Reached Arenal National Park about mid afternoon from San Jose, a drive filled with roadside stops for – cantinas, fresh fruit vendors, birds and crocodiles – Checked into the hotel and settled into the room with a view – view of the Arenal Volcano. To our dismay, there was cloud cover over the top of the mountain, so visibility was poor. We were told, the volcano was currently taking a Siesta and would come alive soon.
The room we were staying had each room’s back facing the volcano and they were all lined up in a row, poised for a view.
Most of the hotels in Arenal area have their backs facing the volcano, but make sure before you book – pick location over luxury at Arenal, because you want to keep an eye constantly on the volcano as two variables are going against you – 1. The Cloud cover, even if the volcano is erupting, you cannot see it. 2. The eruption timing, the volcano is not constantly oozing lava, it only erupts during certain random time of the day.
All of our daylight on the first day was wasted due to cloud cover on the mountain; Although we indulged in other activities and relaxed. We checked the local forecast and realized that the night time had some window of opportunities, if it erupts. We decided to take turns sleeping so that one of us could keep an eye on the mountain. We left the french door open, that brought cool summer breeze with light rusty smell of gases being emitted from earth. The breeze was from a wind called Papagayo Winds, that travels from Caribbean sea to Pacific over Cordillera de Tilaran mountain ranges of central Costa Rica.
Finally at around 11.30 PM my wife wakes us all up (as it was her convenient first turn!) and we saw the mountain with a red and yellow top in clear dark sky, like a huge fire work display; lava was flowing down from different sides, fountain of lava erupting at the mountain top at random intervals! It was unimaginable to see the wrath of earth between Pacifico and Atlantico, as if the small land that divides it, was constantly bored of being stuck in between.
We quickly ran to our vehicle to drive as close to the base of the mountain as much as possible; reached a bridge on the ravine where there were so many other people watching the live display. We forgot the camera in the hotel room, but the Adrenalin overtook the frustration of missing the camera. It was a moment in my life that I would never forget.
The next day the mountain was still erupting and displayed a beautiful gas cloud with light lava flowing down the mountain that could be seen with naked eyes.
Top Things To Do in Arenal Volcano
- Arenal Volcano National Park (Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal) – Either stay inside the park or on it’s rim with rooms facing the volcano.
- Hot Springs (geyser) – There are many places inside and outside the park that offers fresh geyser pools, some are resort types as well.
- Hike on the mountain – Do a self navigated hike at the foot hills of the mountain, there are many species of birds and rock formations to see.
- Cerro Chato – It is another volcano mountain near Arenal that is also a popular destination.