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arenal lake view from aerial tram
 - Costa Rica

Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal

Quick Facts

  • Location : 10 miles west of La Fortuna
  • Altitude : 1,740 feet above sea level
  • Area : 21,120 acres

Lake Arenal's dark, mineral-imbued waters reflect rolling green pastures, rainforest canopies and the mighty Arenal volcano. It's the country's largest lake at 33 square miles, and the power source behind Arenal Dam –Costa Rica's largest hydroelectric project.

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It's also home to a variety of watersports; the most popular among them are kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddling. Travelers will find these sports mostly on the eastern end of the lake closest to La Fortuna – where most the tours are based. The winds on the western side of the lake make it popular for kiteboarding and windsurfing; however, wake boarders and water skiers will find a few calm inlets as well. Freshwater fishermen treasure zen moments among the beauty of Lake Arenal while angling for rainbow bass, machaca and tiliapia. In addition, mountain biking, hiking and zip lining tours are available around the lake.

The lake tripled in size when Costa Rica decided to build the Lake Arenal Dam in 1979. The dam was constructed to provide more than half of Costa Rica's electricity, but today it provides only around 17 percent – due in part to decreased water levels in the lake. Still though, the lake's depths vary between 100 and 200 feet.

The small towns of El Castillo, Tilaran and Nuevo Arenal are based around the lake while two more, Arenal and Tonodora, lie abandoned at the bottom.

Lake Arenal in Pictures