You can't open a travel book or tour guide schedule without seeing something about "Volcan Arenal", one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world. It truly is a spectacular sight even if you don't see the lava, which flows regularly, coming down the side. There are endless things to do and see in this area, all of which you can find out about before you come or from the almost endless businesses offering tours. They range from, hanging bridges, zip lines, rain forest hikes, white-water rafting, boat tours and so on.
The one I had never read about however was a trip around the mountain at night to the side where the lava now flows. In 1992 Arenal blow up again this time opening a crater on the side of the top which now makes the lava flow towards the lake and away from most of the hotels that line the road. The trip consisted of a 10 km drive on pavement, an 8 km drive down a dirt road covered in rocks (yes I mean rocks not gravel) and potholes big enough to get lost in and then a 2.5 km hike up to the closest observation point, about 700 m from the volcano. This was a decision we certainly do not regret.
The hike along the well maintained trail was a treat in itself as you listened to the night sounds of the rain forest immersed in total darkness, except for your flashlight to watch you footing with. Our guide was telling the sounds we were hearing as we went along. You could hear a puma off in the distance (glad he stayed there) and the sounds of popcorn popping as Arenal spit out rocks. The last 70 m of the hike was up, over and along lava rocks spewed from the volcano in 1992.
We sat and waited for the show. Unfortunately clouds had moved over the top so we couldn't see but we could hear the boom of the explosion, then the sound of rocks falling, then the cloud would start to light up and soon you'd see the red lava coming down the side of Arenal. It was really something to see but also the sight of tiny bugs lighting up around you as sat up there it was TOTAL darkness. An absolutely great experience, do this hike if you get the chance!!
Volcan Arenal as seen from La Fortuna
The bull ring in La Fortuna with Arenal in the background. They were painting and cleaning
everything up to get ready for their big festival in April.
Main street of La Fortuna, the closest town to the volcano.