Not seeing a volcano in Costa Rica is like missing the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  It’s like skipping a fundamental item on the bucket list.  Luckily it’s easy to get your shot at conic beauty in this part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Being 3,432m above sea level, the Irazú Volcano is Costa Rica’s tallest one.  Because it’s situated just outside Cartago, this giant is a very well-known fellow and an easy ride to get there.  The roads that lead almost all the way up to the crater rim are in good condition, and signs mark the route clearly.  A drive through the hills also provides you with ample opportunities to see the Central Valley below.

The name Irazú probably stems from either the combination of “ara” (point) and “tzu” (thunder), or from “ofIztarú”, which was the name of an indigenous village near the volcano.  Whatever the origin of the name, this volcano is also known as “El Coloso” (The Colossus), referring to its majesty and its history of eruptions.

Though you might think of Irazú Volcano as a sleeping beauty, it’s actually still active, but fortunately very little.  The latest big breakout lasted only one day, and occurred on December 8, 1994.  The eruptions in 1963 did made international headlines though, due to their perfect timing.  That eruption occurred just a few days before former US President John F. Kennedy made a visit to Costa Rica.

In the aftermath of the explosions, the enriched soil became a nursery for a lot of plants and some wildlife too (though not all easy to spot, apart from the coatis). The volcano has several craters, two of which are the principal attractions.  While gazing at them, there’s just some special feeling about standing on the crater rim.   Knowing that the depths below you have erupted tons of ashes and lava, and that eruptions both took and brought life.

If you’re up for conquering the Irazú Volcano yourself, get there early in order to avoid the crowds.  Oh, and don’t forget to bring warm clothes (or blankets if you forgot your jacket while packing your bags), as it can be unexpectedly chilly up high.  As with any volcano, clouds are shy in the early mornings.  Thus, on very rare occasions, you’re even able to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  But there is an even greater chance of seeing the eruptions from the neighbouring Turrialba Volcano, which is currently hyperactive,.  Truly spectacular.

To get a preview of what you might see while visiting Irazu Volcano, check out this beautiful photo gallery.

Irazu Volcano
Lots of vegetation growing on the edge of the crater
Irazu Volcano
Moon-like landscape
Irazu Volcano
Beware to keep some distance
Irazu Volcano
Coatis trying to convince the visitors of their cuteness
Irazu Volcano
Come early to have the Volcano to yourself
Irazu Volcano
Planting growing in the ashes next to the crater
Irazu Volcano
Can you see the crater to the left?
Irazu Volcano
The highest point you can reach at the Volcano
Irazu Volcano
The lonely plains right before you see the crater
Irazu Volcano
When the clouds disappear, out comes the heat. But don’t forget a coat too.

Contact Us for more information on what to see and do while in Costa Rica.

PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY: Kristel Segeren