All about the Arenal Volcano

If you see the geometrically perfect cone shaped Arenal Volcano while driving along the highway, it means you’ve arrived in La Fortuna, San Carlos, Costa Rica. It’s a small, picturesque town that stands out worldwide for its stunning natural beauty, and is characterized as being an ideal destination for adventure.


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Although Costa Rica is home to more than 200 volcanic systems, while in La Fortuna your objective will be to visit only one: the colossal Arenal Volcano. It’s famous for its large eruption in 1967 that completely destroyed three towns; this natural event gave the volcano its title as the most active not only in Costa Rica, but globally.


Although it was declared inactive in 2010, you can still hear underground rumblings, and see columns of ash, bright orange lava flows, and sudden explosions on a daily basis.



If you’re a volcanic systems aficionado, this article will tell you a little bit about the history of the Arenal Volcano, its natural attractions, and how to get here.


History of the Arenal Volcano      


The 1,633 metre tall volcano with its 140 metre wide crater suddenly and abruptly awoke with an intense explosion of rocks, lava, and ash on July 29th, 1968.


This large eruption resulted in 87 deaths and the total destruction of the towns of Tabacon, Pueblo Nuevo, and San Luis. It also caused the formation of three more craters on the volcano’s westernmost flanks, only one of which currently still exists.


Before the large 1968 eruption, the Arenal Volcano was just a volcanic mountain with an almost perfect cone shape, covered in tropical forests and with minimal activity at its vent.


At 3000 years old, the Arenal Volcano is relatively young in geological terms. Before the 1968 eruption, the volcano’s most recent forceful activity had been registered in around 1500 A.C.


The volcano has had various names throughout history. Its oldest registered name is “Los Ahogados” (1852). It has also been called: Costa Rica Volcano (1854), Rio Frio Volcano (1862), Cerro Arenal, Cerro Pan de Azucar (1896), and Canastes Volcano or Pelon Volcano (1925).


Since 1922 it has been called the Arenal Volcano (the Sandy Volcano, in English), because its lava undergoes disaggregation due to physico-chemical effects, forming lytic and crystalline sands that are deposited at the cone’s base, giving it the appearance of a sand mound.



Another distinguishing characteristic of the Arenal Volcano is its role as an important watershed for the Arenal Lake’s reservoir. This lake is used to produce hydroelectric energy, with the purpose of fulfilling the national interconnected system’s electricity needs, as well the needs of irrigation projects in Guanacaste.




Despite of the lack of volcanic activity, tourism at the colossal volcano’s base has not slowed down. The tranquil city of La Fortuna is the entry point to Arenal, and here you can find numerous lodging, restaurant, and activity options.


How to get to the colossal volcano


If this interesting information about the Arenal Volcano has caught your attention, it’s time to pack your bags and take a trip to this natural wonder. To make sure that you don’t get lost along the way, we’ll share different ways to get here.


The volcano is located around 80 kilometres northwest of San Jose in the Alajuela province. The easiest way to arrive to Arenal is by driving. If you’re coming from San Jose, it won’t take more than 3 or 4 hours to get to La Fortuna.


If you take the bus, there are direct trips from San Jose that depart at 6:15 a.m., 8:40 a.m., and 11:30 a.m., as well as several buses with connections in Ciudad Quesada.


There are also several buses operating along the San Jose-Arenal route, the Liberia-Arenal route, and the Tamarindo-Arenal route.


If you want to cut down on travel time, you can consider flying. If you book in advance, a national one-way flight with an airline such as Nature Air or Sansa can be as affordable as $50 to $60 per person.


Come and discover Costa Rica’s natural wonders!

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