Great experience. Good for kids and adults. Lots to do. Variety of restaurants. Lots of natural beauty.
Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna
One of Costa Rica's most notable natural features is the Arenal Volcano. This impressive volcano resides within the 29,960-acre Arenal Volcano National Park. Although the volcano entered into a resting phase in 2010 – meaning that its eruptions have paused – it is still a stunning sight. Rising above the rainforest that surrounds its base, Arenal frames the skyline with near perfect symmetry. The immediate area hosts a wealth of activities – including whitewater rafting, waterfall rappelling, hiking and canopy tours – as well as the friendly town of La Fortuna.
Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna
Made up mostly of primary rainforest, The Arenal Volcano National Park encompasses four different life zones and harbors a tremendous amount of flora and fauna. In fact, nearly 75% of the total 850 species of birds that have been identified in Costa Rica can be found here, including the resplendent quetzal. Other creatures include two and three toed sloths, white-faced capuchin monkeys, coati, jaguar deer, and snakes, including the infamous fer-de-lance, parrot snake and boa constrictor. The plants are just as varied and include guayabo de monte, laurel, cirri, palms, orchids, heliconias, ferns and bromeliads.
Arenal’s smaller – and much older – sibling, the Chato Volcano (Volcán Chato), adjoins Arenal. This volcano, which resides at a height of 3,740 ft (1,140 m), has been inactive for some 3,500 years and has a crater that’s filled with aqua-blue water. The park has several walking trails and is open from 8 AM to 6 PM. The entrance fee is $6.
The quiet town of La Fortuna is 4 miles (6.4 km) from the Arenal Volcano. It’s 16 miles (26 km) from Ciudad Quesada and 75 miles (120 km) from San Jose. If you’re driving from San José, it’ll take around 3 hours to get here. The town itself is small, central and warm. Its location provides visitors with easy access to the Arenal area and its amenities make staying here pleasant. There are hotels both within and outside of the town, many of which stipple the countryside at the base of the volcano. La Fortuna hosts good places to eat and buy groceries, and has an assortment of banks, shops and bars. The activities within this area are endless. Horseback rides can be made through the nearby hills and whitewater rafting can be done on the Peñas Blancas, Toro and Balsa rivers. Each river is different in both intensity and scenery – participants can choose between leisurely safari floats or exciting class IV rapids. A variety of other water sports can be enjoyed on Lake Arenal, including canoeing, fishing and kite surfing. Inland diversions include hiking and waterfall repelling, as well as canopy and hanging bridge tours.
The La Fortuna Waterfall, a breathtaking 230 ft (70 m) cascade that drops into a misty pool, is just 3 miles (5 km) south of La Fortuna and makes for an easy day trip. A short hike (or horseback ride) drops visitors into the base of the pool, where they can swim, take photos and enjoy the scenery. The volcano’s geothermal activity heats dozens of underground water flumes. Local landowners, tapping into this natural source, have created a number of beautiful hot springs. These springs are varied and indulgent (some have waterslides, wet bars and cold pools) and offer visitors a perfect way to end a day in Arenal Volcano.
Botanists, whether professional or amateur, should head to the Arenal Botanical Gardens, which are located a few miles outside of town. Here you’ll find some 2,500 species of tropical plants. Many are rare, including several types of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and roses. Butterflies and birds flit through the gardens, pausing to perch in a tree or rest on a flower. Although somewhat close to the Arenal, the Venado Caves feel like an entirely different planet. Located just 1.9 miles (3 km) outside the town of Venado and a 45-minute drive from La Fortuna, the caves are a spelunking and adventure-seeker’s dream. The 1.5-miles of caves feature stalagmites, stalactites and subterranean streams. As you explore the caves, you may see bats hanging from the ceiling, sightless fish swimming in the streams, and colorless frogs clinging to the rocks. Nature buffs will enjoy a day trip to the Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge, which is set near the border with Nicaragua. Exploring this vast network of wetlands and the huge Caño Negro Lake provides ample opportunities to spot birds and other tropical creatures. Yes, there is something for everyone here. The quaint town, beautiful surroundings and ample activities make Arenal one of the cornerstone destinations of Costa Rica's.
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We loved the Arenal area. Very pretty views of the volcano. We enjoyed the hot springs, a hanging bridge tour with a knowledgeable guide, saw wildlife, and went to the waterfall. It was all great!
Everything planned was wonderful
We fit a lot in two days: nature hikes, hanging bridges, waterfalls, hotsprings, and enjoyed everything we did. We saw monkeys, snakes, frogs, ants, birds and sloths on the hikes. Hiking up Arenal's lava was very humbling and unforgettable. Arenal waterfall is 500 steps almost straight down and 500 very hard steps up. Beautiful waterfall, but beware of the difficulty of the hike. Hanging bridges are also highly recommended. Not difficult, but very memorable and a great way to see the rainforest.
Loved Arenal. But it rained a bit when we were there so rain jackets are a must! Overall great experience!
Had a great time. The activities we did were all very good especially the Mystic Bridge walk with a guide - he made it for us and found things we would not have seen on our own. The area was clean and fresh, quite acontrast from the coast. Would recommend Arenal to everyone as there is something for everyone here.
Excellent guides. Knowledgeable. Friendly. Lots of fun! So glad we took the excursions! Wonderful experience all around.
Loved Arenal, just wished the clouds had lifted so we could see the volcano.
We loved the area. Yes, it does have lots of activities and some of them are very touristy. Many, are well used but you don't feel like you're packed in. For nature lovers, this area is wonderful. Plenty of good, varied places to eat. Plan to stay several days and you'll have plenty to do.
Definitely worth the trip to this area. With no car rental (like us), recommend staying in town to avoid the need for taxis/local transportation.
Beautiful area! Definitely a must for anyone visiting this country. The hot springs at Tabacon are amazing.
Loved our hotel and our activities! Jessica did a great job!
The hot springs were soothing Beautiful forest Great food Wonderful weather Unspoiled Great tarzan swing
The Baldi Resort was excellent and we really enjoyed it! We were glad we'd planned some excursions before we went though as there would not have been enough for us to do around the resort otherwise.
We love our stay in Arenal. Los Lagos is a great hotel. Happy family!
It was absolutely gorgeous! The people at the hotel were so lovely, the food was delicious (the typical Costa Rican breakfast was the best we had our entire trip), the grounds were beautiful. What a wonderful way to begin our trip. We so loved the feeding stations set up on the edge of the restaurant--so many stunning birds so close up. We were delighted each morning and the staff graciously told us about various birds. A very special thank you to your staff and the staff at the lodge for so kindly and efficiently reuniting my daughter with a very sentimental item that she left behind. I know that created extra work for all of you, but you couldn't have been more helpful.
excellent trip, on time, friendly, amazing
Arenal was great. We went in 2008 and it has changed a lot since then but still great.