Jewels in the Ring of Fire - Costa Rica volcanoes

Costa Rica's Volcanoes

How tall are they?

Highest point and access info for Costa Rica's most popular volcanoes
Irazú11,260 ft
3,432 mt
paved road to craters; hike to summit; easy access
Turrialba10,958 ft
3,340 mt
4x4 to nearby; by horse or on foot to craters; minimum two hours from vehicle
Barva9,534 ft
2,906 mt
road to nearby; 4x4 to park entrance; hike to first crater is one to three hours on foot from vehicle
Poás8,884 ft
2,708 mt
paved road to visitor center; walk on pavement to main crater; trail to old crater lake; easy access
Rincón de la Vieja6,217 ft
1,895 mt
road to park entrance and camping area; hike to craters
Arenal5,358 ft
1,633 mt
road to park entrance and around volcano; limited access to volcano

Interested in climbing a volcano?

While many people absolutely fear volcanoes and their destructive powers, others are strangely attracted to the bellowing behemoths and seek them out. If you're one of the latter, more adventurous souls, you'll be delighted to know that some of Costa Rica's volcanoes offer excellent opportunities for exploration.

The most popular "tourist" volcanoes have easy access to the site, but also have more obstacles to prevent freely hiking around. Irazú, Poás and Arenal all have good roads to the official parking areas. Trails and fences keep visitors in their place.

Other less visited volcanoes, like Turrialba, Barva and Rincón de la Vieja are more difficult to access, but offer greater opportunities for hiking unhampered by safety fences and "can't go there" exclamations.

The National Parks Service maintains a camping area at Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, and there is also a lodge near the park. There are marked trails, but the area is a wide expanse of hiking opportunities. Turrialba Volcano Lodge is only a couple kilometers from Turrialba Volcano and offers a guided horseback ride to the craters. If you've got the time, this can be a very interesting discovery jaunt. Barva Volcano is about an hour and a half from San José. This volcano has been inactive for at least four hundred years so its twelve eruptive sites are shrouded in forest and vegetation. A 4x4 will get you to within an hour's hike of the first crater lake. A regular car will have to be parked in Sacramento, two to three hours on foot from the lake.

Hiking these rugged, "undeveloped" volcanoes requires common sense and a bit more planning than following the herd down the trail. Listening to advice from people in the area is very beneficial. Whether you care to accept it or not, local wisdom can be valuable--if for no other reason, it may guide you to hidden spots you'd never find on your own.

If you seek more than the average vacation thrill and feel the lure of a steaming, rumbling volcano pulling at your soul, these options for volcano exploration should satisfy your needs.