Thirdeyemom

A Day Exploring Mistical Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”. – T.S. Eliot

After our horseback ride and lunch, it was time for our next adventure: A two-hour guided tour of Mistical Arenal Hanging Bridges Park with a naturalist. The trail is about two miles long, and follows a footpath through the innermost parts of the rainforest as well as passes high up through the jungle canopy over 6 hanging bridges (the highest one being 148 feet/45 m above ground) and four lower bridges. You can do the walk without a guide however having a trained eye and a professional naturalist was amazing as we learned a ton about the diverse flora and fauna in the area and saw lots of interesting things we would have missed on our own.

We met our guide, Gustavo at the entrance and were on our way. As we were walking, Gustavo told us a little history about the park. The park was built on the property of the Castillo Rodriguez family who had inherited this pristine land from their family.  Wanting to share its immense value and beauty, the land owners formed a partnership with Los Puentes Colgantes de Arenal to develop the land with the mission of preserving this unique ecosystem while also opening it up for sustainable tourism. Construction on the park began in 2000 and Mistical Arenal Hanging Bridges Park was opened in 2002 with complete transfer of management back to the Castillo Rodriguez family in 2014.

Mistical Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal Costa Rica

The view of Arenal Volcano at Mistical Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is fabulous

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

Heading to the start of the trail

As we left the beautiful gardens surrounding the entrance of the park, we were mesmerized by the almost deafening sound of cicadas. Unlike where we live, cicadas live year round in this part of Costa Rica thanks to its ideal climate. Gustavo told us that after the cicadas hatch from their shells, they live for only 5-6 weeks and it is a 9 and 13 year cycle. That is why they lay eggs all the time since it takes so many years to hatch. The magic of nature never ceases to amaze me.

While we were walking, I stopped to ask Gustavo about the importance of colors. Many of the most brilliant colored insects in Costa Rica are poisonous (such as the “Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog) and the brilliant colors are a warning to predators or else a way to attract them. Flowers also have an interesting role in colors. For instance, the Heliconia flowers which are common throughout Costa Rica are fuzzy and look like a bird of paradise. Most people mistake the large, red pieces as the flowers. However, the small yellow parts are the actual flower and the red part is a modified leaf. It is a natural way of attracting pollinators.

 .Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

Heliconia flowers

Mistical Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, Costa Rica

A beautiful flower and example of the play with brilliant colors.

After we left the garden, the real fun began. Our first hanging bridge. I tend to have a fear of heights when climbing up ladders and looking down yet for some reason the wobbly hanging bridges didn’t seem to bother me. They reminded me of the crazy bridges I’ve hiked on in rural Nepal or New Zealand. My daughter didn’t like the bridges so much but managed to pass through them while I stopped to take pictures and look for wildlife.

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park: If you look carefully at this photo, one of the hanging bridges can be seen off in the distance.

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

A closer look at one of the hanging bridges. The highest one is over 148 feet above the ground!

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

When we reached the bridge, Gustavo pointed out a viper nestling about 10 feet above us in a tree. Vipers are highly poisonous and if you are bit, you must seek medical attention immediately. They like to hang out in trees so as a general rule of thumb, you should never ever grab onto a tree trunk or branch in Costa Rica. Snakes are everywhere and they are hard to see due to their amazing camouflage.

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

Our first snake…an Eyelash Viper which is venomous

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

A Golden orb spider- apparently their web can look yellow in morning.

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

A walking stick insect

This jumping pit viper was nestling inside the leaves on the ground. They strike out at prey with a poisonous bit.

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

A poisonous dart frog with the nickname of “Blue Jeans” due to the blue-colored legs

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

A bullet ant on the handrail. One bite would cut your finger and nine bites would kill you if you are allergic. If you get bitten, you are quite sick and can’t move your arm. I was very glad that I warned my son to not hold the handle.

There was a vaporous mist hanging over the rainforest and Gustavo explained it was due to the high humidity and rain in the region. In Arenal,  they have over 500 inches of rain per year and no dry season like the Pacific side. The trees fight for survival of the tallest by growing as high as they possibly can to reach the sunlight. It is such a magical place inside the jungle!

