Our Top 5 Facts About Arenal National Park, and the Surrounding Area
Here at Volcano Watersports, we never take our place of work for granted. There aren’t many companies who get to work on the doorstep of a nearly 30,000-acre national park, complete with tropical flowers, fantastic animals and a 1,657m tall volcano as a neighbor.
Arenal National Park is very close to us on the map – it is a part of who we are. If you’re planning a watersports vacation with us, you’re not only getting the experience of wakeboarding, water skiing or tubing – you’re getting the experience of Arenal. This park is a part of our identity and for the time you are here, it will become a part of yours too.
So Where Are You Actually Going?
You’ve packed your bags, readied the camera, and you’re just about to board a plane to begin your watersports adventure, but where exactly is that adventure going to take place? Arenal National Park is 29,850 acres of land that is home to an abundance of wildlife, plants, flowers, volcanoes, hot springs and more. It offers a number of hiking trails that will take you across elevations of 400 to 1,755 meters.
It is managed by the government of Costa Rica and is open from 8:00AM to 6:00PM every day. For those wanting to experience as much of the park as possible, there are tours that take you along winding trails, leading to plenty of observation points and even old lava flows. There are also a number of hotels nearby and, of course, us. Here at Volcano Watersports, we’re just waiting to give you an experience of a lifetime underneath the shadow of Arenal Volcano.
So, that’s the basics. But what else should you know before you get here? Well, this national park and its surrounding area is full of gems and stories that stretch back for thousands of years. To get you up to speed, here are our top five facts that will get you as hyped as possible to visit us:
1. The Volcano Really Is A Volcano
Well, duh. It’s not exactly going to be made of cardboard, is it? Well, no, but there is a reason we feel it necessary to state this. Arenal Volcano is one of two volcanoes in the national park – one is extinct, one is active.
Arenal has been around for 7,500 years, making it one of the youngest volcanoes in all of Costa Rica, and for a long time many considered it to be dormant, with no records of an eruption ever occurring.
That is until the morning of July 29th, 1968, when the volcano erupted with enough force to take down the western side of the mountain, creating three craters. Since then, the volcano experienced as much as 20 lava-flowing explosions every day until, miraculously, those explosions just happened to stop. In 2010, the activity subsided, and no lava flows occurred since.
Nevertheless, the volcano is still closely monitored for any signs of activity – so don’t panic.
Scientists have been unable to explain why exactly this has happened. All we know is that the base of Volcano Arenal is now a popular spot for many tourists to explore (although due to safety concerns, it is still illegal to climb). That’s not to say it will never erupt again, however. According to many scientists, this is one of the top ten most active volcanoes in the world.
2. Many Of The Park’s Animals Can Be Found…In Your Pocket
One of the other great reasons to visit Arenal National Park – apart from pulling some insane wakesurf tricks – is the wildlife that exists here. But here’s the thing: if you’re taking a hike through the area, you might not actually come across that wildlife.
At least, you won’t think you have. This is because the wildlife in Arenal is very secretive. Most of the animals hide out of sight of visitors, meaning it is more of a challenge when it comes to spotting them – you have to really look carefully.
But what kind of animals are you looking for? Well, the answer is in your pocket. One of the more bizarre luxuries in Costa Rica is the currency itself. Most people agree that Costa Rican currency is the most beautiful currency in the world. This is because, rather than having presidents or royalty on their paper notes, there are instead beautifully illustrated pictures of the wildlife. Sloths, monkeys, kingfishers, butterflies; it’s all there in your pocket, and you will be able to see any one of these incredible animals during your travels through Arenal National Park.
The rainforest is biodiverse with 2,000 species of plants, 300 birds and 120 mammals – including the tapir, jaguar, and quetzal. We suggest that you keep a keen eye on the undergrowth to spot the much loved three-toed sloth, white faced monkey, and the beautiful three-wattled bellbird. Just be careful to avoid any snakes and frogs that you might see. These are incredibly venomous and must be treated just as seriously as you would any jaguar!
