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Unveiling the Hidden Wonders Around Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano Costa Rica is definitely one of the most active volcanoes located in Central America and a popular attraction from the country.

Although the last major volcano eruption was in 1968, the volcano continues to spit steam every now and then and lava accumulates in its summit crater, but from the scientific point of view, the volcano is in the resting phase.

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica was considered to be the most active volcano from the country before 2010 and listed among the 10 active volcanoes in the world.

Arenal en Costa Rica volcano is located in the northern part of the country, just 15 kilometres away from La Fortuna province.

If you plan to visit the Alajuela area you definitely have to pay a visit to this majestic volcano and its protected area as there are no risks of eruption at this time.

Costa Rica Arenal like most of the world volcanoes is a mystery box as nobody can know for sure when this quiet period will end and the volcano will come back to life, spitting red lava on the clear Costa Rican sky.

For memorable photos of the summit, we strongly recommend you wake up early in the morning and head to Arenal Volcano National Park Costa Rica before the afternoon clouds cover the peaks.

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Arenal Volcano Costa Rica National Park
Arenal National Park of Costa Rica

Getting to Arenal Volcano Costa Rica

Costa Rica volcano Arenal is located about 3 hours drive (80 miles) from San Jose and the same distance from Liberia.

If you plan to visit this park you need to fly to San Jose International Airport or to Liberia International Airport and from there take a rented car or a shuttle bus to get to La Fortuna, the main gate to the volcano.

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Other towns where you can stay for the night if you plan to visit Arenal en Costa Rica are Nuevo Arenal and Tilaran, towns from where you can also book a tour to the volcano.

Arenal Volcano of Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano of Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica and its elder brother

Few people know that Arenal Volcano National Park is home not just for one but for two volcanoes: Arenal volcano and Chato Volcano.

The second volcano is not that famous as its summit is collapsed and a beautiful turquoise lagoon surrounded by cloud forest and full of many hiking trails that gives you the opportunity to explore the area.

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica volcanoes
Arenal Volcano of Costa Rica volcanoes

Best time to visit Arenal Costa Rica

The best time to visit the park is during the dry season, from December to April as the weather is better for hiking and exploring this amazing park.

Still, Arenal has its own microclimate so even if you plan your visit during the dry season, you can expect short rains and many clouds above the summit, especially in the afternoon.

Actually, based on the statistics there are only 60 days in the whole year when the Arenal en Costa Rica volcano is not covered in clouds, so you definitely should feel lucky if you can spot the summit.

Costa Rica Arenal Volcano
Costa Rica Arenal Volcano

Entrance fee and hours

Arenal park can be visited on a daily basis from 8 in the morning till 6 in the afternoon and is one of the very few places from Costa Rica that does not close at 4 p.m.

The price for a ticket for an adult is 17 USD, while children under 12 years old can visit the park free of charge.

Hiking in Arenal National Park Costa Rica

Hiking on the paths inside this national park is definitely one of the most popular activities from the area and you can pick from short and easy walks up to more difficult ones, the place being famous for its Arenal hanging bridges.

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  • medical safety abroad
  • medical assistance including COVID-19
  • emergency medical evacuation
  • trip interruption -up to $5.000
  • travel delay - up to $100/day
Hike in Arenal National Park Costa Rica
Hike in Arenal National Park Costa Rica

Sendero Colada 1968 or Las Coladas

The most popular trail from the whole park is Sendero Colada 1968 that is only 2 miles long and goes across the lava fields from the area.

The name of the trail means “to wash” or “flow” and comes from the fact that this trial gave the best views of the 1968 eruption and lava flows down the mountain.

Las Coladas trail map
Las Coladas trail map

The trail starts with tall bamboo-like grasses lining the path, leading you through secondary forests that have recovered after the 1992 eruption.

Although there is not much shade in this part of the trail, the flat track makes it easy to walk.

