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Arenal Volcano National Park

Created in November, 1991, Arenal Volcano National Park is quite recent but it is one of the most visited areas in Costa Rica. It’s terrain goes from 1300ft to 5757ft height above the sea level, being the highest part the Arenal Volcano’s crater, which is located just 10.5miles west from La Fortuna.

It’s 29850 acres of protected areas include important places for water reload of aquifers, also are home for a rich diversity of wildlife, such as: Keel-Billed Motmot (Electron carinatum), the Great Curassow (Crax rubra), the Bare-necked Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus glabricollis), Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus), among many others. However these are the most popular and figure in IUCN’s Red List, labeled as vulnerable or endangered species. There’s an estimate of 469 species of birds that can be found within this place.

It is also home for several species of mammals like the Puma or Cougar (Puma concolor), the Jaguar (Panthera onca), 3 species of monkeys, Howler (Alouatta palliata), White-faced (Cebus capuchin) and Spider (Ateles geoffroyi), as well as wild pigs, Coatis and many others.

Arenal Volcano National Park Inhabitants

Collared Peccary
Keel-billed Motmot
Great Curassow
Three-wattled Bellbird
White-nosed Coati
Eyelash Pit Viper

Trails at Arenal Volcano National Park

Park's Tickets Price
$15p.p

Arenal Volcano National Park, offers trails that feature an immersive and quickly changing vegetation. A big section of the park shows secondary forest and sections in recovery, as plants and trees slowly claim the desolated parts barred by Arenal Volcano’s 1968 and 1992 eruptions.

There are four official trails in this park:

  • Las Coladas (1.24 mi): This is the main trail and the easiest one as well. Vegetation is mostly composed of a variety of cane (not sugar cane) and some rather small trees. Inclination of the trail isn’t significative either until reaching 1992’s lava flow where you’ll find steps carved out of the lava stones.
  • El Ceibo (1.12 mi): This is a variation of the main trail, where you take a wide loop to return to las coladas trail, few meters before starting to climb the lava. This is the richest of all the trails, vegetation here is part of a primary forest, so you’ll be covered by high tree branches and have a bigger chance to see some wildlife. This trail’s name comes from a centenary Ceibo Tree, located almost at the middle of the route. This tree is quite impressive and worth to see.
  • Las Heliconias (0.62 mi): The shortest trail, is also the less interesting unless you travel with a very experienced guide who talk you about interesting facts about the secondary forest. This trail is completely populated by canes (again not sugar cane) and tall grass, which happens to be a poor source of food for most species, but if you are lucky enough you could find a lost coati, a snake and some birds.
  • La Peninsula (1.75 mi): This one is located outside the Main Ranger Station area. Like most of the other trails it can be found in Google Maps. It has a particular view of the lake and you can walk to the very border or it. There is a big rancho with benches and restrooms here, bring your food as its a nice place for lunch.

Natural Attractions in Arenal Volcano National Park

Although Arenal Volcano National Park offers only those trails by the main Ranger Station, there are other beautiful places and natural wonders within this park’s area.

  • Cerro Chato: It’s an old volcano covered by the forest with an emerald colored water lagoon in it’s crater. It’s a beautiful place that can be reached from both east and west side. Learn more…
  • El Silencio Trail: Located a few miles from the Ranger Station, offers a beautiful viewpoint to the Volcano and a trail among a dense vegetation of trees. There is a great chance to see some wildlife as it is more private than the Park’s trails.
  • Arenal 1968 Trails: Even closer to the Ranger Station, offers trails that take you to the very 1968 lava flow, famous for it’s destructive power and because was the awakening of Arenal Volcano from centuries of silent sleep. Contains different kinds of vegetation, where you can see the forest recovery, a lagoon and the closest viewpoint to the volcano. Learn more…
Ceibo Tree at El Ceibo Trail
Lake view from Las Coladas Viewpoint

Activities Nearby Arenal Volcano National Park

14 Comments

  • tom Deet on February 29, 2016 9:56 am Reply

    how long is it from Liberia to arenal

    • Javier Salazar on February 29, 2016 10:17 am Reply

      Hi Tom! It’s about 150km or 93mi, it takes about 2,5 hours across beautiful scenic route around Arenal Lake.

