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Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal/Costa Rica

Introducing Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

Arenal was just another dormant volcano surrounded by fertile farmland from about AD 1500 until July 29, 1968, when huge explosions triggered lava flows that destroyed three villages, killing about 80 people and 45,000 cattle. The area was evacuated and roads throughout the region were closed. Eventually, the lava subsided to a relatively predictable flow and life got back to normal. Sort of.

Although it occasionally quieted down for a few weeks or even months, Arenal produced menacing ash columns, massive explosions and streams of glowing molten rock almost daily from 1968 until it all quite abruptly ended in 2010, leaving the alarmed local tourist industry to gasp and spew in its place. Still, any obituary on the Arenal area is quite premature given the fact that the volcano has retained its picture-perfect conical shape despite the volcanic activity, and there is still plenty of forest on its lower slopes and in the nearby foothills.

While the molten night views are gone for now (one never knows what lies beneath or beyond), this mighty mountain is still worthy of your time. Though clouds may shroud her at any time, there are several beautiful trails to explore, and even if it does rain and there is a chill in the air, you are just a short drive away from hot springs.