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Top 5 Most Active Volcanoes to Visit in Costa Rica & What To Know About Them

You’ve certainly heard that Costa Rica is a country with lovely beaches, stunning jungles, and a vast wealth of flora and fauna, but did you know that it also has plenty of volcanoes? In addition to the five still active, the nation is home to over 100 other mountains considered dormant or extinct.

There are numerous activities, all based on their towering and majestic heights, for tourists to enjoy. For instance, hot springs with mineral-rich water are a magnet for spa fans due to the heat from the volcano’s magma close to the surface. The small elevation fluctuations produce a hub of biodiversity unmatched anywhere else in the globe, attracting both scientists and tourists.

This article will also provide essential information to let you know what is the most active visited volcano in Costa Rica and the top volcanoes to visit for the greatest thrill if you’re planning a trip to this beautiful country.

The 5 Active Volcanoes Of Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

Arenal, at 1,670 meters above sea level, is undoubtedly the most well-known of Costa Rica’s volcanic giants since it is one of the world’s top ten most active volcanoes. It is in the nation’s northern region and towers above the lush surroundings, where the best coffee globally is grown on plantations.

Arenal and its surroundings make a fantastic base for adventurous travel. Therefore, you won’t be let down by the awe of its splendor as you watch the vapor fumaroles flow continuously. The best thing is that you may enjoy this stunning scene while relaxing in naturally heated hot springs that the volcano has warmed.

In addition to being a magnificent conical volcano to admire, it is also home to some of the best hikes in the area and a wonderful zip-lining canopy tour. La Fortuna is a small rural community that has managed to hold on to its Costa Rican customs. Here, you may sample regional cuisine, travel to nearby natural attractions, and enjoy an incredible view of the Arenal Volcano.

Poas Volcano

Poás Volcano

This volcano is also among the most well-known places to visit in Costa Rica. Two crater lakes, active fumaroles, and sulfuric emissions make it one of the biggest active volcanoes in the world.

The northern lake, known as the Laguna Caliente or a hot lagoon, is among the world’s most acidic water bodies, in stark contrast to the Botos lake, which is cool, clear, and encircled by the grandeur of the tropical cloud forest.

For the best views of the crater before the clouds roll in, get there as soon as the Poás Volcano National Park opens at 8 am. Another quick 30-minute hike will lead you to a lovely picnic location on the lake, which is well worth the effort.

The location also has a cafe, a small but highly educational museum with fascinating information about the volcano, and a gift store. You can also visit the La Paz Waterfall Gardens if you have the entire day to spare. That’s what I did!

Irazu Volcano

Irazú Volcano

The Irazu is Costa Rica’s tallest volcano, rising beyond 11,000 feet. In fact, you can see the Pacific and the Caribbean if you’re fortunate enough to reach the peak on a clear day. However, keep in mind that it gets a little chilly up there, so dress warmly.

Despite being a little over an hour’s drive to the east, the Irazú Volcano National Park is not as popular with tourists as the Poas Volcano despite being the nearest to San José. The main crater is 1050 meters in diameter, and offers breathtaking views.

The hiking routes surrounding the Irazú Volcano are mostly level, similar to Poas, making them accessible to almost everyone. The sole distinction is that they are not paved, making them less accessible for visitors on wheelchairs.

There are fantastic half-day volcanic tours starting from San Jose for those with limited time. There are also full-day tours that include a luncheon with views of the Orosi Valley and a visit to Lankester Gardens.

Rincon de la Vieja VolcanoImage: Tony Fernandez via Flickr

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano

The name “Rincón De La Vieja” means “corner of the old lady,” which is how the locals refer to it. This volcano, which is Costa Rica’s third-most active, is surrounded by a freshwater lake, geysers, waterfalls, hot springs, and boiling mud pools.

The Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park has a vast network of paths that range in length from brief excursions to all-day hikes. Sadly, climbing the crater is no longer possible because of the most recent volcanic activity. However, there are still plenty of mud pits, hot springs, waterfalls, fumaroles, and crater lakes to explore.

You can choose the ideal trail out of the 7 available options, all of which range in complexity. The Las Pailas portion, which has easy hiking trails suitable for people of different physical abilities, receives the most visitors.

As part of a vacation package that includes several of Costa Rica’s well-known eco-adventure parks, experience the thrill of zip-lining, unwinding in natural hot springs, or riding a horse through some of Rincón de la Vieja’s most breathtaking scenery.

Turrialba Volcano

Turrialba Volcano

Although Turrialba Volcano is one of the least frequented of our top 5, it is now receiving worldwide attention. This attention is impacting some travelers’ plans for their Costa Rica vacations due to the recent rise in volcanic activity.

It has one of the most scenic roads in the nation since the access route features lovely ranches, coffee plantations, rivers, and authentic displays of rural country life. It is the second-highest volcano in Costa Rica, rising 3,340 meters above sea level. The mountain lies in a cloud forest, so the temperature is fairly cool there—around 55 degrees.

