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La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano

Costa Rica is famous for its dedication to environmental conservation, and the Arenal Volcano National Park is a perfect example of its accomplishments. The park covers nearly 30,000 acres, just a small portion of the larger 500,000-acre Arenal Conservation Area harboring several distinct ecosystems, habitats, and thousands of animal, bird, amphibian, and reptile species. 

In 1668, the Arenal Volcano emitted a series of violent eruptions from three craters along its western flank. The spew shot toxic gas and rocks upwards and outwards for up to 12 kilometers. The explosions resulted in 87 fatalities and the near-total destruction of the nearby towns of Pueblo Nuevo and Tabacón. 

Following the volcano’s fateful awakening, Arenal remained moderately active. For decades, small pyroclastic eruptions and a relatively continual river of lava could be seen flowing from several craters down its flanks.  Over the years, the impressive geothermal displays drew thousands of scientists and spectators from around the world. 

Vacationing in the area was generally deemed safe because the volcano’s continuous activity released eruptive pressure. Today, La Fortuna is one of Costa Rica’s premier ecotourism destinations.   

Since 2010, however, eruptive activity has diminished significantly. The rivers of fiery lava flowing down the western slope have all but stopped. The mountain still grumbles from time to time, however, and clouds of steam and gas often spurt from its iconic cone. 

One remnant of Arenal’s geothermal might remains and continues to draw hordes of visitors year-round – its mineral-rich hot springs. 

Things to do in Arenal, Costa Rica:

– Hot Springs, La Fortuna

Arenal Volcano is the source of underground thermal springs that bubble to the surface as steamy mineral-rich rivers and pools. Decades ago, industry professionals quickly realized the area’s tourism potential. And today, visitors will find dozens of hot spring resorts across the countryside. 

La Fortuna’s residents, spa operators, and visitors alike boast the waters’ profound healing properties. Visitors can choose from an impressive variety of hot springs resorts to meet their whims—everything from Zen-inspired serenity and wellness resorts to decadent family getaways with water slides and swim-up bars.

Nearly all hot springs venues around La Fortuna provide great views of the volcano. And most offer day packages with meals or a spa treatment, including Tabacón, Baldi, Springs Resort, and others.  If your trip is short on time, but you don’t want to miss the chance to soak in rejuvenating waters, day trips from San José or Liberia are readily available.

– Hanging bridges, canopy tours, and aerial trams

Hiking and adventure tours are equally popular draws around La Fortuna. Several private parks have extensive hiking trails and hanging bridges of steel that span the forested mountains and canyons. Most providers also offer canopy and zipline tours as well as aerial trams and gondola rides through the trees.  

Adventure parks like these are an excellent way to experience the forest from both the ground and treetop canopy. 

– Rock climbing and canyoning

There are plenty of rugged canyons and cascading waterfalls around La Fortuna for the brave at heart. Several outfits offer tours, including equipment, licensed guides, and of course, safety instructions and guidance.  Some such companies claim the experience is safe and easy enough that even senior citizens can partake.

– Arenal National Park

The 500,000-acre Arenal Tempisque Conservation Area is a massive tract of protected land containing a handful of national parks and wildlife refuges. The most renowned are the Arenal/Monteverde Protected Zone, Palo Verde National Park, and the Tenor Volcano National Park.

A visitor’s favorite, Arenal Volcano National Park, covers nearly 30,000 acres and encompasses the Arenal Volcano. The park is home to a fantastic variety of terrains and geological features, including eerie blankets of ancient lava fields. It also harbors several ecological habitats and thousands of animal, bird, and reptile species. 

There is a modest fee to enter the park (nearly all of Costa Rica’s national parks charge an entrance fee). Once inside, visitors can tour the onsite historical museum and monitoring station, where seismographs and other instruments constantly measure the pulse of the sleeping giant in hopes of avoiding history’s past mistakes.

Numerous walking trails depart from the visitor station into the surrounding countryside. In addition to experiencing the region’s natural beauty, hikers are reminded of the volcano’s powerful potential, evidenced by the fields of lava boulders and the volcano’s stunning profile in the near distance. 

You can book a room at the onsite Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa. Guests of the lodge get a better feel for the science behind volcanology, enjoy the majestic scenery, and learn about the park and its conservation methodology. The onsite licensed naturalists and guides also offer an assortment of tours.

– Horseback riding, ATVs, and river rafting Arenal, Costa Rica

The variety of things to do and see around La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica, is truly impressive. Visitors can book horseback riding and ATV tours across the picturesque countryside. Or try a river rafting expedition. The Toro, Balsa, and Peñas Blanca rivers offer different classes of rapids as well as some of the country’s best scenery. 

– Sportfishing, canoeing, and sailing

The beautiful Arenal Lake and Dam are less than 20 km (12 miles) from downtown La Fortuna. Besides generating a large percentage of the area’s energy, few lakes can rival the dam’s beauty. The 11-mile-long reservoir stretches northwest away from the Volcano and is known for its steady winds making it ideal for sailing and windsurfing. 

Fishermen and women are drawn to the lake’s grassy depths, which provide the perfect habitat for rainbow bass (Guapote) and other freshwater species.

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