Just around the bend on every trail at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa is a magnificent new view of the impressive Arenal Volcano and rainforest in Costa Rica.

The award-winning eco-lodge is uniquely located inside the Arenal Volcano National Park, directly between the massive volcano and Lake Arenal. Seven miles of mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking trails meander across the volcano lodge’s 870-acre property.

Trails take you across verdant pastures by the still remaining portion of the former cattle farm, past towering pine tree and eucalyptus groves, and through thick, mysterious primary and secondary rainforest. You can walk to a dramatic cascading waterfall, enjoy the adventure of hanging bridges, and descend the river trail down to the Agua Caliente River that separates the lodge from the Arenal Volcano. If you really want a challenge, hike up to the top of the neighboring extinct Cerro Chato Volcano to see its green crater lagoon.

All trails are well-kept and are really well-marked. You are given a detailed trail map when you check in to the lodge. There is even an 800-meter wheelchair-accessible paved trail that goes from the lodge into the rainforest in a loop that finishes by the spa and swimming pool area. The Arenal Observatory Lodge offers guests complimentary walks every morning at 8:30 a.m., led by their expert naturalist guides.

Birders will be particularly delighted, as the diverse habitats surrounding the volcano lodge shelter nearly 400 species. Birds can be seen everywhere! The gardens and landscaping are extravagant with color, carefully chosen to attract wildlife. Jewel-toned hummingbirds dart between heliconias and brilliant butterflies adorn blooming flowers. Toucans are plentiful, and it is common to see a rambling coati stealing a papaya from one of the many trees.

On a walk along the Waterfall Trail, we saw a beautiful venomous oropel (pit viper) snake, an anteater patiently climbing a tree (in the rain, I might add!), and heard a large group of howler monkeys not far off. The thundering waterfall was really impressive.

The best part about the trails at Arenal Observatory Lodge is that they are private, which means the only people walking, biking or riding them are hotel guests. On more than eight different trails – remember: covering seven miles – you’re not likely to run into many people. Compared with many other hiking tours in the La Fortuna – Arenal Volcano area, to be without crowds is amazing! Moreover, as a guest at Arenal Observatory Lodge, you can walk all of these trails for free (except Cerro Chato).