Imagine a place where you can hear the sounds of light mist dripping off of leaves and exotic bird calls cooing from overhead. The air is warm and slightly humid, but not unpleasantly so. Around you, you are surrounded by lush trees and ferns. Everything is green and dappled in sunlight. In the distance, a large conical mountain with a cracked peak rises from the horizon. The ancient volcano whispers promises of adventure and thrills. This place that you are imagining happens to be real: it is Arenal National Park in Costa Rica.
Located in the central part of Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano National Park lies within the Arenal Tilaran Conservation area. The volcano itself is 5346 feet above sea level and can be seen for miles around the park. The volcano is currently inactive and has been since 1968. However, before that, it used to be one of the top 10 most active volcanos. Now, you can go to see the dried lava fields and hike the mountain and the surrounding area.
47% of the land in the Arenal Volcano National Park is covered in rainforest, which is home to an awesomely diverse variety of flora and fauna. The national park contains about 850 species of birds which is 53% of all Costa Rica bird species. This includes the rare endangered resplendent quetzal pictured below. Some other furry and scaly friends that you’ll see here are Capuchin monkeys, jaguars, coati, toucans, fer-de-lance snakes, parrot snakes, moose, and tapir. Amongst some of the beautiful flora of the national park are palms, guava bush, laurel, heliconias, bromeliads, orchids, ferns, etc.
Photographer: D. Hatcher
The rainforest of the Arenal National Park offers many different kinds of attractions, so make sure to pack a good pair of walking shoes! Aside from Arenal, another volcano also resides within the park: Cerro Chato. Cerro Chato is an ancient volcano which has been inactive for about 3500 years. One of its eruptions created a crater next to it which later became a beautiful lake. Hike to this gorgeous location and then cool off in the waters of the lake! If hiking is your cup of tea, then from the ranger station of the park (which is 10 miles west of the city of Fortuna), there are two hiking trails: one which is 0.8 miles to a scenic view and another which is 1.7 miles to southern lava flows of Arenal.
Another scenic view which you can hike to is the Cataratas Fortuna Waterfalls. Just 3 miles from Fortuna, the falls break into a pristine blue pool. However, make sure that you have some money on hand because there is a $20 entry fee to enter the waterfall area. After all that hiking you’re going to want to sit down and relax and what place is better than a free public hot spring! And there is one just off of the Rio Agua Caliente. Rocks create the perfect small pools to sit down and take a load off.