Nuevo Arenal (Alajuela) – Visitors Guide

If you are in Costa Rica driving to La Fortuna from Guanacaste or headed to see the Arenal Volcano, you’ll pass through the little city of Nuevo Arenal. Situated by the serene Lake Arenal, Nuevo Arenal is an adventurer’s haven and a peaceful retreat for nature lovers. This article provides an insider’s look into the best activities, from lake fishing and water sports to exploring local trails and savoring the rich culinary scene.

Nuevo arenal is about a one hour drive to Arenal volcano, making this small town a perfect place to make a pit stop for coffee, use the restroom, or grab a cold beverage.  In fact, here’s a shot of the drive through the main street as you descend down the hill into the town center of Nuevo Arenal.

Main Street Nuevo Arenal
Heading towards La Fortuna from Nuevo Arenal.

Nuevo Arenal Overview

  • Nuevo Arenal emerged in 1978 after the government relocated residents due to the creation of Lake Arenal, offering scenic landscapes, a variety of outdoor activities, and a rich blend of local culture and modern amenities.
  • Lake Arenal is a hub for numerous activities catering to different preferences, including fishing, windsurfing, and nature exploration, with regulations ensuring an undisturbed natural environment.
  • Visitors to Nuevo Arenal can indulge in the town’s diverse culinary landscape with options ranging from traditional Costa Rican dishes to international cuisines and find comfortable accommodations suited to various tastes and budgets.

Exploring the Charm of Nuevo Arenal

Nuevo Arenal view
Our son before breakfast in Nuevo Arenal.

Dive into the rich tapestry of Nuevo Arenal’s past and charm. In 1978, as a response to the need for relocating inhabitants who were uprooted due to the formation of Lake Arenal by a hydroelectric project, this beguiling town was born. Nestled in Costa Rica’s north-central area on Lake Arenal’s northern banks, Nuevo Arenal boasts an idyllic setting characterized by:

  • Well-maintained roads skirting along the lakeshore linking key local points
  • Breathtaking panoramas of both lake and mountainous terrain
  • An array of recreational opportunities including angling, sailing and trekking
  • An inviting town center sprinkled with boutiques, eateries, and places to stay

Nuevo Arenal stands out as an inviting destination, whether you’re drawn to its storied backdrop or looking forward to basking in its serene ambiance.

Following its move during development works that facilitated a robust electricity supply network together with advanced roadways replete with walkways. Nowadays, Nuevo Arenals is acclaimed not only for its engaging historical narrative, but also because it lies conveniently on Route 142. The character-rich locale brims with enjoyable attractions cementing its status as an essential inclusion on any tour through Costa Rica.

The Birth of Nuevo Arenal

The tale of Nuevo Arenal is as captivating as the town itself. When the man-made Lake Arenal was created in 1978, it submerged the original village known as Arenal under its waters. This prompted a government-led initiative to move those who were uprooted by this event, resulting in the establishment of Nuevo Arenal—a community that quite literally rose from beneath a vast artificial lake.

This remarkable backstory stands as evidence of both resilience and flexibility among residents in this quaint settlement. More than merely being a chapter in history, the inception story of what once was marks an emblematic display of communal fortitude and an unwavering commitment to triumph over adverse situations.

Present-Day Nuevo Arenal

Today, Nuevo Arenal stands as a bustling hub that draws an international crowd. The town boasts of a warm and welcoming expatriate community with roots from North America and beyond, contributing to the cosmopolitan ambiance of this Costa Rican locale.

Embracing nature is intrinsic to life in Nuevo Arenal. Encircled by verdant rolling hillsides, quaint rural hamlets, and untouched natural areas, the locals demonstrate their dedication to environmental conservation. Whether savoring authentic Costa Rican dishes at neighborhood eateries or mingling in the great outdoors under pleasant weather conditions, living in Nuevo Arenal epitomizes celebration of the natural world around us.

Unforgettable Lake Arenal Activities

Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal is a gem nestled in Nuevo Arenal, presenting a vast array of options for visitors with varying interests. The untouched beauty and pristine views along Lake Arenal’s shoreline are preserved thanks to strict building regulations that prevent construction near the water’s edge, allowing nature to remain at its purest. For those who desire tranquil pastimes or seek exhilarating outdoor experiences, Lake Arenal caters to all tastes.

Engaging in kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Arenal are among the most sought-after activities that allow adventurers to immerse themselves fully in the serenity and splendor of the lake. There’s an abundance of opportunities waiting at Lake Arenal—let’s dive into all it has available for your next adventure!

Fishing Adventures

Lake Arenal is an angler’s dream, celebrated for its top-notch fishing trips. Those looking to hook the revered Rainbow Bass, also called Guapote in the area, can benefit from the expertise of seasoned professionals like Captain Marc Delvaux, who boasts over a quarter-century of experience on these waters. Both experts and beginners will find that casting lines into Lake Arenal’s embrace by the Lake Arenal Dam creates unforgettable experiences.

At dawn at Lake Arenal, fishermen often prefer techniques such as spinning or casting while opting for trolling or jigging as fish retreat to cooler depths with midday sun. These tours offer all necessary provisions including equipment, bait and even services like catch cleaning alongside snacks and drinks – varying tour options range from volcano/sunset excursions to immersive full-day journeys. Promoting sustainability practices typical across local charters ensures female Bass are released after capture. Meanwhile anglers may retain their other catches which come complete with optional cleaning and filleting services.

Water Sports Galore

Adrenaline enthusiasts will find their match at Lake Arenal, a destination famous for its exceptional windsurfing scene. The lake boasts optimal conditions that are ideal for the sport, including warm waters and the possibility of encountering high swells reaching 5 feet. For those aiming to experience prime windsurfing on Lake Arenal, the best period is from December through April when robust westerly breezes ensure steady wind patterns over the lake.

Beyond just catching gusts with a board and sail, beginners have access to both equipment rentals and lessons to get started on their windsurfing adventure at Lake Arenal. Kitesurfing is gaining traction among water sports enthusiasts due to the strong persistent winds that characterize the region. No matter if you’re well-practiced in harnessing wind power or looking forward to your first taste of it, Lake Arenal stands ready as an excellent venue for both old hands and newcomers alike.

Nature Exploration

If you’re inclined towards terrestrial explorations, the vicinity of Lake Arenal is an enthralling destination for immersing oneself in nature. In the domain of Arenal Volcano National Park, two notable hiking paths – the Forest Trail at Arenal 1968 and the Mirador El Silencio trail – provide awe-inspiring views of both Arenal Volcano and its surrounding lava fields.

These pathways not only afford sweeping landscapes, but also wind through varied ecosystems. Hikers can enjoy wildlife sightings, particularly a multitude of birds near Lake Los Patos and other wooded locales where these excursions commence.

For an experience that delves deeply into nature’s embrace, one can venture on guided tours provided by El Jilguero Ecotourism Project. This tour allows guests to walk amidst cloud forests teeming with life and witness volcanic steam vents up-close—perfect for those desiring a personal connection with Arenals’ unique environment.

Where to Eat in Nuevo Arenal

German Bakery Nuevo Arenal
We stop at the German bakery every trip to Nuevo Arenal before heading to La Fortuna.

Having worked up an appetite from all of the excitement, you’ll find that Nuevo Arenal has a plethora of eateries ready to appease your hunger with its eclectic mix of food offerings. The town is home to a delightful fusion of flavors spanning various cultures such as German, Italian, and authentic Costa Rican cuisines. Whether you’re in search of culinary excellence or just want to indulge in some satisfying fare, the gastronomic landscape in Nuevo Arenal will cater to every palate.

To their delectable menus, each establishment within Nuevo Arenal brings its own unique allure.

  • Health aficionados can delight at La Farmacia Orgánica which offers organic menu selections,
  • Epicureans may gravitate towards the famed Gingerbread Restaurant,
  • And Moya’s Place attracts those eager for diversity with everything from pizzas to artisanal beers.
German Bakery
The Germany Bakery is easy to find and right on the main road.

The exploration doesn’t stop here. We’re going on Investigation into what makes Neuevo Arenal’s food scene truly tantalizing.

Local Cuisine

Immersing oneself in the culinary culture of a location is an excellent way to engage with it, and this is certainly true for Nuevo Arenal. This town provides a plethora of authentic Costa Rican cuisine options. Signature entrees include casado – which combines rice and beans accompanied by assorted sides – as well as olla de carne, which consists of a substantial beef stew brimming with vegetables.

Waking up to breakfast in Nuevo Arenal means savoring gallo pinto, a delicious combination of rice and black beans that’s considered essential fare. For those looking for something tasty to munch on or add alongside their meal, there’s no shortage of choices like chicharrones (crunchy fried pork skins) or empanadas filled with cheese, meat or beans. No doubt about it. The wide-ranging flavors available are set to delight anyone’s palate within this township.

International Flavors

Nuevo Arenal offers a gastronomic adventure that spans the globe. Among the restaurants contributing to this international scene are Los Platillos Voladores and Casa Italia, both of which specialize in Italian cuisine. Their menus feature an array of homemade dishes including Pasta alla norma, Bolognese sauce-slathered pasta, creamy carbonara, pillowy gnocchi, stuffed ravioli, and hearty lasagna.

