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Located in northern Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica due to its picture-perfect volcano, as well as several other attractions nearby, including hot springs, waterfalls, and cloud forest trails. The small town of La Fortuna, which serves as a base for visiting the attractions in Arenal, has excellent facilities and a beautiful backdrop of the iconic volcano shape.
Arenal Volcano Location
Arenal Volcano is located in the northern part of Costa Rica, about 56 miles northwest of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. To get from Tortuguero to Arenal, you take a 1.5 hour boat ride along the canals, then enjoy a scenic journey past rural towns including Sarapiqui, Rio Cuarto and Aguas Zarcas, and crops of pineapple, oranges, sugar cane and yucca. Depending on the weather, you will arrive to see the iconic shape of Mount Arenal, although it is sometimes shrouded in cloud.
Arenal Volcano Eruption
Arenal Volcano erupted in 1968, and has had frequent activity ever since, although the volcano has recently been less active, with the last major eruption coming in 2010. Arenal Volcano was considered to be one of the world’s ten most active volcanoes. Since then, the volcano has been quiet with little sign of activity. Although the Arenal Volcano is currently in a resting phase, the region still offers countless activities.
Arenal Volcano Flora & Fauna
Due to the slight changes in altitude around the Arenal park, unique micro-climates and ecosystems have been created through this region, making it home to a variety of exotic flora and fauna. The biodiversity of the Arenal National Park is high and roughly half of the species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians found in Costa Rica can be found in Arenal. Wildlife in Arenal includes howler and spider monkeys, white-nosed coatis, sloths and black vultures. The Arenal Volcano National Park is located on the western side of the volcano, allowing you to walk on trails through the old lava fields and in secondary forest. To find out more about the Costa Rica wildlife, read our blog.
There are many things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica. Apart from visiting Arenal volcano, the main attractions in the area are the Arenal hot springs, heated by the volcanic activity. There are several springs in the area, of which the most extensive are the Tabacon Hot Springs. These very beautiful springs consist of many large and small pools of mineral waters set in tropical gardens. Hot water rivers, between 27ºC and 42ºC, run throughout the grounds, forming natural waterfalls and pools, some secluded, where you can bathe. The restaurant also has views towards the volcano.
Another popular attraction in Arenal is the Hanging Bridges, consisting of a network of suspension bridges positioned at different heights, providing a glimpse of the forest and its wildlife from different levels. Your naturalist guide is on hand to explain the various forest ecosystems.
You can also hike for two kilometres from the Tenorio Volcano National Park to the Rio Celeste waterfall, a beautiful waterfall cascading down into a turquoise river. The prominent explanation for the stunning waters of the Rio Celeste waterfall is the volcanic-mineral coated rocks at the bottom of the river, which interact with the sunlight to give the impression of such vibrantly coloured water. This section of the park is home to lush vegetation, including endemic flora like bromeliads and orchids, and a wide range of birds and monkeys.
The area around Arenal is very beautiful, with great views from the pretty Lake Arenal, formed in 1973 through the construction of a dam. There are also several activities in the nearby cloud forest, including an aerial tram and zip lining. You can also visit the town of La Fortuna, centred around a colourful park with a pretty church in the centre, and a backdrop of Arenal Volcano.
There are many beautiful places to stay around Arenal National Park.
Hotel Arenal Manoa
Offering excellent views of the Arenal Volcano from all the rooms, Hotel Arenal Manoa boasts natural hot springs, Jacuzzis, gardens, swimming pools, a restaurant and a walking trail leading to the hotel’s private farm.
Hotel Arenal Nayara
An elegant boutique hotel set within tropical gardens, the Arenal Nayara is one of the best hotels in Costa Rica. Each of the 40 casitas have a private balcony and Jacuzzi overlooking Arenal Volcano, with excellent facilities including a swimming pool, restaurant and spa.
- Population: 6,000
- Altitude: 300m
- Climate: Arenal receives rainfall all year around, with the wettest period being between May and November. Arenal has a warm climate with temperatures reaching almost 30ºC all year, with the warmest time being between March and May.