If you are looking for some excitement, a canopy tour is the thing for you. You will zip by cables and platforms through the canopy of the rain forest. Don't expect to see many animals because you are going too fast, just do it for the trill.
It is very safe because you have to wear the appropriate safety equipment.
The tour will take about two hours and you will have to pay about 45 USD.
Go horse riding to the Arenal volcano. During a 3-hour ride along meadows, jungle and steep rocky roads you will ride to a platform from where you'll have a good view of the volcano.
There is a stable opposite the Hotel Arenal Paraiso where you'll pay 45 USD. You need a little bit of horse riding experience for this trip.
One of the main attractions around Arenal is relaxation in the thermal waters, that are warmed by the volcano. Test the different pools with various water temperatures.
We tried the one at our hotel but there is also a famous one close to the volcano: Tabacon Hot Springs
Fortuna de San Carlos, or just La Fortuna is the only town around the volcano where all activities take place. It's a medium-sized village where you will find banks, shops, restaurants, cheap hotels and guesthouses, offices for booking excursions and some night life. It's especially a good place for backpackers.
This was an awesome experience! A total rush - shooting though the treetops, clipped to a cable. They have 8 lines as long as 2400 feet and 660 feet above the ground. The Sky Trek/Sky Tram crew were great - especially with the kids. Although the price is a little startling ($66), it was definately worth it! I highly recommend this activity.
They also do tours at night, which on a clear one, you can see lava erupting from the volcano.
When in Arenal you definitely must go to the Baldi Hot Springs. There are numerous naturally hot pools from the volcano in Arenal. You can relax and have a good time with friends while sipping on a Pina Colada at the swim up bar. Be aware drink prices are high compared to most other places, but comparable to the US.
For $5 you and your guide descend into the pitch black with wellies and a torch. Wading through neck deep water, pulling yourself through tight holes, climbing 8 feet rock faces, and sliding through knee deep bat poo.
A great 2 hours of fun
Despite the warning sign we walked up to the lava flows at the base of the volcano like everyone else. The live volcano makes noise occasionally when steam is exhausted, and the thunders of eruptions occur. Easy walk, but hot!! Take lots of water, and definitely sun protection. Watch for the poisonous snakes in the jungle.
The big "must see" in Arenal is the volcano. Our travel agent (Pat Hewitt of Costa Rican Travel Exchange) told us the best times to watch - we saw it twice. (No pictures either time)
Then there are the hot springs. We took a night tour from the hotel to see the volcano and swim in the hot springs.
At that time, we could pay a little money for the non-commercial springs, or we could pay a lot more money for the commercial springs across the road with a swim-up bar etc. We went to the cheaper site. The changing room was pretty spartan, but the water was just as hot (almost too hot for me). If you went farther down, the water got cooler.
SInce this was at night, it was hard to take pictures.
These are the driving directions from the resort web page.
DIRECTIONS FROM SAN JOSE TO TABACON
Drive to Tabacón through San Ramón (Drive time: 3-3 1/2 hours):
1. Take the Interamerican Highway North (which passes by the International Airport) towards San Ramón, approximately 56 Km. Once, arriving to the San Ramón exit, you will also see a blue road sign, indicating Tabacón Resort.
2. Exit at San Ramón, and drive straight down the main road, until reaching a dead end. Turn left 2 blocks to the San Ramón Hospital, then right onto the road to La Fortuna. You will see two signs for Tabacón Resort while driving through San Ramón, as well as other signs for the Arenal Volcano.
3. Follow the signs to La Fortuna and Arenal. The drive should take you through a number of small towns, including Los Angeles, Balsa, Bajo Rodriguez, where there is voluntary toll. At the toll, you will see a 45 km sign to Tabacón. Keep driving through the towns of La Tigra, San Isidro and Chachagua, until you finally reach La Fortuna. This section is an 80 Km drive and should take about 75 to 90 minutes.
4.We strongly recommend that you drive early in the day, before sundown. In the late afternoon and evening, you can expect heavy fog, especially during the Green Season (May-Nov).
Really nice walk through the rainforest - gentle hike that takes about 2 1/2 hours. Birders paradise with up to 50 species of birds throughout the hike. This was a great activity to do with the kids.
Just beside one of the two big establishments there is a path to the river flowing with hot-tub-temperture water, well hidden behind lush greens. Enjoy a dip in a rustic, yet romantic secret spot...
Take one of the many volcano hike tours---there is a huge sign when you walk in that you are entering an area of seismic activity and to enter at your own risk!