For those with a hankering for German flavors, head to Tom’s Pan German Bakery. Conveniently situated close to well-frequented grocery stores in town, this bakery showcases delectable delights such as:

  • apple strudel
  • twisted pretzels
  • assorted bread varieties
  • savory sausages

We always make a stop at the German bakery! It’s very unique and has it’s own charm in this

Yet Nuevo Arenal’s culinary offerings extend beyond just Italian and German tastes. They also encompass other global cuisines at establishments like Le Bistro where one can enjoy fusion meals featuring Greek influences among others—highlighting the town’s eclectic food culture. To me, it’s incredible that so many foreigners decided to set up shop in the small town of Nuevo Arenal and bring international cuisine to such an off the beaten path part of Costa Rica!

Where to Stay in Nuevo Arenal

View of Lake Arenal
You will always have the view of Lake Arenal in your backdrop as you pass through Nuevo Arenal!

After a day filled with adventure, it’s delightful to return to an inviting and cozy space for relaxation. The town of Nuevo Arenal is home to several enchanting lodging options that include:

  • Hotel Los Héroes
  • Chalet Nicholas
  • Casa Gisela
  • Villa Decary
  • Gingerbread Hotel & Restaurant

There’s a diverse selection available when considering where to stay in Nuevo Arenal.

Nuevo Arenal caters to every kind of visitor, offering accommodations ranging from quaint bed & breakfasts to distinctive hotels. It’s worth taking a closer look at the hospitable offerings provided by this welcoming town.

Bed & Breakfast Experiences

Vacation rentals, such as bed & breakfasts, serve as a perfect retreat for those in search of a cozy atmosphere reminiscent of home. Casa Donna Rosa B&B boasts roomy accommodations furnished with all the necessary amenities and balconies that present an excellent vantage point for observing wildlife. This is enhanced by its tranquil garden and inviting petite pool designed to offer visitors peace and relaxation. In contrast, Lucky Bug Bed & Breakfast provides various pricing options suitable for different budget levels without compromising on its delightful charm.

Opting to stay at a bed & breakfast while visiting Nuevo Arenal allows you to immerse yourself in local culture and engage with both residents and other travelers alike—adding an intimate dimension that enriches your overall journey.

Unique Hotel Stays

Should you fancy a stay at a hotel, the town of Nuevo Arenal offers an array of cozy hotels equipped with various features and comforts to cater to each visitor’s needs, promising an unforgettable accommodation experience.

With its themed rooms and two independent bungalows, the Gingerbread Hotel & Restaurant delivers an exceptional hotel experience. Meanwhile, Hotel Los Heroes has made its comeback by providing guests with appealingly quaint rooms that are decorated in traditional style. Nuevo Arenal boasts distinctive hotels ready to accommodate different preferences and financial plans, whether one desires opulence or understated charm.

Day Trips and Nearby Attractions

Nuevo Arenal serves as an ideal hub for venturing out into the nearby attractions, thanks to its strategic location. La Fortuna is conveniently close and invites visitors with a variety of leisure pursuits, while Lake Cote caters to those seeking serenity amidst nature and also holds renown for being the site where a well-known UFO sighting was captured on camera.

Day-visitors from Nuevo Arenal have abundant chances to indulge in thrill-seeking adventures and tranquil encounters with nature by embarking on tours originating from this locale. Let’s delve into what these destinations have in store.

La Fortuna Excursions

A journey to Nuevo Arenal would not be complete without a visit to La Fortuna. This destination is renowned for its thrilling adventure offerings, such as zip-lining adventures, exploration across hanging bridges, and educational guided tours of nature within the context of the Arenal Combo Tours.

An additional highlight in the area is the stunning Ro Fortuna Waterfall located in Arenal Volcano National Park. Here you’ll encounter an impressive display of beautiful waterfalls that can be reached by descending approximately 530 steps on a well-kept trail.

To relax after a day filled with discovery, guests have the option to indulge at thermal spring resorts like Tabacon, which provides an opulent experience amidst rainforest scenery, or The Springs Resort & Spa known for its comprehensive selection of natural hot springs and chlorinated pools.

Lake Cote Visit

If you’re seeking a peaceful getaway, Lake Cote is an ideal destination. Renowned for its untouched beauty and famous as the site of the acclaimed 1971 UFO sighting, it’s also the largest freshwater lake in Costa Rica.

Taking a day trip to Lake Cote from Nuevo Arenal is picturesque, but requires driving through rugged terrain that often includes gravel paths and muddy stretches. Hence, having access to a 4×4 vehicle is essential. The journey rewards visitors with several spots offering serene views of nature without any modern-day interruptions.

It’s important to note that there are no convenience facilities like gas stations around Lake Cote nor secure areas due to threats such as thefts, which makes camping ill-advised.

Practical Information for Visitors

Are you considering a journey to Nuevo Arenal? To ensure your preparation is spot-on, here’s some valuable advice. There are multiple modes of transport that make reaching Nuevo Arenal quite easy. When you arrive, paying attention to the local weather conditions and packing appropriate attire will be crucial.

