Volcan Arenal- a standard pointy volcano MK1
Should you visit Arenal?-
Ivy and I drove with friends to Volcan Arenal in Costa Rica. It was our first time in Arenal, which is much promoted as a great Costa Rican tourist destination.
A local guide told a moving tale of how at ten the 1968 eruption led to a day of darkness with 500 ton boulders, the size of houses, flying overhead and leaving craters on impact. There followed months of crop failure with subsequent animal starvation. The resulting loss of the family smallholding led to a peripatetic period of hard child labor as a share-cropper.
The more recent spectacular lava flows ended two years ago, but many visitors are still enticed to the place in the expectation of seeing them. Tourist sites deceive them and guarantee disappointment by showing the eruptions without mentioning when they ended.
We knew that the next lava flows might come in 400 years and so were not prepared to wait before arranging our visit. The man-made reservoir and the conical volcano are moderately picturesque, but there are more spectacular volcanoes in more impressive settings in Costa Rica and elsewhere. Fuji, Osorno in Chile, Vesuvius and our own Volcan Poas spring to mind.
The nearby lake is beautiful when viewed from the surrounding heights, but there are many others as pretty, much nearer to your own home in most countries. We saw many birds, but again there are better sites to visit in Costa Rica.
If you like the thrill of safe zip lining, white water rafting and hiking, you can do all that too. If your fun is to boil your flesh till it falls of the bone in a hot spa that is expensively available.
The decline in tourism has left a well developed and now under-used infrastructure, including a decent access road which is rare in Costa Rica. Hotel rates are competitive because occupancy is low.
We are glad we went, but largely because we had prior visions that we might be missing something.
As a place to live it is too far from airports and the necessary amenities for our sybaritic lifestyle.