Soaring at least 1,633 meters (5,358 feet) high, the conical Arenal Volcano – and its surrounding Arenal Volcano National Park – is one of Costa Rica’s top draws. In fact, you’ll find it at the top of practically any list of “Top 10” things to see, and it won’t take you long to figure out why.
The Arenal Volcano, its peak often obscured by a layer of clouds, is one of Costa Rica’s seven historically active volcanoes, with activity dating back over 7,000 years. Interestingly enough, while 7,000 years old sounds ancient, it’s actually considered a “young” volcano. The Arenal Volcano was believed to be dormant until major eruption in the late 1960’s which buried towns, destroyed farms and launched boulders up to a kilometer away. The volcano, which has a single crater spanning 140 meters (460 feet) in diameter, continued to be active for decades, though on a much lesser scale. However, its eruptive cycle ended in 2010 and the volcano has shown no signs of activity since, so these days you won’t see any streams of lava of plumes of smoke.
The volcano, the star of many a photograph, rises from the heart of the 29,960-acre Arenal Volcano National Park, located in northwestern Costa Rica and about a three-hour drive from San José, Costa Rica’s capital. The town of La Fortuna, which serves as “base camp” for the area’s tourism industry, is about a half-hour drive from the entrance to the park and volcano.
The Arenal Volcano National Park, in addition to the Arenal Volcano and spectacular Lake Arenal sprawling out from its base, is also home to an extremely rich biodiversity. The lush natural landscapes are home to a spectacular array of tropical flora and fauna, and as a visitor you get to see and experience it all for yourself. The national park is part of the larger Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area, which protects eight of Costa Rica’s 12 life zones and 16 protected reserves. Nearly 850 species of birds live in the park, including the ever-elusive, brilliantly-colored quetzal, not to mention coati, jaguars, monkeys, sloths and more.
In terms of activities, the Arenal Volcano National Park has no shortage of things to do and see no matter your age and level; immerse yourself in a world of natural hot springs, tropical jungle hikes, graceful waterfalls, jaw-dropping nature, not to mention adventurous ventures like zip-lining, rappelling, horseback-riding, mountain-biking, whitewater-rafting and much more.