Packed with dense rainforests, national parks, nature preserves, rivers, and rehabilitation centers, Arenal/La Fortuna is an excellent choice for wildlife experiences in Costa Rica. Take advantage of the forests with wildlife hikes and birding excursions—some by day and some by night—plus visit butterfly gardens and wildlife refuges and learn more about local conservation efforts. Enjoy animals on the water, too, with boat and kayaking experiences.

Getting Oriented

Spot some of Central America's most beloved creatures in Costa Rica.

Set in northern Costa Rica—east of the Nicoya Peninsula and north of Monteverde—is Lake Arenal (the country's largest lake), the Arenal Volcano, and the humble town of La Fortuna. Together they create one of the most beautiful regions in Costa Rica, Arenal/La Fortuna. Packed with green spaces, dense forests, leisurely rivers, and conservation efforts, this region is ideal for spotting wildlife and learning more about the beloved creatures that call Costa Rica home.

Some of the best things to do in Arenal/La Fortuna include wildlife experiences. The region is a great spot for birding in Costa Rica, as it's home to several protected rainforests, parks, refuges, and conservation centers. While trekking or kayaking, you can see animals such as sloths, exotic birds, frog species, monkeys, caimans, butterflies, turtles, iguanas, and much more.

Wildlife Hikes

One of the best ways to see wildlife is hiking through Arenal/La Fortuna's many rainforests. Here, you can view animals day and night, as the forests transform into a different world in the nighttime hours.

Ecocentro Danaus Nighttime Rainforest Walk

See the many frog species of Costa Rica, including the poison dart frog.

Explore Ecocentro Danaus, a private ecological reserve just east of La Fortuna and home to many different species of animals. Although closed during the day, you can enjoy an exclusive experience in the reserve at night, when the rainforest transforms and nocturnal animals come out to play. One of the area's highlights is the frog species, including the poison dart frog. Read More

"Sloth Trail" & Birding Hike

Discover adorable baby sloths and their mothers along the Sloth Trail in Arenal/La Fortuna.

Hike along Arenal/La Fortuna's famous "sloth trail," a scenic nature path that stretches over one mile through 50 acres of tropical rainforest. The area is known for its sloth populations, as the animals prefer to hang on the cecropia trees and feed on their bright green leaves. Enjoy viewing these adorable slow-moving creatures, including some mothers with baby sloths! You'll also see plenty of exotic birds and maybe even some reptiles. Read More

Nature Walk at Danaus Ecological Park & Butterfly Garden

View butterfly gardens, frog rehabilitation areas, sloth habitats, and more at Danuas.

Get a deeper look at the rainforest by exploring the Danaus Ecological Park & Butterfly Garden, a small reserve that works as a model for sustainable tourism. Thanks to conservationsts' efforts, this protected rainforest now regenerates naturally! Inside the park, you'll find over 600 species of plantlife, a butterfly garden, monkeys, caimans, and sloths, plus numerous other ecosystems, including wetlands for exotic birds and a rehabilitation area for frogs. Read More

Birdwatching in Mundo Aventura Natural Park

View rare birds and other wildlife deep in the Mundo Aventura Natural Park.

Mundo Aventura Natural Park is one of the best places to see some of Costa Rica's rare and interesting bird species. This region includes birds like the great kiskadee, yellow Tyrannulet, Montezuma oropendola, wing-barred seedeater, tropical kingbird, red-billed pigeon, and the groove-billed Ani. Other rare species include the laughing falcon, whose presence indicates a healthy environment. A professional naturalist will guide you through the park to help you view the birds, aquatic life, and mammals. Read More

Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Boating Excursions

Get up close with a different assortment of wildlife by boating and kayaking in the waterways of Arenal/La Fortuna. These slow drifts allow you to see and hear more animals in a serene and picturesque environment. 

Wildlife Boat Tour on the Peñas Blancas River

Float through unique tunnels of riverside vegetation as you spot wildlife.

Discover the uniqueness of Costa Rican river ecosystems by floating down the Peñas Blancas River on a wildlife boat tour. As you drift, your naturalist guide will help you spot several species of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, iguanas, turtles, and alligators, plus different types of birds, like herons, cormorants, American darters, and passerines. Enjoy floating through magical tunnels of river vegetation as you quietly pass above the river floor. Read More

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge Boating or Kayaking Tour

View birds, reptiles, and mammals in this stunning wildlife refuge.

Set on the border with Nicaragua in northern Costa Rica, the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is a birder's paradise with over 200 species of exotic avian species. You have a choice to either ride a boat or kayak through the refuge via the Río Frio. Either way, you'll enjoy viewing the diverse wildlife, including caimans, three different species of monkeys, turtles, sloths, and birds, including spoonbills, jabiru storks, ibises, and northern jacanas. Read More

Wildlife Rehabilitation

Wildlife conservation is a theme you'll surely notice throughout Costa Rica. Arenal/La Fortuna has its own set of refuges and rehabilitation centers, including one that offers hands-on experiences with the animals.

Visit the Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Learn all about regional wildlife conservation and work with the resident animals.

A visit to the Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rehabilitation Center offers a unique opportunity to learn about wildlife conservation while interacting with animals. You'll start with a guided tour led by a naturalist, who will take you to each animal enclosure to learn more about the different residents of the center. Then, you can extend your time at the facility with hands-on experiences helping the workers complete rehabilitation work. Read More

How to Craft the Perfect Wildlife Itinerary in Arenal/La Fortuna

Costa Rica features a variety of wildlife, including caimans, sloths, monkeys, exotic birds, and more.

Costa Rica is synonymous with wildlife, so it's easy to build wildlife experiences into all itineraries. How many days you spend in Arenal/La Fortuna depends on how much you'd like to see and do. You can surprisingly accomplish a lot in just 24 hours, but if you'd like to enjoy a few different hikes and boating excursions, give yourself 4 or 5 days in the region. 

Arenal is inland, so if you'd like to extend your wildlife viewing and incorporate some coastal areas, plan for at least 7 days in Costa Rica. For example, you could easily combine Arenal/La Fortuna with Monteverde and the Gulf of Papagayo on the Pacific. Or, two weeks in Costa Rica would allow you to traverse the country, experiencing even more rainforests, rivers, and beaches and, therefore, more animals! 

Past kimkim travelers have enjoyed the following itineraries that include wildlife experiences in Arenal/La Fortuna: