Hiking Arenal Volcano – Do’s and Don’ts Revealed

The Arenal Conservation Area encompasses 16 protected reserves between Guanacaste and Tilarán mountain ranges, but other geological elements make this area impressive, including Costa Rica’s most popular volcano.

Occupying over 29,600 acres of land, the Arenal Volcano National Park has become one of the most interesting attractions for people visiting this beautiful country. Let’s learn more about this destination.

Hiking Arenal Volcano

Walking Volcanic Trails

Although the 5,357-foot Arenal Volcano is the best-known, the truth is that there’s another similar geological feature in the area: the 3,740-foot Chato Volcano. However, the latter has remained in a dormant state for almost 3,500 years.

The Chato Volcano

The Chato Volcano is considered an important attraction because a collapsed crater has formed a beautiful lagoon where tourists can take beautiful pictures (that’s what I did!).

The Arenal Volcano

Why is the Arenal Volcano more popular? Well, it’s been the most active volcano in the modern history of Costa Rica. Additionally, lava flows have been consistent since the 60s.

A Summary of its History

Arenal Volcano Summary

Back in 1968, three craters started bursting open along the Arenal volcano’s western side, with “Crater A” measuring 1,000 meters in diameter. Unfortunately, toxic gas and hot rocks spread 12 kilometers, devastating two towns: Tabacón and Pueblo Nuevo. At least 87 people lost their lives.

A few months later, “Crater A” began emitting lava again, remaining in an active state for five years. In 1973, lava found its way out through “Crater C,” which remained active over time.

According to experts, the lava emitted by “Crater C” has an andesite basaltic composition, so it spreads pyroclastic materials and gas emotions when there’s an explosion.

“Crater C” Now

Located along the western side of the Arenal Volcano, “Crater C” is considered an active vent that emits smoke during the day. I could see cinder blocks billowing from the top.

However, this becomes a magical spectacle when night falls. I had the pleasure of watching the vibrant and steaming red lava pouring down the steep sides.

The small town called La Fortuna is just on the eastern flank, so it’s necessary to travel to the other side to see the lava making its way down. I was so lucky because the clouds cover the top of the volcano sometimes, but it didn’t happen that day.

The Arenal National Park

The Arenal National Park

Although I’ve traveled a lot around the world, I think this is one of the most impressive parks I’ve ever seen.

The Arenal National Park is a vast area that encompasses short trails, which pass through lava fields as evidence of previous eruptions and a beautiful secondary forest.

Plus, there’s the impressive La Fortuna Waterfall, which is one of the most magical places I’ve ever seen, and incredible hot springs.

It’s important to note that people working at the park’s ranger station can close any trail or larger portions of the park if there’s a hazard. Experts are always monitoring volcanic activity.

Sectors and Hiking Trails

If you’re visiting the Arenal Volcano National Park, you can explore two sectors: the Lava Fields and the Peninsula Sectors.

Although it’s prohibited to climb Arenal Volcano, both are great destinations if you’d like to walk through the base, lava fields, or the rainforest. These are some of the hiking trails in the area:

– Lava Flow Trail 
– Sendero Las Coladas Trail
– Tucanes Trail 
– El Ceibo Trail

The Role of Arenal in Costa Rica

This area has become a key destination in Costa Rica, contributing greatly to the country’s production. Lake Arenal, another beautiful attraction that I could find at the base of the massive volcano, provides more than 10% of all the nation’s hydroelectric energy.

On the opposite side of Lake Arenal, there are more systems to generate electrical power. Wind farms catch the gusts that whip across one of the area’s mountain ranges.

Also, the volcano provides electricity to Costa Rica, with the Miravalles Volcano Geothermic Plant overseeing operations.

The Area’s Climate

While exploring the area’s hardened lava flows, I discovered that the climate is variable, with temperatures ranging from 21°C to 27.5°C. Also, there’s annual rainfall. The dry season only lasts from February to April.

Animals and Plants You’ll See In This Park

Curious about the fauna and vegetation you can find while exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park? This is what I saw:


  • Snakes
  • Deer
  • Tapir
  • Howler monkeys
  • White-faced monkeys
  • Parrots
  • Brown magpies
  • Orioles


  • Palms and bromeliads
  • Guayabo de monte
  • Ceiba
  • Cirri
  • Bait
  • Laurel
  • Fungi
  • Ferns
  • Higuerones
  • Orchids


Several Arenal hotels, such as the Arenal Observatory Lodge, offer pick-up and drop-off services.

What’s Included?

Packages often include a full meal, a guide, and entrance fees.

What Should You Bring?

For my trip, I brought a camera, a swimsuit, closed-toed shoes, extra clothes, and a light jacket.

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Peter is a digital nomad who largely writes from Asia, Europe, and South America. Always following the "vibe," he sets up shop in hostels and AirBNB's and continues to entertain us with wild stories from life abroad. Ask him anything in our community forum.

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