  • Andy on March 18, 2016 11:50 am Reply

    Is there a way to purchase the $15 pp tickets in advance?

    • Javier Salazar on March 18, 2016 12:06 pm Reply

      Hi Andy, unfortunately National Parks service is quite prehistoric in that. You have to pay $15pp to the ranger in the entrance and that has to be in cash.

  • Emily on May 8, 2016 3:42 pm Reply

    What does the $15 include? Does this allow you to hike right up to the volcano or are you limited to certain things? Thank you :)

    • Javier Salazar on May 8, 2016 4:35 pm Reply

      Hi Emily! It’s actually ilegal and dangerous hiking up to the volcano crater if that’s what you mean. Although your entrance include access to the whole park, it’s strictly recommended that you remain within the indicated trails, whose mayor highlights are the Centenary Ceibo Tree and two viewpoints at 1992’s lava flows.

  • JG on May 14, 2016 6:39 pm Reply

    What hours of the day does the park operate throughout the week?

    • Javier Salazar on May 14, 2016 6:43 pm Reply

      Hi JG, the Park is open from 8am to 4pm, Monday through Sunday.

  • Linda on May 26, 2016 7:48 am Reply

    How much can can you expect in the Arenal Volcano park area during July ?

    • Javier Salazar on May 26, 2016 9:04 am Reply

      Hi Linda,

      You can expect a lot of tourists as July aligns with many countries summer vacations, including Costa Rica. Weather is mostly sunny, although some days it might rain during the morning or the evening. It gets harder to see animals when there’s to much people in the park, so you may want to try El Silencio Trail, a private wildlife reserve within the limits of Arenal Volcano National Park. You have better chances to see wildlife, specially birds, and it is not as trendy as the National Park, here you can expect less people in the trails. The only thing missing at El Silencio are the view points over the old lava flows, although there is one very impressive view point to the volcano. We’ll be adding El Silencio Trail to our tour shop soon, I’ll let you know with a reply to your comment when it is up.

  • Nhutrang Pho on July 7, 2016 7:31 pm Reply

    Is there parking fee? Can you get a guide at the entrance? Is it good to drive from San Jose to arsenal?

    • Javier Salazar on July 8, 2016 8:15 am Reply

      Hi Pho! There’s no parking fee, you get it granted when you pay your entrance. There is 1 guide (maybe 2), so staff is very limited and you may have luck or not to hire one. San Jose to Arenal drive takes about 2 to 3 hours, so if you come very early you’ll be able to make a lot during the day before having to return to San Jose. Even better is at least spending one night in Arenal, since there are lots of nice places to see.

  • Nhutrang Pho on July 7, 2016 7:35 pm Reply

    What is the weather like from 8/18 on? Would you recommend a tour guide for a family of six people? Does access to the park allow us to walk on the hanging bridges?

    • Javier Salazar on July 8, 2016 8:53 am Reply

      Weather is very hard to tell for Arenal, even our national weather institute said they can’t accurately anticipate what is going to happen, but rains are expected to be normal in August (which means short duration rains in the morning or evening or none) and to be a little more dry during September.

      When you go to public places with high visitation like Arenal Volcano National Park or Mistico Hanging Bridges it is definitely recommended to hire a guide. Imagine yourself walking around seen trees and plants that might be not relevant to you at all (unless you are a biologist/botanist) and lets say you are even lucky to spot some monkeys in the trees and a coati digging in the forest (you might or might not know the name of this raccoon like creature). But with a good guide, you’ll know which of those plants in the forest are important, what are their leaves used for, which animals depend on them, the same with trees. A guide will tell you what specie are those monkeys you see, how many monkey species you can find in Costa Rica and possibly some funny or interesting facts about them. Plus their trained vision will give you the chance to spot animals that are harder to see like: birds, bats, snakes, frogs, bugs, even sloths, which because of their camouflage pass unaware for most visitors. If you visit the National Park I encourage you to hire a guide, as otherwise you’ll miss geological and historical information about Arenal Volcano that isn’t written anywhere.

      Arenal Volcano National Park has no hanging bridges, you have to go to a private reserve to enjoy Hanging Bridges, which could be “Mistico Hanging Bridges” or “Sky Walk”.

      I hope you find this useful!

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