|Arenal Volcano National Park||| Print ||
The 12,016-hectare Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal lies within the 204,000-hectare Arenal Conservation Area, protecting eight of Costa Rica's 12 life zones and 16 protected reserves in the region between the Guanacaste and Tilarán mountain ranges, and including Lake Arenal. The park has two volcanoes: Chato, whose collapsed crater contains an emerald lagoon surrounded by forest, and the perfectly conical Arenal. The park is most directly accessed from La Fortuna, but is also easily accessed via Tilarán and the north shore of Lake Arenal.
A joint project involving the Canadian International Development Agency and World Wildlife Fund Canada is helping local communities protect buffer zones where the land is under siege by drawing them into ecotourism. Several visitor sites provide toilets and drinking water. And trails and lookout points have been constructed.
The turnoff to the entrance is 3.5 km east of the lake and 2.5 km west of Tabacón. The dirt road leads 1.5 km to the ranger station, tel. 695-5180, fax 695-5982, which sells a small guide ($1) and has restrooms. A dirt road leads north 1.5 km to a parking lot and hiking trails.
An interpretive center has been under construction for several years, two km southwest of the ranger station (but had yet to open at last visit). It will feature a museum with exhibits on vulcanology and local ecology, an auditorium for slide shows, a cafe, and souvenir store. Meanwhile, the Arenal Observatory Lodge (see Accommodation, below) has a small but interesting Museum of Vulcanicity.