Earthquakes, tsunamis, and seismic activity regularly shake the world. Volcanic eruptions, lava flows and ash falls spread over newspapers and invade explosively on your screens. In Costa Rica, the Arenal volcano is a must for local tourism. But, do you really know it? Beyond its ideal shape that is typical of the perfect volcano, its influence exceeds the visual pleasure. Its artificial lake, peacefully installed not far from the crater, participates largely in the national electricity production, thanks to the dam. So, want to follow us on this trip to the heart of magma? Arenal volcano, tourism, seismic and economic activity, are all major roles for Costa Rica.
Arenal Volcano | One of the many faces of Costa Rica
Local landscape figure
Province of Alajuela, canton of San José, the tropical forest clears its morning mist, but it is there, in the background. Rising to 1,663 meters, the 7,000-year-old Arenal Volcano remains the last of Costa Rica’s volcanoes. In the north-east of the country, between the Cordillera de Tilaran and the plains of San Carlos, it’s the form of a perfect conical volcano which makes it recognizable among all and makes it a must for local tourism. Its composition, consisting of layers of lava, gives it the epithet of stratovolcan. At its feet, the small town of La Fortuna enjoys this exceptional panorama and serves as a base camp for hikers.
The Arenal Volcano National Park, created in 1991 and extended in 1992, also hosts the Chato Volcano (1140 m) which has been inactive for more than 3,000 years.
Explosive eruptions between 1968 and 2012
After three centuries of calm, the Arenal volcano woke up on the morning of July 9, 1968. From the three gaping craters, a pyroclastic lava of carbon dioxide and hot rocks erupts over 12 km. The villages of Pueblo Nuevo and Tabacon are buried and 87 people lose their lives. In 1973, the lava of crater “C” composed of andesite basalt released smoke during the day and red lava at night. This show was then the subject of specialized hikes.
The Arenal volcano was considered active until 2012, with a significant seismic slowdown since 2010. Now, the landscape of the province of Alajuela is marked by these three craters of volcano at rest without any eruptive activity.
Arenal | For biodiversity lovers
Under the influence of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, days around Arenal range from 70 to 82 °F while precipitation ranges from 3,500 to 5,000 mm. So here we are typically in the midst of a tropical climate with its riches. Wealth or exclusivity?
Did you know that some birds only live in this area?
53% of Costa Rica’s 500 volatile species fly over the volcanic region to the delight of enlightened tourists and ornithologists. Among them, the parrots, the Conure de Finsch or Aztec, but also the Touit costaricensis, the hummingbirds, the quetzals, the Grand Tinamou, the Tinamou of Bonaparte, the Teal with blue wings, the Ortalide with grey head, the Penelope variegated, the Penelope unicolor, the Superb Frigate, the Onoré of Mexico, the Tantalum of America, the milan of Cayenne, the hawks, the Macagua laughing, the Word Word of wet forest, etc. You want to see more? Let’s go to the foot of the volcano!
And at eye level, you will tell me, what do we find? Tapir, anteater, howler monkey, white-nosed Coati, sloth and stags enter the Arenal forest. On the ground, some reptiles crawl here and there, such as boas or terciopelo.
An incomparable flora
The soil enriched with minerals by lava flows promotes the diversity of flora. Some 12,000 species of plants take root there. Porcelain roses, cocoa trees, banana and orange trees rub shoulders. Rain trees punctuate the dominant green with its fuchsia touches. No less than 280 varieties of orchids out of the 1,400 present in Costa Rica grow only on this site.
Volcan Arenal | Major economic player
Arenal | Official Renewable Energy Provider
But Arenal is not just a geographic and tourist star. The volcano plays a vital economic and energy role. On its eponymous lake, the Sangregado dam, built in 1974, stands as the major asset of the Proyecto project of Riego Arenal-Tempisque (PRAT). 3 hydroelectric power plants contribute to the country’s production.
The constant presence of wind allows the establishment of wind turbines (18 farms including Tierras Morenas on the side of the volcano), today it is the 2nd source of electricity production in terms of installed capacity.
Geothermal power plants offer the best annual performance because they operate continuously. The underground heat emitted by seismic activity already generated 14% of the electricity in 2012.
Photovoltaic and biomass plants contribute to 1% of the consumption.
In the end, Costa Rica is virtually autonomous in green electricity production, 99% at the end of 2021.
Costa Rica aims Carbon Neutrality
President Carlos Alvarado wants to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible.
Some zones outside the national park are under local agreements. For example, an area exploited in exchange for preserving a large forest surface. Costa Rica, which has a surplus in oxygen production and therefore in carbon dioxide capture, even exports oxygen to some deficit countries.
President Alvarado made his goal clear: “Our will is to end the use of fossil fuels… decarbonization is the goal of our generation and Costa Rica must be the first to achieve it.”
The Climate Action Tracker report confirms “if Costa Rica implements all of the policies mentioned in the New Decarbonization Plan, it could achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Volcanism, but not only
At You Come, we prefer Costa Rica differently. Do you want to escape mass tourism? Perfect! So do we. If La Fortuna, a typical small town, serves as a landmark, we offer itineraries and timetables off the beaten track. Your hikes become a journey into unknown seismic land, each step reveals a little more of Costa Rica. Do you have any idea what the Arenal Volcano offers?
- windsurfing on the lake;
- kite ;
- enjoy the thermal waters;
- try rafting, etc.
As you know, You Come offers you non-standard stays. Conformity does not prevail in our vocabulary. We promote nature-oriented tourism and the visit of the Arenal volcano is a tangible proof, ideally complementary with the scenery of Guanacaste. Want to travel smart? Contact us and become an eco-tourist, an actor of tomorrow’s world.
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