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Costa Rica National Parks / Northern Region / Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano, Costa RicaArenal has been a dormant strato-volcano. Young deposits were of the slopes of the volcano but it had not erupted in historic time. Arenals status changed dramatically in July of 1968. An explosive eruption produced hot avalanches and ejected blocks that devastated the west flank of the volcano and killed 78 people. Arenal has been continuously active since 1968 until the year 2010. Since then its activity decreased significantly and just with some luck a light smoke column is visible from its crater. It rises 1,633 meters above sea level and casts an almost flawless silhouette on the land below it.  Starting point for all excursions is the picturesque town of La Fortuna, located about 8 km east of the volcano. Most of the hotels and lodges are situated along the road between La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano National Park, for example the Arenal Vista Lodge south of the Arenal Lake (about 30 minutes from La Fortuna), Linda Vista del Norte (about 26 km/16 miles from La Fortuna center) south of the lake and the Lost Iguana Resort close to the dam (about 20 minutes to La Fortuna).

Distance from San José: 130 km (82 miles) / about 3 hours
Opening hours: Daily from 8:00 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Date of foundation: November 6, 1991
Size: 4.000 hectares
Hiking trails:

  • Sendero Heliconias (1 km (0.6 miles), about 15 minutes – the trails leads through vegetation that grew only after the eruption in 1968; it is an easy trail that merges with the hiking trail Las Coladas)
  • Sendero Las Coladas (2 km (1.25 miles), about 1 hours – hike on a sandy trail that has been turned black due to the volcanic activities)
  • Sendero El Ceibo (circular hiking trail that leads from the trail Las Coladas about 1,8 km (1.1 miles) through lush vegetation; from the main viewpoint you enjoy a view of the magma from the eruptions from 1968 until 1992, the Cerro Chato and the lake)

The main attraction of the park is the Arenal volcano with an altitude of 1.633 m (5.358 ft). During a long time, the volcano was thought to be extinct, until it erupted suddenly in 1968 and destroyed an entire village. After a inactive period, the volcano has been again active since 1981 but calmed down notably over the last few years and no more floating lava can be seen. On the well maintained trails on the foot of the volcano, visitors can hike on the solid lava fields. There is almost no vegetation in the direct surrounding of the volcano, however the park is protecting the leftovers of the primary forest of the Cordillera Tilarán.

Facilities: Bathroom facilities, guided tours, visitor’s center, exhibitions, souvenir shop

La Fortuna
During the last years, the small town of La Fortuna has developed into one of the main tourist centers of the country. In the center, visitors find all kinds of shops, banks, restaurants with local and international cuisine as well as numerous local tourist offices offering tours in the surrounding areas.



El Silencio Trail
The hiking trail at the foot of the Arenal Volcano leads to the viewpoint El Silencio. It is possible to observe monkeys, toucans and many species of birds. On a clear day and with a bit of luck you can observe the majestic Arenal volcano from this viewpoint.

Cerro Chato Volcano
The extinct Cerro Chato Volcano can be found in immediate vicinity to the Arenal Volcano and is absolutely extinct. A lake has formed inside the main crater, amidst the densely wooded slopes of the crater. The Observatory Lodge on the southern side of the Arenal Volcano is a good starting point for a demanding hike through tropical forest and pastures until the crater lake. Only suitable for experienced hikers!

Tabacón Hot Springs
Tabacon Hot Springs - Costa RicaAt the foot of the volcano, close to the entrance of the national park, there is located the most famous thermal spa in the region: the Tabacón Hot Springs (Tabacón Resort & Spa). Heated up thanks to the volcanic activity and sulfur-containing, the Tabacón River floats through a lush, tropical garden and into numerous, artificial basins and waterfalls that offer a refreshing baths to the visitors. Next to the hot water basins fed by the river, there are several warm swimming pools with wet bar and a water slide. The springs also include a restaurant and a spa area with an extensive wellness offer. The treatments are not included in the entrance fee!

The complex is highly visited especially during the high seasons; visitors should expect long waiting times. An early reservation is recommended.
Opening hours: Daily 12:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Safety note: The hot springs are located within risk zone #1, as defined by the OVICORI (Volcanological and Seismological Institute).

