The History Behind Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

The Mistico Hanging Bridges Park, nestled in the Arenal Volcano foothills, is a testament to the vision and dedication of its founders, who recognized the value of the land and its natural beauty. Their dream of sharing this pristine landscape led to the development of the park we know today.

The park stands as a remarkable achievement, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the wonders of the rainforest and experience the natural sanctuary in a unique way.

The Origins of Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

If we rewind the clock to the early 20th century, we’ll find the early origins of Mistico Hanging Bridges Park. Adrian Castillo and Landelina Rodriguez Sanchez, husband and wife, inherited land in the Arenal Volcano foothills. These La Fortuna natives worked the land for years, striving toward a vision.

They recognized the immense value of the land and the natural gems lying within it, deciding to preserve its innate beauty and keep the mountain blanketed in its dense forests. Years later, around the turn of the 21st century, their family decided to share the haven with the world.

They hired a development company to oversee their project, which they called Los Puentes Colgantes del Arenal, or The Arenal Hanging Bridges. Their dream was to share this pristine, untouched landscape with the world, allowing visitors to safely and comfortably view the forests and the land beyond.

Constructing the bridges didn’t happen overnight. Instead, it was a 12-year-long project that, once complete, became the hanging bridges we know today. To this day, the reserve remains under the same family’s management, meticulously cared for by Adrian and Landelina’s grandchildren.

Their vision has become a reality, connecting people from around the globe with the awe-inspiring natural beauty this reserve offers. The park’s mission is to give every visitor an “encounter with a natural sanctuary, in a comfortable, safe, and emotional way.”

Exploring Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

The Mistico Hanging Bridges Park is a trove of wonders, home to diverse flora and fauna, stunning views, and fascinating bridges. If you visit, you’ll have plenty of things to do, ensuring your day is full of entertaining activities and intriguing sights.

Diverse Plant Life

The park is teeming with vegetation, each plant contributing to the ecological balance of the rainforest. The ground-level and understory plants include an assortment of flowers, ferns, and aroids.

For example, we saw all sorts of heliconias with bright, lobster-claw-shaped flowers. The forest floor is carpeted in various ferns, including delicate maidenhair and massive, prehistoric-looking tree ferns.

Among the greenery, we saw a few familiar favorites, like the iconic Monstera, which adds an extra layer of visual intrigue to the understory.

The higher you look, the more you’ll find. The trees and canopy plants are just as diverse as the understory and ground-level plants, featuring a wide range of stunning greenery that makes up the treeline.

For instance, the Kapok trees dominate the canopy, often climbing to heights over 200 feet. Their massive size makes them a supportive buddy for plants below, including epiphytes (plants that grow on the surface of another plant) and vines. Strangler figs, which start as epiphytes and eventually envelop their host tree, feature a unique growth pattern with intricate structures.

There is even an array of vibrant flowers nestled high up in the treetops, including bromeliads and orchids. These epiphytic plants flourish in the humid canopy, adding a splash of color and visual intrigue to the wash of green.

The Fascinating Bridges

The hanging bridges are the star of the show at this nature reserve, giving visitors an opportunity to get a birdseye view of the incredible sights below. At some points, you’ll be considerably above the tree line, getting a phenomenal look at the rainforest stretching beneath you. At others, you’ll be right above the tree line, which makes it feel like you’re walking among the treetops.

This network of bridges stretches over the rainforest, connecting to trail after trail winding through the park.

If you take the main trail, you’ll cross nearly a dozen bridges, some suspended, others non-suspended. It took us about an hour and a half to walk the main trail, including a few short stops for water and to admire the incredible view.

Multiple trails pass through or branch off the main trail, so if you’re up for an adventure, take a detour onto one of these trails. For example, a bird-watching trail takes you down into the rainforest, allowing you ample opportunity to spot wildlife. This trail is shorter than the main trail, usually only taking about one hour to complete.

Regardless of which trail you choose, remember to stay on the trail and watch for signs that indicate where you are and where you’re headed. The park has numerous signs indicating where different trails are and which way to exit, so it’s pretty easy to navigate.

Wildlife Observation

This reserve is renowned for its wildlife observation opportunities. An array of animal species call this park home, flourishing in its diverse habitats.

As we strolled through the park, we spotted all sorts of insects and invertebrates, including the stunning Blue Morpho, a beautiful butterfly with iridescent wings. As you’d expect, there are all sorts of ants, spiders, and other arachnids crawling about their business through the canopy. We saw various webs strewn from plant to plant, so if you’re walking through earlier in the morning, be sure to keep an eye out for spider webs.

The park is also home to various reptiles and amphibians, including lizards, geckos, snakes, and tree frogs. The tree frogs make all sorts of noise, especially after rain, sending up a cacophony of sound in the rainforest. Many snakes are elusive, so encountering them isn’t all too common. However, we did spot a Boa Constrictor resting in the canopy (these guys are perfectly harmless).

In the trees, there are all sorts of birds, from scarlet macaws to hummingbirds. We spotted a few toucans perched on branches throughout the rainforest, boasting bright, colorful beaks that caught the eye. The scarlet macaws, if there’s one nearby, are easy to spot, as their bright red, yellow, and blue feathers stand out in the sea of green. The hummingbirds usually flit among the flowers, often hanging out around the colorful blooms of heliconias and bromeliads.

