Arenal Volcano National Park protects 12,080 hectares or 29,850 acres. The elevations of the park range from 400 – 1,755 meters at the top of the volcano. The park protects rainforest and river habitats and includes not only Arenal, but another extinct volcano, Cerro Chato. It offers several hiking trails that range from mild to extreme hikes. Many of these trails through the forest lead to observation points or old lava flows.
There is plenty of wildlife in the park. There are 131 species of mammals including white faced monkeys, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, three-toed sloths, coatis, raccoons, tolomuco, jaguar and ocelots. There are 135 species of reptiles including the feared fer-de-lance, eyelash pit vipers, boa constrictors, iguanas and other lizards. There are many amphibians including the famous red-eyed leaf frog and blue jeans dart frogs. This is also an excellent area for birdwatching. Chestnut mandibled and keel billed toucans are common, as are fiery-billed aracaris, several species of hummingbirds, trogons, and many other species.
Arenal National Park is managed by the government of Costa Rica. The park is open daily from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM. There is a ranger station with bathroom facilities at the main park entrance. The entrance is $15 per person. There are no overnight facilities, though there are plenty of hotels in La Fortuna and just outside of the park perimeters.
More about Arenal Volcano National Park
Since 1968, Arenal Volcano regularly erupted until it suddenly stopped in November of 2010. Scientists are not sure what caused this, but have given warning that it can start erupting again at any given time as the lava chamber is still quite active just under the surface. Whether the lava is flowing or not, the volcano still provides an iconic and unforgettable backdrop to the amazing hot springs and adventures this area is famous for.
Aside from the captivating Arenal Volcano, the extinct volcano, Cerro Chato is another popular attraction. This volcano has been inactive for about 3,500 years - about the same time as the creation of Arenal. Hiking the volcano is a popular activity amongst visitors. The hike is fairly strenuous, lasting a total of about two hours to the summit. You will be glad you persevered when you arrive at an aquamarine colored lake at the peak, which is the old crater of the volcano.
At the base of Arenal Volcano is Lake Arenal, a favorite fishing spot, with several species of game fish. This lake was created in the 1970s by ICE, which is the state run electric and Telecommunications Company, with the primary purpose of generating power with the manmade dam.
At a glance:
Region: Northwest Pacific
Closest town: La Fortuna
Size in hectares: 12,080 (29,850 acres)
Year established: 1991
Elevation in meters: 400-1,755m (1,312 – 5,758 feet)
Private managed: no
Government managed: yes
Rangers station: yes
Overnight facilities: no
Public restrooms: yes
Entrance fee: $15pp
Hours: 08:00 - 18:00
Hiking trails: yes
Boat tours: no
Average temperature range in Fahrenheit: 70 - 80
Average yearly precipitation in millimeters: 3,490 (138 inches)
Habitat: rainforest, river
How to get to Arenal Volcano National Park
From San Jose, take Rt.1 northwest to San Ramon. When you reach San Ramon, turn right on Rt. 702 and follow all the way to La Fortuna. Once in la Fortuna, turn left on Rt. 142 east and follow approximately 15 minutes until you see a little police station outpost on the right. Turn left on the dirt road opposite the police station and follow until you see the national park entrance on the left.
Weather and Packing List for Arenal Volcano
The weather in the Arenal Volcano National Park area can be quite unpredictable with frequent rapid changes. It can be fairly sunny, change to torrential rains and then sunny again within an hour on any given day. This is due to the location of the park which is on the edge of the Caribbean slope of the Talamanca Mountains that divide the country’s weather patterns. Temperatures are normally in the lower 80s during the day and lower 70s at night. The park receives an average of 3,490 mm (138 inches) of rain annually, so visitors should always be prepared for rain. In any case, many of the activities in the Arenal area are not affected by rain and the hot springs are surprisingly refreshing in a cool rain.
Visitors should pack shorts, tee shirts, appropriate shoes, rain gear, sun block. It is also advised to bring at least one pair of pants and a long sleeve shirt. Check out our packing list for more suggestions.
Fun Fact: Though Arenal Volcano has not erupted since 2010, it is still considered an active volcano. There are several hot springs at the base of the volcano and steam is often observed flowing out of the crater.