The Arenal Volcano National Park
The Arenal Volcano National Park presents varied topographic systems such as mountain ranges, passes, mountain channels and depressions that mostly have developed from volcanic ash. In this part at least three types of soils have been identified. Additionally, soils of the low zones, with an abundance of dense thickets and pastures are to be found.
The Arenal Volcano National Park belongs to the Arenal Conservation Area that consists of three life zones: premontane humid forest, premontane rainforest and lower montane rain forest. The combination of these life zones makes the moist and wet evergreen spectacular. In these zones you can find 2,987 species of plants, including at least 20 species of medicinal plants, 884 ornamental ones, 90 species of timber trees, 63 edible species, at least 15 toxic ones, 17 of great importance for the wildlife and more than 100 species classified as undergrowth and grow lands.
The National Park is part of a biologic corridor between the Caribbean and Pacific sectors. The combination of forests and life zones provide habitat for many different animals, including endangered ones which make this an unique place. More than 15 species of amphibians have been identified, including the green and black frog (Atelopus Varius) and the glass frog. There are also different species of snakes, as well poisonous, like the Fer-De-Lance, as non-poisonous, like the Boa Constrictor.
The park is a place where it is still possible to see great curassows, great anteaters, jaguarondis, pacas, tapirs, coatis, sloth, jaguars, deer and pumas. Large groups of howler monkeys, kinkajous, and margays are also present. At least 200 species of birds can be found, such as crimson-fronted parakeet, the white-bellied mountain-gem and the black-faced solitaire.
The Arenal Volcano, which sits at 1633 meters above sea level, is one of the most majestic volcanoes of Costa Rica. With its artistic cone shape, it was dormant for many years until 1968 when an eruption changed the local towns dramatically.
The Arenal Volcano park serves as a research area for many biologists and scientists given its biodeversity. The Arenal resevoir is the main source of power via a hydro-electric dam for 70% of Costa Rica.
Main points of interest
Main Lookout: The main lookout features a trail that is accessible by car and foot. After a 1.1 mile hike on the trail, visitors are allowed 20 minutes to absorb the sites of Arenal. Lava flow still remains from the eruptions in 1968 and 1992, and it can be seen from the lookout. At the base, visitors can listen to and understand more about the volcanoes activity.
El Ceibo Trail: At 1.1 miles long, the El Ceibo trail takes about an hour and a half to see all of the flora and fauna that encompass a secondary forest along the hike. Named after the Ceiba tree, the trail features 100 year old forestrey that is unique to Costa Rica.
Las Coladas Trail: A flat and sandy trail, the Las Coladas Trail is a one way 1.2 mile walk through a wide variety of vegetation and acts as an ideal location for seeing the front of the volcano. The trail features a large amount of lava debris that can be viewed for 20 minutes via a lookout point that oversees the resevoir and Cerro Chato. The trail takes about an hour.
Los Miradores Trail: During a .7 mile hike along this trail, visitors can view a wide variety of birds and mammals that are specific to Costa Rica. The hour and a half walk is located on La Peninsula with scenic views of the resevoir, park, and volcano at its completion.
Heliconias Trail: This very accesible, slightly shorter trail takes about 25 minutes to walk but rewards with opportunities to witness beautiful hummingbirds, orchids, and butterflies. The trail is .6 miles and features vegetation that benefits from the minerals of the 1968 eruption.
What to bring:
- Guides suggest that visitors remember the following:
- Flexible clothing for easy movement, and a reliable pair of tennis shoes or hiking boots for the trails and rough terrain
- Sunscreen and protective sun gear
- Insect repellent
- During the rainy months of May through November, a light rain jacket or umbrella will suffice.
- Stay hydrated with water or other beverages
The Arenal National Park is just 10 miles from the northeastern downtown side of La Fortuna, San Carlos. It can be easily accessed by car, taxi, or bus on a 9 mile paved road and a 1.2 mile well conditioned unpaved road with signs guiding visitors.
Hours of Operation:
Everyday from 8 am to 4 pm
Being a protected area, there are some regulations for those who wish to visit the park.
Main entrance (by the local ‘Guardia Rural’), pay admission fee and keep the receipt.
Open to the general public: Look-out point and trails.
Opening hours: 8:00 a.m. a 4:00 p.m.
Prohibitions within the park
- Sound generators
- Damage or improper use of the facilities
- Extraction or mistreat of plants, animals or other resources
- Propaganda signs
- Alcoholic beverages and drugs
There’s no maximum capacity.
Passengers must disembark in front of the administrative area.
Source: Resources and Services Management in Arenal Volcano National Park 27389 - MINAE
For additional information about Arenal Volcano Park we recommend you to visit the following website: http://www.sinac.go.cr/acahn_arenal.php
For information about special activities in the area, we recommend you to visit the following website: http://comitecantonalsancarlos.com/site/2010/05/