The Ultimate Central Costa Rica Road Trip

The Ultimate Central Costa Rica Road Trip
Day 5 – Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

I don’t think I could ever get sick of waking up to the sounds of birds chirping and the nearby jungle at the Tifakara Boutiqe Hotel. Being so close to the Arenal Volcano and National Park, you could really hear some unique sounds even inside the bungalow.

Tifakara Boutique Hotel pool in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.
Tifakara Boutique Hotel, La Fortuna, Costa Rica. March 2019

Day five of our trip had us in for our biggest adventures yet. Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park in La Fortuna de San Carlos was our first stop of the day.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the family decided to open this natural forest sanctuary to the public, and they hired a company in order to develop the Hanging Bridges of Arenal eco-tourism project, which would allow thousands of people to enjoy the forest’s beauty comfortably and safely in Costa Rica. 

Twelve years later, as per the initial agreement, the development company returned the project to its owners, and the family’s third generation currently manages the nature reserve.

– Mistico Arenal hanging Bridges Park

The trails at Mistico Park Costa Rica stretched for two miles and we noticed only slight elevation changes. While I would recommend going early in the morning to catch more wildlife, we still enjoyed the beautiful flowers and plant life around the park. All of the pathways are paved and have anti-slip concrete poured so its wheelchair accessible. We didn’t bother buying tickets in advanced so we purchased the self-guided tickets from the front office for $52US.

As we wondered down the different paths and throughout the park, the highlights were the six hanging bridges. The park is famous for these bridges and a few of them hung over treetop canopies. It was pleasantly beautiful as we walked across them. I thoroughly enjoyed taking my time walking across them and grabbing as many pictures as I could. Don’t look down though unless you dare. I wondered how safe I was a couple hundred feet above the ground. You could see for miles on this one bridge that overlooked Arenal Lake, it was incredible. Our goal today was to spot some monkeys or a sloth but I think the area was too popular for these mammals. Maybe next time!

Two travelers at the Mistico Arenal National Hanging Bridges Park.
Mistico Arenal National Hanging Bridges Park Costa Rica. March 2019

Overall the park was very quite for the most part which let us enjoy the natural sounds of the jungle.Off the main path and deep down into the jungle some 500 ft away, you could find the Blue Morpho waterfall. A beautiful spot for a nice picture or selfie! It was a great spot to stop and take a breather while taking in the sights and sounds of the waterfall. The waterfall here is small but pretty, almost dainty compared to most others we have seen!

You could find worker ants almost everywhere. One section of path that stretched a couple hundred feet long had thousands of worker ants, all going up the same tree. One by one they marched, usually with something on their back. Did you know ants can carry up to ten times their weight? Crazy! Other insects we spotted were spiders, grasshoppers, and beetles. But, the most dangerous thing we encountered was one of the most famous and venomous snake in all of the Western Hemisphere. The Fer De Lance pit viper snake.

Fer De Lance Pit Viper. Mistico Arenal National Park. Costa Rica.
Fer De Lance Pit Viper. Mistico Arenal National Park. Costa Rica.

Luckily for us the snake was on a branch about 10 feet below the path. I dont like snakes, ever since Indian Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark, so I was happy it would not bother me. Amanda doesn’t like snakes either, but she really hates spiders…

Our journey ended shortly after our snake and spider encounter as we made our way across the last hanging bridge. We took some final pictures of the massive volcano, it had a great view from the visitor center. The clouds seemed to have separate just for us. Most of the morning was cloudy up until this part.

Mistico National Hanging Bridges Park
Mistico National Hanging Bridges Park

From Mistico Park we were to make the long journey around Lake Arenal, through the Costa Rica farmland and in and out of the huge rolling hills. We filled the gas tank and it was time to put the pedal to the metal. It was gorgeous out now, as it really has been the entire trip. I can’t stress how nice it is in the first week of March. The temps hovered around mid-70’s and we only hit spots of rain here and there. It’s said that it was a little more wet than usual in March 2019 but that was better than snow for us!

I will spare some of the details about the drive and just hit the highlights as I could write quite a few more paragraphs about it. Let me tell you, if you do not have four wheel drive, do not make this drive. It was dry season and some of the potholes and road conditions would be absolutely atrocious without 4×4. Luckily our Hyadau Tucson could handle everything we threw at it.

When Amanda and I noticed the road came to a sudden hault and a river ahead, we looked at each other and said “oh my god, no way!!” A local kayak-er noticed our touristy-panicked faces and came up to the window and said “Hola amigos, si, cross the river.”

He seemed a bit intoxicated while asking for our empty water ball for his moonshine to ride along with him in the kayak. I guess that’s one way to do it. As we sat in disbelief for a few moments, he started giving us tips on what to do. We didn’t know if we should believe this random person at the river bedside, but pura vida, right?

He seemed to know what he was talking about. Was this the only way to make it to Monteverede we asked ourselves? The river may look small in the photo but if you watch the video of this crossing, you can get a better idea of the waters current and how deep it was at certain parts. Knowing that it was now or never, we gathered up the strength and decided we needed to get to the other side. It wasn’t an option, we weren’t going back, it was game time.

Hyundai Tucson - Adobe Rent A Car
Hyundai Tucson – Adobe Rent A Car

Not only did we power through the river safely after getting over our nervousness, but we didn’t break anything on the car either! Or worse, we didn’t get stuck. The key with going through water is to always keep moving forward and using your momentum. Once you stop, you are dead in the water, literally.

On the way through the rough terrain we encountered wild horses, bulls, cows and plenty of birds. We went close to an hour and a half before seeing another car pass by. The the roads were so bad, many locals or tourists alike did not want to make the adventure and we don’t blame them. Time after time we kept questioning how people lived like this, so far from civilization. I can’t imagine the terrain in rainy season, which would make things much more difficult.

As we bounced from side to side, crossed a few more streams, made a wrong turn and arrived in the first sign of civilization, we thought it best to grab a snack and some fresh Gatorade to keep us going. The roadside market had a lunch menu and souvenirs inside of it. A cute little place. You wouldn’t have known from the outside but I’m glad we stopped. We picked up a few small souvenirs and hit the road for the last 45 minutes of our journey.

Road signs for the town of Monteverede were starting to pop up. Signage had been very little since we left La Fortuna, that’s probably why we made a wrong turn or two along the way. We decided that the first priority was getting to our next accommodation for the night, Chira Glamping. If you’re not familiar with the newer term “glamping”, please let me explain. Glamping is a way to connect with nature while still having the luxuries of a roof over your head such as a Yurt, Pod, Treehouse or whatever else the creative minds can think of these days. In this case, we would be staying in a yurt! A first for Amanda and I both so we were really excited!

It took some navigating and searching for a tiny sign that pointed up a long, rocky and dirt road heading uphill. The incline was very steep and my off-road experience really helped us along the way. We finally reached the top of the hill, took a slight right and made it to the gate of Chira Glamping. By far the most expensive night that we planned, but we knew it was going to be the perfect place to relax after a long drive.

And man oh man, it did not disappoint. It was an UNREAL experience! I had to pinch myself every half hour to realize where we were, how far we had come in only 5 short days and….what a view we had!

Chira Glamping. Monteverde Costa Rica. March 2019
Chira Glamping. Monteverde Costa Rica. March 2019

Did I mention we had a hot tub and a private deck all to ourselves? Notice the shower? Yes! That’s a shower, out in the open but private, overlooking the Monteverde mountains and valley below. I would explain the rest but its easier if you just take a look at the quick room tour video I made below.

Watch: Chira Glamping Room Tour

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