Cerro el Encanto Hike + Aranjuez River Canyon

Cerro El Encanto hike with Aranjuez River canyon highlight

Embark on a scenic hike to the Aranjuez river canyon from the small rural town of San Buenaventura. Traverse grassy pathways, admire panoramic mountain views, and follow the forest’s challenging trails for 5.5 kilometers until the Aranjuez River emerges. Depending on the weather, marvel at the canyon’s grand walls and the river’s naturally sculpted rocks, offering splendid photo opportunities. Engage in rural tourism, immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature, and gear up for a gratifying ascent as you return.

Why you’ll love this hike!



Revel in unparalleled vistas and become one with the breathtaking La Unión and Arancibia mountains.

canyon map


Embrace nature as you access the Aranjuez River canyon, where tall, vibrant rock formations await.

aranjuez river


Savor the joy of a refreshing dip in the clear waters of the Aranjuez River during your hike.

challenging route


Experience the exhilaration of this challenging adventure, a prelude to even more intense treks like Cerro Ena, Cerro Sapo, and Chirripó.

traditional food


Relish authentic Costa Rican dishes, beginning your adventure with a traditional breakfast and concluding with lunch, amplifying your local experience.

Experience type:Rural Community
Travel Style:Nature-focused
Duration:Half-day Experience
Physical rating:Challenging
Service level:Guided Activity
Surroundings:Land-based Activity
Requirements:7 years and older


  • 🏞️ Panoramic views of La Unión and Arancibia mountains.
  • 🚶 Access to the Aranjuez River canyon’s narrows.
  • 🏊 Refreshing dip opportunity in the Aranjuez River.
  • 🥾 Prepares you for hikes like Cerro Ena, Cerro Sapo, and Chirripó.
  • 🍴 Traditional breakfast and lunch included.

Activity Details

  • Duration: 5 to 6 hours total loop
  • Physical Rating: Challenging
  • Age Requirement: 7 and older
  • Included Services: Breakfast, tour guide and lunch
  • Meeting Point: Pulpería San Buenaventura at 7am
  • Language: Spanish
  • Safety Precautions: Wear appropriate hiking shoes. Stay cautious near cliffs, especially in windy conditions. Always stay on the trail and follow the tour guide’s instructions. Listen carefully to all guidelines provided at the start of the hike.
  • Group Size: Groups should stay smaller than 15 people for safety and quality reasons
  • Food and Drinks: Enjoy a typical Costa Rican breakfast and lunch. Vegetarian options, as well as other dietary variations, are available if communicated in advance.
  • Lodging options: Some accommodations are available nearby. Please contact us for detailed information and personalized recommendations.

Is This Experience Right for You?

This hike is tailored for the seasoned hiker. Expect steep ascents and descents, large steps, and narrow pathways. Some portions have deep cliffs adjacent to the trail and patches with overgrown vegetation, including grass and branches. We recommend bringing ample water, energizing snacks, and basic first-aid supplies, especially when venturing on challenging or very challenging trails. The guides included in this experience, known as “baquianos”, are locals working for the tour operator who will show you the route and ensure your safety throughout the journey. They primarily speak Spanish. If you’re seeking deeper insights about the area and its natural surroundings in both English and Spanish, please inform us in advance. We can arrange a certified bilingual tour guide for you. If you’re a seasoned hiker with a penchant for challenging trails, breathtaking vistas, serene rivers, and lush forests, this hike promises to be a memorable adventure for you.


MORNING PREP: Arrival, Amenities & Breakfast

Upon parking, your tour guide a.k.a baquiano will warmly greet and welcome you to the El Encanto Hike. At this starting point, you’ll have access to amenities like bathrooms, sinks, and showers if needed. Should you wish to refill your water bottle, change clothing, or reorganize your daypack, now is the opportune time. Shortly after, your guide will introduce you to the rustic dining area where you’ll indulge in a traditional breakfast, a delightful kickoff to the hike! Ideally, by 8 am, your “baquiano” (tour guide) will usher you to the trail’s entrance, marking the beginning of your adventure!

TRAIL’S COMMENCE: The First Steps and Initial Views

Embark on the Cerro El Encanto trail, an enriching loop that commences amidst verdant cattle pastures, guiding you to invigorating mountain vistas. Navigate through to reach the “Cerro El Encanto” viewpoint, unveiling the turquoise waters of the El Encanto hydroelectric dam below. Inaugurated on October 2nd, 2009, the dam’s shimmering waters contrast beautifully with the surrounding greenery.

RIVER APPROACH: Nearing Noon at the Aranjuez River’s Edge

From this viewpoint, the northern horizon is marked by the Arancibia and Santa Marta mountains, with the distant Nicoya Gulf to the west. As you continue, carefully descend the steeper portions, making your way through uneven terrain until the forest welcomes you towards the Aranjuez River.

