Arenal, in northwestern Costa Rica along a volcanic chain, the 5,436-foot andesitic stratovolcano known as the Arenal Volcano. It is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes and a major tourist attraction. Famous for the major 1968 eruption that killed many, its vent shooting incandescent bombs as far as three miles. Arenal has been in near-continuous explosive activity ever since. Note also the slow lava effusion and occasional emission of pyroclastic flows from the vents at the summit and on the upper western flank.

Surrounding the volcano is the Arenal Volcano National Park, which comprises cloud forest and several thousand acres of rainforest home to tropical plants, colorful birds and butterflies, monkeys, dangerous reptiles and amphibians such as crocodiles and poisonous tree frogs, and more. Walk the hanging bridges (a system of raised walkways above the canopy), or explore your surroundings from the aerial sky tram. Chato Volcano (approximately 3,740 feet) is a second volcano located within the park, but it has been inactive for almost 3,500 years. A picturesque lagoon sits in its collapsed crater.

Sitting just four miles away is the charming town of La Fortuna (“Fortune”), which is an excellent base from which to explore the region. Today the region’s central town, it was created after the 1968 eruption destroyed most of the surrounding villages. Here, you will find a range of accommodations, restaurants, internet cafés, bars, and gift shops as well as a town center. Together with the surrounding Arenal region, La Fortuna’s opportunities for adventure are endless.

Visit the various hot springs the area is known for. Windsurf on Arenal Lake’s shores. Go horseback riding, raft the whitewater rapids, or rappel down La Fortuna Waterfall. Try canyoning or hiking through the rainforests and around Arenal’s base, or soar through its valleys on zip lines. Maybe give cave exploring a go, or head off to spot wildlife at Arenal Volcano National Park and the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge (about an hour from Arenal), an area similar to the Florida Everglades but with more menacing critters including crocodiles and freshwater sharks. Attractions such as the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Poás Volcano can also be visited en route to town from San José (approximately two or three hours away).

Arenal Essential Information

Reasons to Visit

  • Family Travel
  • Hiking/Trekking
  • Honeymoon & Romance
  • Multisport Adventures
  • Nature & Wildlife
  • Spa & Wellness
  • 3-4 nights

When to Visit

  • Good: September-October
  • Better: May-August / November
  • Best: December-April