Costa Rica is part of the Pacific Rim of Fire, so the geography of the country is shaped by four different tectonic plates. To the north, it is the Caribbean Plate, and from the south, the Cocos, the Pacific, and the Nazca lobes move the Earth's mantle.
The strength of the slabs created the central mountain range, which literally forms the backbone of the country. It is not surprising that in this region of the earth volcanoes and hot springs characterize the landscape, as it is the case for example in Chile or New Zealand as well.
Therefore, I would like to dedicate the following lines to the five largest volcanoes in the country.
1. Irazú Volcano
It is a bit scary that the highest and most unpredictable volcano in the country is just a few kilometers east of the densely populated regions of Cartago and San José. It is exactly 3432 meters high and forms the center of a 2300 hectare national park. The park was opened in 1955 and is thus the oldest.
The easily accessible main crater has a diameter of one kilometer and is strongly reminiscent of a lunar landscape. At the bottom of the crater which is 300 meters deep, a sulfur lake shimmers in changing colors.
From San José the Irazú is very easy to reach. Just follow the Pan Americana to Cartago and then the serpentine up the volcano. At the top there are a large parking lot and a small café. If you're lucky the volcano welcomes you with a thunderous rumble.
Weatherproof clothing is recommended because it is always a bit fresh due to the altitude.
The entrance fee to the National Park is $ 10 for tourists, but definitely worth the money.
2. Poas Volcano
The Poas volcano is easily accessible and the crater is just a short walk from the car park. It rises to 2700 meters above sea level and has a comparatively large crater lake with 1300 meters in diameter.
Not far from the crater is the park entrance in the cloud forest, which invites for a walk.
3. Rincón de la Vieja Volcano
The volcano measures 1916 meters and stands in the national park of the same name. He is the largest in Guancaste, the northwestern province of Costa Rica. The journey takes about four hours via the Pan Americana from San José or one hour from Liberia, the second international airport.
The journey is definitely worth it, because in addition to the view of the crater, hot springs as well as waterfalls and freshwater lagoons in the middle of the rainforest are part of the experience.
The name "Rincon de la Vieja" translated means: "The corner of the old woman." According to the legend, the chief's daughter fled from her father because she had a love affair with the chief of a hostile tribe. The father threw the lover in the crater. In mourning, the daughter threw her son, whom she had with the warring chief, also in the crater to unite the two. She herself learned the arts of an herbalist and has since been known to help people with serious illnesses. The people who searched for her help then said, "I'm going to the corner of the old woman," which gave the place its name. Even today, the hot springs are said to have healing powers for all suffering.
4. Arenal Volcano
At 1670 meters, the Arenal is one of the smaller volcanos in Costa Rica but does impress by its perfect conical shape. He has been active regularly over the past decades. In 2010 there were the last major eruptions, since no lava flows down the flanks. Its impressive shape attracts thousands of tourists every year.
The Arenal National Park offers many opportunities to enjoy your holidays. For example, a walk over hanging bridges in the rainforest, a Canopytour or a bath in the hot springs of Tabacon.
5. Turrialba Volcano
The stratovolcano Turrialba with 3340 meters is the smaller neighbor of the Irazú and the easternmost volcano of the Cordilere. He is very active and had his last outbreak in 2016. In contrast to the Irazú, the access to the crater is rather challenging and takes about six hours. Whereby on some days it can be too dangerous to go to the crater. That's why even most Ticos have never seen the volcano up close.
Have we piqued your interest? If you wish, we can add several tours to the individual volcanoes in your itinerary. Just let us know and we'll be happy to help you.
Article by Piet Kroll. CRS Tours 2018.