Arenal Volcano National Park

Location: North Central

Arenal National Park consists of 63,000 hectares of very moist, rain and cloud forests, which grow from 540 metres to 1,800 metres above sea level. It is located on the Caribbean and Pacific slopes of the Tilaran Mountain Range, in the eastern sector of Arenal Lagoon, and on the volcano of the same name.

The terrain suffers the effects of constant rain and mist and is watered by an infinite number of year-round streams, among which are the River Caño Negro, which flows into the lagoon, and the River Peñas Blancas or San Carlos, which flows into the River San Juan. By protecting the forest mass in this vast area, the useful life of the Arenal dam is being prolonged. The dam was designed to generate hydroelectric energy and to irrigate the lowlands of Guanacaste Province. At the same time, many endangered species are being protected, such as the tapir, tiger cat, ocelot, cougar, giant anteater, resplendent quetzal (for many, the most beautiful bird in the Americas), king vulture and golden toad.

It is believed that the Tilaran Mountains are home to 51% of the birds, 47% of the amphibians and reptiles, and 48% of the mammals that have been identified in Costa Rica. This implies that half of the vertebrates in the country are represented in these cook, rainy sites.

Arenal National Park also includes the Arenal Volcano, which has been active since 1968, together with the region affected by it where the forest was destroyed and barely the beginning of plant life is taking hold on the rocks. The land around Arenal is of exceptional beauty: forests, lagoons, fields, hot-water rivers, in short, landscapes sculpted by wind and rain. This almost perfect cone, which soars 1,633 metres above sea level, has a crater 140 metres deep formed over an ancient caldera. It dates back to 3-2 million years ago. On July 29, 1968, it ceased to be dormant and began a new stage of eruptions. At the time, it destroyed 1,500 hectares, affected 32,000 hectares and covered over 700 hectares with lava, as a result of its emissions of pyroclasts, ash, steam and burning clouds.  Today the volcano is dormant, but you can occasionally see steam coming from the top of the volcano on a clear day.

A road leads to the very foot of the volcano on its western flank. The view includes the fiery glow of the volcano at night, the majestic rim and the surrounding lakes.

Activities in the area: Birdwatching, Caño Negro Tours, hiking, fishing, Venado Caves, Tabacon Hot Springs, horseback riding, mountain biking, and volcano tours.