The area, which is home to what is probably the most beautiful volcano in Costa Rica, is determined by the sight of its perfect cone shape and is one of the top travel destinations in Costa Rica, which hardly any vacationer misses. At the same time, in the central highlands, it is not uncommon for clouds to swallow up the magnificent view of the wonderful nature and it just rains. Unfortunately, our days there were determined by it: rain.
Naturally. After all, the name “rainforest” is derived from this. The good news: We didn’t let that stop us and used the rain-free but still cloudy breaks to explore. Despite the gray weather, the place held impressive memories for us. When it rained too hard, we made ourselves comfortable in our little bungalow or warmed ourselves up in the open air in the warm water of the whirlpool, which you could reserve for yourself in the hotel.
The hot springs of La Fortuna
Hot water is one of the main attractions around here anyway, heated to over 40°C by volcanic energy. A trip to the famous hot springs is a must when staying in La Fortuna. You can either enjoy well-invested money in beautifully designed pools in one of the thermal baths, or something more rustic, but free of charge in the river “El Chollín” a little below. Only a few tourists mingle with the locals – who prefer to stay here in the evening – in the water of the river, which has been heated by volcanic energy, and so everyone can still find their quiet spot. Families should rather go down to the shallow part of the river to the left of the bridge.
La Cascada de La Fortuna
Powerful water forces also unfold at the huge La Fortuna waterfall, which plunges over 60m down a steep rock face. You can imagine that this place acts like a tourist magnet, so if you want to enjoy peace and quiet, you should get here in time. When the weather is nice, you can also swim below the impressive waterfall. Unfortunately we weren’t that lucky. Due to the heavy rain, the water looked rather muddy-brown and swimming in the torrential water masses would not be recommended. The mighty water cascade can be reached quite “easily” via a short path, but you shouldn’t have a phobia of stairs. To reach the waterfall you have to go down 500 steps – and up again.
Tip: If the weather is nice, real mountaineers should also go on a tour to “El Chato” from here. The demanding hike starts at the waterfall and leads to the emerald green lagoon in the crater of the Cerro Chato volcano.
On suspension bridges through the jungle
You can also go high in the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. This visitor highlight near Lake Arenal is indeed exciting for young and old alike. This is a private nature reserve, which has been opened up by beautifully laid out paths and leads over a total of 7 suspension bridges, some of them at dizzying heights. The 3 km long circular route is really fun and you should usually be able to spot many animals here even without a tour guide. The rainy weather also makes wildlife viewing difficult. You should plan at least 2 hours for the circular route. The circular route is suitable for prams and you can even borrow a Thule off-road stroller at the entrance! Adults pay 26 USD entry here, children up to 10 years are free – so the Arenal Hanging Bridges are many times cheaper than in Monteverde, the concept is similar.
Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal
For anyone who likes hiking in nature, visiting the national park is a must. Climbing the volcano has long been forbidden. In the central part of the park around the volcano there are three different, easy trails that can be connected depending on your energy level and the time available. The first part of Los Heliconias ends after 1km at a viewing platform. We continue on Las Coladas in a 2km long loop around the volcano, where there are also old lava fields to admire. If you want to go further, you can join the El Ceibo trail, which leads through dense rainforest for a good 2km, past a 100-year-old coral tree and attracts bird watchers in particular.
Across the road from the national park entrance, a road leads to the second part of the park, the Península Lago Arenal. Here an approx. 3km long path leads through the rainforest to Lake Arenal, which spreads out spectacularly in front of you and offers a view of the Arenal Volcano. If you are lucky (or unlucky?), you can also meet free-living crocodiles here.
Lake Arenal is not a natural lake, but owes its existence to a dam. Here 60% of Costa Rica’s energy is generated by hydroelectric power. The inland lake is not only beautiful to look at, but also the ideal area for water sports enthusiasts. Here you can go boating, stand-up paddling, fishing, canoeing or wind and kite surfing. Wind worshipers like us will find optimal conditions for kite and windsurfing here between November and March. Few people by the water and the grandiose backdrop of the volcano make the lake a travel highlight for water sports enthusiasts. The spot is located on the western part of the lake at the surfing station ‘Tico Wind’.