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Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano: Explosive Costa Rica Travel

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Arenal at nightArenal Erupts Night View of Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

At roughly 7:30 a.m. on Monday July 29, 1968, after having lain relatively dormant for over 400 years, Arenal Volcano erupted with violence and fury. Extreme eruptions and volcanic activity continued for several days, killing some 87 persons and burying over 15 square kilometers in rock, lava and ash. In total, the eruptions affected over 232 square kilometers in the surrounding area to varying degrees, with damage to crops, property, livestock and forests.

At the height of this activity the volcano was throwing out massive amounts of lava and ash and tossing giant rocks for distances of up to a mile at speeds of some 600 meters per second. The explosions formed three new and active craters.

As Costa Rica travel showcases, Arenal Volcano has since maintained nearly constant activity that ranges from soundless explosions with large mushroom-shaped clouds of ash overhead to booming explosions that send hot rocks nearly a kilometer into the air to pyroclastic explosions highlighted by the rush and flow of lava and gasses down the side of the volcano. Arenal Volcano rises to approximately 1633 meters at its summit, although the exact summit height changes frequently due to the volcanic activity.

Arenal VolcanoThe last major eruptions occurred on May 8, 1998 and gave rise to temporary evacuations from area hotels, although the danger quickly passed and no one was injured. No doubt several Costa Rica travel itineraries were blown away that day!


Prior to the 1968 eruption, Arenal Volcano was a nearly perfect conically-shaped rain forest covered volcanic mountain with minor fumerole activity. Local residents had named it variously: Arenal Peak, Pan de Azucar (Sugarloaf), Canasta Volcano, and Rio Frio Volcano.

The area around Arenal Volcano has been the home of indigenous populations for thousands of years. Over this time, these residents have suffered scores of periods of intense volcanic activity. The Guatuso Indians believed the volcano was home to the God of Fire. This mythology makes for wonderful Costa Rica travel reading.

In geological terms, the Arenal Volcano is relatively young, only some 4000 years old. Prior to the 1968
eruption, the volcano.s last major eruption has been dated at around 1500 AD and lava flows from this period have been tentatively identified.

Chato VolcanoChato Volcano

Arenal’s Big Little Brother Located just off the southeast flank of Arenal Volcano, the smaller Chato Volcano is actually an older brother living in the shadow of its boisterous young brethren. A truncated volcanic cone rising to some 1,140 meters, Chato Volcano has had no registered volcanic activity for the past 3,500 years, about the time when Arenal was just beginning to be born. It’s hollowed out cone is home to a picturesque crater. You'll get to see this and more on an Adventure Life Costa Rica tour!

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