Why we love Arenal National Park
La Fortuna, the town at the base of the infamous Arenal Volcano, is typically on most Costa Rican tourist's bucket list. And rightfully so....on a clear day, Arenal, in all it's enormity and exactly-what-you'd-envision-a-volcano-to-look-like, is right there, looming high above the town. It's quite impressive.
However, for all it's beauty, what is most interesting is that many visitors to La Fortuna don't even make it to the National Park at the base fo the volcano. The city itself offers more than it's share of sloth parks, hanging bridges, and thermal waters resorts to keep you plenty busy, all with the view of the volcano - on a clear day - right there. So, why visit the actual National Park, right?
Wrong! We ourselves aren't much for touristy travel spots, but Arenal National Park is a day trip from our host community and may actually be one of our favorite parks in the country so far (not including Corcovado waaay down South). Here's why:
It's got two very managable sectors. Start earlier in the day and you get easily get them both in, and they each present their own unique viewpoints of the area. Make sure to visit them both.
Sector 1 offers several short and relatively easy hiking trails that offer spectacular view points and the chace to pass through some amazing terrain.
-Senedero Ceiba - a 3 kilometer trail that passes through a rainforest before arriving at an incredible 400+ year old Ceiba tree. An entire ecosystem in and of itself, it is both magestic and facinating to take in all the life it holds (both in years and in actual plants, mosses and more!) It's buttress roots could swallow you up they're so high and the branches that extend out over you seem to be no smaller than a semi-container. It's incredible!
-Sendero Coladas - tacks onto the above trail and allows you to venture out of the forest to the rocky base of the volcano. The first time we hiked, it was a brilliantly blue day and the view could not have been better: to our left, the Volcano in it's entirety, lava flows and all. To the right, Laguna Arenal, an immense oblong lake stretching out at it's base.
3. Sector La Peninsula - Sector 2 offers quite a different experience. This entirely paved
trail provides awesome views of the lake before taking you right down to it. On a clear day, the Volcano is entirely visible right to the East and viewing it from the lake's edge is amazing. The lake itself is also spectacular, with endless green foliage, sparkling blue water, large vacation homes, islands, and windmills in the distance. This trail also offers a 2-story tower to climb and take in views from a different vantage point.
Absolutely worth the extra 10-15 minute drive out of town. If your Costa Rican travels plan to take you to La Fortuna, do not miss the chance to check out it's national park!