Posted on 12/20/2018

Tamarindo Overnight Trip: Explosive Arenal Volcano

On slopes where once flowed destructive red-hot lava, now grows an explosion of rainforest riches: soaring palms, dense foliage, and jewel-toned tropical blooms. And, lest you forget its origins, the occasional (yet tamer) belch from a mostly-sleeping-sometimes-rumbling active volcano. Indeed, while a nightly lava show used to draw visitors to the region, today Arenal Volcano relies on much more than Mother Nature's red-hot fireworks. This is a town dedicated to diversion, relaxation, and a full suite of adventure: soaring canopy ziplines, exhilarating waterfall rappelling, frothing white-water rafting, volcanic hot springs, shadowy cave spelunking, and so much more. Oh, so very much more. Because, this is Arenal Volcano. And this is one of our most popular overnight tours from Tamarindo. Trust us, it's worth the drive.

Welcome to Arenal Volcano

While Arenal Volcano is no longer as active (or as fiery) as it once was – the volcano was active on a daily basis, from 1968 to around 2008 – but you can be sure that the volcano's fury still bubbles beneath the surface. Geothermal power still heats the hot springs. A wisp of smoke still curls from the cone, a whisper of the raging fire that once was. Yes, this near-perfect cone still calls to tourists, photographers, and anyone who has ever had a Bucket List. And, even as the volcano has slowed its roll, the list of things to see and do in Arenal has grown. And grown and grown, to include everything from wakeboarding on Lake Arenal, to hiking down into La Fortuna Waterfall's river gorge, to taking a voyage of discovery to tranquil and hidden hot springs. Indeed, this is one of Costa Rica's top destinations and, if you have a week or so in Tamarindo, one we can recommend wholeheartedly, either as a day trip or overnight jaunt. (Note that it's a 3.5-4 hour one-way drive, so day trips imply long days. But, it's worth it!)

The Best Time to Visit Arenal

The beauty of Arenal – or, at least, part of the beauty – is that the volcano and its surrounds are a wonderful visit, year-round. While the official dry season (December to May) is often considered best, offbeat Arenal and La Fortuna weather patterns can mean it's sunny in the "rainy" season and rainy in the "dry" season. In other words, the weather is a bit unpredictable. But, it's more than that. Around Lake Arenal, the seasons flip-flop a bit, with heavier rains in the early months (February through April/May) and sunnier days in high "rainy" season months of September and October. And this means that an Arenal day trip can be just what the forecast ordered, if you're in town during the height of the green season. The only thing you should know is that, in heavy rains and thunderstorms, you won't be permitted to enter the hot springs. But here, even the most powerful lightning storm usually passes within an hour or so, giving you a good excuse to stop by the bar, read a book, and/or sit down for a meal or snack at the hot springs restaurant.

Wildlife Around Arenal

One of our favorite reasons to visit Arenal is it's an incredibly biodiverse region – and it's completely, totally different from any of the environs around Tamarindo. Where we have beach and mangrove forest, Arenal and La Fortuna have volcanic slopes and tropical rainforest. Where we are located at right at the ocean, Arenal climbs from about 850 feet to nearly 5,500 feet above sea level. Where our wildlife-watching centers around the Pacific and the mangroves, in Arenal you're climbing into the forest canopy, out into secondary forest, and deep into river gorges. And this is partly the beauty of Arenal wildlife: It's so different from what you'll see in Tamarindo. And, while no sighting is ever guaranteed, you have a fair choice of spotting: armadillos, keel-billed (rainbow) toucans, howler monkeys, coatimundis, two- and three-toed sloths, red-eyed tree frogs, anteaters, and poison dart frogs.

Arenal Hot Springs

For decades, the main draw to Arenal has been the hot springs – thermal, volcanically heated pools with rumored restorative and therapeutic powers. While there were once only a handful of hot springs resorts, today there are dozens throughout the area. And yet, there are a few that stand out for their variety of pools – how hot or cool, how large or small, how party or chill do you prefer your thermal atmosphere? – luxury ambiance, and other amenities, including swim-up bars, restaurants, and waterslides. One of our favorites is Baldi Hot Springs Resort, famed for its collection of more than 25 pools, a natural sauna, wet bars, and whirlpools, not to mention three water slides. You'll find yourself bouncing from pool to pool, from cool to steamy hot, a cocktail in your hand and tasty dinner spread in your belly. And, if you're still after a bit of adventure, take to Baldi's mile-long hiking trail, which wend through foliage and flowers, gardens and steamy springs. Keep your eyes peels for birds and even the spare armadillo running through!

