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HomeCosta RicaWhy is Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano Famous? A Brief History

Why is Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano Famous? A Brief History

Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s most famous destinations with its iconic, colossal volcano holding quite a reputation with its active history. Just outside of La Fortuna, it is the youngest of Costa Rica’s volcanoes, about 3 hours from the country’s capital, San Jose.  

Laying silent for many years, having those around to believe it could just be a grand mountain in the distance, July 29, 1968 would prove otherwise. For several days it displayed its power burying 3 nearby villages, killing people in its path, destroying livestock and crops. Beneath the clouds of ash laid the destruction of what was so clearly no longer thought to be Arenal Mountain.

Arenal Volcano

Believed to be formed approximately 7,000 years ago Arenal Volcano continued to perform after it’s 1968 violent devastation until 2010. Tourism continued to be on a steady rise as people from around the world came to witness this phenomenon in the distance.

The nights would put on a show with glowing lava seeping from the volcano for those that were lucky to see clearings within the clouds. Thousands would continue to arrive filling up hotels and accommodations as they sat out in the evenings watching for the stratovolcano’s nightly performance.

As it now sits at rest, sleeping until its next potential awakening, many come to admire its grandeur with hopes of seeing some sort of activity. Although you won’t be witnessing lava spewing from its crater and rocks projecting through the air the days are full of exciting eco adventures in and around Arenal all within a safe distance. Accommodations within the area offer gorgeous, breathtaking views of Arenal Volcano for once in lifetime experiences.

The thermal waters of the area’s hot springs keep the area in high demand for visitors in search of the therapeutic relaxation set within the beauty of paradise. The area has aerial tours riding above in a gondola taking you and your family on a bird’s eye view of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. Walk along the hanging bridges up within the trees of the rainforest listening for the wildlife and the birds within.

For those that love a bit more adventure the ziplines soar you above the canopies of the forest. The waters surrounding Arenal are popular for white water rafting and the nearby La Fortuna waterfall is always busy with visitors. Swimming within the cool waters where a 200-foot cascade drops before you is a perfect way to cool off after a day out in Arenal.

Arenal Volcano National Park has several different hiking trails with various lengths. One of the trails leads you out to walk upon what is left from a lava flow of the past. The trail takes you to a spectacular view of Arenal Volcano on one side and the gorgeous Lake Arenal on the other.  It is one of the best views and a rare opportunity to experience a part of the volcano’s legacy.

Lake Arenal

Here at the base of the Arenal Volcano you can find the biggest lake in all of Costa Rica, all 85 square kilometers that make up Lake Arenal. Enticing outdoor enthusiasts for its ideal combination of water and wind conditions, you will see plenty of people gliding across the water’s face.

Kitesurfing and wing foiling have become a fun and exciting attraction but it is windsurfing that attracts so many. It is considered to be one of the top few places in the world for windsurfing. Wide open space and consistent winds draw many to the grand lake with lessons and rental companies for you and your family to test out your skills. You may not be riding out the swells jumping out some aerials but you can still have an amazing time sailing across Lake Arenal.

Kayaking with the backdrop of rolling hills and towering Arenal Volcano it can all seem like a surreal scene from a Hollywood movie. You don’t need to be an expert to be able to get out and explore the waters of Lake Arenal. Even sailing across or on a sunset cruise allows you to feel the magic of the stunning area.

Sports fishing brings forth a challenge and thrill of reeling in a guapote or rainbow bass as many others know it as or angling a machaca on your fishing adventure. Lake Arenal provides endless outdoor tourism to the area and offers a fun complimentary day to exploring Arenal Volcano.

However, it wasn’t always this large, in fact it is man-made, created by ICE, Costa Rica’s Institute of Electricity. What many don’t realize is what actually lies beneath the waters surface, distant memories of two towns and the history of the people’s generation. ICE was on route to build an important and beneficial source of electric energy for Costa Rica’s population by creating a hydro electric dam. The area provided ideal conditions for the location of the reservoir and by 1979, they would have expanded the lake three times its size.

However, in order to do this, they needed to flood the valley and dam the river. But within that valley lay two towns and the people of Arenal and Tronadora. Everyone and their animals were required to leave regardless of their opinion and situation. The villages were not unsupported however, as two new towns were developed in their place displacing their homes and farms to Nuevo Arenal and a relocated Tronadora.

The communities saw improved buildings and living conditions but it came with a price to the people. The loss of everything that they knew their life to be, the familiarity and comfort of their community and the reminiscences of their loved ones buried here. All but a distant memory as eventually everything was flooded now laying beneath the water.

Final Thoughts

The region has continued to grow and prosper with the success of Lake Arenal, its expanding eco tourism and the infamous volcano at the forefront of it all. Arenal Volcano may be at rest, however, we are constantly reminded of the power that the Earth holds and at times its unpredictability.  We must never forget that one eventually wakes after a long restful nap.

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