Costa Rica is known for its lush rainforests, which are bursting at the seams with beautiful plants and an incredible array of wildlife. One of the most unique ways to explore these tropical jungles is walking across hanging bridges, which are suspended in air so you can literally stroll through the treetops!
While the country boasts several of these experiences, one of the best options is at the Mistico Hanging Bridges in La Fortuna, which offers sixteen bridges in total- six of which are floating amongst the forest’s canopy. So if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind perspective of Costa Rica’s stunning rainforests, grab your binoculars and let’s go- here’s everything you need to know about visiting Mistico Hanging Bridges.
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Pssst… visiting La Fortuna? We have a ton of information-packed content to help you plan your trip to this area, including:
- 11 Incredible Things to Do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica’s Adventure Capital
- Arenal 1968: The Best Arenal Volcano Hike in La Fortuna
- El Salto Rope Swing: La Fortunas’s Swimming Spot You Don’t Want to Miss
- Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park: Hike to the Most Colorful Waterfall in Costa Rica
- La Fortuna Waterfall: Swim Under One of the Most Gorgeous Cascades in Costa Rica
- Catarata del Toro: Explore Costa Rica’s Most Stunning Waterfall (+ Best Hidden Gem!)
- Ecotermales Hot Spring: La Fortuna’s Luxury Spa for Less
How to get to Mistico Hanging Bridges
Mistico Hanging Bridges, formerly known as “Arenal Hanging Bridges”, is one of the most popular things to do in La Fortuna.
The best way to get to the property, located here, about 20 km east (or a 30-minute drive) from downtown La Fortuna, is by rental car– the road here is well-paved the entire way, with no 4WD required, and there’s a large parking lot. Alternatively, you can book a taxi but it will likely be pretty pricey- approximately $30 one-way.
As another option if you don’t have your own vehicle, there are plenty of guided tours leaving from La Fortuna to Mistico, like this one or this one. In full transparency, I don’t think a guided tour here is necessary, given the trail is very straightforward and well-marked.
However, it can be pretty tough to spot critters here (more on that later!) and, if you’re really committed to seeing new animal friends during your time here, your best bet would be to go with a guide, who are excellent at spotting creatures in the treetops, like sloths, or smaller animals, like snakes and frogs and are incredibly knowledgeable about local plantlife.
How much does it cost to visit Mistico Hanging Bridges?
For adults, park entry costs $26 per person, with discounts for seniors ($21/person), teens ($16) and children (free!). Of course, guided tours will come with an additional fee, starting around $40 per adult.
At first, I was a bit shocked how expensive tickets were here and wasn’t really sure whether my husband, Justin, and I should visit. But given how well-maintained and gorgeous the trail is, as well as the really unique perspectives the hanging bridges provide, I ultimately think it’s worth it for travelers that aren’t on a super tight budget.
When to visit Mistico Hanging Bridges
Mistico Hanging Bridges is open from 6 AM to 4:30 PM daily, with the last entry allowed in at 3:50. One important thing to note about your visit is that Mistico has timed entries (every half hour) and enforces strict capacity limitations of how many visitors are in the park at any given time. Given that this is one of the most popular attractions around La Fortuna, if you’re planning to go without a guide, I’d highly recommend buying tickets online ahead of time here to ensure you’ll be admitted to the park.
If I have one tip for visiting Mistico Hanging Bridges, it would be to get here early. Justin and I came at 6:30 AM and I’m so glad we did- we only ran into a handful of other people on the trail and it was so peaceful to enjoy the sound of tropical birds and monkeys surrounding us and take our time enjoying the hanging bridges.
By the time we were leaving around 9 AM, the ticket area was absolutely swarming with visitors, some of which were very, very loud- I have to imagine that your stroll through the jungle may be a lot less tranquil if you were constantly bumping into other visitors.
You’re also less likely to encounter rain during the morning here, especially during the rainy season, May through November, which usually has downpours every afternoon (although, even in the dry season, it’s a good idea to bring along a rain jacket, like this one for men or this one for women- it is a rainforest after all!).
Another bonus of visiting in the morning? Allegedly, the animals are most active in the early morning!
What to Expect when visiting Mistico Hanging Bridges
Mistico Hanging Bridges is spread across 617 acres (250 hectares) of verdant rainforest, but the main trail loops just 3.2 km (or 2 miles) in length through the jungle. As mentioned above, throughout the trail, there’s a total of 16 bridges, each of which are named after animals or features you might find in the jungle (like the beloved “Tarantula Bridge”).
Some of the bridges are rather small and nondescript (i.e. if there weren’t signs counting the bridges, I probably wouldn’t have noticed they were any different than the rest of the trail), whereas some of them, primarily the hanging bridges, offer jaw-dropping views of the rainforest canopy and jungle floor below. Beyond the bridges, the trail itself is absolutely beautiful, with lush greenery draped over the path, and incredibly well-maintained.
Once you arrive at the park, you’ll pick up your tickets from the main office and then head towards the park entry to the left. The trail starts off fairly flat but eventually gains some elevation throughout your hike (you’ll gain 105 meters or 347 feet along the trail). Shortly into your hike, you’ll have a chance to turn off to the left and explore the Rufous Hummingbird Garden, a quiet little reserve with tropical flowers, plants and water features.
Once you continue along the main trail, the first few bridges you’ll pass are not particularly interesting, but the fourth one, the Arenal View Bridge, is special. Not only is this the first suspension bridge you’ll cross and the highest in the whole park (55 meters or 147 feet), but it also offers a stunning view of the Arenal Volcano.
