of the more elaborate facilities in the country and worth a visit if you are in the Arenal area.
Have a question about visiting Mistico Park or want to share your experience? Leave a comment below.
Looking for more information to plan your trip to La Fortuna? Check out these posts:
A Safari River Float in La Fortuna/Arenal – Looking for an easy way to see wildlife? This leisurely raft ride along the nearby Penas Blancas River won’t disappoint.
La Fortuna Hotel Guide – Read some of our picks for hotels near Arenal Volcano.
Car Rental Discount – Need a car for a few days in La Fortuna? Use this discount to save money and get the car delivered to your hotel for free. [Note: Adobe Rent a Car’s La Fortuna office is temporarily closed. Select Ciudad Quesada for the pickup location, which is the closest office to La Fortuna.]