Costa Rica Volcanoes

Turrialba Volcano

Turrialba Volcano Costa Rica Volcanoes

This volcano in Turrialba, Costa Rica is one of many interesting craters in the entire region, although it has not shown activity since 1866, it still proves its magnificence while sleeping. This volcano gets its name from the Spanish settlers, when they saw the smoke coming out of it, pouring all over the highest summit, they decided to call it “Torre Alba” (Dawn tower or white tower). The Turrialba Volcano is 3 329 meters high and the last major eruptions were in 1856. About 134 years ago this magnificent volcano has only shown smoky activity, letting the experts know that underneath the Volcan Turrialba has a magma body that gets cold gradually and from this body, the heat and volcano gas is expired. The summit of the volcano in Turrialba has three craters: the east crater, the central crater and the west crater. On the East Crater there is a trail used by the cheese producers that have their activities and live by the North East side of the volcano. The Central Crater is the biggest one and the one with the most smoke activity. This crater used to have sulfur deposits where the locals extracted it for different purposes. The West Crater is the smallest one of them all.

During 1864, in Turrialba, Costa Rica the volcano proved its size and magnificence by erupting ashes for five days in row. The ashes where first reported in the Cartago area and then reports came all the way from Grecia, alajuela to the Corinto Port in Nicaragua. These eruptions came from the Central and West craters. After those eruptions the Volcan Turrialba has been in a dormant state. At this Volcano in Turrialba, Costa Rica you can behold one of the few wonderful lush and calm cloud forests. The amazing vegetation includes flower gardens and a diverse variety of plants and trees. The forest is a green site on the slopes of the mountains. The outskirts of the Turrialba Volcano are very developed, and the people are kind and easygoing. The town of Turrialba, is a typical Costa Rica town. It is a departure point for rafting tours on the Atlantic rivers of Pacuare and Reventazon where there is also great hiking down to the crater of the Volcano.


Rincon de la Vieja Volcano

Rincon de la Vieja Volcano Costa Rica Volcanoes

The name of Rincon de la Vieja volcano is deeply rooted in legend. Stories say there was once an indian princess, by the name of Curabanda, who fell in love with a young man, named Mixcoac, from an enemy tribe. The girl’s father disapproved and threw the boy into a volcano crater. Heartbroken she decided to live on the side of this volcano where later she gave birth to Mixcoac’s child who she threw into the volcano so he could meet his father. Until the end of her days she lived at the volcano and became a healer. Locals began to refer to her home at the volcano as ‘Rincon de le Vieja,’ which means ‘Old Woman’s Corner’. Rincon de la Vieja volcano also known as the ‘Colossus of Guanacaste’ sits inside a 14,083 hectares national park with the same name, just 25km outside of Liberia, which is touristically speaking the most important city in our Guanacaste province. This unique volcano displays an incredibly varied vegetation due to the multitude of altitudes and climates found along its slopes.

Rincon de la Vieja volcano is one of the several active volcanoes found in Costa Rica. A constant dispute surrounds the veracity of the first recorded eruption, certain sources place it in the year of 1765 and others claim it occurred in 1851. There have been 16 major eruptions to date, the latest being in February of 1998. For the most part Rincon de la Vieja volcano spews gasses and ash. Rincon de la Vieja volcano is a combination of volcanic vents, fumaroles and hot springs that are thought to have been created thousands of years ago. There are numerous craters at the volcano but the main crater is active and filled with a bubbling, 1640 ft wide acidic crater lake. The two most famous craters are Santa Maria (the highest) and Von Seebach (culprit of most historic eruptions). Remaining crates are in an erosive degradation stage. Rincon de la Vieja volcano humbly stands at 6,286 ft. and covers 400 square kilometers of terrain. There are various indications that Rincon de la Vieja volcano features considerable geothermic energy reserves, such as boiling mud pits and hot water pools discovered on its slopes. An estimated potential quotes at least 140 megawatts. Due to the location of the volcano within the boundaries of a protected area, drilling permits are extremely limited.