3. There Are Hidden Gems In a Quiet, Nearby Town
Arenal National Park is very beautiful, but what about the nearby premises? No one wants to be camping out in the middle of a wildlife infested rainforest, after all, so surely there’s a place to kick up your feet and relax? Well, thankfully Arenal is one of the most popular tourist spots in all of Costa Rica, so there are plenty of hotels and facilities on its doorstep to take advantage of. Most of these hotels reside in the quiet, nearby town of La Fortuna.
Also known as La Fortuna de San Carlos, this town is located just 2.5 hours from San Jose’s international airport, and it feels a little bit like a tropical garden of Eden. It is centered on a park with a number of gardens, flowers and a large church positioned right in the center.
Arenal Volcano is the backdrop and can be seen from pretty much every vantage point. It is a perfect place to stay, mostly because of the many hidden gems that reside deep within. These include hot springs – naturally heated by the thermal energy of the volcano – as well as a waterfall just ten minutes from the downtown area.
Restaurants like Italianissimo, Jalapas and Soda Viquez are also perfect for replenishing the body after a day’s activities. Soda Viquez, especially, is a gorgeous little spot sat just beside the national park – known specifically for its incredible gallo pinto. The town of La Fortuna might be young – it was created in 1952 by Decreto Ejecutivo – but it certainly has an old, otherworldly vibe that is impossible to find anywhere else. Undeniably, it is the perfect place to stay while exploring the wonders of Arenal National Park.
4. Lake Arenal Has an Incredible History
Let’s bring it back to us at Volcano Watersports for a second. You’ll know, of course, that we reside at Lake Arenal, which is situated in the shadows of Arenal Volcano. But not a lot of people know the history of our special little lake. The story of this place is an interesting one.
It has been a part of Arenal National Park’s scenery for many years, but in 1979, it was expanded to approximately 30 km long – making it not so little. In fact, it is now the largest lake in all of Costa Rica. Its depth goes down to 60 meters depending on the season and at the very bottom of the water lie the old towns of Toradora and Arenal – with the new town of Arenal now existing northeast of the lake.
The reason it was expanded is because of the construction of Arenal dam. This is a hydroelectric project that initially generated as much as 70% of the country’s electricity, whilst also being the driving force for the green energy policy in Costa Rica. The water of Lake Arenal really is electric. We see its electricity in another sort of way, though. The lake has become one of the most popular spots in the country for people to come and test out their watersport skills. Whether they are pros, amateurs or beginners, a number of tourists come to the lake throughout the year to feel the electricity of the water and experience the rush of adrenaline.
We have to admit – even if it’s for a day’s kayaking or renting a boat – you can’t get a much better location to get outside of your comfort zone, experience a buzz of excitement, all while witnessing the beautiful sights and wildlife of Lake Arenal.
5. Arenal Is Part Of The Happiest Country In The World
One last fact about Arenal National Park? Well, we’ve told you the stories of the volcano, the wildlife, the lake, the town; what’s more to say other than Arenal National Park is a big part of why Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest countries in the world?
That’s right, according to the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica is one of the world’s happiest countries. There are a lot of reasons for this. For one, the country does not have an army. After its abolishment in 1949, government funds were spent instead on education, healthcare, and pensions, which has certainly done a lot to boost positivity!
As well as this, however, a lot of work has gone into upkeeping its natural landscape such as Arenal National Park. The preservation of bio-diverse areas like this helps to keep the fundamentals of this beautiful country alive. You will be able to experience the results of this when you come to visit. The locals are filled with positivity and smiles. Why wouldn’t you be when such a beautiful landscape resides on your own doorstep?
At Volcano Watersports, we’re certainly grateful. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible for us to show up for a day’s watersports without a smile on our faces. It may not be one of the most obvious health benefits of wakeboarding and other watersports, but it’s one of our favorites.
The volcano resides above us. The birds sing in the nearby forest. Life is good. And we can’t wait for you to see just how good it is, too.