nature speaks for itself: the majestic Arenal Volcano
is the shining star of Costa Rica’s northern zone.
Both the incredible night view of incandescent lava
descending from its cone and its awesome rumbles testify
to nature’s supreme power. Just under 1,700 meters
(5,100 feet) high, with an almost perfect cone and
a crater about 140 meters deep, Arenal - active since
1968 – seems to know it’s the center of attention.
volcano is a bit of a show-off, especially at night,
when its ejection of lava and glowing hot rocks can
resemble an impressive fireworks display. Scientists
say that Arenal is about two or three million years
old. It last strong eruptions took place in 1968.
However, the smoky giant is not the only star lurking
on this stage: the surrounding flora and fauna are
so rich that the area was declared the Arenal National
Park in 1991. The 2,920-hectare park encompasses tropical
wet forest, pre-mountain forest and dry cloud forest.
It is home to more than 100 mammal species, including
the Baird’s tapir, sloths, white-nosed coatie, deer
and jaguar. It is also home to parrots, parakeets
and resplendent quetzals.
the local flora species are mountain guayabo, frijo,
rosewood, chicle tree, balsa, palm shrubs, ferns,
algae and others. Another jewel is beautiful Lake
Arenal, artificially created in 1978 when the water
of the Arenal River was diverted to fill and maintain
what is today a 40,000-acre lake. Lake Arenal is the
largest fresh water lake in Costa Rica, and a popular
fishing place for guapote (Rainbow Bass) and machaca
(Brycon Guatemalensis). It is also a favorite spot
for windsurfing fans. Arenal National Park borders
on the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve and the San
Ramón Forestry Reserve. Together, the three form what
is called the Arenal Conservation Area.
Lake Arenal, with a wonderful view of the volcano,
is Arenal Lodge. It offers visitors a bar, restaurant,
fireplace, jacuzzi, ample, supervised parking and
standard rooms, junior suites, a master suite and
10 chalets. Observing the volcano’s tantrums is not
the only thing to do in the area – there is horseback
riding, mountain biking and visits to nearby hot springs
and pools offering soothing relaxation.
tropical river tours are also available, and there
is butterfly and bird watching . Nearby is Hotel Arenal
Paraíso, with 12 standard and 18 deluxe bungalows,
all with balconies looking out to the volcano, and
surrounded by exotic gardens. About two kilometers
south of the volcano is the Arenal Observatory Lodge
which provides a safe ringside seat for investigators
and visitors alike.The
lodge was built in 1987 as a research station for
scientists from the Smithsonian Institute and Universidad
Nacional de Costa Rica The 860-acre (347-hectare)
farm surrounding the Observatory Lodge provides access
to 295 acres of primary and secondary forest, 250
acres planted with Macadamia, and a 185-acre reforestation
project planted with Honduran Pine and Eucalyptus.
Hikes to nearby Cerro Chato, an extinct volcano whose
crater is now a small lake, may be arranged, and saddle
horses are available for exploring. A short distance
from Lake Arenal is the smaller Lake Coter.
the shore of the latter, on a hill overlooking Lake
Arenal, is the Eco-Lodge, featuring ecotourism, with
a bar, restaurant, fireplace, rooms and individual.
Eco-Lodge also features a modern, fully equipped marina
and the necessary gear for hiking (bilingual naturalist
guides are available), horseback riding, mountain
biking, water sports and fishing . The Eco-Lodge is
located on the private biological reserve of Lake
Coter where a canopy tour, canoeing and kayaking are
hotel in the Arenal area is Chachagua Rain Forest
Hotel, nestled in a large private protected area that
provides a habitat for many of the threatened rain
forest inhabitants such as tapir, jaguar, ocelot,
and peccary. Chachagua features comfortable suites
with private shower, ceiling fan, and a porch area
for relaxed nature viewing.
activities one can enjoy in the area are horseback
riding, white-water rafting on nearby rivers, boat
excursions on Lake Arenal, and tours to the Venado
caverns and the Caño Negro Wildlife National Refuge
Reserve, north of the Arenal Conservation Area.