Climbing the Rincon de la Vieja volcano is quite an adventure, the trail is 8km from the ranger station, the initial 6km of the climb slope gently through two types of forests, the last 2km boast a fifty-degree slope. The weather can become quite foggy and its easy to get lost, so make sure you have a guide. Along the way you will discover different habitats, different altitudes and tons of wildlife. The landscape is adorned with lagoons, miniature mud volcanoes, hot springs, stem vents and hydrographic basins. Rincon de la Vieja volcano is home to 257 bird species, endless insect species, squirrels, butterflies, just to name a few of the wonderful specimens you are sure to glimpse. Rincon de la Vieja volcano is known as the place in Costa Rica with the largest wild purple orchid population, the country’s national flower.

Irazu Volcano

Irazu Volcano Costa Rica Volcanoes

The name Irazu comes from an indigenous origin, the real word is actually Istarú, which means Thunder and Earthquake Mountain, but with years the name it transformed to Irazú and it is the highest volcano in Costa Rica. There have been 23 eruptions since 1723, latest was during 1963 to 1965. It sent tephra and secondary mudflows into cultivated areas, killing at least 40 people and destroying hundreds of homes and some factories. The Irazu Volcano is an active strato volcano with an irregular sub conical shape at 3,432 meters above sea level and over 500 square kilometers of forest. The four craters at the summit of Irazu Volcan: the main crater, the Diego de la Haya crater, and two small craters more located on the northwest and southeast areas of the park. Plant growth is sparse within the rim of the craters yet, there is a secondary forest with patches of primary forest. Wildlife in Irazu is very scarce; near the summit you can see the rabbits, coyotes, armadillos and porcupine as well as weasels and tiger cats. If you are into bird watching, the usual species seen in the surroundings of the Irazu Volcano are hummingbirds, woodpeckers and mountain robins.

There are three different life zones in spite of the fact that the flora has considerably changed because of the eruptions: Premontane Rain Forest, Montane West Forest, and Montane Rain Forest, all of them lack vegetation around the craters.

Tree species within these forests include: Black Oak, Alder, White Oak, Growing Stick, Miconia, Small Cedar, and Copey. The past eruptions have created visible scorched dead tree trunks near the summit and the high elevations itself avoids the vegetation from growing to tall and wide. The activity of the volcano changes constantly and abruptly. In the Volcan Irazu, Costa Rica shows very strong winds, it is recommended that you dress properly: boots, thick socks, and a warm jacket, sunglasses and a scarf will be incredibly useful. During the rainy season the Irazu Volcan appears to get cloudy before noon, so it is better to visit it in the morning, at any time of the day the temperature is quite cold. The facilities are open everyday until 3:00 pm and there is a lovely coffee area to rest and escape a bit from the cold while sipping a sweet hot chocolate or great coffee.

Irazu Volcano’s history records that the first written information about its volcanic activity was from 1723. Diego de la Haya, who was a Spanish governor of Costa Rica and he kept recollection of an eruption from February of that same year. In his writings he explains how columns of smoke and ashes were thrown along with chunks of incandescent rocks with constant seismic activity. Ash continued to drift for the next two and all the people from Irazu area all the way to San Jose began having respiratory issues. This long period of activity ended in 1966 when a rock plug solidified blocking the vent.

MiraValles Volcano

MiraValles Volcano Costa Rica Volcanoes

The spectacular Miravalles Volcano is located in the Guanacaste mountain range 21miles outside of Liberia in an east-southeast direction; the Guanacaste province has a hot, dry climate plus beautiful pale sand beaches. This awe inspiring volcano stands 1969ft (600m) above sea level boasting a total height of 6654ft (2028m) and total area of 28,840 acres. 10,850 hectares of land surrounding the volcano have been acknowledged as a protected area and named the Miravalles Forest Reserve since March 16, 1976. This reserve protects rivers and tributaries that surge across the Gulf of Nicoya and into the fields of Nicaragua. The complex Miravalles stratovolcano also shelters a beautiful cloud forest and primary rainforest that overflows with coconut palm trees, epiphites and ferns; while also being home to wild felines, coyotes, white tail deer, pacas, white faced capuchin monkeys and peccaries just to name a few of the wildlife species that run rampant here.

