Arenál Volcano is an active andesitic strato-volcano in north-western Costa Rica (10.5N, 84.7 W), around 90 km north-west of San José, in the province of Alajuela, canton of San Carlos, and district of La Fortuna. It is the most active and youngest volcano in Costa Rica. Recognized as a volcano since the 19th century, it was known by foreign investigators as Volcán Costa Rica, Rio frio, Canastos Volcano and Cerro de los Guatusos. Scientists have been able to date it back to more that 4000 years ago. The area remained largely unexplored until 1937 when a documented expedition took place to reach the summit.
Once locally known as Cerro Arenál, it was presumed extinct until July 29, 1968 when an earthquake caused it to erupt after approximately 400 years of dormancy. The eruption wiped out the town of Arenál and killed 67 people. It lasted for several days, and during that time, it destroyed crops, property, livestock, and forests. 15 square kilometers were buried, and the explosion affected over 232 square kilometers. The eruption caused three new and active craters to form. Before the eruption, there was a wide variety of plant and wildlife on the mountain. It has been active since the explosion and can be reported to have minor eruptions every 5-10 minutes.
Arenál rises 1633 meters above sea level and overlooks Lake Arenál; both are part of Arenál Volcano National Park. As the country's most active volcano, Arenál's eruptions are strombolian in nature, being frequent but moderate and can be viewed without danger as long as the viewers are behind the safety perimeter. This constant activity and minimal danger makes Arenál a popular tourist destination, especially at night because the lava and incandescent rocks make a spectacular sight. This is one of seven historically active Costa Rican volcanoes including Poás, Irazu, Mravalles, Orosi, Rincón de la Viaja, and Turrialba.
A variety of tours to Arenál are included on this web site.
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Carol Calkins, Los Gringos Locos, S.A.
Last updated on December 18, 2009
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