La Fortuna, Costa Rica is great. It’s super peaceful, there’s loads of wildlife, a range of activities and the people are incredibly friendly/helpful.
We spent four days in La Fortuna and the Mistico Hanging Bridges was one of the best things we did.
I know, a couple of suspension bridges through a rainforest. Doesn’t sound that great but trust me, you’ll miss out if you don’t visit them!
Getting to the hanging bridges & entry fee
It’s the boring stuff, but it’s important.
The hanging bridges are in the Mistico Park near Lake Arenal, about 15km outside of La Fortuna. The park opens at 6am and the entrance fee is $26 USD.
There is a main route around the park which is 2.5km – 3km (1.5 – 2 miles), although they’ve got a number of paths that link up various areas which allow you to shorten your route if desired.
The park also offers night walks with a tour guide, a natural history tour and a bird watching your. We simply paid for entry and walked around ourselves which was plenty good enough for us!
Rufus Hummingbird Garden
As you enter the park the first thing you come across is the Rufus Hummingbird Garden. It’s a small detour (about 150m) around a garden with lots of flowers and some seating area. Unfortunately I can’t tell you which flowers were there but I did notice a certain vine that looked remarkably similar to one they sell in Ikea! That’s not a bad thing, in fact it was surprisingly cool to see it in its natural environment!
The Hanging Bridges
After around 20 minutes walking through the rainforest you arrive at the first bridge (Arenal Bridge). It ended up being my favourite bridge and we were tipped off that it’s the one with the best views so if I were you I would spend some time soaking it in.
It’s 75m long and 55m high, or 246 feet long and 18 feet high in old money. You’re simultaneously above the rainforest canopy and surrounded by it all on sides (it’s in a gorge of sorts). If you’re lucky enough to have a clear day you apparently have a direct view of Arenal volcano from this bridge as well. Bear in mind though that La Fortuna is a pretty cloudy/rainy place so your chances of having a clear view of the top of the volcano are slim – we didn’t see it a single time in 4 days!
Volcano or no volcano it was great. The cloud was rolling over the canopy and whilst there was lots of bird song and a bit of wind, it was almost eerie. We had decided to get up early that day so we were the only ones in the park which added to the experience. As with most things, getting up early is always worth it!
There are 6 bridges in total, varying in length and height:
- Arenal Bridge (75m long and 55m high)
- Bully Tree Bridge (53m long and 21m high)
- Waterfall Bridge (92m long and 45m high)
- Anthill Bridge (87m long and 28m high)
- Fer-de-lance Bridge (48m long and 24m high)
- Tayra Bridge (97m long and 24m high)
The first and the third bridges were my favourite, mainly due to the height and the views. I was looking forward to the final bridge purely because it was nearly 100m long. However, it is below the canopy and surrounded by rainforest so didn’t quite live up to my expectations, especially considering the previous bridges!
It’s 2.5km-3km around the trail with some undulating terrain, it’s not particularly taxing so unless you have difficulty walking you shouldn’t have a problem.
We did it easily in flip flops, although we took trainers just in case. The path is well paved the whole way around so you don’t need to worry about muddy patches.
If you have the budget to take a guide, I’m sure that they can point out various animals and plants. We saw a variety of birds (the bird song is amazing) and what looked like a small wild boar but was probably something else! There’s a few snakes in the area as well (a couple of bridges are named after snakes) so that could be interesting, just hope that you don’t get too close….
The walk was incredibly peaceful at 7am with the canopy gently swaying above us and some light splattering of rain. If you get cold you probably want to bring a light jumper, although within 10 minutes of walking you’ll be warmed up. That also depends on the time of the year that you visit the hanging bridges. It does rain often so an anorak wouldn’t be a bad thing.
The walk around Mistico Hanging Bridges takes between 1.5 and 2 hours. We did it in 1 hour and 20 minutes, in flip flops, although we did miss the turning for a slight detour for the waterfall viewpoint (it’s just before the 4th bridge). Considering that we were going to see the La Fortuna waterfall that afternoon it didn’t bother us too much.
The only thing that you really need to take into account is how you get back to your hotel/La Fortuna. There is no Uber availability at Mistico Park so definitely get a taxi’s number. We were short on time so had to pay for a minibus back to our hotel. It cost us $25 instead of the $8 in a normal taxi but it wasn’t the end of the world.
Obviously if you’re scared of heights this may not be the activity for you. The bridges do rock and sway quite a lot and have a mesh floor so take that into account.
Finally, there is a restaurant at the start/beginning of the trail that looks out across the valley at Arenal volcano. A lovely end to a lovely morning.
If you’re in Arenal or La Fortuna you absolutely must go to the Mistico Hanging Bridges.