From here, continue to follow the path throughout the rest of the trail- there’s plentiful signs to make sure you’re going in the right direction and you’ll eventually end your trek by crossing the Tayra Bridge, which is the longest suspension bridge in the park at 97 meters (or 368 feet).
In total, it’ll take between two and three hours to walk through the entire park- get ready to stop a LOT for photos!
Unless you plan to go on one of the alternative trails, it would be almost impossible for you to get lost along the main path, which creates one huge loop through the jungle.
So what kind of alternative trails are there? I’m so glad you asked (this map definitely helps give you a lay of the land)!
- Waterfall Trail: This is a small off-shoot of the main trail. After the eighth bridge you’ll cross, the Keel-Billed Toucan Bridge, you’ll see a sign for the waterfall and some steps leading off the main trail to the right.
After approximately five minutes of climbing down a fairly steep descent, you’ll reach the beautiful Blue Morpho Waterfall, which cascades almost 79 feet down a cliff into a small stream below. Once you’re done admiring the waterfall, simply retrace your steps back up the hill to continue and finish your hike along the main path.
- Accessible Trail: Something super cool about Mistico- it offers a wheelchair accessible trail! This loop provides all of the same stunning rainforest views you’ll see along the main trail- and even a suspended bridge- but on a shorter and more accessible trail, so it’s perfect for hikers who have mobility issues or simply are looking for a shorter option.
For this one, you’ll start along the main trail and continue on until you pass the third bridge, Jacamar. Here, you’ll reach a fork in the trail, where you’ll turn right (instead of turning left along the main trail). Continue to loop through the forest- along the way, you’ll pass three more earthbound bridges and the final suspended bridge, Tayra, which will take you back to the ticket office.
In total, the accessible loop is about 1,500 meters in length and takes about 20-30 minutes if you’re continuously moving.
- Bird-watching Trail: If you’re looking to see tropical birds or just get the most bang-for-your-buck, the Bird-Watching Trail, which cuts through the middle of the main trail’s loop, can either be added on to the main hike itself or simply just used as a shortcut through the park. The Bird-Watching Trail is not the official name of the path- but it’s popular with birding tours due to its location in some of the densest parts of Mistico’s forest and the frequency of seeing our feathered friends along the trail.
To reach this path, you’ll start along the main trail and continue on past the fifth bridge, Monkey Bridge, until you see a fork. Turn right here and you’re officially on the Bird-watching Trail! You’ll continue on this for about 2,500 meters and you’ll eventually be spit out right before the Fer-de-lance Bridge, the second to last suspended bridge.
If you choose to use the Bird-watching Trail as a shortcut through the park, be forewarned- while you may see more birds along the trail, you’ll be missing half of the suspended bridges and three normal bridges by taking this route, unless you double back to where you turned off the main trail.
Speaking of seeing wildlife, let’s chat about spotting creatures along the trail here. Your chances of seeing wildlife in Mistico are honestly a bit hit-or-miss, given how highly trafficked this area is and how noisy it can be during the day.
During our time here, Justin and I saw a coati (a racoon-like creature) in the parking lot and a handful of birds in the park itself… and not much else; in fact, we saw a lot more wildlife when we were just simply relaxing in the Ecotermales Hot Spring.
While we were at Mistico Hanging Bridges, there were at least several times that we could hear monkeys moving around in the trees above us- the tree coverage was just too dense to see them (although I suspect if we had brought binoculars, we would have had an easier time spotting them). And we met other travelers who even went with a professional guide and still saw no wildlife.
That being said, I’ve seen plenty of videos on social media of the suspended bridges being swarmed by monkeys or other amazing animal encounters- I would just advise you to temper your expectations a little bit. Even if you have as bad of luck with wildlife spotting as we did, you’ll see incredibly beautiful flowers, trees, and other plants along your walk.
When you’re done with the trail, you’ll end up back by the ticket office. Before you leave, be sure to take in the beautiful view of the Arenal Volcano behind the ticket office and along the back of the parking lot- it’s, in my opinion, one of the best views of the volcano in all of La Fortuna!
Tips for visiting Mistico Hanging Bridges
- This park is not for people with fear of heights. During our visit, I posted stories on my Instagram (hi, are we friends yet?) of walking across some of the hanging bridges. And, while the bridges appear to be soundly constructed and perfectly safe, I was blown away by the number of messages I received from people who are terrified of heights, saying that they would have “noped” it right out of there.
So if walking across a swinging bridge that’s almost 200 feet in the air doesn’t sound like your jam, that’s kind of the whole point of the park… so it may be best to check out some of the other incredible things to do in La Fortuna.
- Bring closed toe shoes and bug spray. Generally, open-toed shoes are highly discouraged along the trail, in case you kick something or you have the incredible misfortune of having an animal bite you (but hey, at least you’ll see some wildlife along the trail!). I’ve heard that the admission office will do everything from not let you into the park with open-toed shoes to forcing you to sign a waiver if you insist on wearing them. For what it’s worth, Justin and I both wore hiking sandals, as we were unaware of this requirement, and when we inquired further with the park attendant, she shrugged and simply told us it was fine.
But to be on the safe side, I’d recommend bringing along closed toed shoes, preferably with some traction, given that the trail can be rather slippery in some areas while wet. Justin and I brought actual hiking boots, like these for men or these for women, to Costa Rica and wound up wearing them quite a few times- they’d be perfect for this trail! And don’t forget your bug spray– this is a jungle after all!
I hope you have as much fun strolling through the treetops of La Fortuna as I did at Mistico Hanging Bridges. Let me know how your visit goes- are you luckier than me at spotting any wildlife?- in the comments below.