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Wildlife and Wild Fun in Northwest Costa Rica

See trip details for Northwest Costa Rica, one of 30 suggested family trips from National Geographic.

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After lying dormant for hundreds of years, Arenal erupted in 1968 and has since earned the title of Costa Rica’s most active volcano.

Arenal Volcano National Park is home to one of the Americas’ most active volcanoes. The views are spectacular at night, when incandescent rocks glow and lava erupts, and can be seen from the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Surrounded by a river, the lodge was originally used by Smithsonian Institution scientists, but now you can book one of the 37 rooms. Take a guided hike on Los Tucanes Trail; you will cross lava fields and probably catch a glimpse of toucans and howler monkeys. Los Heliconias, Los Colades, and Los Miradores Trails also offer great views and photo ops. The thermal hot springs at the Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort)—located at the base of Arenal—also provide excellent vantage points. Purchase a day pass or stay the night in one of the resort’s guest rooms.

Lake Arenal, near the volcano, is a great place to windsurf. For more adventure in the water, try whitewater rafting in the class II and III rapids of the Rio Sarapiquí. For the ultimate adrenaline rush, try ziplining. With Sky Trek, you start with a tram ride to the top of the Arenal reserve above the trees. Zipping along nearly two miles (three kilometers) of cables, you will see the rain forest—as well as get a panoramic view of the volcano and lake—from a whole new perspective.

At the Arenal Observatory Lodge, have dinner in La Fortuna’s dining room, where the floor-to-ceiling windows allow you to see the volcano in action.

For information about Arenal Volcano National Park, go to

See National Geographic's guide to Costa Rica.

Based on articles from National Geographic Traveler and compiled by Stephanie Robichaux

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