This volcano is well-known for its ongoing release of ash and white smoke. It is also home to remarkable fauna, including gigantic toads, agoutis, toucans, armadillos, howler monkeys, and long-tailed hermits. It also boasts of having a wide diversity of natural vegetation splendor.

Turrialba Volcano is about 50 kilometers from San Jose. Since there are no tarmacked roads leading to the destination, the nature resorts surrounding it provide horseback trips to take you up to the summit.

Frequently Asked Questions About Costa Rica’s Volcanoes

How Many Volcanoes Are There In Costa Rica?

Over 75 million years ago, a volcanic movement created the geography of present-day Costa Rica. Therefore, the country is home to some of the most stunning active volcanoes in the world. The nation is home to approximately 120 volcanic sites, but only five (listed above) are active. Most of Costa Rica’s volcanoes are now protected zones or national parks.

What Is The Most Visited Volcano In Costa Rica?

The Arenal and Poás Volcanoes are currently the most popular and highly visited volcanoes in Costa Rica. The Arenal is endowed with plenty of beautiful natural sceneries to captivate all who visit it. On the other hand, Poás’ location makes it a highly attractive option to visitors since it is a little over an hour from the San José International Airport in the stunning Central Valley.

What Is Costa Rica’s Most Active Volcano, And When Did It Last Erupt?

Currently, the most active volcano is the Turrialba Volcano in central Costa Rica, as it has experienced frequent explosive eruptions from 2016, as well as in January, March, and April of 2017.

Before 2014–17, visitors could climb into the main crater, but an increased volcanic activity that produced thick clouds of volcanic ash forced the closure of Turrialba Volcano National Park. The park and volcano, however, reopened on December 4, 2020, after the eruptions stopped.

Arenal Volcano flowers

Which Volcano Is Better In Costa Rica?

The Arenal Volcano is the most popular and well-known volcano in Costa Rica due to often being considered the best volcano site in the country. It is also Costa Rica’s tourism industry’s show-stopping centerpiece, providing plenty of cool activities visitors can engage in and enjoy.

Some of the most popular ones include; the Arenal hot springs, trekking through the Arenal Volcano National Park’s canyons, kayaking on Lake Arenal, and zip-lining. Additionally, if you want to view and take pictures of a famous, cone-shaped volcano, it’s the best volcano in Costa Rica to go to. I personally found it quite impressive as seen from Lake Arenal.

Which Volcano Is The Biggest Threat To San José, Costa Rica?

The Turrialba volcano is 30 kilometers from the western Central Valley, with approximately 2.1 million residents as of 2010 on the easternmost edge of Costa Rica’s Central Volcanic Range. Since San José is located directly downwind from Turrialba and receives most of the Caribbean’s E-W winds, it could be in danger.

In 1864–1866, an eruption seriously damaged an area 3 km in diameter surrounding the volcano and sent ash over San José city and 130 km down to the Pacific coast. A small, recently opened fumarolic vent produced lithic ash on January 5 and 6, 2010, due to intense fumarolic-phreatic activity (T>500°C).

According to earlier predictions, the very fine ashes dispersed to the southwest and west and eventually reached San José’s eastern suburbs (35 km away). Phreatic or magmatic eruptions in the future (months to decades away) pose a serious hazard to homes and farms within 5 km of the volcano, as well as to agriculture, pastures, and telecommunications on the volcano’s western flank.

Due to the location of the main international airport in Costa Rica, which is on the ash dispersal trajectory, the “worst-scenario” eruption might harm up to 1.5 million people and hinder air travel.

Can You Hike To The Top Of Arenal Volcano?

This enormous mountain (Arenal Volcano) reaches an astonishing 1,657 meters tall, but it does not deter tourists from setting out on expeditions to reach its lava-filled terrain in La Fortuna.

Numerous treks in Arenal Volcano National Park allow you to stroll around the base of the volcano, along the old lava fields, and through the jungle, even though climbing to the top of the Arenal Volcano is not permitted.

The best time to use the trails is by visiting the park between February and April when the place is experiencing dry weather. The routes usually become hazardous and impassable during other times of the year due to heavy rain present in the region.

Irazu Volcano 2

Is Costa Rica Part Of The Ring Of Fire?

There are more than 250 known volcanic formations in Costa Rica, which is a part of the magnificent Pacific Ring of Fire and has been home to volcanoes for more than 75 million years. However, there are currently only over 100 sites that exhibit volcanic activity.

Three volcanic mountain ranges cut through Costa Rica’s “land of fire”: the Guanacaste Region, which includes significant volcanoes like Rincón De La Vieja and Arenal; the Central Volcanic Zone, which consists of the magnificent volcanoes Turrialba, Barva, and Poás, and; finally, the Cordillera de Tilarán, which includes El Chato.

Last Thoughts

Every year, many people travel to Costa Rica to see the volcanoes since being in the vicinity of such a majestic force of nature is truly captivating. Fortunately, there are many other thrilling activities that you can partake in around the volcanoes.

For instance, many volcano national parks pair well with activities like white water rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, bird-watching, zip lining, volcanic mud bathing, and mountain biking.

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