Places of Interest in Arenal Volcano Area
The Arenal Lake
Arenal Lake was originally a small lagoon but in 1973 the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity decided to build a dam in the eastern part of the valley. Within three years this became the biggest lake in Costa Rica with a surface area of 88 square kilometers. In the southwest end of the lake there are wind turbines that supply water to Guanacaste and hydroelectricity to the Arenal region.
The lake is popular among sport fishing enthusiasts that can expect to catch rainbow bass or any other of the ten species of fish that now inhabit the lake.
Due to the strong winds, it is also rated as the third best place in the world for windsurfing, especially the western end of the lake. Sailing is recommended as well. December to April is one of the best times to visit.
La Fortuna Waterfall
The most popular place to visit here, after Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake, is the La Fortuna waterfall. The waterfall is accessible via a 5.5 kilometer gravel road leading from the town of La Fortuna. It is roughly an hour walk if you decide to bi-pedal it. The road traverses an idyllic agricultural countryside with beautiful lush green landscapes. You can also visit the waterfall by horse or by car. From the observation point you will enjoy a view of the 40-meter long waterfall. The prospect of bird watching is also very good from this vantage point. Then you can trek down a steep trail leading to the base of the falls where you can enjoy a refreshing dip in the natural pool. Check the Tour to La Fortuna Waterfall
Arenal Hanging Bridges
The Arenal Hanging Bridges allow one to walk high above the canopy and come closer to nature, while enjoying the unique views of the beautiful region of Arenal. There are eight fixed bridges that range between 8 and 22 meters and six hanging bridges that range between 48 and 98 meters. From here you will have a great view of both the Arenal Volcano and the lake. Within this 250-hectare property you will also find 3.1 kilometers of trails that allow for easy access to the area that will take you through an enchanting lush primary rain forest.
Guided tours can be organized. You can choose between a natural history walk, early morning tour, which is of special interest for birdwatchers and/or a night walk that will immerse you in the fascinating nocturnal world of diverse biological interactions between different special of the exuberant tropical rain forest. Check the Tour to The Hanging Bridges
There is also a restaurant and souvenir shop, open every day from 7 am to 4:30 pm
La Casona Rio Fortuna
La Casona Rio Fortuna is a nearly 100-year old, two storied wooden country estate which is recognized as a unique historical landmark in the Arenal area. It is located only 15 minutes from La Fortuna on the way to El Tanque. The estate is surrounded by lush green farmlands and offers a spectacular view of the Arenal Volcano and Cerro Chato.
The main goal of La Casona Rio Fortuna is to preserve local customs and traditions and to encourage the sustainable development of the adjoining rural areas. Here you can take part in activities such as horseback riding, trips in oxcarts, cooking classes and much more.
The Venado Caves
The Venado Caves are found in the village with the same name, about an hour by car from La Fortuna to the north of the Arenal Volcano.
Water which penetrated the limestone rocks over the many years formed the caves millions of years ago. The flow of water created cracks where sediment and other materials were washed through. The openings grew bigger and finally they were transformed into a network of tunnels. Nowadays the caves consist of limestone rocks, stalactites, stalagmites and corals spanning a total length of approximately 2.5 kilometers, including 10 large caverns.
Four different species of bats and various types of spiders, accustomed to the total darkness, inhabit the caves.
Due to the presence of water and lack of sunshine the caves are moist and cool. During the rainy season the tunnels can get filled with water. When this happens it is prohibited for visitors to enter the caves. Flashlights and hard hats are provided at the entrance and hiking shoes are strongly recommended.
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
The 10,000-hectare reserve of Caño Negro is considered a humid area which contains one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in Costa Rica. There are trails and paths, but the easiest way to access the reserve is by boat. The Rio Frio (Cold River) flows through the wetland area and during the wet season will flood and become an 800 hectare lake. In the dry season of January to April the river is no longer accessible by boat. In April the river can dry out and nearly disappear but by the beginning of the rainy season, in May, it will start to fill up again.
The reserve is of special interest to birdwatchers and sport fishing enthusiasts. The best time for birding is from January to March. It is possible to see anhinga, roseate spoonbills, storks and ducks. The area also houses the biggest colony of olivaceous cormorant in Costa Rica, and is a year round habit for resident wetland species.
Fishing is permitted between the 1st of September to the 31st of March. Types of fish to be found include snook, guapote, alligator gar, drum and huge tarpon. Check the tour to the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
Peñas Blancas Wildlife Refuge
This 2400-hectare refuge is situated 6 kilometers northeast of the town of Miramar, and was created to protect plant species and the watershed of the Ciruelas and Barranca rivers. Peñas Blancas means white cliffs and the name is indicative of the whitish deposits that can be found on the river canyon beds. These deposits were formed millions of years ago when unicellular algae with skeletal mass composed of silica, sunk to the bottom of the sea that during this time covered Central America. The resulting deposits were built up over time and eventually were transformed into a chalk like stone.
The refuge lies at an altitude of 600 to 1400 meters above sea level and is covered by dry forest on the lower levels, semi-deciduous dry and moist forest in the middle elevations and pre-mountain forest in the higher sections. Mammals that are likely to be found within the reserve are collared peccary, howler monkey, white-faced monkey, kinkajou, red brocket deer, raccoon and paca.