Last Sunday morning, neighbors of La Fortuna in the northwest region of the Alajuela province, woke up to an eruption of monetary anticipation. The Arenal Volcano, one of Costa Rica’s most iconic tourist spots, finally came alive after two years of sheer inactivity with a spectacular steam column and lingering vapor plumes.
Whereas many residents saw a typical reaction by the colossus to the heavy accumulation of rainwater over the last few weeks, others saw nothing but dollar signs dancing around the mists. Business owners who operate hotels, lodges, restaurants, shops, tours, and other hospitality and tourism enterprises in the region are very happy to see the Arenal stir.
Daily tabloid La Teja published a couple of interviews with tourism business operators whose establishments are located around the skirts of the Arenal Volcano, and they described their joy as very palpable. Here are the words of a restaurant administrator:
“I fully expect that these volcanic emissions will continue. Since they began, reports on online social networks have turned into phone calls from foreigners who are calling me asking for details. A caller from the United States told me he was willing to travel immediately from Miami.”
Indeed, the allure of visiting a semi-dormant or active volcano is too strong to resists for some adventure-seeking tourists. Mauricio Murillo, organizer of tour agency Red Lava, told La Teja that he has been impressed by the positive reaction to the recent surface water eruptions, which have been the object of inquiry of many emails sent by people in Costa Rica and Europe.
A chef from La Fortuna added:
“We have become aware, during the tourism downturn caused by the global financial crisis, that we have a treasure in the volcano, and that we have neglected the importance of its activity.”
Volcano geotourism is a major draw among people who visit Costa Rica, although travelers should exercise caution. According to a 2012 article in Earth Magazine:
In November 2000, rangers at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park made a gruesome discovery. The bodies of a man and a woman, in an advanced state of decomposition, were found near the site where lava from the Kilauea eruption flows into the sea, sending up plumes of scalding white steam.
Between 1992 and 2002, there were 40 fatalities, 45 serious injuries and 53 minor injuries reported within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Each year, tourists are injured, not just by volcanic laze, but by a variety of hazards — some mundane and predictable, others bizarre and unexpected.
For the most part, volcanoes in Costa Rica are safe to visit, although tourists should always inquire about the status of our colossi. In 2012, the Costa Rica Star published warnings related to dangerous volcanic activity in our Poas and Rincon de la Vieja volcanoes.
Although the Arenal is a stratovolcano that features lava domes as well as a recent (2010) eruption, its period of major activity in Costa Rica ended in 2011. If anything, geologists from the National University’s Volcanic and Seismic Observatory (Spanish acronym: OVSICORI) have confirmed that they were expecting these water plumes, and that everything is normal. In the past, water used to run down the sides of hot surface rocks, which was quite a sight. Still, the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna are still great places to visit in Costa Rica.
Article by Costa Rica Star