Live Pura Vida Style at Lake Arenal Costa Rica
If living by a tropical lake surrounded by lush greenery sounds like your idea of paradise, Lake Arenal is the location for you. Nestled in the shadow of the majestic Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal and its surrounding communities is rapidly becoming an expat magnet for retirees and investors alike.
Lake Arenal – A Brief History
Lake Arenal is a manmade lake that was enlarged to its present size as part of a massive hydroelectric project in 1979. The old towns of Arenal and Tonadora were abandoned and now lie at the bottom of the lake. The town of Arenal was relocated to a point northeast of the lake itself.
The lake has played a major role in helping Costa Rica become the eco-friendly nation that is known and loved today. At one time, the dam which helped enlarge the lake to its current size (33 square miles) was responsible for 70% of the nation’s electrical energy.
Lakeside Living – Many Communities, Many Choices
The Lake Arenal area has a number of towns and residential areas that offer a wide selection of properties and options for investment or retirement. With a growing number of expats discovering the attractiveness of living close to the largest lake in Costa Rica, the real estate market is experiencing a resurgence from the decline of recent years
La Fortuna is the largest of the lake communities and prior to 1968 was known as El Borio. When the Arenal Volcano erupted on July 29th 1968, it destroyed three towns on its western flank. El Borio, on the eastern side was spared and, from that day forward, was renamed “La Fortuna”-the fortunate.
El Castillo has the best views of the volcano and is close to the park entrance and Lake Arenal. The village was created as a result of the 1968 eruption of Arenal that required mass relocation of the towns destroyed by the volcano. Recently, it has become popular with artisans and expats seeking a more bohemian lifestyle.
Rio Chiquito is located on the southern end of the lake and is known as the major transfer point for tours from the many hotels around the volcano to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. There is a real potential for investment as much of the land is not yet developed.
The Arenal region offers many opportunities for fun and exploration
In addition to the serenity of lakeside living, the area around Arenal is filled with opportunities for exploration and enjoyment of the rich natural diversity of the region. Having some of the finest and most unique hotels, bed and breakfasts, and lodges in Costa Rica, this location is ideal for tourists and expats who want to take advantage of the wide choice of activities available.
For nature and hiking enthusiasts, there are many options that will let participants immerse themselves in the beauty and diversity of the land. Tours of the Arenal Volcano, jungle canopy and horseback tours of various lengths and difficulty, and white water and rappelling tours are available for all interests and tastes–from mild to wild.
Water sports and therapeutic baths
Lake Arenal has become one of the foremost windsurfing locations in the world. The consistent high winds that sweep across the western end of the lake from November through April has made Arenal a magnet for followers of this exciting and adrenaline-filled sport. For those seeking more sedate water sports, bass fishing and kayaking are popular choices.
One of the special features of this area is the abundance of hot springs that are easily accessible to those seeking the healing properties that these natural baths offer. There are also a number of waterfalls that further enhance the eco-experience for visitors and locals alike.
Lakeside Living Offers Many Advantages
Living by a lake may not be the first thought when considering a move to Central America. The advantages that exist in and around Arenal are certainly worth a second look when deciding on a place to retire or invest in.
The climate in the Lake Arenal region is moderate with temperatures in the low to mid 80s during the day and comfortable mid to low 60s in the evening. For those concerned about the cost of air conditioning, this will come as welcome news.
The cost of renting property in the Arenal area can range from $250-$750 per month depending on location and size. Utility prices can range from $26 to $50 per month depending on usage. Overall the cost of living in the lake area is less expensive than other more established parts of the country.
The thriving expat community continues to grow which makes becoming part of the local scene that much easier. Many expats have opened businesses and, combined with industrious locals, have made the transition to expat life an easy one.
Things to consider before moving to the lake region
For all the positives aspects of living in the Arenal area, there some things to consider before making a financial commitment. It is important to remember that living in a foreign country is much different than vacationing there.
To begin with, the drive to the Arenal area from San Jose can run up to four hours. La Fortuna does have a small regional airport that is serviced by Nature Air (a domestic Costa Rican carrier) although cost and convenience may weigh against this option.
Shopping for food or other domestic items is going to be limited to the local mercados, or markets. If having access to more westernized items is important, this may be an issue as well.
Although the region is experiencing continued growth, internet and cable access may differ widely from one part of the area to the next. Once again, if having these conveniences is an essential item on your “must-have” list, then lakeside living may not be the best choice for you.
Lastly, remember that the lake region is not near the ocean. If having a beach lifestyle is the goal of becoming an expat, the Arenal area is not for you.
What is the best way to decide whether Lake Arenal is your tropical dream?
There is no substitute for visiting Arenal and the surrounding area and immersing yourself as much as possible in order to envision what life would be like there. Ask questions, look at expat boards and blogs, do the research, and discover what Lake Arenal holds for you.
Map of Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica Fast Facts
- Population: 8,291
- Typical temperature: Average temperature 65° to 90° F
- Nearest airport with U.S. flights: San Jose’s Juan Santamaría International Airport
- Nearest U.S. consulate: San Jose, Costa Rica