Costa Rica Vacation Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal, La Fortuna

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Costa Rica Vacation Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal, La Fortuna

This is the first in a series of articles about Costa Rica’s TEN BEST VACATION SPOTS. I have personally visited each of these more than once- so I can speak from personal experience. Today I write about the Arenal Volcano National Park, Lake Arenal, the little town of La Fortuna. These are a “must” for every nature lover and outdoor adventurer. So lets begin: Prior to 1968, the area around the base of the volcano was a small sleepy rural agricultural community. Then in the early morning of July 29, 1968 Arenal erupted violently (after 400 years of dormancy) and buried the small village of Pueblo Nuevo-located at the base of Arenal’s northern face. (By the way-La Fortuna is located farther away from the actual volcano-approx 6 km and toward the volcano’s southern face, so you are safer there-so they say?) Anyway- with Arenal’s almost continuous small eruptions spewing fire and smoke, and large boulders- adventure loving tourist from around the world flock here to see these spectacular fireworks, and experience the great outdoors in an ecosystem which is unique in its flora and fauna.

WHERE IS THE ARENAL VOLCANO LOCATED? It is well located with easy access on good roads: The San Carlos valley, home to La Fortuna and the mightly Arenal, is located in the northern central part of Costa Rica, an easy 3 1/2 hours drive – good roads-from San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica , and Alajuela- home to the main international airport. (Juan Santa Maria). Also its an easy 2 hour drive from the other international airport in Liberia located in the northwest section of Costa Rica. And the beautiful and popular north-western Pacific beaches are only 2 hours drive- good roads.

WHAT’S THE WEATHER LIKE at Arenal Volcano? Its wonderful and magical… raining a lot-all year round-creating a tropical garden, cascading waterfalls, and luxurious hot springs…all lush and green with flowers of all descriptions and colorful birds and fields of papayas, pineappples, coconuts, and bananas. But then comes the days with sunny mornings and mild warm afternoon showers. And some days (a few-mostly March to mid April) no rain at all. Just remember-there is no pure rainy or pure dry season- as you find in other areas of Costa Rica, such as the central valley in and around San Jose, the capital. The temperatures around the volcano tends to be on the warm side and the air is very humid, but luckily, the rainfall helps to cool things down. Most important-all the hotels in the area have the much needed air conditioning. So remember-dress cool and take along that umbrella and rain jacket.
WHAT TIME OF THE YEAR SHOULD I VISIT : I would simplify this answer by saying : Any month of the year except, if I had a choice, I would not come in September and October, which tend to be the most rainy. Remember, there is no defined rainy season nor dry season here. Now: when is it most crowed? Mid-December thru mid April. Then again July to mid August.
TELL ME ABOUT LA FORTUNA, INTERSTING PLACES TO SEE, RESTUARANTS, ETC. La Fortuna is located 6 km from the base of Arenal Volcano and one the main road that leads out of town-going north-passing by many small hotels-and leading you to the entrance of Arenal Volcano National Park, and if you keep going, you come upon the beautiful Arenal Lake. Yes, La Fortuna is small-very small. A couple of streets in and a couple streets out, so of course you can never get lost. No museums, no public library, just a tree lined small central park always bustling with tourist talking to the locals. The quaint picturesque catholic church dominates the north face of the park. And there seems to be a local “Tico” restaurant on every corner -filled with enthusiastic tourists. Then there’s the busy bus stop- which feeds routes all over Costa Rica ( and does quite a good job) and Banco de Costa Rica where you can change money or use the ATM machine. Lets not forget the health clinic, the post office and last but not least-the very laid back police station. And I do mean laid back-there’s not much mischief going on here. Souvenir shops, small hotels, and tour operators make up the rest of the place. My favorite tour operator is Sunset tours, conveniently located right in front of the park, with friendly English speaking tour guides happy to go into great detail about each and every tour they offer. And do they offer a lot of tours! I will talk about these tours in my next blog posting.
How long would I spend in La Fortuna? Maybe an hour walking around the park, talking with the locals, quick stop at the local grocery store, buy a T-shirt, book a tour, eat some typical Costa Rican food- gallo pinto (rice and beans) with a papaya milkshake…Yuk-can’t I do better than that! And ……then head north to the Mighty Arenal!
HOW LONG SHOULD I SAY IN THE AREAL AREA? I always stay at least 2 nights but I prefer to stay 3 nights. I have stayed as long as 7 nights. I love the laid back-relaxing feeling you get here…what more could one ask for: warm rains, luxurious hot springs, good Costa Rican food, gorgeous flowers everywhere, birds of many songs and colors, and of course the mighty Arenal with its nightly performances of firey eruptions. You can just kick up your feet and relax or you can choose daily activities offered by the tour companies -horseback riding, bird watching, nature walks, Zip line thru the jungle (Tarzan and Jane). Then there is monkey watching- where you watch them and they watch you. In my next blog posting I will go into more detail on what is offered in each of these tours, along with the cost.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I EXPECT TO SPEND? Of course that depends on the category of hotel , how many tours you want to take and what price range restaurant you want to eat in. And believe me they are many hotels to choose from as well as restaurant. So its not hard to make your budget and hopefully stick with it. In my next blog posting I will give examples of different categories of hotel and tours and some idea of these at todays prices.
Always remember: In high season everything cost more: In Green season everything costs less: In general- green Season is May, June, mid September to end of September, October, to mid November- everything else is high season. However, check your hotel’s web site where they post their rates for each season, because I find they they can change these dates at their whim.
My next blog posting will include descriptions of the tours and activities around the Volcano and Lake Arenal. Also hotel and restaurant options…. Until then “Pura Vida

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