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Oh my! See snakes, sloths and spiders at Arenal Hanging Bridges

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

Come see this snake!” summoned our guide, Kimberly, in great excitement. “It’s one of the most poisonous in Costa Rica.”

We warily nudged closer to her and stared at the eyelash pit viper.

We were walking the nature trail at Arenal Hanging Bridges, one of the best hanging bridges in Costa Rica. 

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

Arenal hanging bridges

The two-mile trail in the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park – a 600-acre rainforest nature reserve – crosses nine fixed bridges and six suspension bridges.

The park is found at the base of the majestic Arenal Volcano.

View of the Arenal Volcano from our resort near the Arenal Hanging Bridges
View of the Arenal Volcano from our resort near the Arenal Hanging Bridges

And the snake Kimberly pointed out had definitely caught our attention!

It’s named for the little horns or eyelashes above each eye,” Kimberly explained. “It’s probably waiting for a rodent or bird to wander by to kill for food.”

Found in Central and South America, the eyelash pit viper is one of the world's most venomous snakes
Found in Central and South America, the eyelash pit viper is one of the world’s most venomous snakes

Greenish in color with yellow flecks, the snake looked rather harmless, curled up on twigs and dried leaves on the side of the trail. But we knew otherwise.

If bitten by the eyelash pit viper, your foot or leg might have to be amputated. You can even die.

Mistico Park rainforest

Hanging bridges in Costa Rica give you a bird's eye view of the rainforest
Hanging bridges in Costa Rica give you a bird’s eye view of the rainforest

Touring Mistico Park is not so much about the excitement of wobbling across swaying metal suspension bridges – some as high as 150 feet above the forest floor.

It’s more about experiencing the rainforest and spotting the wildlife within it.

And we were getting our money’s worth of that.

Sloths, snakes and spiders

Kimberly carried a large powerful telescope, which she set up on a tripod at various points along the way to show us close up the wildlife, birds and insects she spotted.

Our guide Kimberly peers down from a hanging bridge in Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Our guide Kimberly peers down from a hanging bridge in Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

She also took photos on our little Canon G11 camera using the telescope – getting photos the camera never could without this aid.

First creature we saw? A three-toed sloth curled high up in the branches of a tree.

We were surprised to see that it was greenish. That’s because sloths are covered in algae, which help them blend in with the green forest canopy.

Sloth
We needed Kimberly’s help to spot the sloth

As we strolled along the trail, we noticed many holes, about two inches in diameter, in the side of the red muddy banks.

What do you think lives in there?” asked Kimberly as she shone her flashlight inside one of the holes.

The answer was obvious when a tarantula began to poke its furry legs outside.

Tarantulas live in the holes along the side of the Mistico nature trail
Tarantulas live in the holes along the side of the Mistico nature trail

The gossamer web of a large Golden Orb spider also caught our eye – especially when Kimberly cautioned us to be careful of it as we walked underneath.

And, yes, we also came across another snake, this one a brown-and-black jumping pit viper (poisonous too).

Some of Costa Rica’s beautiful birds were harder to spot. But we did make out a broad-billed motmot trilling in the trees.

The colorful broad-billed motmot has a blue tail, greenish body and reddish head and chest
The colorful broad-billed motmot has a blue tail, greenish body and reddish head and chest

Costa Rica ecotourism experiences are the reason many visitors go to the country; it boasts a remarkable variety of bird and wildlife species. 

We saw some of the most interesting ones on our tour of the Arenal Hanging Bridges.

If you’re looking at things to do in Arenal, these Costa Rica hanging bridges won’t disappoint.

Guided tour of Mistico Hanging Bridges

Costa Rica tour company:

We toured the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges with Jacamar Naturalist Tours

The morning tour was booked through our nearby resort, Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa, and included roundtrip transportation (the actual amount of time spent at the Arenal Hanging Bridges was about 3 hours).

Do you need a guided tour?

The trail through the Arenal Hanging Bridges reserve is set up as a self-guided one, so you can visit on your own (if you’ve rented a car). But if we hadn’t visited with a guide, we would never have spotted all the various critters and creatures Kimberly pointed out.

Other tourists without guides walked past us without noticing much of the wildlife, except when Kimberly kindly alerted them, saying “Look at this snake here!” or “Did you see the spider above you?”

So, yes, we’d recommend an Arenal Hanging Bridges tour to make the most of your visit. This half-day tour is similar to the tour we did.

Or check out this highly-rated full-day tour which combines hiking Arenal Volcano, touring the Arenal Hanging Bridges and swimming in a natural pool at La Fortuna Waterfall.

Arenal Hanging Bridges, Costa Rica

For more information, see their website.

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Pin to Pinterest!

Here’s a good pin for your Costa Rica board!

arenal hanging bridges

Photo credits: 3 to 6, 9 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


Thanks go to Jacamar Naturalist Tours and Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa for setting up this tour of the Arenal Hanging Bridges for us! Our reporting as travel writers (who follow professional codes of ethics) is all our own, however.


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Laura Marie

Wednesday 12th of April 2017

Some beautiful animal photographs here! I haven't been to Costa Rica before but if I do I would love to enjoy some quality wildlife time.

Great post!

Laura xo

Janice and George

Wednesday 12th of April 2017

Thank you... You'll certainly see lots of animals and wildlife in Costa Rica!

Suze

Saturday 8th of April 2017

You've really captured these animals on film beautifully! I'd be freaked out by the tarantula but I'd love to walk along that bridge

Janice and George

Tuesday 11th of April 2017

The tarantulas were a little creepy. We only learned toward the end of our walk that there were a ton of them in those holes all along the path.

Irene Levine

Monday 3rd of April 2017

What beautiful wildlife photography!

Janice and George

Tuesday 4th of April 2017

Thank you -- it's always interesting to see how one's photos turn out afterwards :-).

Shikha

Monday 3rd of April 2017

We did a similar jungle walk on a suspension walkway high up in Borneo and I too recall feeling nervous but sounds like you saw some amazing wildlife! I would have been freaking out most un-elegantly if I'd have seen that snake for sure!!

Janice and George

Tuesday 4th of April 2017

We went to Costa Rica to see the wildlife -- spotting those two venomous vipers was one of the highlights on that Arenal Hanging Bridges tour! Though they looked so much less dangerous than we'd imagined...