Lake Arenal, Alajuela & Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Also known as: Lago Arenal, Laguna de Arenal
Lake Arenal, flanked by lush rainforest and the magnificent Arenal Volcano, is a world-class destination lake. Known for its feisty rainbow bass and incredible winds, the lake is a favorite among anglers, windsurfers and sailboarders. Nearby La Fortuna, known as the adventure capital of Costa Rica, adds to the mix cave spelunking, bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, canopy (zip-line) tours, and waterfall rappelling. Yet Lake Arenal’s daring spirit…
Keep scrolling to read more.
Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Arenal! Article topics include:
- All About Lake Arenal
- Where to Stay
- Vacation Planning Tools
- Things to Do
- Known Fish Species
- Lake Arenal Map
- Statistics / Weather / Helpful Links
- Lake Arenal Gifts
Looking for Lake Arenal cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore more of our favorite travel partners.
All About Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
Lake Arenal, flanked by lush rainforest and the magnificent Arenal Volcano, is a world-class destination lake. Known for its feisty rainbow bass and incredible winds, the lake is a favorite among anglers, windsurfers and sailboarders. Nearby La Fortuna, known as the adventure capital of Costa Rica, adds to the mix cave spelunking, bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, canopy (zip-line) tours, and waterfall rappelling. Yet Lake Arenal’s daring spirit is tempered by groomed hiking trails, wildlife watching (monkeys included), and spectacular scenery, making it an ideal lake for both a low-key vacation and high-adrenaline adventure.
At 21,128 acres — three times its original size — Lake Arenal is Costa Rica’s largest lake. Known locally as Lago Arenal or Laguna de Arenal (Arenal Lagoon), the reservoir sits at the base of Arenal Volcano. In 1968, after 400 years of dormancy, Arenal Volcano awoke with a violent eruption, destroying several towns including the original Arenal and Tabacon. Today, their ruins are flooded beneath Lake Arenal, which was expanded in 1979 to generate hydroelectric power and drinking water. The reservoir is the golden child of Costa Rica’s hydroelectric power program; Lake Arenal generates more than 70% of Costa Rica’s hydropower – and 50% of the country’s electric power.
Straddling the provinces of Alajuela and Guanacaste, Lake Arenal is an aquatic paradise, attracting lake lovers from around the globe. Lake activities include swimming, kayaking, canoeing, boating, windsurfing, and fishing. In fact, Lake Arenal is recognized internationally as a mecca for inland anglers, and offers opportunities for solo and group fishing trips. Rent a boat and test your fish-finding skills, or hire one of Lake Arenal’s experienced fishing guides. You’ll troll for the world-famous and sharp-toothed guapote (rainbow bass), an incredible fighting fish that can exceed 15 pounds. Beneath the lake’s sparkling surface, rainbow bass are joined by populations of machaca, mojarra, catfish, South American bass, and tilapia.
In addition to fishing, Lake Arenal is well known for its excellent windsurfing and sailboarding. The reservoir’s average water temperature hovers at 72 degrees year-round, though ideal sporting conditions are from November through April, when high winds kick up around the lake. Beginner and advanced windsurfers will benefit from the lake’s boarding culture: experienced professionals offer lessons, gear rental, and plenty of camaraderie.
Surrounded by waterfalls, volcanic hot springs, caves, tropical rainforest and a picturesque, cone-shaped volcano, the Lake Arenal area is also ideal for exploration on foot. Hanging bridges offer a birds-eye view of the blue waters and startling Arenal Volcano cone, while private reserves around the lake form a web of hiking trails that pass near the reservoir’s shoreline. Outdoor aficionados, wildlife lovers, and birdwatchers are especially fond of Arenal Volcano National Park. The 30,000-acre park hosts pre-montane forest, lowland rainforest, cloud forest, and several other ecosystems. Common sighings include toucans, woodpeckers, coatimundis, howler monkeys, and sloths.
After a long day of hiking, fishing, or windsurfing on Lake Arenal, there’s nothing better than a relaxing dip in natural volcanic hot springs. Just a few miles west of the lake, several commercial hot springs promise gorgeous settings, varying water temperatures, and natural springs known for their healing powers. And when the sun goes down, tourists gather at the base of Arenal Volcano to watch the iridescent lava show; October is the best month for lava viewing.
Local lore has it that Lake Arenal is home to a 100-foot lake monster, though this cow-headed, horned, and serpentine beast is rarely seen and never photographed. Nearby Cote Lake, also called Lake Coter, is a mystical volcanic crater lake just west of Nuevo Arenal. The small lake, which boasts an excellent view down to Lake Arenal, is known for several UFO sightings, including one that was photographed by NASA.
After an exciting day, there’s no better place than your vacation rental’s lakeview porch. Lake rentals and real estate take advantage of the lake terrain, and are often perched atop green hills that overlook spectacular views. For a more urban setting, the town of La Fortuna (population approximately 7,200) is located a few miles east of the lake and provides a variety of tourism services, including hotels and bed and breakfasts. Tilaran, a small city of approximately 8,300 residents, is located four miles south of Lake Arenal’s western end. On the lake’s northern shore, between these two population centers, lies the picturesque town of Nuevo Arenal. Other small towns around Lake Arenal, like Aguacate, Las Piedras, San Luis, and Tronadora, are less populated.
With blue waters and even bluer skies, Lake Arenal is the sapphire jewel of Costa Rica. Excellent adventure activities, outdoor fun, and vacation opportunities await the thousands of tourists who visit each year. And for those looking for a Costa Rican home away from home, Lago Arenal has a growing expat population and booming retirement communities — so come find your vacation house, investment property, or retirement home today.
Things to Do at Lake Arenal
These are some activities in the Lake Arenal, Costa Rica area visitors can enjoy:
- Vacation Rentals
- Whitewater Rafting
- Wildlife Viewing
- National Park
What Kind of Fish Are in Lake Arenal?
Lake Arenal has been known to have the following fish species:
- Rainbow Bass
- South American Bass
Find Places to Stay at Lake Arenal
If you’re considering a Lake Arenal lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.
Note: These are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase. Read our full disclosure policy here.
More Sites to Book a Lake Arenal Vacation
Our interactive Lake Arenal lodging map above is an easy tool for comparing VRBO rental homes and nearby hotels with Booking.com, but there could be times when you need to expand your search for different types of accommodations. Here are some other lake lodging partners we recommend:
Lake Arenal Statistics & Helpful Links
Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed
Water Level Control: Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE)
Surface Area: 21,128 acres
Shoreline Length: 50 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,785 feet
Average Depth: 92 feet
Maximum Depth: 200 feet
Water Volume: 1,945,711 acre-feet
Completion Year: 1979
Lake Area-Population: 20,000
We strive to keep information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. If you’ve found something here that needs updating, please touch base by filling out our Content Correction form.
Shop Lake Arenal Gifts
More Lake Arenal news from LakeLubbers.com
- Advertise your vacation rental property or local business: DETAILS HERE
- The Lake Arenal forum has been discontinued: HERE’S WHY
- New Lake Arenal photos coming soon!
- You’re invited to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook and Instagram!
- Share this Lake Arenal article with your fellow LakeLubbers: