11 Must-Visit Volcanoes In Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a small country in Central America but is home to an impressive number of volcanoes. In fact, Costa Rica has over 200 volcanic formations, seven considered active. These volcanoes not only provide breathtaking views, but they also play a crucial role in shaping the country’s landscape and ecosystem.

In this article, we will introduce you to some of the most famous volcanoes in Costa Rica and share interesting facts about each one. Whether you are planning a trip to Costa Rica or want to learn more about its fascinating geography, this article is for you.


volcano in costa rica

Arenal Volcano is probably the most renowned volcano in Costa Rica because of its multiple eruptions between 1968 and 2010. It is located 3 hours from San Jose and stands at 5,436 ft (1,657 m). It is illegal to climb to the top of Arenal, but many people still make the 10 to 11-hour hike. La Fortuna is the closest town to Arenal and offers plenty of vantage points of the volcano. February is the best time to visit, as clouds often cover the summit later in the day.

Exploring Arenal Volcano National Park is an adventure with many hiking trails offering different viewpoints of the volcano. A guided tour is a great way to learn about the area and includes all fees, water, transport, and a guide.


Poas volcano in Costa Rica

Poás Volcano is an active stratovolcano located in the central part of Costa Rica, in the province of Alajuela. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the country, and it is known for its large, active crater lake. The volcano rises to an elevation of about 8,885 ft (2,708 m) above sea level and is the second-highest volcano in Costa Rica. The volcano’s main crater contains a lake about 985 ft in diameter and about 295 ft deep. The lake is highly acidic, and it is surrounded by a rim of sulfur deposits.

Tours of the volcano are available from May to November when the weather is good, allowing visitors to view the active crater up close. The trails leading up to the summit are home to numerous exotic birds like tapirs and tanagers, making it an excellent spot for birdwatching.

Rincon de La Vieja

Rincon de La Vieja

The Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is an impressive natural wonder in northwest Costa Rica. Rising 6,286 ft (1,916 m) above sea level, the volcano is part of the 35,000-acre Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The park offers a range of unusual volcanic features and over 25 miles of hiking trails.

Popular activities include hiking trails to Las Pailas (boiling mud pots) and Catarata La Cangreja waterfall, adventure tours from Liberia that include guided hikes, visits to Oropendola waterfall and Rio Negro hot springs, and lunch in Curubande Village. Private tour operators also offer outdoor activities such as canopy tours, horseback riding, and whitewater inner tubing with thermal pools available for relaxation.


Irazu volcano crater lake

Irazu Volcano is a popular day-trip destination from San Jose, located in the province of Cartago. It is a complex stratovolcano with five craters and has been active for more than 500 years, with the last eruption occurring in the 1960s.

Visitors can take the public bus to the main parking lot at Irazu from downtown San Jose, which takes approximately an hour and 40 minutes (without traffic). The main parking lot has toilet facilities and a small shop selling snacks, drinks, and souvenirs.

A guided tour of Irazu Volcano includes transportation, snacks, and 3 hours at the volcano. Another option is a 7-hour guided tour which includes visits to the city of Cartago and the Basilica of the Angels, as well as lunch and pick-up from San Jose. 


Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Turrialba volcano is located in Costa Rica and has been active since 2010. In March 2015, the most significant eruption in 20 years occurred, sending an ash cloud over the Central Valley and closing the country’s largest airport for a day. Experts predict that more eruptions may occur in the near future. The volcano also erupted in 1864 and ejected massive amounts of ash over Costa Rica for four years. In 2009, the government closed Turrialba National Park due to increased activity from the volcano.

In 2017, volcanologist Eliecer Duarte suggested that Turrialba might be the “new Arenal” due to an increase in luminous materials near the peak. This could mean that more frequent eruptions are likely to occur in this area, making it a popular destination for tourists who want to witness volcanic activity up close. 

It is a popular destination for hikers, offering a 10.5 km (6.5 miles) trail to its summit. Hiking the Turrialba Volcano trail requires an accredited guide, but tours are available that depart from San Jose and include a coffee tour or visits to both Irazu and Turrialba Volcanoes.


Volcán Tenorio” by Ronald Zúñiga is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Tenorio Volcano is an inactive stratovolcano in Costa Rica’s Provincia de Guanacaste. It is surrounded by a stunning national park with rainforest, savannah, and cloud forest. Visitors can expect to see thermal springs and wild animals such as pumas, but the park limits the number of visitors allowed.

Tenorio Volcano National Park contains four volcanic peaks, two craters, and a variety of landscapes. Located within the park is a picturesque river known as the River Celeste, characterized by its baby-blue color due to sulfur dioxide emissions and calcium carbonate precipitation.