Miravalles Volcano boasts young lava flows that pour over the west and southwest slopes. At the peak of Miravalles you will discover six eruption points, though the main crater is dormant. This splendid volcano is adorned with hot mud pits (some mudpots have been measured to be as deep as 5 – 6.5ft featuring diameters as wide as 16 and 20ft.), bubbling water pools, waterfalls, thermal springs, fumaroles and crystallized sulfur. The geographic position of Miravalles Volcano interrupts cloud flows that come in from the Caribbean coast, which produces frequent showers, heavy cloud covers, tremendously strong winds (sometimes even over 62miles/hr) as well as cold rains. Annual rainfall can reach up to 140 inches. Ordinary temperatures in the area of Miravalles range from 75F to 90F. At the top of the volcano temperatures usually register between 42F and 48F, but have been known to drop to as low as 32F. Even though Miravalles volcano is constantly monitored, the last known “eruption” was a small geyser-like steam explosion that took place in 1946. Some small seismic activity does take place regularly inside and under the main crater.

Miravalles Volcano is known for it many different points of interest; the most famous is probably the Las Hornillas tour center located in the southwest area; a family owned business that has created a living museum spa that displays hydrothermal movement along with other terrific features of the volcano. Costa Rica’s oldest Pre-Hispanic archeological findings were discovered at the Miravalles Volcano. An ambitious development called Proyecto Geotermico Miravalles is a huge underground reservoir that is heated by geothermic activity which it tries to harness; this reservoir is an energy plant that actually generates electricity for the zone. Tourists come here to hike, pamper themselves, ride horses and admire incredible natural beauty. Miravalles boasts 2 different paths that will take you across the irregular terrain to the summit, don’t forget to also bathe in the volcanic clays produced here, renowned for their therapeutic properties.


Poas Volcano

Poas Volcano Costa Rica Volcanoes

The Poas Volcano, which has the largest active crater in the world, is about an hour drive or 2 hour bus ride from San Jose (leaves at 8:30am from the bus station in front of Parque la Merced), making it a great day-trip that will have you back by 4pm. You can also catch the direct bus from the stop 3 blocks from the central park in Alajuela. Entrance is $7 for foreigners.

The park is extremely well maintained, with paved paths all the way to the crater viewing area, which even has a loft set up to give guests a better vantage point for photo taking. The clouds seem to whip by at this altitude of over 8,000 feet. So if you arrive and find yourself surrounded by white, be patient as they will most likely move right along giving you plenty of chances to view the mile-wide crater and nearby lake. A more strenuous side trail weaves through a mysterious looking cloud forest on the way to the Botos Lake.

The Visitor’s Center at the entrance to the trails offers a souvenir shop, coffee shop and a small museum. Remember to pack in layers for the trip, as the weather can get quite chilly at the top, especially when you aren’t moving. If you take the direct bus, they will make a pit stop for food.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano Costa Rica Volcanoes

The Arenal Volcano is an active andesitic stratovolcano in north-western Costa Rica (10.5N, 84.7W), around 90 km north-west of San Jose, in the province of Alajuela, canton of San Carlos, and district of La Fortuna. It is the most active volcano in Costa Rica. Recognized as a volcano since the 19th century; it was known by foreign investigators as Volcan Costa Rica, Rio Frio, Canastos Volcano and Cerro de los Guatusos. Arenal is the youngest and most active of all the mountains in Costa Rica. Scientists have been able to date it back to more than 4000 years ago. The area remained largely unexplored until 1937, when a documented expedition took place to reach the summit.

Once locally known as Cerro Arenal (i.e. Mount Arenal) it was presumed extinct until July 29, 1968 when an earthquake caused it to erupt after approximately 400 years of dormancy. The eruption wiped out the town of Arenal and killed 87 people. It lasted for several days, and during that time destroyed crops, property, livestock, and forests. 15 square kilometers were buried and the explosion affected over 232 square kilometers. The eruption caused three new and active craters to form. Before the eruption, there was a wide variety of plant and wildlife on the mountain. It has been active since the explosion and can be reported to have minor eruptions every 5-10 minutes.

Arenal rises 1657 metres above sea level and overlooks Lake Arenal; both are part of Arenal Volcano National Park. The country’s most active volcano, Arenal’s eruptions are strombolian in type, being frequent but moderate and can be viewed without danger as long as the viewers are behind the safety perimeter. This constant activity and minimal endangerment makes Arenal a popular tourist destination, especially at night, because the lava and incandescent rocks make a spectacular sight. The last major eruption of Arenal occurred on August 23, 2000. Most of the time, the volcano is surrounded by clouds near the tip, and it is touted as good luck to see the whole volcano without clouds. The volcano heats several hot springs nearby, including Tabacon, a popular tourist destination.

For more information, visit Arenal Volcano


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