Eco Termales
Visitors looking for relaxation in natural surroundings, away from the hustle and bustle of the two large thermal spas, should visit the Ecotermales. Owned by the Hidalgo family, this complex strives for maintaining a smaller size and a natural environment. Without modifying the surrounding nature, 5 naturally heated basins (36 – 42 degrees) have been built on this wooded property bordering pastureland. Additionally, there is a steam bath and a cold water basin, changing facilities with lockers and bathroom facilities. The restaurant seating 150 persons offers typical foods. A private, secured parking is available. The hot springs only admit 100 persons at a time, reservation is necessary.

Paradise Hot Springs
It is a quite new hotspot in the region. During the last years several Hot Springs were opened to the public – also part of different hotels in the region. The Paradise Hot Springs is a small oasis with a relaxing ambience in midst of a tropical garden. 5 different natural hot water pools hereunder also a cold water pool vary in its temperatures from 28-42 degrees (low: low 80s/ high: low 100s) . In very little ocations this place is visited by more than 60 clients; this is why all guests will feel at ease from the time they enter the place. Dinner is service at small tables surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. Excellent price-service relation.

Baldi Termae (Baldi Hot Springs)
The Baldi Hot Springs are located about 3 km (1.8 miles) from La Fortuna towards the Arenal National Park, outside of the risk areas of the volcano. On the property of the complex with an area of 31 hectares, there are 16 thermal basins with different temperatures as well as 2 wet bars, a spa area, a restaurant and changing facilities amidst a tropical garden. The basins partly feature artificial waterfalls and surrounded by dense vegetation. A path through a heliconias garden leads to a large stone pyramid with water slides.

La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa RicaThis beautiful waterfall is located about 5 km (3.1 miles) south of La Fortuna, on the foot of the extinct Cerro Chato Volcano in immediate vicinity to the Arenal Volcano. The water of the Río La Fortuna waterfall falls from a height of about 70 meters (230 ft) into a natural basin. The climb down via a steep but paved path through the tropical forest takes about one hour. Horseback riding tours to the waterfall are offered from La Fortuna.

Arenal Hanging Bridges
In a private nature reserve of about 250 hectares, several hanging bridges have been built through the rain forest, partly offering spectacular views of the volcano and the treetops of the tropical forest and the Arenal Lake, inviting for observation of the surrounding nature.
The project offers 8 fixed bridges of 8 to 22 meters length (26 to 72 ft), as well as 6 hanging bridges between 48 and 98 meters length (157 to 322 ft). The hiking trails that connect the bridges of 3.1 km (1.9 miles) are surrounded by dense forest. The maximal ascent is 7 degrees, making the path also suitable for inexperienced hikers.
Opening hours: Daily from 7:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Bus-Boat-Bus transfer from La Fortuna to Monteverde
The shortest and probably prettiest way to reach Monteverde from the Arenal Volcano leads from the dam of the Arenal Lake via boat to the Western shore towards Río Chiquito, from there through the mountain slopes of the Cordillera Central towards Sta. Elena in the heart of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The same trip but the other way round can also be organized per shuttle service from Monteverde to La Fortuna.
The transportation is provided by 4x4 taxi cab or small bus and motor boards crossing the Arenal Lake. The drive takes about 3 hours per way.
Departure times (subject to correction):
In the morning: 8:00 a.m. from Monteverde and 8:30 a.m. from La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano
In the afternoon: 2:00 p.m. from Monteverde and 2:30 p.m. from La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano
Private transfers on different hours can be arranged upon request.

Lake Arenal
With its extension of 80 km2, the Lake Arenal is the largest inland lake in Costa Rica. It has been built in the 1970s, the dam is located very close to the national park entrance. The hydropower covers almost 60% of the energy demand of the country. In the areas with a lower water level, lots of water birds can be observed. The Lake Arenal is world-famous for its great surfing and fishing conditions.

Tip: From the dam, a gravel road leads through secondary forest alongside the lakeshore towards the entrance of the Arenal National Park. With a bit of luck it is possible to watch numerous species of birds, as well as howler monkeys and coatimundis, especially in the early morning and the afternoon

Maleku Villages
The Malekus are an indigenous community in Costa Rica, today mainly living south of San Rafael de Guatuso, about one hour north of La Fortuna. The tribe invites tourist to visit its villages, ceremonies can also be watch in La Fortuna itself. The reserves consist of several villages with straw or grass huts, for example the villages of Palenque Solenoid and Palenque Tonjibe. Traditional gardens with medical plants and pre-Columbian tombs can be seen, as well as free animals like toucans, frogs and monkeys.


