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Hotel: Arenal Volcano Inn (highly recommend)

We didn’t want anything too fancy and expensive, since we barely spend any time at the actual hotel when we are on trips, as we are always out and about exploring/eating. This was a good in between for us and wasn’t at the resort level nightly cost, but was still very nice, with a good view. Link and price below.

We got the Deluxe Suite for a little under $100/night. Our room was at the top of the hill (room 108), which allowed us to have an incredible view of the Volcano, right outside our window. Booked through, link below.

Car Rental: ACE Rental (would not recommend)

I have always heard that once you get to Costa Rica, everything is cheap. We booked our rental car online ahead of time for $27 total, for the whole weekend. I thought it was too good to be true and of course it was! The car insurance is actually required in Costa Rica, no matter what you do or say, you have to include it in your rental. This caused the total to go up by about $175, so when he said we owe $198, we were both in shock. Although the rental insurance is not a scam itself, the way the car rental place went about NOT mentioning or advertising this ahead of time is extremely sketchy.

Make sure you do your research on cars online before you choose the final rental place and note that when we were there and tried to look for another car to book, every company in the area was showing as sold out (SO BOOK IN ADVANCED).

ACE Car Rental breakdown costs:

  • Silver Pack ($198): This is the bare minimum that you can select, to have just enough insurance on the car to fall within what is mandatory. You can have to pay up to $1200 in damage, if something happens and does not include road assistance.

  • Gold Pack ($218): This plan you can have to pay up to $600 in damage, if something happens, but does include road assistance and accessory coverage, if something happens to a tire or the radio for example.

  • Titanium Pack ($257): This is the most expensive plan and has the most coverage where you pay $0 out of pocket if anything at all happens to the car. (We chose this plan only because we were driving over 16 hours total over the weekend and we both didn’t want to chance it). I still think we were a little scammed, but you live and you learn!

Getting from Point A to Point B: I use Google Maps as the way of getting around on every trip. The key is to put in your end location while you have service so that it loads. Make sure to not exit out of it until you are at your final destination, because if you have zero signal you will not be able to pull up the directions again. When we need to drive back home, we always try and find a nearby spot that has Wi-Fi or when we notice we have signal towards the end of the excursion, we put it in and just keep the maps up in the background.

Winding Roads: Almost everywhere we drove in La Fortuna and a little outside of that, were winding roads. There was an alternate route from San José to La Fortuna, with a similar ETA, that had less winding roads and was easier to navigate so we chose that, but some of the other days we just had to bear with it, as there was only one way to get to where we needed to go.


Day 1

This was our travel day, which included our flight from Orlando to San José and picking up the car rental at the airport and driving to La Fortuna.

Lunch: Rosti Pollos (right by the rental place)

We got to our hotel and unpacked, changed and went downstairs at the hotel restaurant for a nice dinner, before the next day’s early activities began.

Dinner: Que Rico Arenal Restaurante & Pizzeria

Day 2

Starting our trip off with a 2 hour and 45 minute drive to do a Canyon Half Day Tour, which included zip lining, rappelling, rock climbing, hot springs and a mud bath at Hacienda Guachipelin. We actually really lucked out and were the only two on the excursion, so we were done much quicker than what the original time breakdown was and got to really enjoy the Rio Negro hot springs and just relax and take our time. They had several time slots to choose from, but we chose the earliest at 9AM so that we could get an early start to our day. This tour also included a lunch buffet that was right across the street at their restaurant, so we loaded up on as much food as we could handle before having to take that long drive back to the hotel. Click the link below to book the same tour that we did.

  • Tour Fee: $65/person

  • SIDE NOTE: They had someone taking pictures as we went and if you want to buy them at the end, you can for $30

Dinner and Drinks: La Parrilla de Doña Flor

Day 3

Since we were about 2 hours from the Rio Celeste Waterfall, we decided to wake up early and hit the road in order to be there by the time that they open up. The Tenorio Volcano National Park’s hours are 8AM-4PM and you MUST enter before 2PM.

  • Parking Fee: 800-2000 colones per car (we paid 2000)

  • Entrance fee: $12/adult

We actually accidentally turned down a rocky road (following our GPS) and it wound up being the wrong turn. We were stopped by some locals that only spoke Spanish and they helped point us in the right direction. Once we turned the car around, they stopped us again and asked if we could give their daughter a ride to the park since she works there and walks there and back every day (over 4 miles each way). Once we dropped her off at the parking lot, she pointed us across the street to the main office to get our tickets. So, make sure that the road you are on is paved and follow signs for the Tenorio Volcano National Park.

The hike is about 3.7 miles (roundtrip), but this is only if you are doing the entire thing, which includes the Lookout Point, Blue Lagoon, Borbollones, and Teñideros (map shown below). If you are just wanting to walk to the Rio Celeste Waterfall, like we did, it is a 30 minute roundtrip hike. I read a lot of articles saying that it can be extremely muddy, which can slow down the pace, but we didn’t experience any of that. If you go on a day that is muddy, you can rent shoes for $5 at the entrance if you don’t want to risk getting yours messy/don’t have the proper attire. The good news about this one is that you can do this on your own and follow the hiking trails without a guide.

