Visitors to Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, next to the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, are always deeply impressed at the size of the famous Arenal hotel’s property – 870 acres! This lush green land of forest, rivers, waterfalls, and pastures holds an interesting history.
Forty-three years ago when the Aspinall family of Costa Rica purchased the 870 acre farm, it was an abandoned cattle ranch. The Costa Rican Electrical Institute (ICE) was building the dam to create the Arenal Reservoir – one of the largest hydroelectric power plants that supplies electricity to the country.
At the time in 1973, the family began preserving the remnants of natural primary rainforest and allowing it to grow. They took 400 acres and planted eucalyptus and Honduran pine trees, which you can see all around the hotel in large groves.
They brought back cattle to about 200 acres of the pastureland, and currently keep 50 head of cattle grazing to maintain the pastures so they don’t get overgrown.
The Arenal Observatory Lodge property is located between the Agua Caliente River and the Danta River, giving the hotel a constant source of fresh water for its operations. In a mountain on the estate, there also is an underground tunnel created by ICE with piping 300 meters long and 2 meters in diameter that conducts the waters of the Fortuna River to a system of open channels running across the lodge’s property to the Danta River. From there, it flows into the Agua Caliente River, one of many rivers that feed the Arenal Reservoir.
Eleven kilometers (7 miles) of well-maintained trails throughout the farm are marked out with red, yellow, brown, blue, green, orange and pink trail markers, for guests to enjoy walking or horseback riding, bird-watching and appreciating nature and incredible views of the Arenal Volcano.