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5 BEST Arenal Volcano Tours from San Jose, Costa Rica

5 BEST Arenal Volcano Tours from San Jose, Costa Rica

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The Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s most famous natural attractions, and it’s no surprise why. It dominates the landscape in the northern part of the country, and it’s surrounded by some of the region’s best hot springs and rainforests. 

We lived in La Fortuna and have traveled extensively throughout Costa Rica, and Arenal Volcano remains one of our favorite places to visit. Plus, it’s an easy day trip from San Jose if that’s where you’re flying into. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking to soar above the treetops for the best views of the volcano or you’re in search of a laid-back soak in the local hot springs, there’s a tour for you!

Quick Pick: Our Favorite Tour

If you don’t have time to read through all the options, we’ll skip to the best part! Our FAVORITE tour is this all-inclusive Arenal Volcano Combo Tour from San Jose. It includes lunch at a restaurant overlooking Arenal Volcano and an epic ziplining tour. But all the extras took this tour to the next level for us!

There are bonus stops at gorgeous waterfalls (including the famous La Paz Waterfall), a coffee plantation, a chance to see iguanas and sloths, and it finishes with a two-hour soak in gorgeous hot springs before enjoying supper on the way back to the city. All this in a full-day tour for only $179 USD. I recommend booking in advance as it’s well-rated and popular, but there are still bookings for as early as tomorrow!

5 Best Arenal Volcano Tours from San Jose

1. Arenal Volcano Full-Day Combo Tour with Lunch and Dinner

Bailey sits at a freee waterfall just outside the La Paz Waterfall Gardens
La Paz Waterfall!
Coffee beans on the plant in Costa Rica
At the coffee plantation!

I briefly mentioned it above, but this tour deserves the spotlight! If you’re short on time and want to see as much of Costa Rica as possible, this all-inclusive Arenal Volcano tour will help you squeeze the most out of your visit. This tour has 2,500+ 5-star reviews that you can read here, but we can confidently say it shows you all the must-sees.

The day starts with pick up from San Jose hotels and from there, we were whisked away for a day of Costa Rican highlights, including a coffee plantation, La Paz Waterfall, San Fernando Waterfall, Centro Turístico Las Iguanas, Go Adventure Arenal Park and Paradise Hot Springs. If this is your first time visiting Costa Rica, this tour is a must-do because it helps you visit many of the top attractions without worrying about organizing it all!

I’ll say the photo ops at the waterfalls are incredible, and we especially loved ending our day in the hot springs surrounded by tropical gardens before heading back to the hotel. 

We prefer this tour because it gives you more than two hours at Arenal Volcano, where you’ll enjoy a typical Costa Rican lunch. Then, it’s time for the activity! Experience this looming volcano by ziplining through the rainforest and across the Arenal River. It’s a full-day tour, and guides like Giovanni go out of their way to make this a memorable experience. Tickets cost $179 USD and are even available for last-minute bookings!

2. Full-Day Arenal Volcano Tour from San Jose 

A Coatimundi in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Keep an eye out for the cute and friendly Coati during the day!

Here’s another full-day tour from San Jose that brings you to La Paz Waterfall, San Fernando Waterfall, Centro Turístico Las Iguanas, Go Adventure Arenal Park, and Paradise Hot Springs. However, this tour is less about excitement and more focused on the culture in this region. 

For starters, your air-conditioned coach will head away from the highways and opt for a scenic route as you make your way to Arenal Volcano. This brings you to La Casa del Café, where you’ll learn about the Costa Rican coffee-making process and sample some of their brews. We love coffee and this was a super informative experience packed into a short time! 

Another reason we really enjoy this tour is because of guides like Harlem. He’s incredibly knowledgeable and observant, and he takes the time to point out wildlife on the drive over to Arenal. Once you’re there, you’ll get uninterrupted views of the volcano, and members of the Maleku Tribe will give you a short presentation about this local group’s customs, beliefs, and traditions. 

This tour is scheduled to last 12 hours, but it often runs a little longer. To help keep you full on this excursion, snacks, lunch, and dinner are included in the $159 USD ticket price you pay per person.

Related Read: Keep exploring volcanoes with a tour to Poas Volcano from San Jose!

3. Arenal Volcano & Baldi Hot Springs + Lunch & Dinner from San José 

Pool area of Baldi Hot Springs Hotel & Spa in La Fortuna
Baldi Hot Springs Hotel and Spa is so relaxing! Photo Credit: Baldi Hot Springs Hotel and Spa.

While there are thrilling ways to experience Arenal Volcano, your trip to this natural wonder doesn’t have to be heart-pumping. In fact, one of our favorite day trips from San Jose to Arenal is this relaxing day tour, which comes with a touch of luxury out in the jungle. 