As you hike along the trail, you’ll occasionally find lava rocks that have turned black over time, adding to the unique volcanic landscape of the area.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to find the Sendero Colada 1968, also known as Las Coladas trail, in Arenal, Costa Rica:

  1. The Sendero Colada 1968 trailhead is located within the Arenal Volcano National Park, on the north side of the Arenal volcano. You can reach the trailhead by car or by taking a shuttle from La Fortuna.
  2. Once you arrive at the park entrance, you’ll need to pay an admission fee. The park rangers can provide you with a map and directions to the trailhead.
  3. From the park entrance, drive or take a shuttle to the Las Coladas trailhead, which is located near the Arenal Observatory Lodge.
  4. The Las Coladas trail is a 3.4-mile (5.5 km) loop that takes you through a landscape of lava fields and volcanic rock formations that were formed during the Arenal volcano‘s 1968 eruption.
  5. As you hike the trail, you’ll have stunning views of the Arenal volcano and the surrounding rainforest. You may also see wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, and a variety of birds and insects.
  6. The trail is well-marked and well-maintained, but it can be rocky and uneven in some places. Wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water.
  7. The highlight of the Las Coladas trail is the viewpoint at the end of the loop, which offers panoramic views of the Arenal volcano and Lake Arenal. Take your time to enjoy the view and snap some photos.
  8. After completing the loop, you’ll end up back at the Las Coladas trailhead. Take some time to explore the Arenal Volcano National Park before heading back to your accommodations.

Overall, the Las Coladas trail is a must-do hike for anyone visiting Arenal, Costa Rica. With its unique volcanic landscape and stunning views, it’s an unforgettable experience that you won’t want to miss.

Tucanes trail on Arenal en Costa Rica

Another short trail from the park is Tucanes that is just 1.4 miles long and it starts at the end of Las Coladas and goes through the Costa Rica rainforest up to Rio Agua Caliente.

It is an easy to moderate path with no major obstacles but it is quite long especially if you have combined it with Las Coladas.

Hike in Costa Rica Arenal National Park
Hike in Costa Rica Arenal National Park

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to find the Tucanes trail:

  1. First, make your way to the Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, which is located on the south side of the Arenal volcano. This is where the trailhead for the Tucanes trail is located.
  2. Once you arrive at the lodge, head to the reception desk and ask for directions to the Tucanes trail. The staff will be happy to point you in the right direction and provide you with a map of the trail.
  3. From the reception desk, follow the signs that lead to the Tucanes trail. The trail starts behind the lodge and is clearly marked.
  4. The Tucanes trail is a loop trail that is approximately 2.5 miles long. The trail is well-maintained and is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
  5. As you hike the trail, be sure to keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls the Arenal rainforest home. You may see toucans, monkeys, sloths, and a variety of colorful birds and butterflies.
  6. Along the way, you’ll also encounter several stunning viewpoints that offer panoramic views of the Arenal volcano and Lake Arenal.
  7. Once you complete the loop, you’ll end up back at the Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa. Take some time to relax and enjoy the lodge’s amenities, such as the hot springs, before heading back to your accommodations.
Tucanes trail on Arenal en Costa Rica
Tucanes trail on Arenal en Costa Rica

Main Outlook

The Main Outlook starts right near the ranger station and is a sandy path that goes through the forest and you can view the lava field that appears after the eruptions between 1968 and 1992.

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Los Heliconias

This narrow path that starts right near the ranger station is a great way to get familiar with Arenal Volcano Costa Rica hiking trails.

It leads you to Las Coladas which gives you a better look over the volcano and goes around the lush vegetation that appears after the major eruption from 1968.

Along the way you can spot butterflies, orchids as well as many species of birds like hummingbirds, oropendola or magpie-jays.

The path is just 1 kilometre long and is classified as an easy trail because of the very accessible terrain and short distance.