Tanager Paddle trip: Morning Birdwatching on Rio Fortuna or Rio Arenal
Canoe Tours Costa Rica We will pick you up or meet you early for an exciting morning with the birds while paddling on the River. While we’ll meet you at your desired time, the chorus and avian show is at it’s best early. If you’re game, we can meet you at 5am. All trips will return La Fortuna by 9am.

Honeycreeper trip: Peñas Blancas Half-Day Canoe Trip
Float the river and enjoy the rainforest at a relaxed pace. The brilliant green of the river, flashing deep blues of Costa Rica’s famous morpho butterflies, and flights of brightly colored birds make this trip unforgettable. Wrens sing in duet, frogs sound, and monkeys call while we scan the canopy, river and quiet farmland seeking basking iguanas and a rich diversity of other wildlife along the Rio Peñas Blancas. Departure at 9:00am. Return at 2:30pm. River lunch included.

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge by Canoe: Tricolored heron trip - 1 day
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica The Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge and the Rio Frio are some of the most biologically diverse wetland areas in Costa Rica and some of the richest wildlife viewing and birding sites on this continent.
This trip is a great variation from the normal Caño Negro day trip. Explore the refuge by canoe, and then paddle our canoes down the Rio Frio or Rio los patos. The tour starts at 6:30am for the two hour drive to just inside the national refuge, from where we paddle. If you only have one day, and want to see a wide range of wildlife, this trip is a favorite. We return to Fortuna by 6:30 pm. River lunch included. Minimum two people.

Provided on all canoe trips: bilingual naturalist guide (english-spanish); a tandem canoe; PFD (lifejacket); personal dry bag for your camera, extra clothing, and other things that must stay dry; canoe and necessary paddling equipment; transportation from Arenal area hotels if desired; and snacks and drinks. See individual trips for any meals or lodging that may also be included.
What to bring: There are several places to swim, so remember to bring your bathing suit, light clothing/shorts, tennis shoes or sandals, sunscreen, hat, water, and especially your binoculars or camera.

Hike Arenal Volcano National Park
Enjoy the most extraordinary view of the Arenal Volcano on a gentle hike along the base of this marvelous “Mountain of Fire”. The Hike begins on the active side of the volcano, that takes you through the forest over recent lava flows and to the destroyed area now in the process of regeneration. We offer two different Hikes: the first one is a 3 ½ hour trail and gets as close as five hundred meters from the lava flows, the other one is a 1 ½ hour trail, and from this trail we can see the Volcano about one kilometer far.
The long hike is better to be started in the morning. The short one could be done in the morning or in the afternoon.
This tour includes: Transportation, Bilingual guide (English - Spanish), Entrance fee, Refreshments, water and cookies.

Mountain Biking near Arenal Volcano
This is one of the tours offered for those who want to go on a bike trip to the area where the forest, the Arenal Volcano and the Lake meet and leads trough a beautiful trail. The tour starts from the Arenal Lake Dam, where we take an old trail into the forest. At the end of the trail you will arrive at the entrance of the Arenal Volcano National Park and then get on the way to the Observatory and back in the main road.
The whole trip will be about four hours if leaving from La Fortuna.
The tour includes: Transportation from and back to the hotel, Bikes, Bilingual guide (English - Spanish), Refreshments, water and cookies, Assistance vehicle.

Horseback Ride La Fortuna Waterfall
The length of the tour is approximately four hours; from La Fortuna we have to go 5 ½ kilometers to the southeast. We spend 1 ½ hours to get to the rest site of the horses. After that you have to walk five hundred meters into the forest to get to the waterfall, which is 70 meters high. At the base of the waterfall there is a “natural pool” where we can swim for about one hour.
This tour can leave at any time before two in the afternoon. We recommend our customers to take: Insect repellent, Rain coat, Binoculars and Camera, Swim suits and towel.
The tour includes: Local guide (Spanish-speaking), Horses, Entrance fee to the Waterfall.
On request a bilingual (english-spanish) guide can be provided at an extra cost.

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