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El Castillo (Costa Rica)

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El Castillo (Costa Rica)

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El Castillo is in Costa Rica.


The town of El Castillo is located in very close proximity to the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal, and is situated just 10km off the Rainforest Highway between La Fortuna and Nuevo Arenal.

The village of El Castillo was created as a result of the 1968 surprise eruption of Cerro Arenal that required the mass relocation of hundreds of families to safer zones. Originally a quiet agricultural centre, El Castillo was soon discovered by a new generation of bohemians looking for the perfect blend of climate and lifestyle.

And it’s no surprise, since El Castillo provides the best views of the volcano or lake anywhere. The unique combination of quiet village life and a growing number of ex-pat enterprises means the area buzzes with activity-from canopy tours and horseback riding to hiking, swimming, canoeing and kayaking. We boast Costa Rica’s largest butterfly conservatory and the ever-popular Snake and Reptile Zoo. Now, a growing arts and music culture is making El Castillo a must-see destination for creative people from all over the world.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

From La Fortuna: Drive west from La Fortuna toward the Arenal Volcano National Park and Tilaran. Before the bridge over Lake Arenal, turn left at the police station and follow the dirt road for 10km.

From Santa Elena / Monteverde: It is possible to drive to El Castillo from Santa Elena / Monteverde by going around Lake Arenal to the north (total 115km of largely sealed road once out of the Santa Elena area) or a shorter route to the south of the lake (total of 50km unsealed dirt single lane track). The southern route is predominantly single lane dirt tracks which requires a 4x4 due to the mud and 5 rivers crossings (the last crossing at Rancho Margot just outside El Castillo is by far the largest).

The southern route may not be trafficable and very dangerous during the wet season. Two of the rivers are significant and thereby be landslides on to the track.

Head towards Tilarán from Santa Elena. Continue past the Tilarán turn off and turn east towards Rio Chiquito towards the end of the section of large wind turbines. There are few road signs and satellite navigation is recommended (try the "" iPhone app).

By bus[edit]

There is a local transport (shuttle bus) that picks up daily at the Mega Super in La Fortuna at 11am and 4pm for $8.00 (4,000 colones). The drivers name is Arturo and it is a green van.

Get around[edit]

If staying in El Castillo, most things are within walking distance. This is a very small town and locals will definitely stop to give you a ride if going anywhere outside of the town and they see you walking.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Butterfly Conservatory The Butterfly Conservatory is a Nature Regeneration Project dedicated to the preservation, growth and study of the rainforest, with focus on butterflies and other tropical rainforest species of the Arenal region of Costa Rica. Our Metamorphosis Tour offers a practical educational adventure about nature, with diversified exhibits of how butterflies, frogs, insects and plants reproduce in this natural environment.
  • EcoZoo We have one of the best collections of reptiles and amphibians in Coast Rica. You will also enjoy our butterfly habitat, insect zoo and recreational activities.
  • La Gavilana La Gavilana is part shop, part studio, part coffee house and part classroom. Here you can enjoy a cup of locally-grown coffee with a fresh-baked dessert while browsing the inventory of art, photography and crafts all produced by local artists. You can sample Tomas’ authentic fermented products like hot sauces, kimchees and herbal infusions and choose some to take home. Tomas has set up a demonstration room where you can see first hand how the products are made using natural fermentation processes and no artificial ingredients. La Gavilana Herbs and Art is open daily, except Sunday, to dark and sometimes later for special occasions. You can find it by following the road to the Butterfly Conservatory in El Castillo. Continue on and take the first street on the right past Essence Arenal and look for the sign.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • HorseBack Tour There are a number of horseback riding tours in the El Castillo, the most popular originating from Rancho Margot where options include a ride to the el Mirador lookout point with 360-degree views of Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal and the nearby Monteverde cloudforest, a ride to Lake Arenal as well as a ride to a nearby waterfall in the middle of the rainforest.
  • Kayaking Many hotels offer kayaking options on Lake Arenal, and the views during this tour will last a lifetime!
  • SkyTrek Zipping along nearly two miles of cables! Sky Trek is considered the safest in Costa Rica. Sky Tram goes up smoothly through the beautiful views of the Arenal Volcano and the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Sky Walk is a perfect tour for nature lovers! Feel the sensation of walking among the clouds.
  • Hiking There is a great deal of hiking available for adventurers in the El Castillo area, including hikes at the Arenal Volcano National Park, Cerro Chato, Arenal Observatory, el MIrador hikes at Rancho Margot, and more!

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Howler's Located next door to the Majestic Hotel, this bar is often filled with locals enjoying a cold beer and listening to local music.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Rancho Margot Sustainable eco-lodge hotel is a must visit during your visit to the La Fortuna area! Whether enjoying a bungalow overnight in the middle of the rainforest, or a day visit for a guided 2-hour ranch tour and lunch, this 400-acre self-sufficient property is a must see!
  • Hummingbird Nest B&B Relax in our tropical garden paradise with monkeys, butterflies and exotic birds! Experience the panoramic view of an active volcano from a luxurious hot tub spa.
  • Pura Vida Guest House Pura Vida Guesthouse & Hostel is not a regular hotel or hostel. There is no official reception, no fancy uniform, but plenty of hospitality. Pura Vida Guesthouse offers three bedrooms with shared bath (hot shower) and dorm type accomdations for guests. The guesthouse specializes in a smaller family type accommodation that is simple, economical and comfortable.


Get out[edit]

Drive your way out of El Castillo, or if headed to Monteverde you can opt for the jeep/boat/jeep option that will take you in a boat across Lake Arenal and deliver you directly to your Monteverde hotel.

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