Lake Arenal sits at the base of the Arenal Volcano in the northern highlands of Costa Rica. It is the country’s largest landlocked body of water, with a surface that covers nearly 33 square miles (85 square km) and a depth that reaches some 200 feet (60 m).
The area surrounding the lake is as inspiring as the water itself – hills of pastured and forested land roll into the distance, while the summit of the Arenal Volcano dominates the eastern horizon.
In 1979, Lake Arenal was enlarged to three times its original size with the construction of a hydroelectric dam. The towns of Arenal and Tondadora, which were originally sited on the spot where the lake now rests, were relocated to the northeastern side of the lake. Nowadays, Lake Arenalís dam is hugely important to the country, as it produces nearly 12% of Costa Ricaís electric energy.
For visitors, the lake offers many year-round activities. These include windsurfing, fishing, boat tours, and kayaking. Lake Arenal enjoys a world-class reputation among windsurfers and sailboarders, as it receives a steady supply of strong and dependable wind. Many people, in fact, consider it to be one of the world’s foremost windsurfing destinations. Fishing is equally popular within the lake’s waters, the best of which is done for rainbow bass. These large, fighting fish – known locally as “guapote” – are members of the cichlid family. Their meat is white and tasty, and their sharp teeth and feisty nature make catching them a real challenge. The best time to troll for rainbow bass is around sunrise or sunset; organized fishing trips begin with a hotel pickup at 5:30 AM or 2:00 PM.
The area surrounding the lake can be toured by horseback or mountain bike, and has trails that can be hiked along. For those traveling to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, taxi boats provide a quick and scenic shortcut across the lake.
Lake Arenal Hotels
- Lost Iguana Resort Volcano views from every room
- Arenal Lodge Lake and volcano views
- La Mansion Inn Arenal Lake and Volcano views
- Hotel Puerto San Luis Lodge Lake views
- Linda Vista del Norte Lake and volcano views
- Arenal Observatory Lodge Volcano views
- Hotel Castillo del Arenal Budget hotel with lake and volcano views
- Arenal Vista Lodge Lake and volcano views
- Rancho Margot Lake and volcano views