Costa Rica – Arenal Volcano View and Lava Trails (1968 Trail)


What? :

Arenal volcano erupted in 1968 after hundreds of years that it was dormant.

In that massive side eruption that lasted for several days it cover the surrounding countryside with lava and ash, 73 people lost their lives in this tragic event.

Since 1968 the volcano has been considered active with its last eruption in 2010.


Arenal 1968 hike offers volcano views, rainforest & old lava trails, and if you are lucky also wildlife viewing.

The park website:

We visit here at the end of Dec. 2022 and enjoy this experience.

We decided to visit and hike here mainly because it close views of Arenal Volcano and combination of lava and jungle trails.

Where? :

Access to the 1968 Trail is about 30 minutes’ drive north from La Fortuna.

From La Fortuna take Route 142 north towards Lake Arenal, drive 13 km, take left onto the road leading to Arenal National Park. In about 1.4 km down the road, you will see the entrance on your left.


Note: do not be confused with Arenal Volcano National Park, that is located short drive up on the same the road.


Google Map Link



When? :

Year round.

December to April is the dry season at Costa Rica and I recommend visiting the state when there is less chance for rain.

It’s also the most popular time to visit, so expect more tourists and crowds. Book things you know like hotel, park entries, rental car as far ahead as you can. 

When traveling to Costa Rica you should always be prepared for some showers no matter what time of year you are visiting.


Open daily from 8 am – 5 pm (Last Entrance at 4:00 pm)

Fee: $23 per person.


Due note 1: We did not buy ticket in advance; we saw that we have free afternoon and decided to go there. I did saw in the morning a line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot.


Due note 2: It’s not uncommon for the top of the volcano to be clouded over due to local weather conditions. Rule of thumb is that it may have less clouds coverage during morning hours.


Due note 3: The preferred time is in the morning when it is less hot, animal may be more active, less clouds so you may have better view of the Arenal volcano and less chance of rain. The downside of coming in the morning that can be that it is more crowded.


Due note 4: Carry plenty of water with you, especially if you are doing this mid-day when it is hot.


Due note 5:  Closed shoes are highly recommended for the hike.


Due note 6: Wear comfortable shirt. Insect repellent may be needed. Carry with you a raincoat, poncho or even simple disposable raincoat, as rain may come in any season.



My thoughts:

We really like this hike; we came without a lot of expectation late in the afternoon and it was fun. The trail is passing through divers’ landscape, and you have a nice view of the Arenal Volcano.

We also enjoy our time at the café, relaxing place with a view.

The trails are providing more nature and real park.



Other nearby hiking options:

There are several hikes to choose from around the Arenal volcano area, we decide to hike the Arenal 1968 trail.

Other hiking options that I’m aware of are within the national park, near the lake or near Arenal Observatory Lodge.

I think that all the trails in the parks in this area are +/- the same.

To the best of my understanding, you need to pay entry/parking for all the above hikes.



The visit:


In July 1960 Arenal mountain awake and blew hole in its mountain side, releasing gasses, rocks, and lava flow downward. 73 people lost their lives in this tragic event.


The volcano is still considered to be active; you can see in my pictures the gas fume at the top, and hiking trails are limited to lower areas surrounding the mountain.


There is a short hike (red color, 2.5 km) and a longer one (yellow color, 4.5 km), we decided doing the longer.


Both trails will take you through the lower jungle up to the lava fields viewing point and from there back to the jungle, the longer trail option pass near a nice lake.


We did not take a guide and the trails are easy to follow and well-marked in every junction.


I will rate the yellow trail as moderate hike, not overlong but the trail itself has some climbing, steep portions with rocks and tree roots.


When we visit here, they told us to hike it counterclockwise, from the entrance parking lot and “visitor center” turn right into the jungle following the signs and finish at the coffee-shop / viewing hill.


After walk in the rainforest the trail turn to the left and start climbing the 1968 lava flow.

Here the trail pass over rocks and boulders but if you take it easy it is not extreme.


Hike up in the forest and reach to the lava flow viewing point, this is 1 mile (1.6 km) from the starting point.

Here you have nice view of the mountain, the lava flow and of the lake on the other side.


From here the trail start descending and soon after you will turn right, keep walking on the yellow trail.

Now you will get back into the rainforest and after of downhill hike you will reach the small lake (1 mile from the viewing point).

The trail go around to the far side of the lake. There is another lake viewpoint on the other side and from there the trail is heading back in the direction of the starting point.

Soon after you will get out of the forest into the open sections.


You are almost the end of your hike, and a short climb will lead you to the coffee house and viewing hill.


It was late in the afternoon, just before sunset and not many other people where there. The viewing point is nice and there are hanging nets platform that you can relax on.

From here you will have a nice view of Lake Arenal to the west, this is Costa Rica’s largest man-made lake and there are many boating tours options to explore it (we did not do).


Short walk down from the coffee house and you are back in your car.


We enjoy this hike very much, we did not see any large animals (we saw few birds that were posing for us) but it was more a nature hike, exactly what we were looking for.




Additional Pictures: