Arenal Volcano is the youngest and most exuberant of Costa Rica’s 112 volcanoes—and a favorite Costa Rica vacation destination.
Today a major tourist destination, the volcano was largely unexplored until 1937 when its summit was reached.
Arenal volcano is one of seven historically active Costa Rican volcanoes that include Poás, Irazú, Miravalles, Orosí, Rincón de la Vieja, and Turrialba.
Long thought to be extinct, it erupted catastrophically in 1968 (doesn’t give you much confidence in seismologists, does it?) and has been nearly continuously active (though only sporadically displaying spectacular bursts) since then.
It’s easy to get to Arenal volcano from either San Jose or Liberia.
For budget-minded people, large, comfortable greyhound-type buses provide cheap transportation to and from La Fortuna, a little city closest to the volcano.
There are also a seemingly endless number of tours.
If you’re like me, though, you’ll want to drive because there are so many things to do and so many places to discover at your own pace.
After all, this is YOUR trip to Costa Rica.
The drive itself is about 2 ½ or 3 hours through really beautiful country with good highways and once you reach Arenal there are so many things to see and do you ought to count on spending at least three days.
Speaking of eruptions, there’s a volcano just outside of San Jose that erupted the same day John F. Kennedy visited Costa Rica: one titan saluting another. On a clear day you can see the Atlantic and Pacific at the same time over its crater. Visit Irazu Volcano
Maybe you’ve got a hankering to walk in a real volcano crater, try Turrialba Volcano
Don’t worry about where to stay.
There are lots of hostels, hotels, motels, nature lodges, spas, and resorts from which to choose.
Most with a view of the volcano.
If you like the water, visit Lake Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest lake.
This spectacular body sits at the base of the Arenal volcano and is filled with great things to do.
Great fishing, world-class windsurfing, kayak exploration, horseback riders, and even a REAL SWISS HOTEL that you’ll reach after riding a REAL SWISS TRAIN. There’s so much to do at this lake, I’ve devoted an entire webpage to it.
Hot Mineral Springs
Between La Fortuna and Lake Arenal, you’ll find several resorts with hot mineral springs.
Los Lagos Hotel, Spa, and Resort is about 3 miles west of La Fortuna and sits within about 1000 acres of primary forest. It boasts a spectacular view of the volcano and three cold-water pools (and waterslides), all fed from mountain streams. Additionally, you’ll find 7 hot-springs pools, all directly from Arenal volcano. Here’s what you’ll see from your pool while on that Costa Rica vacation.
Tabacon Hot Springs is about 6 miles from La Fortuna and 3 miles from Lake Arenal.
This is considered by many to be the finest in the area and some think the water is good for arthritis and muscle pains.
There are a series of descending pools set amidst beautifully landscaped vegetation.
Besides a waterslide, you’ll be able to sit under a waterfall or enjoy drinks while viewing the volcano at night.
Nearly Baldi Hot Springs is also a favorite Costa Rica vacation spot with lovely pools alternating between hot and cold and a lovely view of the volcano. A bit less expensive than Tabacon, it’s a wonderful place for the family to see.
Costa Rica Canopy Tours and Other Attractions
At Arenal Volcano, you’ll also find several canopy tours where you’ll use zip lines to fly high (I mean really high) through the canopy. Some places also have “Tarzan” lines where you’ll jump off a very high platform and swing (totally scared or exhilarated) wildly into space.
If you prefer, you can rent ATVs, the tour via helicopter, or even hike to magnificent waterfalls (and swim beneath them).
Some hardy folk prefer to see Arenal’s waterfalls a different way. They’re called canyoneers and they rappel (climb down by hanging from ropes)!
I’ve canyoneering a bit around small waterfalls. It’s extraordinarily fun, almost always wet, and exhilarating.
You don’t need experience, just a good tour guide, and instructor, and you’ll find them here.
Horseback riding is very popular and there are several operators that’ll take you into the jungles. And, don’t forget about horseback trips to Rio Fortuna waterfall!
If you’re not totally bushed by now, how about a little white-water rafting or river canoeing? You’ll find Class I and II, III, and IV and V rafting to choose from at no less than four rivers. If you prefer peace, take leisurely canoe trips. Your choice.
Really a thrill-seeker? How about bungee jumping? At night? Mountain biking is very popular in Costa Rica and if that’s your bag you can rent very nice bikes at Bike Arenal.
If the thought of zipping through the canopy tethered by wire doesn’t excite you (or makes your hair stand on end), there is the Arenal Hanging Bridges close to Lake Arenal. You’ll follow a mile and one-half long interpretative trail, crossing ravines, and treetops on sturdy bridges.
Should you be more sedentary, visit butterfly farms. There are several by Arenal.
Did you know that Costa Rica has more species of butterflies than the entire African continent?
Gorgeous critters, like the giant Blue Morpheus, or a butterfly with wings that look just like a side view of a huge snake’s face (including a perfectly proportioned eye), or a butterfly whose wings are virtually transparent (yep, you can see right through them).
Maybe you like gardens.
Try the Arenal Botanical Gardens and you’ll be enthralled by the 2,500 tropical species of plants.
Or just sit below a waterfall!
Explore a Costa Rica Cave
Or, if you like caverns, visit the Cavernas de Venado and look at the stalactites, stalagmites and interesting papaya-shaped rock formations.
Yep, this is a picture of a rock shaped like papaya! Only in Costa Rica.
Check out Costa Rica caving, I don’t know about you, but I’m pooped already.
Maybe it’s time to sit in the hot mineral springs and contemplate life with my margarita.
There’s so much to do when you visit Arenal volcano.
Come and stay awhile!