The Volcan Arenal (map) is a relatively young volcano and the most active in Costa Rica. This conically-shaped volcano rises steeply to a height of 1,657 meters and is one of the most lethal-looking volcanos I’ve ever seen. Smoke continously billows from the crater and you can often hear (and feel) the mountain rumble and see rocks rolling down its sides.
The last major eruption was in August 2000. In 1968, a huge eruption wiped out the nearby town of Arenal.
Stay a night or two in the area as it is when darkness falls that the magnificent, awe-inspiring show begins. On most nights, you can witness the spectacular lava fountains and flows from the volcano’s peak, sometimes coupled with lightning. Don’t forget your binoculars. It is a surreal experience that certainly left me quivering from excitement and awe.
The closest town is La Fortuna, where you can get splendid photo opportunities of the volcano. To get closer to the volcano, I can recommend a visit to the Arenal Volcano National Park where trails have been laid through old lava flows and secondary forests. The park rangers constantly keep a sharp eye on volcanic activity and advise visitors accordingly. Some of the hotels in the area such as the Arenal Observatory Lodge also offer amazing views of the volcano. After a hike, you can opt to immerse yourself in one of the various hot springs in the area, such as the Baldi Hot Springs or the Tabacón Hot Springs.
The nearby Arenal Lake was a small lake that was significantly enlarged with the completion of a dam. The lake is now Costa Rica’s largest water reservoir and a major source of hydroelectric power. There are many picnic spots and viewpoints along the shores of the lake, with spectacular views of Volcan Arenal. The lake is also a favoured windsurfing spot. The small town of Arenal, which was destroyed by the 1968 eruption, lies at the bottom of the lake.
About 20 kilometers away from the Volcan Arenal lies one of Costa Rica’s other gems: the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
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