The waters of Laguna de Arenal make what would otherwise have been a pretty area into a very beautiful one – a fact exploited by the tourist board’s promotional posters showing a serene Volcán Arenal rising preternaturally out of the lake. Pretty as it is, it’s actually a man-made body of water created when the far smaller original lake was dammed in 1973; the resulting Arenal Dam now generates much of the country’s hydroelectricity. The lake is an excellent spot for fishing rainbow bass (guapote), an iridescent fish found only in freshwater lakes and rivers in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras, and for windsurfing; several schools operate out of Tilarán, on the southwest corner of the lake. Tourism has brought with it a sizeable colony of foreign residents, many of them Germans or Austrians attracted by the combination of a rather European-looking landscape with year-round tropical temperatures.

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