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What A Fortune!


Distinctive landscapes, a full list of activities and attractions, beautiful thermal spas, a majestic active volcano, multiple opportunities for animal interactions, several types of forests, the largest lake in Costa Rica, a multitude of waterfalls and exuberant gardens are just some of what Arenal offers to make you fall in love with it. And the list goes on and on…

The action in the area is centered in the town of La Fortuna, which has been transformed from a quiet cattle-raising community into a dynamic tourist pole over the last 30 years. This pole also includes the shore of Lake Arenal, the Arenal National Park, the town of El Castillo and the slopes of the Arenal volcano where many resorts, restaurants and tourist attractions can be found.

Since the 80’s, several of the “haciendas” (ranches), many with thermal hot springs on their land have been converted into hotels or spas. In turn, what used to be the usual cattle rancher quickly became a tourist entrepreneur. 

Despite the vast differences in the two occupations they quickly learned. These men, country folk with an understanding and vision for the future, have managed the abundant beauty of the place in a respectful manner and have given life to a very hospitable, sustainable and efficient tourism platform.

Asdrúbal Villegas of the local Chamber of Tourism (CATUZON) explains that one of the key factors in La Fortuna is just that. “Over 90% of the hotel and service operations are in the hands of Costa Rican entrepreneurs with local roots. That is why the subject of environmental and social sustainability has developed here in such a natural and spontaneous manner.  We grew up here and we want our grandkids to get to see and enjoy this in the future.”


In addition to the volcano, the lake and the national park, there are dozens of other attractions in the area.

Exuberant flora and fauna, adventure tours and restful activities highlight just some of the great recreation that is available in conjunction with good service and amazing views. 

Arenal National Park  
This 29,959 acre National Park is the heart of the Arenal-Tilaran Conservation Area, which in total protects some 222,400 acres of forest in the areas of Monteverde, Arenal, Tenorio and Miravalles. The varied topography of Arenal´s 4 different types of forests
(Pre-mountainous Humid, Rainy Mountainous, Tropical Humid and Lower Mountainous Rainy) greatly enriches the range of biodiversity and landscapes offered. It is easy to take hikes thanks to excellent trails and available tour guides.   There is a plethora of flora and fauna varieties to be seen in addition to very close views of the volcano.

Arenal Lake   

 It used to be a smaller lagoon until the surrounding area was flooded to create a hydroelectric plant in the 1970’s.   Thanks to a dam, the influx from 4 rivers and several streams the small lagoon grew to 34 sq. miles in just three years.  Currently, the lake is one of the main attractions as tourists and locals alike enjoy sport fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, stand up paddle and boat tours. The lake is located just 10.5 miles from La Fortuna and 4 miles from the volcano.

Arenal Volcano (5,358 feet)    
Less than 3000 years old, it is considered a very young volcano. Curiously, it was believed to be inactive until it’s eruption in 1968, which also triggered an explosion of tourism. First it started with groups of scientists who came to study the volcano and later with an influx of amateurs and the curious at heart.  These first tourists began to spread the news about the beauty and exuberance of the area and since the 1980’s the volcano has been one of the major tourist attractions in the country.  It’s most recent eruption was in 1992 although it continues to release some lava and fumaroles on a daily basis.
With close to 10 different thermal centers and most hotels boasting spas and hot water pools, Arenal is an area where relaxation fanatics are sure to feel 100% satisfied. 


For those seeking adventure, everything imaginable can be found here:  Rafting on several rivers, countless canopy tours, bungee jumping, climbing to a sleeping volcano (Cerro Chato), cave tours, four wheeler trails, horseback rides, canyoning, tubing and mountain biking, all of which added to the already mentioned lake activities, create a list of inexhaustible options.

Animal Contact
In addition to the sighting of a large variety of mammals, birds and reptiles in their natural habitat, there are many places with frogs, serpents, birds, crocodiles, butterflies and other insects on exhibit.  The Arenal area is a great location for animal contact and a perfect site for photography lovers.  The list of mammals includes tapirs, jaguars, tepezcuintles, deer, wild boars, coatis and 3 varieties of primates
(White-headed Capuchin, Mantled Howler and Spider monkeys).  Among the birds: macaws, several types of parrots, woodpeckers, orioles and hummingbirds stand out, as well as the famous quetzals.


La Fortuna   

 This town is the strategic center and the heart of tourism in the area. There are dozens of restaurants, hotels with great views of the volcano and all the services and amenities one might need.Its proximity to the volcano and the lake make La Fortuna an urban oasis with the style of an authentic tourist town. Its residents proudly care for its church and central park filled with beautiful gardens, with an imposing view of the volcano as the backdrop.


Several waterfalls in the area compliment the forest landscape and provide the opportunity for a refreshing dip during various different tours.  The La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the most impressive and also one of the most popular outings in the area.


Caño Negro Refuge     

This refuge is composed of 24,710 acres protecting the basin of the rivers Barranca and Ciruelas. This area has the reputation of being the most biodiverse site in Costa Rica, where it’s easy to observe alligators, sloths, turtles, monkeys, iguanas and an extensive diversity of birds.

  Venado Caves
The Venado Caves (Deer Caves) are a network of tunnels, vaults and corridors that in total extends over 8,202 ft.  The traversable 2,600 ft. route is quite humid so be careful with your camera. The cave trails take you through a subterranean estuary with water dripping from above, and passages through narrow stretches, climbing rocks and small waterfalls.  By the limestone rock formations one can find evidence of fossils and traces of corals formed over 30 million years ago, when Central America and these caves were still under the ocean.


El Castillo area    

 This small village, tucked away between the lake and dense forests is made up of  eco-lodges, restaurants, ranches and several tourist attractions worth visiting.  One can arrive over land or by crossing the lake on a boat. El Castillo offers nice views of the lake and the volcano and excellent opportunities for encounters with animals and rural tourism.  As a lodging locale it’s perfect for those looking for a quiet, tranquil stay.



 In the Arenal area there is rain practically every day of the year, particularly in the mornings.  

However, due to the temperature that wavers between 72°and 83° Fahrenheit in the shade, the rain is really not uncomfortable.

With over 100 hotels, this area has a very wide array of lodging options, ranging from $20 to $300 per night.  The same goes for tours, which start from as low as $10.

This means that one’s budget will not be prohibitive…there are options available for all income levels. 

Or as they proudly say around here…

‘‘There is Fortune for everyone!”




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utopia magazine and travel guide

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