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Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal is the largest freshwater lake in Costa Rica. It is located near La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano, in the canton of San Carlos, in the northern plains of Costa Rica. It is an artificial lake, which nevertheless, offers an incredible landscaping beauty, due to its great extension, its navigability, and also to its abrupt and dramatic coast line, which generates tens of bays, islands, islets and coves. It is also completely surrounded by an exquisite landscape of green hills and mountains, tropical forests.

Its borders are shared by several districts and cantons, including La Fortuna, the district of El Castillo, which is part of the canton of San Ramón and San Carlos, as well as the towns of Nuevo Arenal and in its northern part by the canton of Tillaran and the community of Tronadora.

Beauty of Lake Arenal

It is possible to tour the lake by renting a boat, which has its mooring near the lake’s dam, about 25 minutes from La Fortuna. You can hire a tour and appreciate the landscapes. Especially the main landscape, which is that of the imposing Arenal Volcano and its perfect conical shape right next to the southern shore of the lake. Another beautiful landscape is made up of the mountains that descend from Monteverde to the shores of the lake at El Castrillo and Rio Chiquito. This particular jungle area is part of the Arenal Volcano National Park, and the Children’s Eternal Forest, which, together with the well-known Monteverde and Santa Elena cloud forest reserve, constitute one of the richest and largest biodiverse mixed tropical forest areas in the country. It is still home to large mammal species such as Jaguar, Puma and Tapir.

Towards the north coast, in the direction of Tronadora and Nuevo Arenal, the weather conditions of the lake change. It becomes less humid and rainy, and begins to look a little more like the climate of the Northwest region of Costa Rica, and the province of Guanacaste, which is drier and windier. All these dramatic changes in temperature, humidity, as well as the changing topography and geography make possible a variety of impressive microclimates.

Fishing in the lake

Another popular activity, especially for sport fishermen, is fishing in the lake, which can be done in a casual and improvised way from the shore, or hire a boat and go in search of the famous Guapote cichlid, Rainbow Bass in English, one of the largest cichlids in the world and famous for its delicious white meat. Other species that can be fished include the Machaca wing, Roncador and the Barbudo, a species of Catfish.


For those who like sports, eco-tourism and adventure, kayak tours are also available, where you will travel the shores of the lake in silence, and who knows, perhaps with luck, appreciate species of water birds that have found in Lake Arenal a place to live and reproduce.

Recommended Route

Between the lake’s dam, near Arenal Volcano National Park and La Fortuna, a road goes around the lake on its north side. During this journey, it will be possible not only to obtain impressive panoramic views of the lake, from different perspectives, but also to witness the changing climate. After driving north for about 20 minutes, the weather will begin to change slowly, until you reach Nuevo Arenal, where the climate is already quite different from the typical climate of San Carlos. In this area, the weather and conditions are drier, cooler and windier. Starting from the Nuevo Arenal community even further north, the weather will start to change a bit more, until we reach Tronadora, where the wind is even stronger, and the conditions are even more similar to those in the highlands of Guanacaste. In this part of the lake, you can visit the beautiful communities of Tierras Morenas, or go down to the dry plains of the North Pacific and Tilaran. This route is widely used for its scenic beauty for those who visit Guanacaste or Rincon de la Vieja after their stay in La Fortuna. Throughout the journey, the landscape will leave you with your mouth open, as magical and mystical places abound, with green fields, hills and mountain ranges everywhere as well as that incessant ever-changing peak.

Ask us at Canoa Aventura about our kayak tour in Lake Arenal, or if you want to know more about our beautiful area.