Let’s delve deeper into these subjects for a clearer understanding.

Getting There

Arriving at either San Jose Airport or Liberia Airport gives you a variety of transport options to reach Nuevo Arenal. From the San Jose hub, your choices include:

  • An expedited flight lasting only 36 minutes
  • Utilizing both bus and taxi services
  • Taking the wheel yourself for a scenic drive
  • Booking with a towncar provider

Flight connections from San Jose to Arenal are made more convenient by airlines like SANSA and World Ticket, streamlining travel directly into Nuevo Arenal.

If you’re disembarking at Liberia Airport within Guanacaste, Nuevo Arenal is accessible via a two-hour car journey. Options available here comprise:

  • Boarding public transit systems
  • Joining group shuttle services
  • Engaging private vehicle operators
  • Self-driving in your own hired automobile

Nevertheless, if your itinerary doesn’t have you on the move early enough to catch the buses — given their restrictive timetable — relying on public transportation might not be advisable.

Weather and Packing Tips

The weather in Nuevo Arenal is typically reminiscent of spring throughout the year, with temperatures during the day reaching into the 80s and evenings cool enough to often negate the need for air conditioning. Nevertheless, there can be a range in temperature from about 21°C at its lowest to upwards of 33°C at its peak, along with changing weather patterns that may bring partly cloudy skies and occasional afternoon rain showers.

Due to being near the equator, it’s common for Nuevo Arenal to experience high UV index readings. It’s important for visitors to come prepared with:

  • sunscreen offering strong SPF protection which should also be safe for reefs
  • a waterproof jacket suitable for rainy periods
  • a backpack designed for daily use on tours or when exploring attractions
  • an insulated flask or bottle
  • an absorbent towel made from microfiber material
  • a compact emergency medical kit

It’s advisable these fun essentials are packed especially if you’re considering stopping by local hardware stores while visiting.

For attire suggestions: lightweight shorts, sleeveless tops, and sandals are perfect options when heading toward beachfront areas. In contrast, wearing shoes that fully enclose your feet alongside long trousers accompanied by either light jackets or sweaters is recommended within urban settings as well as during nighttime outings.  I also made a full guide on packing for Costa Rica in general.

Nuevo Arenal Tours

There are many fun things to do around Nuevo Arenal, but one of the most exciting things you can do is go on tours. There are many that you can partake in, including:

  • Visit the Arenal Hanging Bridges
  • Visit Ecotermales Hot Springs
  • Take the Cano Negro Riverboat Safari
  • Go Ziplining at the Canopy
  • Do the Ultimate Waterfall Adventure Rappel with Pure Trek
  • Hike the Rio Celeste
  • Go on a tour of coffee plantations

You won’t find any shortage of hot springs in this area!  There are many to check out, which I talk about more in depth on this page.


Nuevo Arenal embodies not only a place to visit, but also an adventure into a realm of breathtaking scenery, excitement, and cultural wealth. It’s the perfect spot for those in pursuit of exhilarating outdoor pursuits, exquisite gastronomy or just tranquil moments within peaceful surroundings. Prepare yourself for an extraordinary trip to this slice of Costa Rican heaven because what is life without exploring unknown territories and embracing novel experiences?

Frequently Asked Questions

What activities are available at Lake Arenal?

Lake Arenal offers a diverse range of activities to delight in, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and fishing. The area provides scenic hiking trails for exploration.

Indeed, it appears there are ample opportunities for everyone to find something they enjoy.

What cuisines can I find in Nuevo Arenal?

Nuevo Arenal boasts an eclectic array of culinary options, encompassing traditional Costa Rican fare, authentic Italian recipes, and delightful German delicacies. The region presents a fusion of both local and international gastronomy.

Indulge in the pleasure of discovering this diverse food scene!

What accommodations are available in Nuevo Arenal?

In the vicinity of Nuevo Arenal, a variety of lodging options await travelers. Among these are charming bed & breakfasts and distinctive hotels like Casa Donna Rosa B&B, Lucky Bug Bed & Breakfast, Gingerbread Hotel & Restaurant, and Hotel Los Heroes.

What are some nearby attractions to Nuevo Arenal?

You can continue your drive to the Arenal Volcano, which most people do.  You can also check out Lake Cote, conveniently located within close proximity to Nuevo Arenal.

What should I pack for a trip to Nuevo Arenal?

Ensure you include sunscreen with a high SPF that is also safe for reefs, along with a raincoat, daypack, vacuum flask, microfiber towel, and compact emergency medical kit in your packing list.

When selecting attire, bring an assortment of beach-appropriate and urban outfits such as cut-offs, sleeveless shirts, thong sandals alongside shoes that fully cover the toes, trousers, and a lightweight coat.

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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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