The Venado Caves in Costa Rica will take you to an underground world that dates back millions of years. When you enter the caves, you'll be entranced by the beauty of these natural wonders.
The mesmerizing formations created by mineral-rich water droplets will have you feeling like an alien abducted you and dropped you off on another planet.
Stalactites and stalagmites line the cave ceilings and floors, creating a stunning array of shapes and sizes. Some are as big as your entire body. It's mad.
Whether you're in Costa Rica for the beaches, the cloud forest, the unique wildlife, or (most likely) all of the above, adding the Venado Caves to your itinerary will give your trip an added excitement that many people tend to miss.
To be honest, I have two answers for this.
If you're travelling through Costa Rica and you're flexible on time, then I highly recommend visiting the Venado Caves. It's close to La Fortuna, so you'll more than likely already be in the area, and let's be real, discovering the underground world is pretty awesome.
Exploring the caves is one of the most unique experiences you can have in Costa Rica. It feels like a whole different world once you're underground. And if you're a big fan of learning about evolution and how our world has come to be, the Venado Caves are definitely worth visiting.
But if you have limited time in Costa Rica, and maybe rock formations aren't quite your thing, then your time would probably be better spent on a different activity.
The Venado caves were discovered by The Maleku aborigines in 1945 and hold significant geological importance, giving us insight into the formation of the country's territory. Originally under the ocean, the caves formed around 15 to 20 million years ago during a time of seismic activity and significant geological shifts.
The cave itself is filled with all kinds of natural wonders. The stalactites and stalagmites have been formed from mineral water dripping into the cave, each one crafted by Mother Nature's hand over millions of years.
The cave complex has 12 "rooms" that you'll explore. Some small, some narrow, and some that are really freaking huge.
As you explore, you'll encounter fascinating rock formations resembling fruits or comical shapes, like the "La Papaya" rock. The highlight for me (and pretty much everyone else) is the "Cathedral", a massive chamber over 160 feet high, featuring a massive waterfall that cascades from the ceiling, creating a magical atmosphere. The cave also features a variety of wildlife, like tarantulas, bats, and frogs, so keep your eyes peeled!
The experience will teach you about the geological history of Costa Rica, as well as give you a sense of awe at the beauty of this natural phenomenon. When I went through the caves, I was mesmerized, and I felt so small compared to this natural wonder that had been around for so long. So prepare for a unique, wet, and dirty adventure as you explore this incredible underground world!
There are a few tight squeezes and wet crawls, BUT the tour is definitely beginner-friendly, so they don't last long, and you'll be able to stand up almost as soon as you squeeze through. If you're still not convinced, you can book a private tour and tell the guide you don't want to do the squeezes, and they'll work around them!
The caves are open all year round, and with regard to the weather, really any time of the year is good to visit. But Costa Rica's high season runs from December to April, so if you want to avoid the crowds, then it's best to go during the low season, May-November.
You will need clothes that can get wet. There is no way around it; you're going to be wet and dirty, so make sure you are dressed in clothes that you don’t really care so much about.
For safety reasons, sandals or flip-flops are not allowed. I recommend wearing waterproof hiking boots or some old tennis shoes. If you don't have either of these, don't worry; they'll have some rubber boots you can use.
Bring a towel and some extra clothing for the ride home. Trust me, you'll be much more comfy. Also, bring insect repellent. It will make the whole experience 10x better.
They'll have everything else you need to maneuver your way in and around the caves.
Venado town is only about 45 minutes from La Fortuna, making it an easy day trip!
If you have a rental car, you can download Google Maps and have it take you directly to Venado town. The GPS will also take you right up to the entrance of the caves. Depending on traffic, it should only take you about 45-55 minutes.
If you go on an organized tour, they'll pick you up from your hotel at a scheduled time.
You can catch a bus from La Fortuna to Venado Town twice a day, at 7 am and 2:15 pm. A bus ticket is about $4, but you'll also have to snag a taxi once you're in the town to go to the caves, which also costs about $5 one way.
The trip takes a little over an hour. It's not the most convenient, but it's definitely the cheapest if you don't have a car.
The most convenient way to get to the Venado Caves is by taking a taxi, but oof, it'll cost you a pretty penny. A taxi will cost you about 60 USD for one way, which is actually insane to me, but hey, Costa Rica isn't cheap! I would not recommend taking a taxi if you can avoid it.
You can book an organised tour, but I personally recommend going through the Venado Caves. It's open every day from 8 am - 3 pm and costs $28 for entrance, boots, helmets, flashlights, a bilingual guide, and access to the swimming pool.
You will have to arrange your own transportation, but this is so much cheaper than going on an organized tour. The guides at the cave are extremely knowledgeable, and they're really good at making everyone in the group feel at ease if any anxiety arises in the smaller areas of the cave.
And maybe you're thinking, "Do I actually need a guide?" and the answer is… you don't have an option! You can't go into the cave without being joined by a guide. The price of the guide is included in the ticket, and they make exploring a lot of fun!
The tours run at 8 am, 10 am, 12 pm, and 1 pm. I highly recommend making a reservation (ask your hotel). There is a slim chance they'll have availability if you just rock up, so it's much better to plan ahead.
Venado Town isn't even really a town; it's a village with only about 250 residents, so it wouldn't be my first choice of where to stay when visiting the Venado Cave. Instead, I recommend staying in La Fortuna, which is a short 40-minute drive from Venado Caves.
La Fortuna is a mega-popular stop in Costa Rica as it's home to the Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, and heaps of hot springs. So you'll most likely want to spend a few days here exploring.
You will find all kinds of accommodation in La Fortuna, from budget backpacker prices to ultra-lux resorts. Here are a few of my favourites:
Arenal Xilopalo: You’ll have stunning views of Arenal Volcano for under $40 bucks, making this place an absolute steal for budget travellers.
Hotel Boutique Casa Del Rio: Go for an afternoon swim with the Arenal Volcano in view at this mid-level boutique hotel. It's located right in the middle of the jungle, giving you all the peace and quiet you need on a holiday in Costa Rica.
The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal: For the ultimate luxe experience, stay at The Springs Resort and Spa. I literally recommend this resort to everyone. With 28 natural hot spring pools and the Costa Rican jungle all around you, this hotel is everything and more.
After a day trip to Venado Caves, you have to spend a day or two exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park! You can hike to waterfalls, go white water rafting, or try your best to spot some sloths in the forest.
After a few days in La Fortuna, make your way to Monteverde Cloud Forest. It's really close by and is the perfect stop on your way to the coast. You can go ziplining through the canopies, walk on the hanging bridges, or take a night tour to see all of the creepy crawlies!
And don't forget to end your trip with a few days in Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is full of sloths and monkeys, and it’s located on the coast, so you'll be able to get in a few beach days while in Costa Rica.
Last Updated 16 October 2023