Arenal Volcano#2 in Best Things To Do in Costa Rica
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Arenal, one of the world's most active volcanoes, stands more than 5,000 feet high. For the latter half of the 20th century, admirers traveled to its base in droves to catch a glimpse of glowing rocks and molten lava tumbling down its sides. But Arenal wasn't always spewing fiery lava, rocks and ash. The volcano sat dormant for hundreds of years, but on July 29, 1968, Arenal awoke from its slumber. A thunderous earthquake shook the area and a subsequent explosion of lava wiped out three nearby villages. Frequent eruptions continued until 2010, when the volcano re-entered a non-active state.
Today, travelers head to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, which sits in an ideal viewing spot along the volcano's northern side. Arenal is often concealed by a thick layer of fog, but if you visit between February and April, you will have a better chance of unobstructed views. Recent visitors say it is worth the trip, though it the quality of the view depends heavily on the weather. You can hike the park's trails on your own with just a trail map, but several recent visitors recommended hiring a guide to learn more about the history of the volcano and the flora and fauna that inhabit the area.
The easiest way to access Arenal Volcano is from the nearby base village of La Fortuna. This small town is perched at the eastern edge of Arenal Volcano National Park in northern Costa Rica. A variety of tours depart from La Fortuna. Tour prices start at about $60 and go up, depending on your desired experience. General admission to the park costs $15 per adult and $5 per child between 6 and 12 years old. You can reach Fortuna via car or bus from San José, which is located approximately 80 miles southeast of the park. The park welcomes visitors every day from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.; last admission is at 2:30 p.m.
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#1 Nicoya Peninsula
The Nicoya Peninsula's sparkling 80-mile shoreline boasts beach-centric towns with cream-colored shores and dense forests. Half of the peninsula is found in the Guanacaste province, while the other half sits in the Puntarenas province. Nosara Beach's powdery sands line the Nicoya Peninsula's western edge. You'll also find fishing and cattle-ranching communities east of the rustic coastline. After a significant rise in tourism that began in the 1970s, an influx of restaurants and hotels have enticed visitors to the peninsula's sandy coast.
Recent travelers highlight Nosara Beach's gorgeous sunsets, colorful fish and turquoise waters as ideal for surfers and beach lovers alike. But be warned: shade is minimal (and it gets hot!) and the undertow can be challenging; sunset walks on the beach are highly encouraged. Other hot spots include Mal País and Montezuma, a charming coastal town that boasts affordable hotel accommodations and untamed splendors, like magnificent waterfalls and gentle cerulean waves.
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