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Arenal at a Glance

Ideal for:

  • Families
  • Couples
  • Adventure Seekers
  • Nature Lovers
  • Relaxation


Nearby Activities:

  • Zip Lining
  • White Water Rafting
  • Hot Springs
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Horse Back Riding
  • Hanging Bridges
  • Waterfall Rappeling
  • Coffee Tour

Nearby Attractions:

  • Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Arenal Observatory
  • Lake Arenal
  • Hot Springs
  • Town of La Fortuna

Special Features:

The Arenal Volcano is located in Costa Rica’s lush interior northern lowlands. In a country known for its natural beauty, the Arenal Volcano stands out for its breathtaking scenery and endless activities. The cone shaped volcano initially attracted visitors for it’s eruptions of lava and smoke which began in 1968 . Since 2010, the volcano has been in a phase of slumber and scientists can only speculate as to how long this will last. However, there is no question that the volcano area is worth visiting.

Fast Facts

Region: Arenal & The Northern Lowlands
Closest Airports: San Jose (SJO) & La Fortuna (FON) regional airport
Altitude: Feet (Meters) Above Sea Level
Average Temperature: 70º-86º F (21º-30º C)
Landscape: Volcano & Rainforest

The Arenal Volcano is an approximately a 2.5-hour drive from the San Jose airport and 3 hours from the Liberia airport. It is also accessible from within Costa Rica by a commuter plane. The town of La Fortuna is on the eastern side of the volcano and the hotels dot the landscape surrounding volcano’s base from the north. This is the largest town in the volcano area and it maintains a quaint, authentic feel. This is a good place buy souvenirs, stock up on sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, etc. There is even a clinic if needed.

The volcano is thought to have been dormant until 1968 when it surprised its nearby inhabitants with blasts that reached up to 12 km and killed over 80 people. Following the eruption, farmers were disappointed when some of the watering holes that their cattle frequented became too hot to drink from. The geothermal activity did end up being beneficial to the area by attracting hot springs enthusiasts.

The Arenal Volcano stands at an impressive 5,300 feet. It rises up from a dense forest and is characterized by its perfect cone shape and ash gray peak. The nearly 30,000-acre area surrounding the volcano and it’s neighboring volcano Cerro Chato was declared a National Park in 1991. The volcano is flanked by Lake Arenal which is the source of 12% of Costa Rica’s hydroelectric power. Temperatures average from 75-90 degrees F.

The Arenal Volcano area is a paradise for naturalists and adventurers alike. Animals inhabiting the area include monkeys, sloths, deer, tapir, jaguars, coatis and snakes. Birders will be thrilled to find that nearly all of the 850 bird species identified in Costa Rica can be found in the area. Plant life is abundant and orchids, heliconias, ferns, laurel, palms, bromeliads and strangler figs can be seen while hiking. The rugged terrain, rivers, and lake provide the stage for countless activities.

Attractions & Places to See

There is a wide range of attractions in the Arenal Volcano area. Tours with transportation can be arranged to explore nature, experience the local culture, test physical limits and/ or feel the rush of adrenaline.


Activities & Things to Do

The Arenal Volcano is a great place to explore the beauty of Costa Rica’s forests on foot, bike, horse, and ATV. For those who enjoy water sports, there are plenty of activities to choose from. For a more leisurely pace, a river float or aerial tram can be arranged.

Day Trips

With so much to do in the Arenal area, it might be a challenge to find time to do everything but there are some day-trips worth considering:

Wildlife & Nature

This is a great destination for spotting birds like toucans, parrots, hummingbirds and with some luck the resplendent Quetzal. Sloths, monkeys, toads and snakes are native to the area as well.

Best Time to Visit

The climate at the Arenal Volcano is variable. It does tend to be drier February through April although light rain gear is recommended throughout the year. Temperatures range from 75-90 F so it best to dress in light layers.

Where to Stay

The Arenal Volcano is a very popular destination with a wide variety of hotel options. They range from simple and rustic to the most luxurious resorts in the country. Although Costa Rica has excellent all-inclusive hotels on the Pacific Coast, they are not common in the Arenal Volcano area, but many hotels do include breakfast with their rates. If you’re planning a trip with your family, we recommend to watch our Guide to Family Travel in Costa Rica, to get the best tips on how to plan a family vacation, where we also share insights on hotels in Arenal volcano area.

Restaurants and Nightlife

Most of the hotels have restaurants that are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For even more variety, the town of La Fortuna is a taxi ride away from most of the area’s hotels. Typical, Costa Rican and international cuisine is available.
If you are interested in nightlife, you can check out Volcan Outlook for dancing.

Fishing on Lake Arenal

As impressive as the Arenal Volcano is, it is the lake that is starting to gain a reputation among freshwater fisherman. Lake Arenal was formed when a dam was built in 1978 to provide inexpensive hydroelectricity to Costa Rica and neighboring Nicaragua. Originally just a marshy lowland, the 33 square mile lake is now the largest lake in Costa Rica. Fed and sustained by numerous rivers coming down from the mountains and surrounded by the Arenal and Tenorio Volcano National Parks, Lake Arenal is truly a freshwater fisherman’s dream. A morning spent fishing on this beautiful lake while listening to the howler monkeys in the surrounding rain forest – all the while the Arenal Volcano looms in the background – makes for an unforgettable fishing experience.

Without a doubt, the main target of anglers on Lake Arenal is the ‘guapote’—rainbow bass. Originally found only in South America, the guapote naturally made its way to Costa Rica and now are found in huge numbers on the lake. Besides its brilliant colors, the guapote is a ferocious fighter and makes for one of the best tasting meals you will ever find. Not to be outdone, the always bitey machaca, mojarra, tilapia, and tiger bass also offer great fishing year round.

The general consensus of experienced fisherman on the lake is that using crank baits and surface poppers is most effective in the morning and late afternoon. As always river mouths and structures like fallen trees are great spots to start. When the tropical sun heats things up mid-morning most people generally switch to trolling the deeper, cooler waters where the big guapote retreat to. Fly fishing is also productive on Lake Arenal as the machaca, nick-named ‘mini tarpon’, are always quick to hit a dry fly and put on a great aerial show once hooked.


Services & Infrastructure

Public transportation: Yes, frequent buses run from San José to La Fortuna (route via San Carlos is shorter than via Cuidad Quesada). Taxis work from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Public restrooms: No
Shopping: Shopping is abundant, from larger grocery stores to roadside fruit stands and open-air souvenir shops. Most are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
ATMs: Yes, in the center of La Fortuna there are several Banks/ATMs
Gas stations: There are two gas stations available 24/7 (gasolinera Fortuna & gasolinera La Cristalina, 7 km away from La Fortuna downtown).
Cell Phone Reception: Reliable
Restaurants: Yes, plenty of dining options for all budgets alike
Nearest medical facilities: There is Red Cross in La Fortuna (24/7), public clinic, as well as several private clinics and at least three drugstores located at La Fortuna downtown, open until 8 p.m.