For starters, your day begins with round-trip pickup from wherever you’re staying in San Jose. From there, it’s a 3.5-hour drive toward the volcano. During your ride, you’ll pass through different cattle ranches and farms before stopping at Sarchi. 

We love this tour because it’s one of the few that brings you to this famous artisanal village on your way to Arenal, and it’s the perfect low-key activity to break up the long drive. Here, you’ll get a chance to see exactly what this village is famous for: Vibrant ox carts! These carts are truly works of art here in Sarchi, and they’re painted in all sorts of colors. This village is also home to the world’s biggest ox cart!

From Sarchi, you’ll head to the volcano for a picnic lunch with views of Arenal. After that, it’s time for my favorite part – getting to truly unwind in Baldi Hot Springs, where you’ll spend the bulk of the day. Pass the hours soaking in the thermal waters, or book a massage to add even more relaxation to the trip. Prices start at $194 USD with an extra charge for a massage at the hot springs.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

4. Arenal Small Group Tour: Hanging Bridges + Hot Springs + Waterfall 

A couple tale a photo below La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall is one of our favorite spots!

If you’re interested in experiencing Costa Rican nature with a *touch* of adventure, we recommend this small group combo tour. While this tour doesn’t actually bring you to Arenal Volcano, it does give you incredible views of the volcano throughout the day while you explore the nearby area. 

Like other popular tours to Arenal, this one begins with pickup from San Jose. Then, you’ll begin your small group tour (max 15 people) to La Fortuna Waterfall. It’s one of the tallest in Costa Rica and I think even more beautiful than in pictures! Once you navigate the pathways to reach this beauty, it’s time for a swim. Make sure you pack your bathing suit so you can enjoy the cool, clear waters. 

Afterward, you’ll head toward Puentes Colgantes del Arenal, a rainforest nature reserve where the trees are topped with hanging walkways. We loved passing through the trees on these suspension bridges, and this is where guides like Hayro really show how much they know about the area! He was able to point out all kinds of monkeys, sloths, and snakes we would have missed on our own. 

The tour ends with a three-hour stop at Los Lagos Hot Springs, which is hardly enough time to enjoy the 25 pools on site. While the La Fortuna area of Costa Rica is full of hot springs, we especially love stopping here because of the variety of pools available – it’s not hard to find one you like! The tour is $263 USD and includes absolutely everything for the day including breakfast and lunch.  

5. Day Trip from San Jose to Arenal Hanging Bridges & Baldi Hot Springs Resort 

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges photo spot
The hanging bridges offer great views for adventure seekers!

This day trip from San Jose is especially great if you want to take in excellent views of Arenal Volcano but would prefer to maximize your time in the local hot springs. After you’re picked up in an air-conditioned vehicle, your driver will take you to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park.

Here, you’ll get incredible views of the volcano as you traipse across the treetops. You’ll also have the opportunity to observe many different types of birds, plants, and butterflies, which expert guides like Carla and Maurico are quick to point out. 

We love exploring the rainforest canopy in Costa Rica because scientists are still doing a lot of research in this part of the forest, so there’s a lot to learn here for everyone! And the views are something else.

After two hours exploring the suspension bridges, you’ll spend the next five hours soaking in the Baldi Hot Springs. You’ll have your choice of resting in the waters, or you can reserve an additional spa service or massage. It’s a great way to relax after a day of tree-trekking. 

Before you head back to San Jose, you’ll enjoy a delicious dinner with the Arenal Volcano serving as your backdrop. Ticket cost varies based on group size but is $290 USD per person for two people.

Related Read: If you’d prefer to check out the bridges on your own, read our comparison of the best hanging bridges in La Fortuna to pick where you want to go!

About Arenal Volcano National Park

A view of Lake Arenal and Arenal volcano on a clear day near La Fortuna
The view of Arenal Volcano as you pass by Lake Arenal

Arenal Volcano easily makes our list of the must-see volcanoes in Costa Rica! It’s actually the “youngest” volcano in the country at roughly 7,000 years old … I know, so young right?! It’s an active volcano and 2010 was its last eruption.

Arenal Volcano National Park is HUGE and it’s home to some of Costa Rica’s most diverse flora and fauna. Of course, Arenal Volcano is the most notable feature, but funny enough, it isn’t the only volcano within this national park – just the only active one. The other volcano, Chato, has been inactive for millennia, and it’s since sunk into a crater that’s now filled with a lagoon. 

Before you think about hiking to the top of Arenal Volcano, it’s illegal. Some people still make the hike, but I don’t recommend it. You’ll get good views from the tours I mentioned or if you decide to stay in La Fortuna since it’s only 15 minutes away from the entrance to the national park.