SIDE NOTE: We heard that if you are wanting to see the lagoon and hot spring areas that you should walk to the furthest point first, to knock it out. Then they said to make your way back to the Rio Celeste waterfall as a reward, but keep in mind that the later it gets, the more crowded it will become. We got there right when it opened and were one of the first people there and were able to get the shots we want and enjoy it being somewhat to ourselves.

Rio Celeste Waterfall Hiking Trail

The Springs Resort and Spa:

If you are wanting to enjoy the onsite amenities at this resort, but not pay an arm and a leg to stay in the hotels to have access, you’re in luck! There is another option, as we were in the same boat. They offer a 2 day pass for $68/person (this price may fluctuate depending on time of the year), which will give you access to hot baths, pools, 5 restaurants and 6 bars. You will have access from 8AM-10PM both days and can go back and forth to the property as much as you like during those times.

With these 2 day passes, you will have access to the following pool/hot spring areas:

  • Las Lagunas Pools: this will be the closest area to the main building and have the incredible view of the Arenal Volcano, as well as a Swim-Up Bar

    • Hours: 8A-10P

    • 86˚F to 103˚F

  • Perdido Springs: this will be about a 100 yard walk from the lower level of Las Lagunas Pools

    • Hours: 10A-10P

    • There are 7 spring fed pools, ranging from 91˚F to 104˚F

    • Right in the center of this area you will find Los Perdidos Bar and Rancho Perdidos Bar (there is also a monkey slide here if you have a desire to do that)

  • Club Rio Springs (I saved the best for last- in my opinion): you will need to take a short bus ride to view these springs, which is right outside of the Las Lagunas Pools. They will have a bus schedule at the desk that shows what time the bus will be there to pick you up and take you each way. Make sure to take pictures of the times, so you aren’t waiting for 30 minutes or so for the next one.

    • Hours: 9A-4:30P

    • 97˚F to 99˚F and you can even feel the hot mineral water and bicarbonate bubbles from beneath in the Ojo del Agua (Eye of the Water)

Keep in mind that they require a reservation for all-day pass guests during peak seasons (February, April and December), so if you want to wait to book this and you are not in one of the high seasons, you can! Click the link below to see where we booked our tickets.

Dinner and Drinks: The Springs Resort & Spa at the pool bar

Day 4

We were a little more relaxed with our schedule this day, because the rest of the things we wanted to see were close by home base.

We got to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park around 8AM in hopes that it would still be foggy, like the day before, but unfortunately it was extremely clear out at this time. Some people actually want it to be clear, so that you can see the incredible views from the hanging bridges, but we wanted a few shots that were a little on the eerie side. So, if you are wanting the foggy experience, I would suggest getting there when it opens around 6AM, 7AM at the latest. We made the best of the 2 mile loop with 10 regular bridges and 6 hanging bridges and just stopped to enjoy each and the incredible view, both around us and below us!

If you wish to do a tour the times are 9A, 10A, 12P, 1P and 2P, but you can also go on your own at any time between the hours of 6A-3:50P. We like to do things on our own so that we can stop when we want and take as long as we want without having to stay with a group, but I will say that having a tour guide could be nice at this spot, because they will point out animals and insects that we didn’t notice. They know what is around and what to look for, so it would be more informative having a guide.

  • Entrance Fee: about $15/ person

Breakfast: El Campesino

The last adventurous thing we did for the day/weekend was go visit the La Fortuna Waterfall. This was about 15 minutes from our hotel and was something high on our list because it’s considered the biggest waterfall in Fortuna, dropping at 75 meters, or almost 250 feet.

This takes about 15 minutes to hike down the stairs to the waterfall, which has a total of about 500 steps each way… YES that’s 1000 steps total roundtrip. The way down wasn’t bad at all, but be prepared for the way back up, as it’s the equivalent of doing 15 minutes on the Stairmaster- our quads were burning!

The waterfall itself has several look out points, noted on the map they provide, and once down to the very bottom, you have the option to swim at your own risk. We made our way down the slippery rocks to the edge of the water and quickly realized it was way too cold for us to want to get in. We sat there for a little and just took it all in as the crashing of the waterfall was so close to us we felt a slight mist. It was crazy to be in such close range to something so powerful and it was well worth the steps!

  • Entrance Fee: $15/person


The rest of our day/evening was spent at The Springs Resort and Spa enjoying our last day of the 2 day pass that we purchased. Most of our time was spent drinking, eating, talking to new friends and admiring the Arenal Volcano view from the main pool and Laguna Bar. We were also able to check out a few of the other thermal baths on site that we didn’t have the chance to see the first day.

Day 5

We had to return our rental car by the airport by Noon, so we gave ourselves plenty of time to get from La Fortuna back to San José (about 3 hours).


We enjoyed the complimentary buffet breakfast that was apart of our hotel stay and then hit the road. We stopped once on the way when we saw coffee and souvenirs and picked up a few things for family.

TIP: Do not spend all of your money until you are in the airport. We hit two toll roads on the way back to the rental car spot (one was ₡380 and the other was ₡440) and we just spent the last of our Colones buying the souvenirs (trying to get rid of it before getting back to the states). Unfortunately, the guy at the toll only accepted Colones and not card, so we had to reverse, on a one-way, and go back about 5 minutes or so to find a bank. Luckily, we were able to get some cash out from an ATM, because we would have been stuck.

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