Top 10 Explosive Facts About Arenal Volcano

You never know when a sleeping volcano will wake up, so this made it all the more surprising that this stratovolcano in the northwestern part of Costa Rica started making noise in the 1960s.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Arenal Volcano, one of the most fascinating attractions in this Central American country.

1. It’s located just near a famous forest in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano is an active andesitic stratovolcano which is located in the province of Alajuela, one of the 7 provinces that make up the country of Costa Rica. It’s located within the district of La Fortuna in the canton of San Carlos of that province.

The mountain is located next to one of the other famous tourist spots in Costa Rica called the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The fascinating volcano is situated just to the northwest of this popular biological preserve.

Since Costa Rica is a relatively small country, the capital San José is also not too far away and is situated at about 90 kilometers (56 miles) to the southeast of the volcano’s peak.

Arenal volcano fun facts
The volcano and its surroundings / Bonniespics /

2. It’s part of a national park that features trails through lava fields

The volcano is surrounded by dense forests and lava fields and is located within a national park with the same name. This park is officially known as the “Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal.”

This park covers about 120 square kilometers (29,700 acres) and is a popular location for birders as most of the country’s 850 beautiful bird species can be found within its borders, including the endangered and extremely colorful resplendent quetzal.

Here you can wander around on trails through lava fields near an active volcano and enjoy the magnificent wonders of nature. You best don’t wander off the trails, though, because these forests are also home to various types of snakes and mighty jaguars.

Arenal volcano forest and lava fields
Forests and lava fields / Christophe Meneboeuf /

3. It’s not the highest mountain in Costa Rica but it has a large crater

The summit of Arenal Volcano reaches a height of 1,670 meters (5,480 feet), which is far from being the highest mountain in Costa Rica. This honor is reserved for Mount Chirripó which reaches an elevation of 3,821 meters (12,536 feet) above sea level.

The most remarkable feature of the volcano is its conical shape which has an immense crater of about 140 meters (460 feet) in diameter. This crater isn’t the only eruptive vent of the volcano.

During eruptions in the previous decades, 3 other craters were created on the western flank of the volcano but only one of these still exists today.

Top section of mount arenal
Top section of the volcano / Christian Haugen /

4. It’s not the only active volcano in Costa Rica but the most active one

Arenal Volcano is both the youngest of the 7 historically active volcanoes in Costa Rica and the most active one. The other volcanoes in the country are:

  • Poás
  • Irazú
  • Miravalles
  • Orosí
  • Rincón de la Vieja
  • Turrialba

It’s estimated that the volcano is about 7,500 years old. This is relatively young and partially explains why it’s so active. Better yet, it’s one of the ten most active volcanoes on the planet.

Arenal volcano in 2006
The volcano in 2006 / Matthew Landry /

5. It erupted for 42 years and only stopped in 2010

Even though it’s one of the most active volcanoes in the world today, this wasn’t always the case. It was actually dormant until the 1960s when it unexpectedly started erupting in the year 1968.

One of the most astounding facts about Arenal Volcano is that it didn’t stop erupting until the year 2010, a period of about 42 years. That’s the tenth-longest eruption on the planet since the 18th century.

Even though over 4 decades is quite long, this isn’t nearly as long as the absolute record-holder, Mount Yasur on the South Pacific Tanna Island which is part of the Republic of Vanuatu. This volcano hasn’t stopped erupting since 1774, quite astounding!

Arenal volcano eruption
The erupting volcano / Scott Robinson /

More interesting facts about Arenal Volcano

6. Arenal Volcano isn’t the only volcano located within the borders of the “Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal.” There’s another one as well called the “Chato Volcano.” This volcano first erupted about 38,000 years ago but its final eruption already dates back to 3,500 years ago which classifies it as an inactive volcano.

7. The volcano goes by a number of other names as well, including “Pan de Azúcar”, “Canaste”, “Volcan Costa Rica”, “Volcan Río Frío,” and “Guatusos Peak.”

8. The volcano is bordered by the largest lake in Costa Rica which is fittingly named “Lake Arenal.” This lake covers an area of 85 square kilometers (33 square miles) and was greatly expanded in 1979 with the construction of the Arenal dam. This is the most important dam in Costa Rica and paramount for the country’s electricity supply.

Arenal volcano from lake arenal
View from Lake Arenal / Andresqsz /

9. The sudden eruption of the volcano happened on July 29, 1968, at 7:30 am. It continuously erupted for several days and buried 15 square kilometers (5.8 square miles) of land under lava and rocks. The 3 small towns of Tabacón, Pueblo Nuevo, and San Luíshas were destroyed in the process.

10. A town b the name of “El Borio” was renamed “la Fortuna.” This has nothing to do with the fact that it was spared because of its location on the east side of the mountain (the destroyed towns were situated on the west) as it was renamed before 1968.

The new name of the town literally translates to “The Fortune” and is a reference to the fertile land in the area which is perfectly suited to grow crops.

Arenal Volcano La Fortuna
The volcano from la Fortuna / Dconvertini /