Arenal Hills is located at the heart of one of the most family friendly parts of Costa Rica.
There are many things that make the La Fortuna area so appealing to families. Most importantly, it’s safe and the people are very welcoming. A recent U.S. News and World Report article reported that Costa Rica topped the list for the Best Family Vacations in Central and South America because of its wide-array of family friendly tours, hotels and restaurants. “In Costa Rica, you can hike active volcanoes, zip-line through cloud-covered rainforests and surf warm turquoise waters within the span of a few days," the article reported.
So, whether you plan on enjoying your Arenal Hills villa as a vacation or investment home or plan on living there year-round, here are the top 10 things you will want to treat your family to again and again.
- Paddle a Jungle River or SUP on Lake Arenal
There is no secret that people come visit the La Fortuna area because it is known as the Epicenter of Adventure and there are lots of fun activities for the whole family, like paddling for instance.
Doing a Safari Float in a raft-style inflatable boat down a quiet, gently flowing river through the rainforest makes the top of the list of things to do with small children. They will be wowed by hearing the boisterous howler monkeys and seeing crocodiles in the river (from a safe distance of course!). Have your young kids practice their counting abilities by pointing out the numerous birds you'll see along the way.
If you have teenagers, you will want to head to the Río Balsa or Río Sarapiqui for exciting whitewater rafting tours. The Arenal Volcano area is lucky to have so many wild rivers, suitable for every level of paddler. The Río Balsais a class 2-3 river, and is recommended for ages 10 and above, while those 13 and up should try the heart-pounding San Miguel Jungle Run section of the class 3-4 Río Sarapiquí.
Another fun water-based activity is stand up paddling on Lake Arenal. If you've never tried this sport, there's nothing more enchanting than standing up on a board and paddling in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano on pristine, beautiful Lake Arenal.
- "I Spy With My Little Eyes" the Arenal Volcano
You and your kids will love trying to catch a glimpse of the Arenal Volcano. When you’re driving around and see the impressive Arenal Volcano peaking through the clouds, call out to your kids "I spy with my little eyes, something that looks like a great big triangle!"
The Arenal Volcano is Costa Rica's most-iconic volcano with a perfect cone-shape visible from just about anywhere in the area. Don't be disappointed if it's clouded over a lot. The clouds roll in and out during the day. There are numerous hiking tours that get close to the base of the Arenal Volcano. The Arenal Volcano National Park hike includes a visit to the section of lava rocks left over from the major eruption of 1968. The entrance fee to the Arenal Volcano National Park is $10 and a round-trip taxi ride from the center of La Nature guides are great at pointing out the fascinating wildlife you can find along the trail and you and your kids will learn interesting facts about volcanoes in general and the vibrant history of the Arenal Volcano.
Do you have kids who are okay with taking a nice, easy-going hike along a rainforest trail filled with colorful, tropical birds and monkeys up in the trees? The El Silencio Nature Reserve is a great place for an informative guided-hike bordering the Arenal Volcano National Park and is looked after by a local family who uses their $10 entrance fee to keep the trails clean and protect the wild animals found there. The area forms an important biological corridor from Arenal to the cloud forests of Monteverde including the Children's Eternal Rainforest Reserve and Arenal National Park Conservation Area.
- Hanging Bridges Way Above The Tree-top Canopy
The Arenal Hanging Bridges is a highlight for kids in the Arenal area. This natural wonderland has a series of solid, well-constructed bridges that connect above deep jungle canyons with almost 2 miles of trails. You'll get great views of the Arenal Volcano and a waterfall. You'll enjoy the natural beauty of Costa Rica as you walk the trails on your own, but you're bound to see more wildlife and thoroughly enjoy the walk if you do a guided hike with a nature guide.
- Ziplining Above The Rainforest Canopy
It is rumored that the canopy zipline tour was actually invented in Costa Rica. So if you and your family are looking for a little more adventure, from s birds-eye perspective above the tree-top canopy, then ziplining is a must! Ziplining tours are found in just about every popular destination in Costa Rica, so there are many to chose from. Most canopy zipline tours are suitable for all ages. The ziplines in the La Fortuna area will give you great views of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. Ziplining is definitely one of the most-interesting things to do within minutes of Arenal Hills with your family.
