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Lake Arenal and the Northern Lowlands, Northern Lowlands

Costa Rica, Central + South America: Arenal Volcano’s gaseous eruptions are a daily occurrence.
Costa Rica's insider take:

Situated on a windswept saddle of the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain chain, Lake Arenal is the country's largest body of water. Its scenic beauty is reason enough to visit, although most people pass through en route to or from the region's main draw: Volcán Arenal. Dozens of hotels line the lake's north shore, the volcano's western flanks, and the road that links both lake and volcano to the town of La Fortuna. Among the lodging options, Springs Resort & Spa and Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort are two of the best. Activities include horseback riding, waterfall rappelling, windsurfing, and zip-line canopy rides provided by Sky Trek. Soaking in thermal waters that tumble off the volcano is a special treat on chilly evenings. Tabacón resort has the most appealing facilities, plus a wonderful spa. Visitors often stay several nights in Lake Arenal just to catch a glimpse of the country's most active volcano, which blows its top constantly—sometimes several times an hour—and sends house-size chunks of rock crashing down its upper slopes. Because of this, hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park is limited to the peak's lower reaches. At night, people gather to watch the lava flow down the volcano's western side. And visiting La Fortuna without hiking down into the canyon to swim at the base of La Fortuna Waterfall would be like visiting France without tasting the wine.—Updated by Christopher P. Baker

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