Almost everyone is familiar with the legend of Atlantis. According to various theories the city may have existed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean around a few thousand years ago. Researchers theorize that a tsunami or earthquake could have destroyed the city and left its ruins under water. Whether Atlantis really existed or not is a matter of conjecture, however what we do know for sure is that Costa Rica has its own version of the mythical city.
Although our “Atlantis Tico” wasn’t destroyed by a tsunami or other natural disaster, it did end up under water. In 1978 the Costa Rican Electric company, commonly known by its initials I.C.E., decided to build a hydroelectric plant to produce electricity for, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limón. In order to complete the project the towns of La Tronadora, La Argentina, Pueblo Nuevo and Arenal had to be flooded and as a result ended up being covered by water. Around 2,500 residents were displaced and had to be relocated to neighboring areas. The project began in September of 1978 and was finished in December of 1979. The result is the largest artificial lake in Central America which is about 20 miles long, three miles wide and 33 square miles in area. Its depth ranges between 100–200 feet depending on the season. At times during the dry season the level of the lake drops and the remnants of a cemetery, homes and even a church can be seen. Those who travel to the area can visit the town of Nuevo Arenal (New Arenal) since the original town of Arenal is under water. The town has a famous German bakery.
Lake Arenal and its dam are very important to the country because almost 12 percent of Costa Rica’s electric is produced there. It is also an important recreational area. From November through April the strong winds attract windsurfers. In fact, many consider Lake Arenal to be one of the world’s foremost windsurfing areas. Kayaking, wake boarding, boat tours and fishing for rainbow bass are equally popular. The area has other activities for travelers and retirees such as: waterfall rappelling, white water rafting, canopy tours, horseback riding, hiking and bird watching. For those who just want to relax, volcano-fed hot springs dot the region.
The areas around the lake, especially Tilarán, have become popular with retirees. The only downside is that it may be too laid-back and boring for some people and good private medical care is hours away.