You can find many great volcanoes in Costa Rica, but nothing like Arenal Volcano is a 1.633-meter high mountain with a perfect conic shape and a crater of 140 meters. It was asleep for hundreds of years and had a single crater with minor fumaroles covered by dense vegetation. Then in 1968, it had an eruption that created three more craters. Only one exists today. This is where the name for the Arenal Volcano National Park came from. But that’s not all this area has to offer, here’s a list of my favorite six things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica.
It has many names given to it by the locals, some are: “Arenal Peak”, “Pan de Azcar”, “The Canaste Volcano”, “Costa Rica”, “Rio Frio Volcano” or “The Guatusos Peak”. It is located in the northern region of the country. Arenal is considered to be Costa Rica’s most active volcano and almost every night it offers a spectacular show of lights with its explosive eruptions, creating the most amazing views.
What to Do in Arenal, Costa Rica?
Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano is actually part of this National Park and the park is part of the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area. Here you will also find a second volcano called Cerro Chato, which has been inactive for around 3500 years but it is a lot of fun to take a tour of it.
Arenal volcano national park entrance fee – You need to pay an entrance fee to visit Arenal Volcano, it is $15 + taxes for an adult and $5 + tax for kids. The visitor center is open every day from 8 am to 4 pm.
Lake Arenal was originally a small lagoon, but in 1973 the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity built a dam and within three years, this became the biggest lake in Costa Rica with a surface of 88 square kilometers. It is a wonderful place to windsurf or do some sport fishing.
La Fortuna Waterfall
This is the most popular excursion in the area, after Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. La Fortuna Waterfall is reached by a 5.5-kilometer gravel road. On foot, it takes about an hour to get there, but you can also visit it by horse or by car. Bird watching is also very popular in this area. Once you have reached the waterfall, you can take a trail that will lead you to a natural pool where you can go for a swim.
The Arenal Hanging Bridges
From there you will have a great view of both the Arenal Volcano and the lake, plus you will get to see the amazing flora and fauna of the area. Here you will find 14 bridges measuring between 8 and 98 meters. Some of the most popular activities here are the natural history walk, early morning tour, bird watching and night walks.
The Venado Caves
These were formed by water throughout the years. At the present, the caves consist of limestone rocks, stalactites, stalagmites, and corals. It has a total length of approximately 2.5 kilometers with 10 large quarters. During the rainy season, the tunnels can get filled with water. This is the reason access by visitors is forbidden during this season.
Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge
The 10,000-hectare reserve of Cano Negro has the most biological diversity in Costa Rica. There are trails and paths, but the easiest way to access them is by boat. The reserve is especially popular among birdwatchers and sports fishers.
Arenal Volcano Natural Hot Springs
If you’re tired from all the adventure you’re living in Arenal, Costa Rica then you should head to one of the many natural hot springs Arenal has to offer, soak yourself in a thermal pool of water and relax, letting all the stress and tiredness fade away. Those hot springs are formed after the water is heated underground due to volcanic activity and then bubbles to the surface. They are used for therapeutic showers since 200 years ago to help rheumatism and other issues.
Natural Hot Springs in Arenal
- Tabacon Thermal Resort
- The Springs Resort & Spa
- Nayara Springs
The best way to experience a forest or a jungle while having an adventure and a blast is doing a canopy tour, in this case, you’ll be able to do an areal tram or zipline. You’ll get incredible views of Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal, and Talamanca Mountain. In fact, this area is one of the most popular places to do ziplining and excursions in Costa Rica. The aerial tram will take you to the top of an observation spot, where you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful landscape and panoramic views of the area.
Visit La Fortuna Town
Besides being the best place to stay for those looking for adventure at Arenal Volcano, it serves as a point to meet people. One of the biggest draws of the town is its proximity to Arenal Volcano, serving as a backdrop to the town. Most of La Fortuna is walkable, with only a few streets where you can find shops and restaurants, it’s centered around a park and church you will find at its center.
White Water Rafting in Arenal
This activity is near Arenal, you’ll be doing river rafting on the Balsa River, one of the most popular rivers for this activity in the Arenal area since it’s suitable for all kinds of adventurers from kids to professionals. The river offers Class II and III rapids. 2 hours full of adrenaline with a stunning landscape. There’s a more challenging option on the Sarapiqui River, offering rapids from Class II to IV.
Where is Arenal Located?
Arenal Volcano is located on the Central Volcanic Mountain Range of Costa Rica, on the northwestern side of Costa Rica, 90 km away from San Jose, in the Alajuela province. The volcano is conveniently located 7 kilometers from La Fortuna town. It’s one of the most famous volcanoes in Costa Rica, welcoming tons of visitors each year.
How to Get to Arenal?
There are a ton of ways to get to Arenal, most tourists will be coming from San Jose, and the best option to get to Arenal is by car, rental car, or taxi, and it will take you at least 3 hours to 4 hours to get to Arenal from San Jose. You can also find agencies that will take you to the volcano, many travelers prefer to get to the town of La Fortuna and start their journey there, you can take private shuttle buses that will take you there.
There are many options to get to Arenal from Monteverde, from there you can use a combination of transportation like jeep-boat-jeep, taxi-boat-taxi, or even horse-boat-horse. Take into consideration that these trips will transfer your luggage separately.
Where to Stay?
The best place for you to stay when you visit Arenal is in one of the many hotels of the nearby La Fortuna Town. It is in the middle of all the fun. You can find many other eco-lodge and small hotels there, almost melted with nature, most of those accommodations are calm and relaxed, offering beautiful landscapes and a unique experience.
Best Places to Stay at Arenal:
Nayara Gardens – There’s another hotel called Nayara Springs, but that one is an adult-only hotel. Nayara Garden is the sister hotel and is family and kid-friendly. A luxurious, eco-hotel that offers all the amenities you can imagine, with a nice location too. You’ll find private villas and casitas, the dining options are wide, and they have an incredible spa and a wide range of eco-tours.
The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa and Resort – This resort is the perfect mix between nature and luxury, a boutique hotel with more than 50 rooms with incredible views, a ton of pools, and natural hot springs. This one offers a world-class spa and gourmet cuisine with some top-notch bars. But its biggest draw is the location, it’s close to ALL the tours Arenal has to offer.
What’s the Climate like in Arenal?
Arenal is a rainforest, it can rain a lot but the weather is usually warm like a summer climate, so you can expect it to be warm all year round, with temperatures from 23° to 28° Celsius. The rain is usually 26 and 30 mm, so it can get really wet during this season. The temperatures during the rainy season can drop, but it doesn’t get too cold, ranging from 19° to 27°.
The best time to visit Arenal and La Fortuna is between September and October.
What Do I Bring to Arenal?
There are many things a traveler should carry always with them. For a visit to Arenal the most important gear you need to bring is a rainjacket, even if you don’t visit it during the rainy season.
Things to pack for a trip to Arenal
- Closed toed shoes (sneakers, hiking shoes running shoes)
- Mosquito Repellent
- Medical Kit
- Battery Pack
- Water proof bags
- Waterproof phone case
How many days should you spend in Arenal?
This will depend a lot on your travel schedule and budget, how many days are you going to spend in Costa Rica? Most people visiting Arenal stay at least 7 to 10 days in Costa Rica, which includes trips to Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, and Arenal. But I recommend spending at least 3 to 4 days in Arenal and La Fortuna, this way you can take the most out of your trip and do most of the tours and activities Arenal has to offer.
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