A brief description of the past and present of one of the most fascinating volcanoes of Costa Rica.
The perfect conical Arenal volcano is located within the limits of the Arenal Volcano National Park about 7 kilometers (3.6 miles) west of La Fortuna in the northern region of Costa Rica. For many years it was considered extinct. However, on , it awoke fiercely, entering into a phase of constant eruptions that continued for the following 42 years to finally end in .
The Birth of Arenal Volcano
Geological studies indicate that the Arenal volcano is approximately 7,000 years old. At present, rises up to 1,750 meters (5,741 feet) above sea level and covers an area of nearly 33 square kilometers (12.7 square miles).
There is not enough information from the ancient period detailing early volcanic activity, however, in the oral stories of the Guatuso natives who populated this area, it was said that the god of fire lived in the interior of the volcano.
In recent times, the popular telling said that before 1968 people believed it was a mountain. However, according to historical texts, it was already associated with a volcano since the 19th century. Along all these years, it was also known by different names but finally as Volcano Arenal. Although there are nearly no written or oral records of activity in the past, the scientists estimate that it has resting periods that vary between 300 and 400 years separating every new eruptive stage.
The , pointed a new awakening for the volcano. That morning a very violent eruption launched big rocks, ashes and lava, destroying everything and sadly, taking the lives of 87 people who lived in the surrounding villages. Since then, the volcano maintained eruptive phases that increased or decreased periodically over the years.
Later on, the volcanic activity began to decline significantly from the year and finally ended at the beginning of .
Is the Arenal Volcano Still Active?
Currently (the year ), Costa Rica's volcanoes monitoring agencies, such as the National Seismological Network (RSN), indicate that since the Arenal volcano is in resting state. Moreover, the website of the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI), reports the status and level of activity of this and other volcanoes in Costa Rica, indicating practically zero changes in the Arenal in the last years.
Despite its current state of calm, a question remains: is it possible to climb the crater of the Arenal volcano? The answer is no. It is forbidden and unsafe. However, for those who still want to experience being inside of a volcano, there is the option to ascend Cerro Chato (an ancient and now extinct volcano located right next to the Arenal). Once the top has been reached, it is possible to walk down to the crater that actually houses a lagoon.
The legacy of Arenal Volcano
Throughout the last 20 years, an interesting touristic offer has evolved around the volcano. Nowadays, beyond the impressive volcano scenic, the area of La Fortuna and the surroundings of the Arenal Volcano can be used as a base for the enjoyment of one of the most comprehensive offer of nature, eco-tourism, adventure, leisure and cultural activities of Costa Rica. It, of course, includes a wide assortment of lodging, gastronomic possibilities and connections with other destinations.