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Arenal Volcano National Park Tour, Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano & The Jungle Around It, Costa Rica
Views of Arenal Volcano surrounded by jungle

A opportunity to have an up close and personal encounter with one of the top 10 most active volcanos in the world may be an alarming and somewhat daunting prospect to many, but combining spectacular and breathtaking surroundings with a chance to witness a volcano in full flow (excuse the pun!), results in the Arenal Volcano National Park being a place definately worth checking out.  The Volcano itself, set amongst a wildlife infested rainforest, is located roughly 16km west of La Fortuna, the areas most popular and well catered for local town. This is in fact where the majority of tours operate from and due to the number of hostels and budget hotels it provides an ideal location for any visitor who wishes to spend some time in the area.

Sunset at Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
Watching the sunset over Lake Arenal, the Volcano is just to the right

There are a range of tours available to suit various needs, with some tour operaters even offering horseback rides along the popular trail that runs around the south side of Lake Arenal to Monteverde. Although this was not an option that appealed to me at the time, I was told that the views of the volcano were spectacular with the picturesque backdrop of the lake and surrounding rain forest adding to its effectiveness.

Arenal Volcano With Lava & Smoke, Costa Rica
The Arenal Volcano with lava running down the side and smoke coming off

The tour that my friends and I opted for was a package deal that included a half day visit to the National Park in addition to an experience at Baldi’s Hot Springs where an evening meal was also included. This appeared to be the best value for money option and cost approximately $70. I must say, the guide operating the tour was fantastic and immediately began to bombard us with inciteful yet fun information about the volcano itself and its explosive history. I forget his name, but he operates in association with the local Arenal Backpackers Hostel.

Looking Up At Trees In The Arenal Jungle
Looking up to the sky through the trees at Arenal National Park

Once at the Arenal Volcano National Park, the cone is visible from almost everywhere but in order to witness a good view of an eruption the best viewpoints are from one of the “observatory” type lodges. This proved to be an excellent vantage point during the afternoon but as the sun began to set the clouds started to roll in often obscurring the top of the volcano. It is known to best visit the area in the dry season as views of eruptions tend to be far less clear throughout the rainy periods. However, from what I saw there were some very worthwhile views on offer, particularly after dark when the lava became more visible. The majority of the volcanic activity witnessed consisted of smoldering cinder-blocks with ocasional vibrant lava emissions which cascaded down the side of the volcano.

Arenal Hike to Waterfall in the Jungle
A short hike through the Costa Rica jungle leads to this waterfall

Although the Volcano watching is a highlight, it is also important not to miss out on the other attractions in the area.  There are several hiking trails that dart off from the Arenal Observatory lodge as well. There is a 4km old lava trail that first leads down towards the Los Tucanes trail, followed by a relatively tough climb back to the lodge, although anyone with a moderate level of fitness should be able to complete this with little problem. There are also a series of rainforest walks thatwould certainly interest any wildlife or bird lover, with approximately all of the 850 species of birds found in Costa Rica, including the endangered quetzal , all prevalent within the area. The most notable rainforest trail is the one leading to Cataratas Río Fortuna, a beautiful waterfall set in tranquil surroundings. The hike down the canyon is rather wet and slippery but you are rewarded with a natural pool under the falls, which proves perfect for a relaxing dip after an energy sapping hike as a result of the warm tropical climate.

Arenal Volcano & National Park Photo Gallery

Arenal Volcano Map

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