Barva volcano
Volcán Barva” by Tillor87 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Barva is a complex volcano located 14 miles north of San José, Costa Rica. It has a lagoon which was once a volcanic crater, and three hills known as Las Tres Marías. Barva last erupted around 8,000 years ago and is now considered dormant. This makes it the quietest volcano on this list.

Located close to San José in Braulio Carrillo National Park, Barva is an ideal day trip destination for hikers who can explore its parasitic cones and multiple lagoons. Nicknamed Las Tres Marías (the Three Marys) due to its three principal summits, Barva offers stunning views from the Central Valley. The area also contains several trails suitable for all levels of fitness and experience, making it perfect for those looking to explore the natural beauty of Costa Rica.


Chato volcano
Cerra Chato Ride extinct Volcano” by REDFISH1223 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Chato Volcano is an inactive volcano located in the La Fortuna district of Costa Rica. Standing at 3,740 ft (1,140 m) tall, it is a popular destination for hikers and adventurers alike. The hike to the top can take between 3-4 hours and should be started before 10 am to avoid hiking back in the dark.

It is possible to access two routes to the top, one near the Green Lagoon Lodge and one from Arenal Observatory Lodge. Access to the trail comes with a reasonable fee. However, it does not include access to facilities. Rainy weather should be avoided for this trail as it can make the hike more challenging.


Miravalles volcano
Miravalles Vocano” by PoshMoggy is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Miravalles Volcano is an impressive andesitic stratovolcano located in Northern Costa Rica. It stands at a towering 6,653 ft (2,023 m) and is the highest mountain in Guanacaste Province. The volcano has been inactive since its last eruption in 1946, but it still holds a great deal of significance for the region. Miravalles is home to the largest geothermal field in Costa Rica and offers visitors plenty of opportunities to explore its natural beauty.


Orosi volcano
File:Volcán Orosí.jpg” by ErickWikiLoco is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Orosí is a small, inactive volcano located in the Cordillera de Guanacaste close to the Nicaraguan border. It has an elevation of 5,443 ft (1,659 m) and last erupted 3,500 years ago. The area around Orosí is popular among ecologically minded tourists due to its wet-dry transition forest and many animals. This unique environment allows visitors to observe a variety of wildlife, such as monkeys, sloths, toucans, parrots, and more. In addition to its diverse wildlife, Orosí also offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape from its peak.

The area around Orosí is also known for its rich cultural history. Several archaeological sites in the region date back thousands of years and provide insight into the lives of ancient civilizations who once inhabited this area. Visitors can explore these sites and learn about their history while taking in the beautiful scenery surrounding them.

Ways To Explore These Volcanoes

There are several ways to explore the area around the volcano:

  1. Hike to the summit: Several trails lead into the parks around the volcanoes, some of which allow you to get a close-up view of the summits, and any craters, see steam vents, and other volcanic features. Keep in mind that these hikes can be strenuous and not suitable for everyone.
  2. Take a guided tour: Many tour companies offer guided tours of several volcanoes. These tours typically include a hike to the summit and visits to other nearby attractions, such as hot springs and waterfalls.
  3. Go horseback riding: Horseback riding is a popular way to explore these parks. Several stables offer guided rides through the forest and along the base of the volcanoes.

No matter how you choose to explore these volcanoes, it’s important to be prepared and take the necessary precautions. Wear sturdy shoes, bring plenty of water and snacks, and follow any safety guidelines provided by tour guides or park staff.


How many volcanoes are there in Costa Rica?

There are over 200 volcanic formations in Costa Rica, but not all are active. Some of the most well-known volcanoes in Costa Rica include Arenal, Irazú, and Poás. Arenal is an active stratovolcano in the province of Alajuela, while Irazú is an active stratovolcano in Cartago. Poás is an active stratovolcano located in the province of Alajuela, and it is known for its large, active crater lake.

Are there active volcanoes are there in Costa Rica?

There are 5-7 active volcanoes in Costa Rica, including Arenal, Irazú, and Poás. The Costa Rican Volcanological and Seismological Observatory monitors these volcanoes, tracks their activity, and issues alerts when there is an increased risk of eruption. It is difficult to provide an exact number of active volcanoes in Costa Rica, as the definition of “active” can vary, and some volcanoes may go through periods of dormancy.

Is Costa Rica part of the Ring of Fire?

Yes, Costa Rica is located within the “Ring of Fire,” a region of the world characterized by a high level of seismic and volcanic activity. The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped belt that encircles the Pacific Ocean and is home to many of the world’s most active volcanoes and earthquakes. It is called the “Ring of Fire” because of the region’s frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The Ring of Fire results from the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates, which often collide and cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Can you see active lava flows in Costa Rica?

It is possible to see active lava in Costa Rica, although it is not common. If you are interested in seeing active lava in the country, the Arenal Volcano is one of the best places to visit. It is one of the most active volcanoes, and it is known for its frequent eruptions and lava flows.

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