For the best views of the volcano, we recommend avoiding the rainy season from May to November. While clouds tend to roll in later in the day even in the dry season, your best chance at seeing the volcano on a clear day is in the morning and not during the wet months!

If you’re staying in San Jose, I think it’s totally worth making the trip to Arenal. While there are definitely incredible experiences you can have in Costa Rica’s capital city, there’s nothing like getting out and experiencing some of the highlights outside city limits.

All of the tours out of San Jose that we’ve talked about stop at other places besides Arenal, too. That way, you can easily combine your trip to this impressive volcano with a visit to some of the area’s tallest waterfalls, artisanal villages, or rejuvenating hot springs. 

Related Read: If you need ideas for a quick stay in San Jose, check out our 1-day San Jose itinerary for a step-by-step guide to the best activities!

Other Activities to do while You’re in San José

Daniel and Bailey at the Poas Volcano viewpoint, Costa Rica
Poas Volcano is so cool!

There are plenty of things to do in San Jose! But if you’re having trouble filling that itinerary, I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below.

  • Visit Poas VolcanoPoas Volcano is a very active volcano and it’s only about an hour and a half drive from San José city center. Seeing this huge acid-blue lake crater is mesmerizing, and this specific tour covers entry and guarantees you skip the long lines.
  • Explore La Paz Waterfall Gardens – La Paz Waterfalls Gardens is one of the best day trips from San Jose because it’s one of the biggest private wildlife sanctuaries in the country. It’s only a 45-minute drive, but if you don’t have a rental car, join this organized tour from San Jose, which covers transport, lunch, and a guided walk around the property.
  • Take a coffee tour – You can’t leave Costa Rica without trying their world-renowned coffee! There are literally hundreds of coffee farms around Costa Rica, but some of the most famous are located only a short drive from San José. And on this coffee tour, you’ll try some of my favorite coffee and chocolate in the world!
  • Go whitewater rafting – There are some awesome places for whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, including the Pacuare River near San Jose. If you love adventure like me, you have to go on a guided rafting tour! This rafting tour had fantastic guides and included lunch after the rafting, as well as transportation.

Where to Stay in San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose city
People out and about in San Jose!

San Jose is definitely not lacking when it comes to accommodation options! There are actually hundreds of hotels to choose from in San Jose, and most of them are extremely affordable! Below you’ll find our favorite options for every budget.

Grano de Oro Hotel – $$$

Want a luxurious experience? Grano de Oro Hotel is right in the heart of San Jose and features an on-site gourmet restaurant, massage services, and a rooftop garden! The entire place is absolutely gorgeous, with vaulted ceilings and a beautiful interior design. You can walk to many of San Jose’s attractions, and you’re just a 15-minute drive to the airport.

Room rates start at $170 USD per night. For luxury in a great location, book the Grano de Oro Hotel right here on Booking.com.

Terrazas de Golf Boutique Hotel – $$

For a great mid-range option, Terrazas de Golf Boutique Hotel is absolutely stunning. The whole place is quiet, cozy, and clean. Each room provides garden or golf course views with a furnished balcony. They offer laundry, room service, and an airport shuttle for a fee – and they’re just a 10-minute drive to the airport. The staff are super accommodating and happy to answer any of your questions.

Prices here start at around $105 USD per night. For a relaxed and reliable choice, reserve a room at Terrazas de Golf Boutique Hotel online on Booking.com.

Costa Rica Backpackers – $

If you’re looking for a budget option in San Jose, I recommend Costa Rica Backpackers. This hostel has excellent ratings, is in a great location, and even includes an airport shuttle and swimming pool! They also have free coffee, a great on-site restaurant, and super helpful staff.

The best part? Shared rooms start at $10 USD per night and a private room is only $27 USD a night. You can book your stay on Booking.com or through Hostelworld.

Pura Vida!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in Costa Rica in a pool of water
Thanks for reading!

As you can see, a day trip to Arenal Volcano is totally doable from San Jose – especially if you join a tour! That way you don’t have to worry about transportation and get some fun extras like hot springs and waterfalls. Hopefully, you find a tour you like and have an incredible day exploring this part of Costa Rica.

If you need more help with your trip, check out our blog on Costa Rica. We’ve lived and traveled all over the country and are happy to share all our tips and tricks. Here are a few blogs to get you started:

50 BEST Things to do in Costa Rica: Your Bucket List

4 BEST Tortuguero Tours From San Jose, Costa Rica

10 BEST Hotels near Juan Santamaria Intl Airport (SJO) for all Budgets