By now, everyone knows Costa Rica to be one of the most lush countries in the world, with an abundance of natural life and exotic ecosystems. While visitors tend to head straight to the coasts to enjoy the rainforests and beautiful beaches, some tend to opt out from experiencing all the terrains the country has to offer, including some of the most astounding volcanoes. Specifically, Volcan Arenal.
Arenal is located in the city of La Fortuna, Alajuela, north of the capital of San Jose. It’s first and greatest eruption occured in 1968. It remained extremely active for the next 42 years, with lava bombs exploding from its crater and avalanches of lava flowing down its sides. All of this activity sparked interest from visitors, and made it one of the top attractions in the country with tourists hoping to catch some of the live lava action.
Although the heat has since settled, it definitely still deserves a spot on our Costa Rica bucket list, as the towering volcano provides incomparable views and unforgettable adventures.
During its active years, Arenal was responsible for creating a number of natural hot springs throughout the area, which you’re definitely going to appreciate after a long day of trekking. The activity created one of the largest volcanic aquifers–800 meters wide and 1 kilometer deep. Rainwater falls through porous rock, then reaches non-porous, hot temperature rocks, resulting in the natural springs. However, human ingenuity–wells, pumps, and pipes put in place by man–certainly plays a role in how the natural hot water scatters around its base, allowing multiple resorts to enjoy Arenal’s thermal waters.
Visiting Arenal’s National Park allows for uninterrupted views of the majestic volcano, while traversing a hike along its base. Although hiking to the top of the volcano is forbidden, the trails at the base of the park offer many miradores (viewing points). Most of the trails wind through primary forests, with chances to view the local wildlife. Easily walkable over flattened lava rock, these trails are perfect for beginners and hikers of all ages. For those seeking a challenge, another option might be hiking Cerro Chato, a lesser known volcano located inside of the park.
Unlike Arenal, Cerro Chato is completely dormant. There are two starting points for this hike, both perfect for exploring. One starts near the Arenal Observatory, and the other from La Fortuna Waterfall–a can’t miss on your trip to Arenal. Sections of this hike can be extremely steep, almost vertical at some points, so you want to be confident in your abilities.
There are three main rivers for your rafting pleasure near Arenal; the Toro, the Balsa, and the Peas Blancas. The river you choose to raft will depend on the experience you’re seeking. Some raft adventures enjoy calmer waters perfect for a safari tour from the water and animal watching; others will pump your adrenaline as you plunge through class III and IV rapids.
Not uncommon are rafting trips that double as transport to the next part of your Costa Rica trip! An alternative to the traditional ground transportation, it’s possible to raft from Arenal to the Caribbean Coast of Puerto Viejo. Your luggage will certainly go by land, but you’re adventure is non-stop.
Waterfall rappelling is also a common sport in the area. Unlike rafting, this adventure is 100% thrill. Harnesses and protective gear assist you in belaying down beautiful waterfalls. Physical abilities are tested in this active and engaging sport, and isn’t for the faint of heart.
On the other hand, you can try your balance paddle boarding on the Arenal Lake. Take in all the nature as you practice your breathing, and maintain your inner and outer balance against the tremendous Arenal backdrop.
The fun isn’t limited to ground and water, but sky opportunities are abundant, as well! Arenal maintains the longest, highest, and fastest zip lining adventure in the country, and obviously with the most magnificent view. Ziplines at Arenal ensure your safety over 600 feet above the treetops, but it doesn’t stop there.
If ziplining isn’t your forte, you can try walking across the sky instead on hanging bridges. The bridges allow for a 360 degree view of the nature that surrounds you, allowing for the ultimate feeling of freedom.
With so many options for both the thrill seeker and the easy-going vacationer, Arenal is the perfect destination for everyone. Depending on the time of year you travel, you can enjoy modest or cooler temperatures, rainy or dry weather. There are a variety of restaurants with paramount views of the volcano, and a host of accommodation choices for all budgets. It’s an easy trip from the airport or the capital city by bus, car or taxi, and can conveniently be accommodated in a mini-adventure program! Just make sure you don’t miss all of the beauty Costa Rica has to offer.