On the map, the Arenal National Park is located in the lower central part of our northern plains. The 7,413 acres (3,000 hector) Arenal National Park is settled within the 501,623 acres (203,000 hector) Arenal Conservation Area, which is protecting 8 of Costa Rica’s 12 life zones and 16 reserves in the region between the Guanacaste and Tilarán mountain ranges. The park contains two volcanoes, the very active Arenal Volcano and the very dormant Cerro Chato, and is located near the 25 mile long Lake Arenal. The lake was extended to 3 times its original size in 1979 to house Costa Ricas largest hydroelectric dam that produces 70% of the countrys electricity. The lake is very famous among local fishermen and travelers, because its waters are loaded with rainbow bass. This fish is known by the locals as Guapote (handsome one). It is not only beautiful, but very flavorful as well. Lake Arenal is also one of the world’s top destinations for travelers to enjoy windsurfing and sail boarding, due to its year-round steady and strong winds. There is a small but bustling windsurfing community, containing schools for amateur travelers, at the northwest end of the lake. Although, the winds are year around, the prime time of year for the serious windsurfers to visit is during the windy season which is from November to April. Costa Rica’s Arenal National Park gets its name from the Arenal Volcano, one of the world’s ten most active volcanoes, and the most active volcano in Costa Rica. Arenal Volcano has been spewing lava regularly since breaking its 400-year dormancy from a fateful earthquake on July 29, 1968. As a result of the colossal blast, that was felt as far away as Boulder, Colorado, two of the local villages (Tabacón and Pueblo Nuevo) were wiped out, along with their entire populations. Arenal Volcano is a near picture-perfect cone shape, and a must-see for anyone visiting Costa Rica. In fact, it is one of Costa Ricas biggest tourist attractions. The picturesque Arenal Volcano is the major highlight of this new national park that opened its doors in September of 1991. Lava discharge and eruptions have been regular, and on virtually any day tourist can see smoky columns of ash and blocks of rocks from eruptions, known as strombolian activity, descending down the elevated slope (provided it isnt clouded over). Some days the volcano blows numerous times in an hour, ejecting car-size rocks, chloride gases, sulfur dioxide, ash, and red-hot lava. Located on the western side of the volcano is its active vent, and with the normal easterly wind, it blows most of the effects westward. Eruptions and explosions, however, happen on all sides of the volcano. On nights where Arenal Volcano is not surrounded by clouds, vacationers can enjoy fiery firework displays of lava and red illuminated boulders. Along with the lake, the Arenal National Park is surrounded by a plethora of hot springs heated by the peak of the volcano. The weather can be erratic with clouds covering the volcano at a moment’s notice, hiding any view travelers could have had. This is truer during the wet season. Visitors stand a reasonable chance in the dry season, although, clear nights are still possible at this time. Morning hours seem to be a better time to witness the top before the afternoon clouds arrive. Travelers should know that viewing Volcan Arenal is never a sure thing and in all actuality, the worse time for viewing Volcan Arenal is during December and January. We know, we live here. The Arenal National Park will get travelers the closest (legal) viewing of Volcan Arenal, and trust me, it’s close enough.
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