Hiking trail Arenal Volcano Costa Rica
Hiking trail Arenal Volcano Costa Rica

Los Miradores

One of the most popular hiking from the park, Los Miradores or the “viewpoints” is the path that goes across the park and offers stunning views of Arenal Volcano and also Lake Arenal.

It goes through the rainforest and in the end, you will get to Lake Arenal, crossing the volcanic lakes from the area.

Cerro Chato

This is a quite hard climb that goes to the dormant volcano Cerro Chato so it is a serious hike up there.

This is a 3 kilometres long path that can be accessed from La Fortuna waterfall trail or from Arenal Observatory Lodge in Arenal en Costa Rica.

This path is not recommended to be hiked during the wet season, from May to November as the rain may wash the hiking trail making it unsafe for climbing.

Things to do around Arenal Costa Rica

Bath in hot springs

Thermal pools from Arenal Volcano Costa Rica are a great way to relax and benefit from the therapeutic properties of these waters.

Not just people with rheumatism and other diseases, but also the healthy ones choose to try these miraculous waters and spend some quality time in these water holes in the middle of the jungle.

Arenal National Park Costa Rica
Arenal National Park Costa Rica

Increase your adrenaline on a zip line tour

Overlooking the whole Talamanca Mountain range and the volcano, as well as Lake Arenal, canopy tours or zipline tours are definitely the most beautiful from all over the country.

Take a canopy tour up to the observation point and from there delight your soul with some memorable views of the area.

Costa Rica Zipline Arenal
Costa Rica Zipline Arenal

Hike to La Fortuna waterfalls

By far the most amazing waterfall from Costa Rica, La Fortuna falls is hidden in the middle of the rainforest close to the town of La Fortuna and it has a total drop of about 200 feet.

You can reach the waterfall on foot, after 15 minutes of hike or you can book a horseback riding tour up to the falls.

Don’t forget to take the swimsuit with you as swimming in the crystal clear water hole from the bottom of the pool is allowed in Arenal en Costa Rica.

La Fortuna waterfall in Costa Rica
La Fortuna waterfall in Costa Rica

White water raft close to Arenal

One of the most popular rivers from the country for white water rafting is the Balsa River, a beautiful mountain river with class 2 and 3 rapids and one of the most picturesque sceneries.

Surrounded by green forest, the rafting section of the river is about 2 hours long and is suitable for adults and children without a lot of experience.

For those of you looking for some more adrenaline, we recommend Sarapiqui River with class 3 and 4 rapids located also around Arenal.

White Water Rafting Costa Rica
White Water Rafting Costa Rica

Accommodation

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica is a very popular destination among tourists so in the town around the national park you will find great accommodations with a very good price-quality ratio.

When you visit the Arenal area we recommend you to stay at one of these places, as they are indeed incredible:

  • The Springs Resort Arenal Costa Rica located in Fortuna,just 20 minutes drive from Arenal national Park. Springs resort spa features an outdoor pool, a great spa and a restaurant serving Italian dishes as well as sushi and international cuisine.
  • Nayara Springs Costa Rica is a beautiful boutique hotel located in the heart of the Costa Rica rainforest, 20 minutes by car from the national park. The hotel features a private thermal pool, an outdoor pool and luxurious rooms where you can relax after a day of exploring the area.

Conclusion

Because of its location, accessibility and beauty, Arenal Volcano Costa Rica is one of the most popular tourist destinations from Costa Rica.

The diversity of the place is incredible: lava fields, rainforest, crater lakes, fields covered with new vegetation.

Book at least 2 days in this park to have enough time to explore the hiking trails, the waterfalls and the hot springs hidden inside the rainforest.

Jessica Bloch

Sunday 9th of April 2023

I tried and can’t seem to find Tucanes Trail. You don’t give any insight in your article of where to go.

Alex Hash

Tuesday 11th of April 2023

Hey Jessica, sorry for this, we've just updated our article with a step by step guid on how to find the Tucanes Trail. We hope you'll find it useful for your Costa Rica trip.