CANYON EXPLORATION: Delving Deep in the Early Afternoon

The prime time for this hike is between December and April, Costa Rica’s dry season. During these months, explore the “El Encanto” section of the Aranjuez canyon. This part of the river is lined with tall colorful rock walls, shaped over time by the flow of the Aranjuez. Trekking through the canyon, you’ll walk across smooth rocks, sometimes wading in the river, a refreshing reprieve on a warm day. The canyon’s beauty is evident in its naturally sculpted rock formations and the clear waters of the Aranjuez River, punctuated by deep, serene pools.

HOMEWARD CLIMB: Late Afternoon Ascent & Nature Encounters

Once you’ve taken in the “El Encanto” section, prepare for the return journey. The climb back starts off challenging, mellows out alongside the “El Encanto creek”, and then picks up in gradient once again. Throughout the hike, the surrounding trees and shade might treat you to wildlife sightings, including white-faced monkeys, agouties, and a myriad of birds and butterflies.

TRAIL’S END REFRESH: Evening Refreshments & Culinary Delight

After completing the trail, your baquiano will guide you back to the parking lot. Here, you’ll find access to a bathroom, shower, and other essential rustic facilities, offering a chance to refresh after the day’s exertion. And soon, a delightful aroma will hint that your well-deserved meal is ready. The team will notify you when it’s time to sit down, savor, and relish every bite of your traditional Costa Rican lunch. Buen Provecho!

What’s Included & Not Included

  • Traditional breakfast.
  • Lunch and natural drink.
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Additional Information:

  • Daypack: Ideal for carrying personal items, snacks, and a bottle of water.
  • Proper Footwear: Hiking shoes or boots with good grip are vital, especially on uneven terrains.
  • Hat, Sunscreen & Sunglasses: Costa Rica’s sun can be intense; protect yourself from UV rays.
  • Energy Drinks & Bars: To stay hydrated and maintain your energy levels throughout the hike.
  • Binoculars: Perfect for bird watching and observing distant views.
  • Camera: Capture the breathtaking landscapes and memories.
  • Insect Repellent: The tropical environment might come with its fair share of insects.

It’s paramount to ensure personal safety. We advise:

  • Personal Insurance: Always a good idea when embarking on outdoor adventures.
  • Basic First Aid Supplies: Simple supplies can be invaluable in case of minor injuries.
  • Prescribed Medications: If you have any ongoing medical conditions, ensure you have your necessary medications with you.
  • Light Snacks: Besides energy bars, consider nuts, fruits, or other light refreshments.
  • Walking or Trekking Poles: Useful for stability during challenging sections of the hike.
  • Small Towel or Wipes: Refresh yourself after the hike or clean your hands before snacking.

Making a Positive Impact:

By choosing “The El Encanto Hike,” you’re not just exploring Costa Rica’s natural beauty; you’re actively making a meaningful contribution to the community and environment.

🌱 Empowering the Local Community:

The El Encanto Hike is deeply interwoven with the local community. Men and women from the region play pivotal roles in your journey — from guiding you through trails to preparing the delicious meals that await. Each hike translates into a stable income for these locals, supplementing their earnings from agriculture and cattle raising, which can often be seasonal and unpredictable.

🍛 Savoring and Supporting Tradition:

The meals served during this hike are more than just food; they offer a glimpse into Costa Rica’s rich culinary heritage. Lovingly prepared by local hands using time-honored recipes, every bite you take upholds and celebrates Costa Rican culture.

🌿 Preserving Nature’s Beauty:

The trails chosen for the El Encanto Hike have been designed with environmental consideration at the forefront. Minimalistic and thoughtful, they aim to ensure the natural surroundings remain undisturbed. As participants, travelers are urged to adopt the “leave no trace” principle, guaranteeing these secondary forests remain preserved for future visitors.

Your decision to partake in this hike is a testament to sustainable and responsible tourism. Together, every step taken becomes a stride toward a brighter, more inclusive future.

Dive deep into the heart of Costa Rica with the El Encanto Hike. Starting from the small town of San Buenaventura, this experience seamlessly intertwines the beauty of nature with the vibrant spirit of the local community. Beyond just trekking through scenic trails and soaking in awe-inspiring mountain vistas, this hike unveils a story – one of connection, and teamwork. With the El Encanto Hike, it’s not merely about the views; it’s about cherishing the hands that preserve it. Savor traditional meals prepared with love, walk paths immersed in nature, and realize that every step you take reverberates support for the community that calls this land home. A true epitome of sustainable tourism, El Encanto Hike invites you to embrace Costa Rica in its purest form, creating memories that linger not just in photographs but in the heartbeats of its people.

Experience the genuine magic of nature with El Encanto.

Reach out and secure your spot today!

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