In addition to the insects, reptiles, amphibians, and birds, many mammal species reside within the rainforest. There are multiple species of monkeys, such as the White-faced Capuchins and Spider Monkeys, that you might spot swinging through the treetops.

We spotted a few monkeys, although most were high above. We even saw a sloth! Two-toed and three-toed sloths are residents of the park, often seen lounging in the canopy. They blend in with their surroundings, making it challenging to see at a glance. We completely missed the sloth the first time we looked, but a sharp-eyed member of the group we were traveling with pointed the little fellow out.

Abundant Adventures

If you enjoy traveling with a knowledgeable guide, we recommend the tours available in the park. Multiple options are available, including:

  • Arenal bird-watching tour: The park is home to an impressive array of birds, including toucans, trogons, and guans. While you could go on a stroll along the bird-watching trail, the tour guide helps spot species you might’ve missed. Plus, it’s a great way to learn about each bird species.
  • Natural history guided tour: If you’re a history buff, we highly recommend the natural history tour. On this tour, a national history expert goes with you to explain the rich history and hidden secrets nestled within the rainforest. They’ll even tell you all about the fauna inhabiting the reserve!
  • Mistico Night Walk: Nighttime strolls aren’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind the dark, embark on a Night Walk. Thousands of the species in the park are nocturnal, including many amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and even a few exotic flower species, which put on their best blooms at night. We saw all sorts of nocturnal creatures, including various frogs, coatis, and owls!
  • Twilight Walk: If you want to take a nighttime tour but prefer to start earlier, try the Twilight Walk. This tour takes you on a stroll on the trails and across various hanging bridges as the sun dips below the horizon and disappears altogether. We thought that this one was the best of both worlds—you get to see the nocturnal critters, but it’s not too late.
  • Horseback riding: View the forest from a different vantage point on the back of a horse. These guided tours last for approximately two hours and take you a little over 3.2 miles into and out of the rainforest. We thought the ride was relaxing (even without much horseback riding experience) and such an exciting way to view the forest.

Sustainable Practices and Conservation Efforts

Today, the park’s vision is to promote awareness for sustainable and healthy business and commercial practices that safeguard and manage natural resources. This vision shines through in the park’s initiatives, including those for habitat restoration, wildlife protection, and community support.

Through its sustainable practices and conservation efforts, Mistico Hanging Bridges Park helps protect its cherished rainforest ecosystem and benefits local communities.

Is Visiting Mistico Hanging Bridges Park Worth It?

We get it—if your itinerary is already packed or the park is a bit out of your way, you’re probably wondering whether the visit is worth it. After visiting a time or two, we highly recommend making time in your itinerary for it. Every time we go, it seems that we see something we haven’t before or learn something new about the reserve or flora and fauna within it.

So, whether you have a couple of kids who want to go exploring or simply enjoy being in nature by yourself, the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is well worth it.

Tips for Your Visit to the Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your visit to Mistico Hanging Bridges Park:

  • Book ahead of time: The park can get busy, especially during peak tourist season, so remember to book ahead of time. This way, you can get a reservation at the time you want.
  • Visit in the morning: Wildlife is most active in the early morning. So, if you’re hoping to spot a few birds, monkeys, or sloths, be sure to go in the morning.
  • Check the weather: The rainforest is notorious for temperamental weather—it might be sunny one minute and pouring rain the next. Check the weather before you go to ensure you can dress appropriately.
  • Dress appropriately: After checking the weather, choose appropriate clothing. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts can help protect your skin from the insects in the rainforest. You have to wear closed-toe shoes (tennis, hiking, or trail shoes are good options). Bring a rain jacket to stay dry if it’s supposed to rain.
  • Bring the essentials: Bring plenty of water, snacks, insect repellent, and sun protection. Light snacks are good for keeping energy up on your hike, while water is essential to stay hydrated. Be sure to apply insect repellent to ward off biting insects, and wear plenty of sunblock to protect your skin (even in the forest canopy).
  • Follow park guidelines: Pay attention to park signage to ensure your safety and be respectful of wildlife as you walk through. Don’t approach or attempt to feed wildlife. Carry out all trash and belongings you bring in with you.

Experience the Wonders of Mistico Hanging Bridges Park With Caravan

Mistico Hanging Bridges Park is a treasure trove of beauty and biodiversity, offering visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in diverse flora and fauna from meticulously maintained trails and hanging bridges. It’s a testament to the Castillo and Rodriguez Sanchez family’s vision, welcoming visitors from around the world to connect in an unforgettable way.

Whether you’re visiting Costa Rica for its stunning beaches or rich culture, this park is a worthwhile addition to your itinerary. There’s so much to see and do in the area, from the hanging bridges at Mistico to the pristine waters lapping against Costa Rica’s shores. If you’re planning a trip to this natural paradise but aren’t sure of the best spots to hit, a guided tour might be the perfect fit.

At Caravan, we offer an eight-day tour of Costa Rica, stopping at must-see sights and must-do activities along the way (including Mistico Hanging Bridges Park). The best part? We plan the details, like lodging and transportation, for you. Ready to book a trip? Call 1-800-CARAVAN or 1-800-312-321-9800 to get started today.