By Aída Araya Photo by Hotel Linda Vista del Norte
A quick guide to Costa Rica´s active volcanoes.
Because the country rests over the subduction zone of two tectonic plates, Costa Rica contains least two hundred volcanic formations, five of which are currently active.
Costa Rica’s active volcanoes are one of the main tourist attractions in the country. Primarily located in the Guanacaste and Central volcanic mountain ranges, these geological curiosities attract the attention of thousands of visitors and scientists from all parts of the world.
Inside each park or locality where volcanoes are found there are—apart from majestic views of the volcano—a multitude of recreation activities that will perfectly complement your stay: rafting, fishing, swimming, hot springs, wind surfing, row boats, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, camping, and mountain biking, among others.
Located 30 kilometers from the historic city of Cartago, along the Central Mountain Range, Irazú Volcano is the tallest in the country. Viewing is both easy and spectacular given its close proximity to the capital and its barren, moonlike landscape. Irazú’s most recent eruption took place in 1994, though between 1963 and 1965 it produced sustained eruptions that lasted nearly two years and covered most of the central highlands with ash and caused damage to the nearby terrain and population centers. On a clear day, one can see both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans from Irazú’s summit.
There are no camping facilities inside the park. Temperatures are quite cold and the trip takes a while so it is best to bring a coat and a lunch to enjoy yourself to the fullest. In order to finish the hike in a single day, you begin the trip back in the afternoon, descending into the beautiful Orosi Valley toward Cartago.
To get to the Irazú Volcano, take the Pan-American highway east, toward the intersection of Taras, just on the outskirts of Cartago. Continue straight and follow the signs above the road until you reach the volcano. Buses depart from San José.
Apart from having one of the largest craters in the world—boasting a diameter of approximately two kilometers and a depth of 300 meters—Poás is the most visited active volcano in Costa Rica. Just 37 kilometers from the province of Alajuela, the Poás Volcano National Park has excellent facilities for visitors: ample parking, picnic areas, museum, visitor center, and cafeteria.
Poás Volcano has three craters. Two of these are dormant, but the main, active crater has an acidic lake of boiling water with an incredible emerald green color. One of the dormant craters is accessible from the park’s trails and contains a cold-water lake, Laguna Botos, which feeds the Sarapiquí River.
To get to Poás Volcano, you can take one of the public buses that departs from Alajuela on Saturdays and Sundays, or by taking a bus that departs from San José on Sunday. Keep in mind, however, that these buses are generally very full, though many tours are available that offer frequent trips. If you prefer to drive, take the Pan-American Highway to Alajuela, passing the central park. Follow this road until you reach the town of San Pedro de Poás and then continue directly to the volcano.
The route to Turrialba Volcano National Park is filled with beautiful scenery: dairy farms, quaint towns, and a range of colorful crop plantations. Located on the Central Mountain Range it is the second tallest volcano in the country, and it is said that it shares its vein with its closest neighbor, Irazú Volcano. It possesses three craters: the Central, East—which you can walk through—and West, which is inaccessible due to the poor condition of the trail.
The most active of Costa Rica’s volcanoes, Arenal is remarkable for its imposing, almost perfectly conical shape, like a zealous guardian watching over the town of La Fortuna in San Carlos, Alajuela. Belonging to the Guanacaste Mountain Range, Arenal Volcano has rumbled ominously and emitted gas, steam and lava to the satisfaction of visitors since 1968.
La Fortuna has a developed tourism infrastructure and nearly all available lodging in the area includes a view of the volcano. Be sure not to miss the incandescent spectacle that the volcano is likely to put on for you at night.
You can also visit Lake Arenal and go windsurfing, take a boat ride, see the La Fortuna waterfall, or visit the subterranean Venado Caverns.
Location: North-central Costa Rica. Drive time from San Jose is 3.5 hours. A flight on a charter plane from San Jose takes around 20 minutes (www.flywithparadise.com).
What to bring: Don’t forget your sense of adventure. The Arenal area has become a true adventure destination, with world-class rafting, canyoning, canopy tours and great hiking.
Weather: La Fortuna is a warm lowland area. Evenings get pleasantly cool. The rainy season extends from May to November.
Don’t miss: The waterfall. This cascade makes for a great half-day trip (www.arenaladifort.com), and you can swim in the cold pool at the fall’s base (just don’t swim directly under the falls!).
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano
Situated within the 35,000 acres (14,000 hectares) of Rincón de la Vieja National Park in Guanacaste, 25 kilometers northeast of Liberia, this active crater is the site of constant volcanic activity.
The trip through the park is always vivid experience since it has a network of trails that pass through fumaroles, hot springs and hot mud pools—all reliable signs of volcanic activity. Enjoy the waterfalls, hot springs and the richness of the tropical forest within this beautiful park.
Hotel Volcan Turrialba Lodge
Espino Blanco y Dominica
Tel: (506) 2556-1596
Granpa´s Bed and Breakfast
Tel: (506) 2536-7418
Linda Vista Del Norte Tel (506) 2479-1551 or (506) 2479-1098
Hotel Los Héroes
Tel: (506) 2692 8012 • 2692 8013
RINCÓN DE LA VIEJA
Bijagua de Upala
Tel : (506) 2466-8282
Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin
Tel: (506) 2256-8195
Cañon de la Vieja Lodge
Tel: (506) 2665-5912
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