8 Must-Visit Costa Rican Volcanoes

Costa Rica has 60 volcanoes and over 120 volcanic sites. There are six active volcanoes in Costa Rica; the rest are dormant or extinct. The six active volcanoes include Arenal, Poás, Rincón, Irazú, Turrialba, and Miravalles. If a volcano has erupted within the last 10 years, it is considered active.

One thing I love about Costa Rica is the learning opportunities it presents for my kids, apart from visiting many beautiful sites. When we decided on this specific visit, we wanted our sons to learn about volcanic activities and their aftermath.

Key Takeaways from the Article

One of the major attractions in Costa Rica is the presence of volcanoes. I highlight the key takeaways about Costa Rica’s volcanoes.

  • The highest volcano in Costa Rica is the Iraz volcano.
  • Most volcanoes have craters at their summits.
  • Poás Volcano is the only volcano that has recently erupted. It is also among the world’s most active volcanoes.
  • Authorities recently closed Turrialba Volcano due to volcanic activity.
  • It is important to always get updates from local authorities before visiting any volcano.

8 Best Volcanos in Costa Rica

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There are many impressive volcanoes in Costa Rica. In this article, I discuss the eight best volcanoes in Costa Rica.

The volcanoes are outstanding due to the attractions surrounding them and the fact that they are still considered active. These volcanoes also offer several other activities that you can undertake besides hiking.

Arenal Volcano

The Arenal is in the northern part of Costa Rica and has expansive coffee plantations surrounding its base. The volcano has a symmetrical cone shape with a height of 5,436 feet.

The volcano erupted 41 times daily, making it the most active volcano until recently.

Attractions and Activities

Surrounding the Arenal volcano has many attractions, and you can also participate in various activities. Some of these activities include:

  • Soaking and relaxing in the different hot springs is popular. Most resorts near Arenal Volcano have hot springs. Additionally, you can purchase a day pass and visit other hot springs, such as the Ecotermales Hot Spring.
  • Since it is not legal to hike to the top of the Arenal volcano, the base of the volcano is the next best option. Engage a naturalist guide to learn about the local wildlife and old lava flows.

Accessibility

Hiking to the top of the volcano is illegal, but some people secretly make the 10-hour hike. Make sure you read my Arenal hiking guide before you attempt anything like that!  The best way to access the Arenal Volcano is through the Arenal Volcano National Park at its base.

The best view of the volcano is usually from several vantage points on the trails in the national park.

Chato Volcano

The Chato, or Cerro Chato, volcano is west of the La Fortuna District. Its height is 3,740 feet. The Chato volcano is inactive and lies next to the Arenal volcano. Chato’s last erupted 3,500 years ago.

Attractions and Activities

The turquoise crater lake is the most attractive feature on the summit of the Chato Volcano. You can swim in the lake during the hot midday sun.

Accessibility

Accessing the Chato volcano can be challenging due to the steep slopes. Avoid hiking the trails leading to the volcano during the rainy season to prevent slipping and falling.

Because the entire trail has clay soil, the best time to hike the volcano is between December and April, during the dry season.

You can reach the top of the Chato volcano using the Green Lagoon entrance. However, expect to pay an entry fee to use the entrance.

Previously, one could access the volcano from the Arenal Observatory Lodge, but the entrance was closed.

Miravalles

Though not among the most famous volcanoes, it’s still worth visiting. The Miravalles are in Guanacaste province. The volcano is 6,654 feet tall and is dormant.

However, the Miravalles do generate thermal energy.

Attractions and Activities

The most attractive feature of the Miravalles Volcano is the presence of several hot springs. You can also visit the Las Hornillas Volcanic Activity Center on one side of the volcano.

Accessibility

Using a private entrance near Guayabo de Bagaces, you can hike to the summit of the Miravalles volcano.

You will have to pay a small fee to the entrance owner. Please leave your emergency contact details and inform him of the time you will be back.

Poás Volcano

Located in the Central Valley, Poás Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s and the world’s most active volcanoes. The volcano has sulfuric emissions and active fumaroles.

It is 8,900 feet high and has the second-largest crater in the world. At such a height, the volcano is above the frost line.

Poás Volcano is among the six active volcanoes in Costa Rica. Even though it’s active, it’s good to know its last eruption was in April 2017.

Attractions and Activities

The Poás Volcano has two crater lakes. One lake in the north is known as the Laguna Caliente (hot lagoon). The lake is one of the most acidic lakes in the world. The acidity gives the crater lake a brilliant blue color.

The south of the volcano has the lake Botos. Inside the volcano’s crater are geysers that spit water about 590 feet into the air.

There are guided tours of Poás Volcano, and transport is available. The tour includes a visit to the La Paz waterfalls.

Accessibility

Fortunately, Poás Volcano is the most accessible volcano. You’ll only need a one-and-a-half-hour journey from San Jose to reach the volcano summit.

The best time to view the crater on top of Poás Volcano is early in the morning, when it is sunny. Clouds tend to cover the volcano in the late afternoon.