- Go Chasing Waterfalls
If you don't visit the La Fortuna Waterfall, you’re missing out on one of the most magical things about being in Arenal! This 200-foot waterfall is impressive and the entrance fee ($10) goes to support local infrastructure projects and community activities. The path down is newly built with easily accessible steps, suspension bridges and platforms to get great photo ops of the waterfall. There is a nice, little restaurant that sells lunches, ice cream, drinks and snacks at the top with nice restrooms.
Once you make it to the bottom of the trail to the waterfall, there is an area for swimming to the left-hand side of the waterfall (due to strong undertows, it is not permitted to get close to the cascading waters). There are a couple hundred stairs leading back up to the top, so you'll want to take your time, especially if you have small children. There are also horseback riding tours to the La Fortuna waterfall with a visit to an indigenous Maleku village.
Waterfall rappelling, also known as canyoneering or canyoning, is one of the most adventurous La Fortuna activities for teenagers. Guides give thorough safety talks on how to descend the waterfalls and use your equipment. This is recommended for ages 13 and up. For older teenagers, you may want to opt for a new-style of canyoning that is now considered Costa Rica's most extreme tour: Gravity Falls waterfall jumping! And you do just that… jump from waterfalls into deep crystalline pools in nature's ultimate playground.
- Play Farmer For a Day
Take the Campesino Farm tour for an interactive look at rural Costa Rican country life. You can help out with the care and feeding of the farm animals and learn about sugar cane production. This tour is educational and your family will learn all about the importance of taking care of our natural resources and can see how people can take advantage of nature without compromising future generations. There is a delicious lunch provided here too – you'll be amazed how your kids will try new and different foods like handmade tortillas, fresh natural local vegetables, locally-sourced meats and of course Costa Rica’s famous rice and beans. Fried plantains are always a hit with kids, plus they can't get enough of the fresh fruits such as pineapple, watermelon and papaya.
- Best Bet for Toddlers and Young Children
Ecocentro Danaus is a biological reserve near La Fortuna. This is one of the best ways to see wildlife in this area. You might see the two- or three-toed sloths, red-eyed frogs, Jesus Christ lizards and alligators. There are lots of colorful birds to see here too. There is a butterfly farm where the kids can learn about their life cycle.
Arenal Natura is another family favorite La Fortuna. The marvels of nature come alive in this well-maintained private reserve area with nice trails, gardens and aquariums to get up close and personal with amphibian life of the Arenal area.
- Enjoy Your Lifetime Day Pass to The Springs
Every home at Arenal Hills comes complete with a lifetime day pass to world-renowned The Springs Resort & Spa. In conjunction with the MINAE (Ministry of Environment and Energy), they operate a preserve for Costa Rican wildlife that has either been confiscated from poachers or donated by other private preserves or individuals. Here your kids can marvel up close at jungle cats, monkeys, sloths and more.
- Go Boating Through The Jungle
Enjoy a boat ride with the kids at the Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve. You will have a great time spotting the sloths, monkeys, toucans, iguanas and more! This relaxing boat ride makes a stop at Las Iguanas restaurant on the way. Watch the hundreds of iguanas hanging out on the tree.
- Explore Using Pedal Power
The Arenal area of Costa Rica is a great place to explore on two wheels. You’ll find top-of-the-line suspension bikes for rent like Trek and Cannondale and even small-enough bikes to fit five-year-olds who are ready to brave the windy, rural roads around the Arenal Volcano area – a far cry from the hustle and bustle of La Fortuna. We recommend the moderate Volcano and Lake Trail for most families for great riding and wildlife viewing.
There are literally hundreds of more fun things to do for families within minutes of Arenal Hills. Choosing what to do depends on the age of the children, the interests of the parents, and level of adventure you seek!