Arenal is located about 90 km northwest of San Jose and has become a popular tourist attraction thanks in large part to the massive Arencal Volcano. The town of Arenal has grown considerable over the last 10 years and just recently had the curvy road from San Jose repaved making the drive surprisingly pleasant compared to how harrowing is was before the renovation. The town itself features a number of hotels, shops and resturants and even a bit of nightlife, but most visitors end up staying past the town on the main drag leading closer to the volcano where the most lush resorts are located. Some of these upper scale resorts feature remarkable hot springs fed from the heat of the volcano and make for a "don't miss" attraction. The most notable of these is Tabacon which is the biggest and best of the hot springs featuring several acres of springs as well as several swimming pools, a water slide and a swim-up bar. Although guests at the Tabacon Hotel get in free, day passes are available to the general public for about $30 per person.
Arenal is the most active volcano in Costa Rica. Recognized as a volcano since the 19th century; it was known by foreign investigators as Volcan Costa Rica, Rio Frio, Canastos Volcano and Cerro de los Guatusos. Arenal is the youngest and most active of all the mountains in Costa Rica. Scientists have been able to date it back to more than 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 Arenal (i.e. Mount Arenal) 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 Arenal and killed 87 people. It lasted for several days, and during that time 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.
Arenal rises 1657 metres above sea level and overlooks Lake Arenal; both are part of Arenal Volcano National Park. The country's most active volcano, Arenal's eruptions are strombolian in type, 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 endangerment makes Arenal a popular tourist destination, especially at night (See image), because the lava and incandescent rocks make a spectacular sight. The last major eruption of Arenal occurred on August 23, 2000. Most of the time, the volcano is surrounded by clouds near the tip, and it is touted as good luck to see the whole volcano without clouds. The volcano heats several hot springs nearby, including Tabacon, a popular tourist destination.
This is one of seven historically active Costa Rican volcanoes: Poás, Irazú, Miravalles, Orosí, Rincón de la Vieja [complex], and Turrialba.