Quick Guide to
Costa Rica's Volcanoes

COSTA RICA is rich in volcanic activity, possessing several living, steaming volcanoes you can explore. Entrance to any of the following national parks costs six dollars (US) for tourists, and once inside you can enjoy the splendor of these geothermal giants (500 colones for citizens and residents). The following list is a brief tour of the major active volcanoes in Costa Rica.

Irazu
Facts: Irazu Volcano is the tallest active volcano in Costa Rica, standing at a frigid 3,432 meters above sea level (11,259 feet). There are five craters to observe in this desolate moonscape, with the main crater measuring more than 3,450 across and over 1000 feet deep.
Attractions: Irazu offers several types of craters, some containing small lakes. The park also protects 2,309 hectares of cloud and rain forest. There are several paths to explore, leading to the craters and a majestic waterfall. From the highest point in the park, on a clear day, you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea at the same time. Within the park are a scenic overlook, parking, bathrooms, an information office, and a small kiosk selling snacks near a picnic area. Bring warm clothes.
Getting There: Take the Interamerican Highway east to the Taras Intersection near Cartago. Keep going straight, then take the first left, and follow the road signs all the way to the volcano. Buses leave from across the Grand Hotel Costa Rica three times a week. Call for departure times.
Information telephone: 551-9398

Poas
Facts: Poas lies at an altitude of 2,708 meters (about 8,884 feet), and is a short drive from San José . Poas's active crater is one of the largest on earth, constantly spewing forth steam and worrying geologists by threatening eruption.
Attractions: There are several safe trails snaking throughout the park, leading to the emerald-colored lagoon Botos which is an old crater. You can observe a variety of vegetation in the rain and cloud forests, with some 26 species of birds along the way. Horseback riding, hiking, camping, and picnicking are also available. In the surrounding areas you can observe the country lifestyle of the local farmers. Poas has a new visitors' center complete with museum, parking area, picnic area, and a small cafe. Poas makes a popular outing from San José .
Getting There: Public buses leave Alajuela on Saturday and Sunday, and one bus leaves San José on Sundays, but these buses are usually crowded. Many tour companies provide frequent trips; contact the Costa Rica Travel Advisors in the Hotel Del Rey for more information. Or, if you want to drive yourself, take the Interamerican Highway to Alajuela, passing the Central Park. Follow the same road until you meet with San Pedro de Poas, which leads directly to the volcano. Information Phone: 482-2165

Information from Costa Rican Informer, Issue 5, March 2002, pages 2-3

Rincon de la Vieja
Facts: Often called "The Yellowstone of Costa Rica," Rincon is an active volcano located in Guanacaste, reaching a height of 1,905 meters (or 6,250 feet). The climate is humid, but the humidity fades away with the spectacular vistas. More than 300 species of birds can be seen, including the bobo bird.
Attractions: Rincon de la Vieja encompasses a vast network of environments and volcanic formations. The main crater still belches steam, and the surrounding land has several smaller craters, bubbling mud pots, fumaroles, mud cones, vapor geysers, lakes, and several other points of interest. The vista from the summit and the high hills are incredible: you can see the spacious Guanacaste Plain, the Mountains of Nicoya, and maybe even Lake Nicaragua. From there you can explore several hot springs, including the hot sulfur spring Los Azufrales, which reaches 108F for the adventurous health seeker. You can also investigate a series of four continuous waterfalls, tumbling 230 feet.
The park has a camping area and restrooms.
Getting There: A 4WD vehicle is recommended to reach this park. The roads are still unpaved and it becomes difficult during the rainy season. You take the Interamerican Highway to Liberia, taking the road heading northeast out of the city (through La Victoria). After passing the village of San Jorge you'll continue onto the Santa Maria Ranger Station.
Information phone:
666-0630

Arenal
Facts: Arenal is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, rising up 1,633 meters (5,366 feet). Due to the high level of activity, Arenal grows on average six meters (20 feet) each year. In the day it looks like a perfect cone sitting at the base of Lake Arenal, but at night you can see the glowing peak spewing forth lava in one of the most spectacular displays of geothermal power on Earth. At times the earth in the surrounding locals shakes creaks with Arenal's awesome power.
Attractions: The volcano is the centerpiece of this region, but there are many other attractions, too. A variety of vegetation, forests, and wildlife abound. Thermal hot springs abound, ranging from the free thermal rivers that cross the area to the ultra-luxurious Tabacon Resort. Scenic overlooks and numerous mountain hikes offer breathtaking views of the volcano, but be careful not to get too close to Arenal, as there are frequent eruptions.
Also, you can hike to Catarata La Fortuna -a 230 foot tall waterfall tumbling into a pristine, emerald pool. Additionally, the Venado cave system offers kilometers of under ground exploration. Lake Arenal offers good fishing, swimming, boating, kayaking, and the best windsurfing in the world. Nearby, the Arenal Botanical Garden displays the area's flora. You can also learn the process of harvesting the macadamia nut at a nearby farm. The Arenal area has a tourist information center, restrooms, and a wide array of restaurants and lodgings, depending upon your budget.
Getting There: Buses leave three times daily from San José to La Fortuna (the closest town to Arenal), departing from La Coca Cola bus station. In car, you take the Interamerican Highway west, turning north at San Ramon and following the signs for Villablanca. In Villablanca you turn north along a road that ends up in La Fortuna.
Information phone: 461-8499