The Arenal Volcano Eruption of August 23, 2000

The Arenal Volcano had several major eruptions on August 23, 2000. Strong ash and gas columns spewed more than a kilometer high into sky, bringing darkness to some of the area’s surrounding the volcano. The number of pyroclastic flows – volcanic avalanches of hot gases, rocks and ash – was estimated to be 20 that day.

Two people were killed and one injured during the eruption. Two tourists were hiking with their Costa Rican tour guide along the northern slop of the volcano when a pyroclastic flow emerged from the crater and hurled towards them at a rate of 80 km/h. All three suffered third degree burns, and two of them (one of the tourists and the guide) later died.

Due to this tragic event, certain trails along the volcano have been closed until further notice. Quite incredibly, an airplane crashed into the volcano three days later on the 26th of August. There were two pilots and eight passengers onboard the plane. The plane deviated from its normal route along the coast – probably to gain a better view of the eruptions – and eventually crashed into the side of the volcano.

All hotels in the Arenal area are set at a safe distance of the volcano, but hiking on the volcano past the posted warning signs is extremely dangerous. The rocks and gases released during an eruption travel much faster than a human being can run.

The Arenal Volcano has been active since 1968, but major eruptions – the kind that force people to evacuate – are not common. If you have hesitations about visiting the Arenal area, don’t: as long as you respect the signs, it’s an extremely safe and enjoyable place to visit.