Remember to wear comfortable shoes for hiking and warm clothing, as it can get chilly. A water-resistant jacket would also be ideal, as Poás Volcano is usually cloudy.

Safety Tips

The park surrounding the volcano has five safety shelters.

Visitors to the volcano park cannot exceed 50 at a time and can only access the volcano lookout point for no more than 20 minutes.

Tenorio Volcano

The Tenorio Volcano is in the Tenorio National Park in Guanacaste province. It is inactive and stands at a height of 6,286 feet.

At the top of the Tenorio Volcano is a large walled crater, abundant wildlife, and a lake.

Attractions and Activities

Because Tenorio Volcano is inside a national park, you can access many beautiful scenes. The following attractions and activities are must-sees and must-dos:.

  • Rio Celeste Waterfall 
  • Le Laguna Azul is a bright blue lagoon. 
  • Los Borbollones is a section of a river where you can see volcanic bubbles.
  • El Tenidero is where the two rivers meet, causing the blue color. 

Accessibility

You cannot access the top of the volcano, as it is currently closed to the public.

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano

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The Rincón is the largest and most active volcano in the Guanacaste region, with a height of 6,286 feet. The last eruption from the volcano occurred in 1998.

The volcano’s name originated from a wise old medicine woman who lived on its slopes until her death.

Rincón de la Vieja The volcano is within Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Inside the national park is another volcano known as Santa Maria Volcano, which is dormant.

Attractions and Activities

Some of the attractions you’ll see at the national park include hiking trails, waterfalls, the Oropendola waterfall, and the Rio Negro hot springs. You can explore one of the trails to see boiling mud pots (Las Pailas).

Von Seebach is one of the craters on the volcano that is still active. You can see steam, and occasionally, there are volcanic hiccups.

Book a guided tour to explore the volcano, and within 6–8 hours, you’ll have experienced some incredible sights.

Irazú Volcano

The Iraz volcano is in the Cartago province, near San Jose. Irazú Volcano is 11,260 feet tall and is the highest active volcano in Costa Rica. Its last eruption occurred in 1994.

Clouds usually cover the volcano’s summit, which has two prominent craters.

Attractions and Activities

The top of Irazú Volcano has several craters. You can stop at the Costa Rican Cathedral or the Basilica de Los Angeles on your way down from the summit.

You’ll see some rare animals and vegetation.

Accessibility

You can easily access the volcano summit from San Jose by road. Drive to the top of the volcano, park your vehicle, and then hike to the main crater.

Turrialba Volcano

The Turrialba Volcano is in the Cartago province. Its most recent eruption was in 2017. Standing at 10,958 feet, it is the second-largest volcano in Costa Rica.

In January 2022, the National System of Conservation Areas (S.I.N.A.C.) closed access to the Turrialba volcano due to increased volcanic activity.

Attractions and Activities

At the top of the volcano is a lot of wildlife, including toucans, howler monkeys, and giant toads. Along the trails, you will see several old lava flows on your way up.

Accessibility

The Turrialba Volcano is not easily accessible, as vehicles are not allowed. It will take 1-3 hours to hike to the top. The trails to the top are rustic and dangerous.

You must engage an accredited guide to hike the trails or join a guided tour.

Safety Tips to Follow When Visiting Volcanos in Costa Rica

Safety is essential when planning excursions. I recommend the following tips when you visit the Costa Rican volcanoes:.

  • Research: Before deciding to visit any volcano, find out if there are any updates about its current volcanic activities. Find the best way to access the volcanoes from the local authorities or websites. Some might require permits, which you will have to get first.
  • Adhere to official guidelines: Ensure you follow any guidelines, such as updates on closure, restricted areas, signage, and instructions. Only walk on marked paths and visit designated areas.
  • Appropriate clothing: Weather conditions vary and can be unpredictable. Carry clothes to wear when it rains or becomes cold if, when you start, it is hot.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are the active volcanoes safe to visit?

Yes, all the active volcanoes are safe to visit. However, ensure you get an update on the volcano’s current activity. You should also follow all guidelines and instructions as stipulated by the authorities.

  1. How can I explore the volcanoes?

One of the ways you can explore volcanoes is by hiking up to the summit. However, not all volcanoes are open for exploration due to recent or potential volcanic eruptions. Before hiking any volcano, it’s essential to check with the local authorities.

You can also explore a volcano on a guided tour.

  1. Will I pay entry fees when I visit the volcanoes in Costa Rica?

You should expect to pay entry fees when accessing the volcano through a national park or a resort. The entry fees primarily help with maintenance.

  1. Is camping near the volcanoes possible?

While camping near some volcanoes is possible, you should first check with the local authorities for permits and to confirm if there are any regulations.

Conclusion

Make sure you visit one or a few volcanoes next time in Costa Rica. You can book Costa Rica volcano tours if you want to visit many during your stay.

While we have shared our 8 best volcanoes in Costa Rica, please let us know if we have left out any others.

 

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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