10 Reasons El Castillo Showcases the Best of Costa Rica | Volcano Watersports

10 Reasons El Castillo Showcases the Best of Costa Rica

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26 December 2023

El Castillo is one of those places you’re proud to call home. While it may only represent a small point on the map, it’s the kind of place that sticks with you – the kind of place that you return to.

We may be a little biassed, of course. This is our home, and the backdrop for many, many happy memories out on the water with travellers looking to have fun, bond over plenty of KOs in the water, listen to good music, eat good food, and celebrate the very best life has to offer.

But a little bias isn’t too bad a thing when it comes to El Castillo, and we’re confident that most of the area’s visitors are more than a little biassed when they tell their friends and family back home about this place. If you need a little more convincing, then just take a look at ten of our favourite reasons why El Castillo is a real jewel in Costa Rica’s crown.

1. The food speaks a language of its own

Wherever your travels take you, one of the best ways to understand a new place is through its food. It’s not just about flavour – it’s about becoming acquainted with the ingredients that grow in its very soil, the traditions that have been passed from one generation to the next, and the dishes that nourish, comfort, energise…or are just there to be enjoyed.

Costa Rica is no different, and we’d argue that El Castillo is its own little paradise for travellers who know that the way to the heart of a country is through its food.

There’s the indulgence of platanos maduros to the practical yet delicious Casado, which is bound to keep you going through a day of hiking, wakeboarding, or touring. Even the simplicity of gallo pinto served with spectacular views over the rainforests will become a defining moment, or a cold, crisp ceviche that cuts through the humidity of an afternoon during rainy season.

El Castillo is filled with restaurants, cafés, and small, family-run sodas offering menus that serve the most authentic dishes in Costa Rica. It is not something to be missed, and you can read more about it here.

2. The natural world is all around

Costa Rica cares a lot about its natural world. Around 60% of the country is covered in beautiful, tropical rainforests that have been carefully conserved and protected by local initiatives, and the locals themselves

In El Castillo, this biodiversity is evident wherever you look. The area’s hotels, restaurants, sodas, yoga studios, and other attractions all sit at the fringes of Arenal National Park, and the many acres of forest it encompasses.

This natural world is always busy, always steady and consistent – an ancient rhythm carried out by its flora and fauna. Even on the busier hiking trails, you can see it for yourself – that unspoilt beauty of a land that is deeply loved.

3. The watersports scene is unparalleled

This happens to be our particular area of expertise – how perfect Lake Arenal is for watersports vacations. The conditions at the foot of the volcano just lend themselves to the very best experiences, whether you’re a beginner or an old hat, and it draws a crowd from all over the world thanks to its favour throughout the global watersports community.

El Castillo is where you’ll find the team here at Volcano Watersports. Our boat rentals can take you out onto the water for as long as you like – a couple hours for some fun tubing, or a full day out learning how to waterski, wakeboard, or wakesurf.

You can read more about Lake Arenal in this blog post. From the views to the temperature – the surface conditions to the atmosphere – and, of course, the people you’ll be out on the water with, we can’t dream of anywhere that’s better for a much-needed vacation than El Castillo.

4. Visitors always feel welcome

El Castillo is a very small part of Costa Rica, but its proximity to Arenal National Park and so many other world-famous attractions means that it’s welcomed many travelers over the years. This village knows how to turn strangers into friends, and how to leave an impression on anyone who passes through.

5. The hot springs are second to none

In and around El Castillo, you will find plenty of natural hot springs – some buried deep within the forest and reachable only by challenging trails, others integrated into hotels and resorts in the area.

There’s something about sinking into a natural hot spring that can’t be put into words. You’ll know it when you feel it – a sense of returning to nature in its purest form, rejuvenating your mind, body, and soul.

You’ll find plenty of local hot springs marked on your map, although it’s best to do your research first – not all of them are for swimming. Your best bet is to speak with the locals, who know all the best spots and hidden gems.

6. You can see it from every angle

Swim or paddleboard out into the waters of Lake Arenal, and you’ll have the opportunity to witness the area surrounding El Castillo from a unique vantage point. Let the water rock beneath you, fall silent, and enjoy a view that only the luckiest get to see.

Or consider visiting Sky Adventure, which lies just a few minutes outside of El Castillo by car and offers unrivalled views of the area from the treetops.

El Castillo is also home to Lilander’s Horse Tours, which offers the opportunity to see the area from yet another point of view. The steady rhythm of the horses as they make their way deep into the forest offers a whole new perspective from which to enjoy this land.

7. The coffee!

Costa Rica is known around the world for its good coffee. It all comes down to a perfect combination of good climate, volcanic soil rich in minerals, and knowledgeable farmers – along with a real commitment to ensuring fairness in the industry.

The flavours of Costa Rica’s coffee differ a great deal depending on where you are in the country, but the fact that the soil offers the perfect growing conditions for the Arabica bean really helps ensure an incredible brew.

As a result, the locals know good coffee when they see it – and the coffeehouses throughout El Castillo are the perfect place to set a new standard for your cup.

Also, in nearby La Fortuna you’ll find North Fields, which offers a coffee and chocolate tour that brings you face to face with the fascinating process that goes from ground to table.

8. The wildlife never disappoints

We’ve written about the wildlife you may encounter in and around Arenal National Park in the past, but there’s never a time when we’re not ready to start waxing lyrical all over again. Thanks to the incredible conservation work that is always taking place around El Castillo, you have countless opportunities to meet the birds, insects, marine life, reptiles and mammals that call this unique little part of the world home.

Following any of the mapped trails through the National Park will invite plenty of face-to-face encounters, while the Butterfly Conservatory in El Castillo itself boasts an incredible variety of species. From the medicinal herb garden to the Tortuga Pond and Howler Trail, you’ll find more than just butterflies in this beautifully kept development.

9. The vibe

We can’t put our finger on it, but there’s just something about the atmosphere here that can’t be beaten, no matter how far our own travels take us. Friendly locals, great food, and beautiful scenery combine to really bring out the best of everyone, and those good vibes suffuse the atmosphere in the best way.

Our best tip? Immerse yourself in the local social scene. The spots favoured by the very people who call El Castillo home are the best for stumbling upon that perfect vibe, whether you’re looking to eat, dance, relax, or get your adrenaline pumping.

10. It’s the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have

El Castillo offers the perfect blend of creature comforts and raw, beautiful nature. Wherever you choose to stay in the area, whether in luxury or camped out up close and personal with the wilder spots, the warm hush of the night is bound to send you into a restful sleep.

Couple that with the fact that, in all likelihood, you’re going to be pretty busy during the daytime with hiking, watersports, horseback riding, ziplining, and tracking down the perfect chorreadas, and we’re confident that you’ll struggle to find a better night’s rest anywhere else on the planet.

There are so many things to love about El Castillo, and we certainly know them all by now. We like to think the best way to experience this place is with a careful balance of preparedness and spontaneity – do your research, make your bucket list, but don’t make yourself so busy that you can’t stop to smell the roses. This place has a way of making irreplaceable memories with its visitors, and we can’t wait to be a part of yours.