Arenal by Tyler Wenzel
A sleeping giant looms over the town
Stirring at times with steam as her crown
How long shall she slumber? Who can say?
To sleep and awake for both people pray
For tourists the world over she is a draw
As the people flock to come see Volcán Arenal
Regardless of the fact that Arenal now lies dormant, tourists continue to flock in groves to see it. If you just came to La Fortuna without having done much research, the fact that Arenal hasn’t erupted since 2010 may be hard to discern. Many tour companies advertise volcano tours with pictures of lava erupting from the volcano. From tour sales (Red Lava) to restaurants (Lava Rocks, Lava Lounge, etc.) the idea of lava and eruptions prevails in a lot of marketing around the area.
The fact of the matter is, Arenal is not erupting anymore. The Seismological and Volcanology Department of Costa Rica’s National University has listed the volcano as dormant. The tourism industry will always stay optimistic; ‘come here it could erupt at any time!’ as a sales pitch. Sadly however, Arenal’s slumber looks to be more than a mere nap. Not only are there no longer eruptions, but the micro-tremors associated with volcanic activity have also ceased. The aforementioned University has monitored the temperature of the water flowing from the volcano’s hot springs and it has remained constant since the volcano went dormant. It’s not building up pressure for a comeback show, it is just sleeping.
That is not to say that all hope is lost, the peak is still quite warm. After heavy rain you’ll see a fumarole of steam coming from the peak. I know some individuals who climbed to the very summit of the volcano (which is not only illegal, but dangerous and I can’t understate enough how much I’d recommend against it as someone who once thought it would be a fun idea), and they said that the rocks are still too hot to touch in many spots.
So if Arenal isn’t erupting, why come to the area? Because the people in this area were forward-thinking enough to not put all their eggs in one basket. Arenal erupted for over forty years, but in that time La Fortuna transformed from a small country village into a hub of nature activities. Rafting, canopy tours, ATV tours, hiking, downhill mountain biking, nature tours, etc. All can be done from La Fortuna. Plus erupting or not, the volcano is one fine view! In our gallery you’ll find plenty of angles of it.
From La Fortuna Arenal appears to be a near perfect cone shape. However, if you head closer and start to go around the volcano heading towards the hot springs, you can see the volcano actually has two peaks that are in-line with one another. Geologists put the age of Arenal at about 7,000 years of age. The summit that is closer to La Fortuna (eastern) is the older of the two; it has been inactive for centuries. The summit that erupted in 1968 is the Western summit.
The eruption destroyed three villages on the western side of the volcano. In those days there was no dam, and as such no lake Arenal. One of the destroyed villages now lays below the lake, and at times during the dry season the cross atop the church steeple peeks above the surface of the lake. All the eruptions in the recorded history of Arenal have been to the west. The fact that La Fortuna was spared from the eruptions wrath is it’s namesake. Formerly named “El Borio” it was later renamed La Fortuna (the fortunate) due to it’s fortunate location east of the volcano.