Costa Rica National Park
Arenal Volcano National Park
Area 30,000 acres
Max. Elevation 5,436′ Volcano Summit
Temperature Ranges from 75ºF to 90ºF
Precipitation up to 200 inches per year
Location 80 miles N of San Jose 10.463°N 84.703°W
Date of Creation November 6th, 1991
Arenal Volcano is Costa Rican national park in the central part of the country, forming the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area. The park encompasses the Arenal Volcano, the most active in the country, which had previously been believed to be dormant until a major eruption in 1968. It neighbors Lake Arenal, which is the site of the country’s largest hydroelectricity project, the Lake Arenal Dam.
The park also contains a second volcano, Chato, whose crater contains a lagoon. It is also called Cerro Chato (literally Mount Chato) as it has been inactive for around 3500 years–coinciding with the creation and growth of Arenal itself.
The park lies within the 2,040 square kilometres (790 sq mi) Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area, protecting eight of Costa Rica’s 12 life zones and 16 protected reserves in the region between the Guanacaste and Tilarán mountain ranges, and including Lake Arenal. The park is most directly accessed from La Fortuna, but is also easily accessed via Tilarán and the north shore of Lake Arenal.
Although eruptions are the main attraction, you should be aware that even in the dry season the clouds sometimes obscure the top of the volcano, and your chances of seeing a pyroclastic display are lessened in the rainy season. Volcano watching is better than a fifty-fifty proposition, but you should plan on taking advantage of some of the other attractions in the area, and consider it a bonus if you see Arenal put on a huge display. These tips will also help you maximize your chances of seeing a big pyroclastic show.
The perfect cone is visible from most anywhere in the area, but if you want a good view of an eruption, your best bet is to stay in one of the “observatory” type lodges, and stay up late or get up with the sun. The clouds tend to move in soon after sunrise. There were hiking tours based out of La Fortuna de Arenal which used to take you up the west ridge to the crater rim. Because of the number of people killed by ash, falling cinders and toxic fumes, this is no longer allowed. There are still plenty of hiking trails that get you as close as is advisable.
Chato volcano—this extinct volcano (last erupted a little over 5,000 years ago) has a lopsided crater that cradles a small lake and can be accessed by a hiking trail starting near the Arenal Observatory lodge.
On the way to Arenal Volcano you can stop by Turu Ba Ri park and enjoy any of the nature or adventure tour the park offers. The park is just 10 minutes from Orotina. You can also just stop for lunch, there is no entrance fee and the buffet style lunch is delicious.