About a four-hour drive from Costa Rica’s capital of San Jose is the town of La Fortuna.
There’s no better place to see the perfect conical shape of Arenal, an active volcano prone to shooting molten rock high into the air, with lava rolling down the sides. Tourists and locals drive out to several viewpoints to see this nightly spectacle, although it helps if the sky is clear. The weather around La Fortuna is notoriously unpredictable, and many visitors leave disappointed.
Thought to be dormant, the volcano erupted unexpectedly in 1968, destroying a nearby town. Today, Arenal is safely located in a national park, and is the key draw in a town that also features wonderful hot springs, river rafting, caving, horseback riding and other eco-adventures.
The temperamental volcano might be quiet, or spew lava every 5 minutes. Either way, it makes for fantastic photos.
Quick Facts – Costa Rica
Best Time to Visit: June to October
Worst Time to Visit: March/April – dry season brings the clouds that hide the crater.
Average Hotel Rate: Wide range, but $100 a night will have you covered.
Do visit one of the town’s extravagant hot springs complexes
Don’t get too close to the volcano!
Top 10 experiences to try in Costa Rica
1. Watch lava flow from the Arenal volcano
2. Hike to the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
3. Zipline through the rainforest in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
4. Go surfing on the east or west coast
5. Try the delicious roadside ceviche
6. Visit Corcovado National Park
7. Try whitewater rafting in Class 4 rapids
8. Visit the pristine jungle and wetlands of Tortuguero National Park
9. Lose yourself in the hippie town of Montezuma
10. Try canyoning in the waterfalls outside La Fortuna
Closer to Home
Canada has 21 volcanoes considered to be active, although you won’t find anything as spectacular as Arenal’s lava lightshow. One active volcano, the Tseax cone, erupted in 1775 and killed an estimated 2000 people in Northern BC.