10 Sights To Stop For When You're Travelling From La Fortuna To El Castillo
We recognise there’s a bit of an issue for customers staying in La Fortuna. Yes, it’s only around a 40-minute drive from your accommodation to El Castillo, but if you’ve booked a session with us, it’s important to factor in that a 40-minute drive in Arenal National Park can be equivalent to around an 8-hour drive anywhere else.
That’s because, unlike other places in the world, there is just so much to see! Even if you’ve booked an exciting waterskiing session or used one of our boat rentals for a day, you could find yourself feeling tempted to stop at nearly every beautiful spot or interesting landmark that you come across.
For this reason, we think it’s a good idea for you to be prepared for this journey and make it before your planned day on Lake Arenal. That way, you can actually stop and experience all the beautiful sights and not feel so tempted to turn the 40-minute journey into an 8-hour journey.
So, what exactly are the sights that you should stop for? Well, being the cunning and meticulous blog writers that we are, we’re going to start at the beginning:
Start In La Fortuna
If you’re staying in La Fortuna, then you’re staying in one of the most beautiful towns in Costa Rica. For this reason, you need to take a look around and really experience it.
La Fortuna has some beautiful gardens, with a stunning view of Arenal National Park and, of course, the 7,000-year-old volcano right in the centre of it. If you haven’t done so yet, linger a little longer in La Fortuna before you start your trip and experience its beauty.
Visit The La Fortuna Waterfall
You’re off on your journey, but you’re not going to be travelling long. The drive from La Fortuna to the La Fortuna Waterfall is only around 8 minutes, and this is the first stop to make if you want to see a slice of natural paradise.
The La Fortuna Waterfall is located on 210 acres of gorgeous tropical rainforest, and there’s an observation deck nearby for you to stand, take in the views, and maybe even take a few selfies. It’s worth noting that to reach the waterfall you’ll need to walk 15 minutes to the deck and there are around 500 stairs. Not too hard on the way there. A bit more of a struggle on the way back. But it's still worth it!
Take In The Arenal Landscape At 150 Feet
The Mistico Hanging Bridges are also a must-have experience. Here, you’ll be walking above the rainforest at nearly 150 feet, with 6 long suspension bridges and one stunning view of the Arenal landscape.
While this might not be one for the faint of heart – the bridges can swing a little during a particularly blustery day – it is still well worth doing if you can stomach the heights!
Get A View Of Arenal Volcano At Mirador El Silencio
If you’re an Instagram enthusiast who loves achieving that perfect shot, then you need a place that gives you a proper 360 view of the park – with as many sights as you can fit in one frame. We think we know that place. While on your journey to El Castillo, stop off at Mirador El Silencio, which is just on the other side of the national park from La Fortuna.
According to many tourists, this is probably the best view you can get of the park and Arenal Volcano, while also being one of the best hiking trails for its low difficulty level and the amount of wildlife that you can spot. Go there, walk to the observation point, and take a selfie that will never get beaten!
Experience The Jungle In The Tabacón Hot Springs
So far, we’ve talked a lot about walking through the rainforest to get to a particular point, but what about the rainforest itself? With 51% of Costa Rica taken up by rainforest, these places are really the selling point of this beautiful country, so it’s a good idea to experience them fully. The best way to do this, in our opinion, is by visiting the Tabacón Hot Springs.
Not too far from Mirador El Silencio, you can make your way to the springs and delve into the beautiful, healing water while taking in the world around you. If you want a way to relax, unwind, and be part of the rainforest, rather than just a witness, then you can’t find anywhere better than this.
Explore The Base Of Arenal Volcano
Another thing we’ve talked a lot about? Seeing views of Arenal Volcano from afar. So, let’s switch it up and actually go there. While you’re not able to climb the volcano – this is an active volcano that last erupted in 2010 – there are some great sights to see around the base, as well as tour guides that can take you through the history of the volcano and its lava flows.
You should also visit the lava bedrock. Here, you will have Arenal Volcano on your left, and then Lake Arenal on your right. On a clear sunny day, you’ll get a wonderful view of the forests, the rolling hills, and perhaps even the sun glistening on the faraway water. But we should emphasise that it has to be a clear day! With Costa Rica known for its long rainy season – lasting from May to November – it’s not always possible to get this view. But you never know, you might get lucky!
Gaze Into Cerro Chato
We couldn’t help but sense a little sigh of disappointment when we wrote the words, “You’re not able to climb the volcano”. But before you go despairing, you should know that Arenal Volcano is not the only volcano in this park. Just next to this incredible monument is Cerro Chato, an inactive volcano that you are fully able to climb! We would definitely recommend stopping off during your journey, parking the car, and doing so!
Although the climb can take around 1 to 2 hours – depending on how much of a seasoned hiker you are – the view at the top is certainly one of the most beautiful in Costa Rica. The lagoon is around 500 meters wide, and it is full of deep, turquoise volcanic water. It might be challenging to get there, sure, but it’s a sight that you will not witness anywhere else.
Climb The Nest Tower
A lot of people go on vacation to look at the sights and be an “observer”, but a lot of others go to push themselves a little bit and step outside of their comfort zone. Well, what if we told you that you could do both? If you’re afraid of heights, but love a good view, then the Nest Tower just near Lake Arenal is the place for you to face your fears and get the best reward possible.
This is an observation tower that stands at around 92 feet and gives you a full 360 view of the rainforest, with some brilliant wildlife viewing opportunities too. Be warned, the tower is said to sway a little bit in high winds, but in our opinion, that just adds to the challenge!
Take A Stroll Through The Butterfly Conservatory
When you’re getting closer to El Castillo, you're going to come across the Butterfly Conservatory. While this isn’t a “sight” per se, it does give you the opportunity to see several different breeds of butterflies, and these places get a lot of their support from tourists who visit every year.
To give you a little bit of information, this is a scientific and educational centre that is aiding the regeneration of the Arenal rainforests. Species to spot include the banded peacock, zebra longwing, morpho butterfly, and the beautiful thoas swallowtail. It’s the largest exhibition of butterflies in all of Costa Rica, and there are also four large gardens for you to explore different habitats.
Appreciate The Waterfront At El Castillo
You made it! You’re at El Castillo! It may have taken you two days, but hey, you’re here all the same. And because you’ve listened to our wise advice, you’re not even late for your waterskiing session. What you can do now is simply sit back and witness the view of Lake Arenal. At 85 kilometres, this is the largest lake in Costa Rica. It tripled in size in 1979 when the Arenal dam was created on the eastern end – providing around 70% of the country’s electricity thirty years ago, and close to 17% in 2023.
Still today, it is a landmark that represents Costa Rica’s ground-breaking green energy policy, and it symbolises just how sustainable this country really is. It is also a perfect spot for wildlife watching, with animals such as the rainbow bass, and the machaca, as well as 300 types of birds and 120 mammals – including the jaguar (although we hope you don’t bump into one of those). Before you go, also spend some time trying to look out for any water sports enthusiasts on the water. Who knows? You might even pick up a trick or two!