Arenal National Park is located about 2 hours north of San Jose, and is best known for its volcanoes and lake, which have made it one of the most visited destinations in Costa Rica. The park has two volcanoes: Chato, whose collapsed crater contains an emerald lagoon surrounded by forest, and the perfectly conical peak of Arenal. The park is most directly accessed from the town of La Fortuna where many hotels can be found.
Arenal Volcano has been considered one of the most active in the country, and was previously been believed to be dormant until a major eruption in 1968 which destroyed a local town. It neighbours Lake Arenal, a picturesque man-made lake built to provide water the the country's largest hydroelectricity project, the Arenal Dam. Arenal is one of the most popular tourist areas in Costa Rica, meaning that there is an excellent choice of hotels, activities and local services, although those looking for peace and seclusion may find it quite busy. Arenal also offers its visitors a wide variety of activities such as hiking at the volcano, walking on the hanging bridges, hot springs (of which many hotels have their own), zip-lining and horseriding opportunities as well.
The area is covered by lowland rainforest, and the weather is often hot and humid (usually between 20-30°C, reducing with altitude). The rainy season lasts from May to December while the dry season runs from January to April. Please note that the volcano is often covered by clouds and getting to see the peak is a matter of luck (the dawn hours are best, before the clouds roll in; seasonally, you stand a reasonable chance in dry season, and less than favorable odds in rainy season).
While exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park, you might spot deer, tapir, howler monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys and snakes, or birds like parrots, orioles and brown magpies. Plants include various species of palms and bromeliads, ceiba, cirri, laurel, higuerones, fungi, orchids, and ferns.
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