Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
|⏰ Opening Hours
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
|💸 Entrance Fee
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What is Lake Arenal?
Lake Arenal, or Lago Arenal as we locals call it, is a stunning man-made reservoir located in the northern highlands of Costa Rica, at the base of the majestic Arenal Volcano. It's renowned for its breathtaking views, abundant wildlife, and a plethora of recreational activities it offers. Covering an area of 85 square kilometers, it has grown to become an integral part of the region's landscape and a crucial component of Costa Rica's hydroelectric power production. With its azure waters framed by rolling hills and the imposing silhouette of the volcano, Lake Arenal is more than just a body of water; it's a testament to the harmony between nature and human ingenuity.
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History of Lake Arenal
The Lake Arenal that you see today is not how it always looked. Its history is quite remarkable. Originally, the lake was much smaller, but in 1979, the Costa Rican government undertook a massive project to increase its size. This project was part of an effort to meet the country's growing energy needs. By constructing a dam – now known as the Arenal Dam – the lake expanded to its current size, becoming the largest lake in Costa Rica. The construction of the dam submerged two towns, Arenal and Tronadora; the remains of structures sometimes can still be seen when the water levels are exceptionally low. The lake's transformation has a bittersweet legacy, intertwining loss with progress and nature with development.
Why is Lake Arenal Important?
Lake Arenal serves multiple purposes that are crucial not only for the Arenal area but for Costa Rica as a whole. Its primary function is to provide approximately 12% of the country's electric energy through the hydroelectric power generated by the Arenal Hydroelectric Dam.
But beyond its practical utility, the lake holds an invaluable position in the local ecosystem. It's a habitat supporting diverse flora and fauna, includes birds like the Resplendent Quetzal and mammals such as howler monkeys and coatis. For residents and visitors alike, it's a source of both livelihood and recreation, offering fishing, wind surfing, paddle boarding, and more. It also contributes to the incredible scenic beauty that draws people from around the globe and adds to the charm and appeal of the Arenal Volcano National Park.
Things to Do & See at Lake Arenal
Visiting Lake Arenal isn't just about gazing at the water – it's about stepping into a world of adventure and tranquility. You can embark on a kayaking journey, navigating through the calm waters, where you might spot a basilisk lizard skimming the surface or a toucan perched nearby. For those seeking a rush, windsurfing on Lake Arenal is a must-do; the consistent winds provide ideal conditions.
If you prefer dry land, horseback riding along the shore allows you to connect with nature at a leisurely pace, passing through pockets of rainforest and pastoral farmland. There's also a chance to hook a rainbow bass if you're interested in fishing. And don't forget the hot springs – some are hidden gems known mostly to locals that offer a perfect respite after a day of exploration. With the backdrop of the Arenal Volcano, it's an extraordinary setting for both relaxation and adventure.
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