La Fortuna, El Castillo, Provincia de Alajuela, Costa Rica
GPS: 10.461261335243, -84.727911475158
The Arenal Volcano National Park is located in the north of Costa Rica, in the mountainous region of the Cordillera de Tilarán. With an area of 5,000 km², it is the largest conservation area in the country. This volcanic land is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a huge seismic belt with more than 450 volcanoes worldwide. In Costa Rica, it is symbolized by the explosive activity and frequent lava flows of the Arenal volcano, one of the most dangerous hot spots in Central America.
A natural habitat for many species of fauna and flora, including hundreds of birds, the Arenal Volcano National Park is home to the country’s largest lake (Lake Arenal, 42 km long). The latter has become a very popular tourist destination for windsurfers. The park’s territory offers a multitude of outdoor attractions and activities, starting with hiking amidst wet vegetation, prolific wild life tropical forests, hot springs heated by underground volcanic activity, waterfalls, zip-line routes, suspension bridges in the canopy, abseiling, the Tilarán Mountain Range, waterways and ancient lava flows.
Established in 1991, this natural area encompasses two major volcanoes that are very close to each other geographically: the dormant Chato volcano (or Cerro Chato) and the Arenal volcano, the youngest and most active in Costa Rica. Cerro Chato has been extinct for over 3,000 years. Its crater is home to a lagoon that is popular with hikers for its emerald colour and dense rainforests. Surrounded by a thick mantle of clouds, the Arenal volcano shines with its majestic and perfectly conical shape. Its flanks preserve traces of ancient lava flows that bear witness to frenetic activity. It owns three craters since its devastating eruption in 1968, putting an end to three centuries of dormancy. The volcanic activity has lasted more than forty years in a row, only to cease recently, at the end of 2010 (gas and steam emissions are sometimes still visible today). The Arenal volcano is therefore now considered to be in a resting phase, although there is still a great deal of activity underground. Not approachable because of its potential lava projections, this 1,720-metre high stratovolcano is a living laboratory for volcanologists, following the example of its Reunionese counterpart, Piton de la Fournaise.