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Brooke1 Jun 4th, 2003 05:38 PM

Hiking in Arenal & Monteverde
Hi all,
My husband and I are off to CR in a mere 4 weeks!! We love hiking and I'm trying to get a good idea of where to go in Arenal and Monteverde -- we're staying 2 nights in each location. Can anyone recommend "must-hike" trails...or tell us what to not waste our time on. I was reading in the Lonely Planet guide that behind Arenal Observatory Lodge there are a bunch of great leading to the crater of a dormant volcano, some leading to lava flows, etc. Has anyone hiked these trails and would you recommend them?
In addition to a day hike through the Monteverde trails, we're going to attempt the guided night hike (as long as it's not raining). Anything else in the reserve to put on our must-do list??
Any information/advice is greatly appreciated!
Thanks so much,

JeanH Jun 5th, 2003 05:22 AM

While in Costa Rica a couple years ago, we hiked a trail that started at the ranger station/information center on the west side of the volcano in the Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal. 15km from Fortuna, take a left at a 'Parque Nacional' sign and go 2 km on a dirt road until you get to the entrance to the park. Pay your admission fee then drive a bit further to the parking lot. Great views of the volcano and a pretty neat hike over about a 10 year old lava flow. We met another couple while on the lava flow who had hiked from the 'other side', I think from the Arenal Observatory Lodge.

We took a guided hike at Monteverde. Focus was on seeing the elusive quetzal. We finally succeeded, but really enjoyed heading off by ourselves on the outer trails in the reserve more. I'm sure we would have seen more wildlife out there with a guide, but it was a great time anyway. You'll have a great time.


Suzie2 Jun 5th, 2003 06:31 AM

One of my favorite solo hikes(without guide) up in the Monteverde area is at Finca Ecologica. It is a pretty steep hike down to the waterfall but we usually see more wildlife there than anywhere. If you get to Monteverde from Arenal by early afternoon you would have time to do this. Monteverde Reserve and Santa Elena Reserve are both wonderful places to hike around in. I would have a guide in one of them and go first thing in the morning. Sky Trek Canopy tour (zip line)is great! Another beautiful trip is the horseback ride with Sabines Smiling Horses down to the San Luis waterfall.
The old lava bed near the Observatory Lodge is a great hike but very strenuous. There is a new rainforest walk in the Arenal area called Hanging Bridges. They have done a wonderful job on the paths and bridges and there are some amazing views of Arenal.

Brooke1 Jun 8th, 2003 06:32 PM

Thank you both so much. Our hotel is actually in walking distance to Finca Ecologica, so we will try to explore there the day we arrive. Can't wait!!!

Suzie2 Jun 9th, 2003 10:22 AM

Just heard a report from a travel agent on another board. He owns a house in Monteverde and was fixing it up. He and his wife tried out the new Selvatura canopy tour. Naturally he did the zip and thought it was great but did not see any wildlife (most people don't while on the zip lines) but his wife and a friend did the canopy walk and saw monkeys and two jaguarundi's.

Tess_Durberville Jun 11th, 2003 10:28 AM

Do recommend that you do one of your first hikes with a guide. They can be extremely helpful in spotting wildlife -- particularly with birdwatching. Helpful hint, look up for swaying trees and you'll spot monkeys up in the canopy. Of course if you're in area of Howler monkeys then you'll HEAR them before you see them.

Enjoyed hiking around Arenal --- went with a guide, just the two of us and he paused and had us listen --- that "choo-choo" sound was the volcano expelling gases. Or as he described it, "the volano is talking to us".

CarolM Jun 18th, 2003 06:28 AM

Above posters all have great info. The trail in Arenal that I thought was absolutely breathtaking was "Los Tucanes" trail in the Arenal National Park. We went with a guide around sunset, but I would love to return and explore the park more next time. This is the trail over the old lava flows. There's a short walk through the forest, then you emerge into a huge field of volcanic rocks. You can scramble around on these (not as strenuous as it sounds...) and when you look up, the volcano is right there, very close, and the panoramic view spectacular (esp. at sunset). Beyond the volcanic rocks, all around you, is rainforest, and opposite the volcano is Lake Arenal. It was one of the most memorable moments of my trip. (We were also lucky enough to see lava.)

In Monteverde, I think you're probably staying at the Monteverde Lodge, since you said the Finca Ecologica was walking distance?? If I'm correct, ask at the desk to sign up for a night hike. We did 2 night hikes and loved both. I actually preferred the one not at the Finca... but I can't remember the name. Mont. Lodge will know and refer you.

We got lucky and had a wonderful guided hike at Monteverde Reserve (saw quetzals, etc.) and I do recommend that, but also recommend visiting the Santa Elena Reserve. There are way less tourists and it is at a higher elevation... it was more like what my expectations were of a cloud forest. I also recommend going to Selvatura (near Santa Elena) and definitely walking their series of bridges. It was hauntingly beautiful. Have fun!

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