The National Parks of Costa Rica
|ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
Destination content © Christopher P. Baker, used from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica, 5th edition.
The 12,016-hectare Parque Nacional
Volcán Arenal lies within the 204,000-hectare Arenal
Conservation Area, protecting eight of Costa Rica's 12 life zones and
16 protected reserves in the region between the Guanacaste and
Tilarán mountain ranges, and including Lake Arenal. The park has
two volcanoes: Chato, whose collapsed crater contains an emerald lagoon
surrounded by forest, and the perfectly conical Arenal. The park is
most directly accessed from La Fortuna, but is also easily accessed via
Tilarán and the north shore of Lake Arenal.
A joint project involving the Canadian International Development Agency and World Wildlife Fund Canada is helping local communities protect buffer zones where the land is under siege by drawing them into ecotourism. Several visitor sites provide toilets and drinking water. And trails and lookout points have been constructed.
The turnoff to the entrance is 3.5 km east of the lake and 2.5 km west of Tabacón. The dirt road leads 1.5 km to the ranger station, which sells a small guide and has restrooms. A dirt road leads north 1.5 km to a parking lot and hiking trails.
An interpretive center has been under construction for several years, two km southwest of the ranger station (but had yet to open at last visit). It will feature a museum with exhibits on vulcanology and local ecology, an auditorium for slide shows, a cafe, and souvenir store. Meanwhile, the Arenal Observatory Lodge (see Accommodation, below) has a small but interesting Museum of Vulcanicity.
It is regarded as one of the world's most active volcanoes. Its lava flows and eruptions have been constant, and on virtually any day you can see smoking cinder blocks tumbling down the steep slope from the horseshoe-shaped crater that opens to the west--or at night watch a fiery cascade of lava spewing from the 140-meter-deep crater. Some days the volcano blows several times in an hour, spewing house-size rocks, sulfur dioxide and chloride gases, and red-hot lava. The volcano's active vent is on the western side, and the normal easterly wind blows most of the effluvia westward. Explosions and eruptions, however, occur on all sides.
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