Standing at 1,670m tall, it’s impossible to miss Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica’s largest active volcano. The enormous volcano dominates the surrounding area, which includes Costa Rica’s largest lake, Lake Arenal, and the town of La Fortuna, which was my base for the next two days.
The slumbering giant’s been quiet these past few years, having last erupted in 2010. But between 1968 – when it burst into life after 500 dormant years – and 2010, the volcano was a hive of activity.
Most of Arenal Volcano is closed to the public, but the surrounding area is home to hiking trails and activity centres where you can have a go at activities and water sports such as mountain biking, kayaking, quad bike racing and horse riding.
One of the best places for hiking is Arenal Volcano National Park, which covers some 26,900 acres around the lower flanks of the volcano and has a number of well-laid out hiking trails to explore. It was here we decided to spend our first morning in the area.
We set off along a well-trodden path through the jungle, stopping constantly to look at the wildlife around us. The park is home to lots of interesting and unusual plants and flowers, as well as some intriguing creatures. One of the most curious animals we saw was a large black bird that looked like a turkey sitting in the trees. I was also delighted when we spotted a tarantula, which was doing its best to camouflage itself among some leaves.
There were also lots of leafcutter ants walking across the paths (above), which meant we had to be really careful where we stood. It was fascinating watching the ants at work as they diligently carried leaves bigger than themselves to their nests. The ants were amazing and I could have spent ages watching the clever, hard-working insects.
We walked through the park until we came to the end of the path, where we climbed some rocks to a viewing platform that overlooks Lake Arenal. The area around the viewing platform was surrounded by black lumps of volcanic rock (above), a stark reminder of the volcano’s immense power and it’s potential to devastate this otherwise tranquil spot.
There was low cloud hanging over the lake (above) as we reached the viewing point, which gave the lake a sense of forboding and mystery. It was a beautiful sight and a great reward at the end of the trail.
After taking lots of photos, we headed back down the path, where at the end of the trail, we decided to hike another shorter trail through the jungle. This path wasn’t as well-trodden as the first path, but I enjoyed having an opportunity to see more of the park’s plants and insects – especially the leafcutter ants, as there were lots of them on this trail.
The trail didn’t take long to hike and we were soon back where we began at the park’s entrance where I spotted a sign (above) that showed the evacuation routes to take in case of an eruption. I really enjoyed my hike around the national park and seeing the fascinating plants and insects that call it home. It was a fantastic place to begin my Costa Rican adventure.