Costa Rica is known for it’s natural beauty and expansive hiking trails, and the Arenal volcano is one of the best in the country. Once Costa Rica’s most active volcano, Arenal has been dormant since 2010, looming over the rainforest landscape like a watchful eye.

While the silhouette may look intimidating, and the thought it erupting may be slightly terrifying, the volcano is closely monitored by authorities and safe outside of rainy season (December-January). As long as you stay on the designated hiking trails, the various craters are easy to navigate and accessible for most people — not just rugged mountain climbers — and there is a sufficient warning system just incase Smaug decides to wake up again.

Photo Credit: Philip Greenspun

Arenal 1968 Trail

Named for the infamous explosion that claimed many lives and destroyed an entire village, the Arenal 1968 Trail is one of Costa Rica’s most popular trails. Admire the jungle's rebirth and marvel at the giant boulders that once came tumbling down at 1,200 miles per hour. Once you reach the trailhead, you’ll have a stunning view of the cone and lava flow on the western side of the volcano.

Photo Credit: Leonora Enking

The Heliconia & Colada Trail

Beginning close to the entrance of the reserve, the Heliconia Trail allows for some wildlife sightings along with the chance to revel in Costa Rica's acclaimed tropical flora. After about .6 miles, you’ll come to the (mostly flat) Colada trailhead, ideal for novices and families. The trail offers gorgeous views of the volcano, but keep your eyes peeled for exotic birds, lizards, and maybe even a stray tapir.

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El Silencio Mirador

El Silencio Mirador is actually a nature reserve about three miles from Arenal Volcano Park, but it’s included here for two reasons. First, you can get some amazing shots of Arenal in the distance to boost your Instagram game. Second, the Mirador is filled with a network of trails through beautiful old growth rainforest. If you’re a nature lover, take a guided tour, as you can learn a lot about the land and trees in this protected area. Even though this is farther away from the volcano, it’s still considered a high-risk zone, so hiking off trail is still forbidden.

Photo Credit: Barbara Weibel

La Fortuna Waterfall

A short waterfall hike perfect for a little R&R, you may catch a glimpse of monkeys or toucans dodging through the treetops. The area is incredibly photogenic, as a plume of fresh mountain water rushes 200 feet into an emerald bowl. A quick dip in the chilly waters will refresh you and prepare you for the rest of your journey through Costa Rica.