|Place||Arenal Volcano National Park|
|Price||$16.95 (card only)|
|Driving Schedule||La Fortuna to National Park Entrance|
|Driving Time||21 minutes|
Arenal Volcano, measuring 1600m in height, with its peak standing proud above the rain forest (often topped by cloud), makes for spectacular views for miles around. As it is technically an active volcano, climbing Arenal is not permitted, however you can visit the National Park at its base. Here, several trails will furnish you with even more spectacular views of the volcano and of Lake Arenal.
Arenal Volcano National Park is a 16 km drive from La Fortuna. The first 14 km is along the main road (Route 142), then take a left turn onto the Calle Real el Castillo. After 2 km, you will reach the main park entrance (Sector Volcán). It is an easy drive along paved roads.
The park is divided into two sectors; Sector Volcán and Sector Peninsula. Opening hours are from 8 am to 4 pm. As we arrived at 8 am and there was a queue of vehicles waiting to enter Sector Volcán, we opted to visit Sector Peninsula first – this requires driving off road.
To reach Sector Peninsula, turn right by the main park entrance to tackle the 2 km drive along a rather bumpy track. This brings you to the sector entrance with plenty of parking right outside.
The entrance fee for foreigners is $17 (payable by card only). The ticket is valid for both sectors, so keep it somewhere safe (mine went into my bumbag with other essential items; phone, face mask, emergency Oreos…)
Sendero los Miradores
The main trail is the Sendero los Miradores, which is surprisingly well paved, bearing in mind the road we had to drive down to reach it. The path is 1.2 km long and leads through the rainforest, past a couple of viewpoints to Lake Arenal.
Two thirds of the way along the trail is an observation tower which you can climb for views of the lake and the volcano (in theory, although when we visited, it was shrouded by cloud).
Just past the crocodile warning sign, is the final viewpoint; a platform over the lake which provides a view across the lake to the volcano.
To return, you can either retrace your steps, or half way up the trail, take a right turn onto the Sendero El Tororoi.
Sendero El Tororoi
This trail is a short (600m), but steep loop off the main trail, through the rain forest, via a lot of steps and a bridge.
After visiting the Sector Peninsula, we drove back along the track to the Sector Volcán. Once you have shown your ticket at the gate (restrooms are also located here), you can drive a few hundred metres further to the car park at the trail head for the two main hiking trails.
Sendero las Coladas
First, Sendero las Coladas; a 2 km path which takes you to a bridge, from where you can climb onto a lava flow created when the volcano erupted in 1992.
To return, you can either retrace your steps take a left turn to follow the Sendero el Ceibo, a 3 km loop off the main trail.
Sendero el Ceibo
This path takes you past an enormous ceiba tree, which is 400 years old and 30 metres tall. It’s so big you can climb in between its massive roots for the obligatory photo op.
Once back at the trail head, it is a 1.3 km walk/drive (it was raining when we visited, so we opted to drive) along the Camino Vehicular to the final lookout, the Mirador Principal.
This viewpoint is supposed to provide the best views of the volcano. Unfortunately, when we visited, it was so cloudy we could barely even work out where the volcano was. I don’t usually use other people’s photos, but I have on this occasion – here is a picture of what we saw and what it looks like on a clear day…