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After we climbed over our third bridge we heard the cry of the howler monkeys. They live in groups of 15-25 and the males howl to mark their territory and ward off competitors. You can hear them as far as two miles away. It is quite incredible.

We reached a gorgeous waterfall and pulled over to take some pictures. It was hot and humid but so lovely.

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

I remembered the time this past January when I was in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica and had no choice but to bathe in the waterfall. The refreshingly cold water rushed down at breakneck speed and I had a hard time not being knocked over by the force. But it was such a memorable experience and feeling of liberation.

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I also remember seeing the infamous leaf cutter ants during my treks through the jungle in the Osa Peninsula. We got a chance to see them here as well and learn more about their intricate structure. Gustavo told us that for every 1,000 workers there is one soldier ant. The solider ant is bigger and can be easily identified (check out photo below). The soldier ants work to protect the worker ants from lizards, frogs, and birds by bitting them.

Leaf cutter ants can travel up to 1/2 mile per day to collect leaves and they carry the leaves back to their giant nest. They work every single day bringing leaves to the house while the queen stays inside the nest and constantly lays eggs. Apparently a queen can live for over 20 years! I had no idea that ants could be so fascinating!

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

Tiny leaf cutter ants carry green pieces of leaves to the nest while a soldier ant stands guard (on the yellow leaf).

As we were leaving the park we saw this beautiful orange and green bird. I’m not able to remember what kind it is but it sure was beautiful.

Mistical Hanging Bridges Park, Arenal, Costa Rica

All in all we loved our day at Mistical Park. I was surprised that it wasn’t more crowded as it is truly a remarkable place. Sadly, it was our last day in Arenal before heading to another destination. The next day we would return our car and catch a ride to the famous aqua blue colors of Rio Celeste. We could hardly way!

This short video gives you an amazing aerial view of the park and its divine location at the foothills of Arenal Volcano.

If you go:

Mistical Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is open seven days a week and is located 2.5 km East of the dam of Lake Arenal on the pave road, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

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31 comments

  1. Thank you for your “vacation pictures,” they are awesome. Thank you also for relieving my suffering for not being there by your relating the various possibilities of sickness and death in the neighborhood. I believe I may be allergic to bites from vipers and some insects.

  2. Pingback: A Day Exploring Mistical Arenal Hanging Bridges Park | necltr

  3. Heide

    Once again, your gorgeous photos and stirring narrative have whisked me out of my chair and into the jungle. Thank you for this wonderful post!

  4. Heide

    Once again, your gorgeous photos and stirring narrative have whisked me out of my chair and into another world. Thank you for this wonderful post!

  5. Di

    What an amazing exploration, Nicole. So many things to watch out for in nature but fascinating to observe from a safe distance.
    More happy family memories created there for you 💕

  6. Di

    What an amazing exploration, Nicole. So many things to watch out for in nature but fascinating to observe from a safe distance.
    More happy family memories created there for you 💕

  7. Nicole from our time in “Costa Rica i recall the multitudes of wildlife but I will admit I didn’t see all the poisonous varieties! Perhaps they were underfoot and I just didn’t know! Such a magical country. Wonderful memories to have made with your family.

    • Ha Ha…the first time I was in the Osa Peninsula in January for a week I never saw one snake! My guide was shocked! I am actually glad I didn’t because they kind of scare me a bit. Yes wonderful memories indeed. I love Costa Rica. Truly a very special place.

    • Count yourself lucky that you haven’t seen the Debbie! I agree it would not be pleasant to be bitten by one. I also seem to have bad reactions to whenever I get bug bites. I got bit by something in Costa Rica and my leg swelled up and I had to find some special anti-itch cream at the pharmacy. Still not sure what it was but it was irritating!

  8. slab9010

    Awesome and I’m glad I was able to see the rain forest thru your lens. I don’t think I would do the hang bridge tour since I don’t care for heights.

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