Option #1: Our Overnight Tour to Arenal Volcano

Spectacular Arenal is one of the most visited regions in Costa Rica and here at Stay in Tamarindo, it's one of our most popular overnight tours. Explore Arenal Volcano and its surrounding area – vibrant rainforest, volcano views, bubbling hot springs, and the "adventure capital of Costa Rica." Our tour begins with a hike to the 1968 volcanic eruption site, where you experience firsthand the destructive path that wrought havoc down the now-barren side of the volcano. And yet, over the last several decades, the lush volcanic slopes have recovered and on our hike, we may spot toucans, sloths, birds, and other local wildlife. After the hike, we're taking a hard-won trip to relaxation at Baldi Hot Springs, one of Arenal's most popular. Dozens of volcano-fed pools offer a variety of temperatures – choose from "barely warm" to "scald your skin" – and even a few waterslides, a hot spring bar, and other diversions to pass the time until dinner. The next morning, we'll tuck in to a delicious, home-cooked Costa Rican breakfast. Then, we're off for a day at Mundo Aventura and its exhilarating zipline canopy tour, one of our favorite in Costa Rica. Your tour includes:
  • Pick up 8:00 am
  • Roundtrip transportation to and from your vacation rental
  • Bilingual guide/driver and naturalist guide
  • One night in a volcano-view hotel
  • Relaxing visit to Baldi Hot Springs
  • Dinner at Baldi Hot Springs
  • Breakfast
  • Hike through the Danaus Natural Reserve where you will see Toucans, sloths, quetzal, coatimundis, and much more!
  • Your choice of either zipline or La Fortuna Waterfall
  • Lunch at a Typical Costa Rican soda
  • Return Home

Option #2: There and Back Again – Tamarindo to Arenal in 1 Day

If time is tight (or you just don't mind a long day – 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., to be precise!), consider this quick-visit to the highlights of Arenal Volcano. The day begins with early a.m. pickup and a scenic 3.5-hour drive through mountains and colorful countryside, arriving finally at Lake Arenal, the largest lake in Costa Rica. We'll wind around the lake and to the entrance of Arenal Volcano National Park, where we'll disembark for a hike up the 1968 site of the volcano's eruption. Over 2.5 hours, we'll weave over old lava flows and through dense rainforest, home to toucans and sloths, monkeys and iguanas. After you've walked off the calories, we'll indulge in a typical Costa Rican lunch and finally – finally! – an indulgent and restorative visit to Baldi Hot Springs, a natural playground of volcano-fed pools and hot-water diversions. We'll sup on dinner at Baldi before we make the trip home to Tamarindo. Your tour includes:
  • 2.5-hour volcano trail hike
  • Typical Costa Rican lunch
  • Hot springs relaxation at Baldi
  • Dinner at Baldi Hot Springs Resort

Option #3: A Different Day in Arenal

Again, if time is tight but you're more a nature-lover than a nature-hiker, consider this day trip to Arenal. The day begins with early a.m. pickup and a 3.5-hour drive through scenic countryside and rolling mountains, on our way to the azure shores of Lake Arenal. We'll curve around the lake on our way to Eco Danaus Biological Center, where we'll take a short walk through one of the most biodiverse spots in Arenal. After a typical Costa Rican lunch, we up the outdoor ante with your choice of hike to La Fortuna Waterfall or a thrilling zipline canopy tour. And then, after a day of sun-drenched activity, rest your body, soul and mind with dinner and restorative waters at Baldi Hot Springs. We'll sup on dinner at Baldi before we make the trip home to Tamarindo. Your tour includes: 
  • Short hike through Eco Danaus Biological Center
  • Typical Costa Rican lunch
  • Choose one: La Fortuna Waterfall or Canopy Zip line
  • Hot springs relaxation at the Baldi Hot Springs Resort
  • Dinner at Bald
We'll Take You There

When you book a vacation rental with Stay in Tamarindo, you're reserving more than just a great vacation home; your booking also includes full travel concierge services. Cristina (aka Cris) is our wonderful, knowledgeable, and friendly in-house concierge. She not only knows greater Tamarindo like the back of her hand, but her job is to get to know you that well, too. Here's how it works: When you book a vacation home with us, Cristina will soon get in touch. She'll send you our welcome packet, which includes an intro to many of the most popular Tamarindo activities, tours, and attractions. Have a look. Get a taste of what Tamarindo has to offer. Start building your must-do and would-like-to-do lists. Then, it's time to get personal. Because Cris is not your standard travel agent: she doesn't believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. Her job is to get to know you, and know you well, so she can build your custom itinerary and suggest activities, tours, and attractions tailored to your specific interests, activity levels, and wish lists. Even better? Our concierge services are absolutely and always free for our guests. Relax, dream, and plan. We'll take care of the details. Please get in touch for more information about our homes and concierge services.
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