Costa Rican Volcanos

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Volcanoes in Costa Rica

Poas Volcano the second largest crater in the world.
Poas Volcano the second largest crater in the world.
There are nine active volcanoes and some 200 dormant and extinct ones in Costa Rica. A land of earthquakes and volcanoes, Costa Rica is where tourists, hikers and mountaineering aficionados can climb the Central Valley’s four active cones in just two days. Not bad if you’re time-strapped. It should be noted that visitors should remember that an active volcano commands respect; proper gear (good shoes, and in the case of Rincon de la Vieja, a compass) are indispensable. If you’re looking for the greatest safety, then a guided tour would be in order. Ticos are proud of their volatile geology, and have made Poas and Irazu volcanoes two of the country’s most visited parks.

Poas is just 23 miles from San Jose on narrow roads that twist and turn through landscape of fertile farms and dark forests. There is a paved road right to the top, although you will have to hike an additional half mile to reach the crater. Poas volcano is nearly 9,000 ft. tall and is located within a national park, which along with the volcano preserves dense virgin rainforest. The crater of Poas looks like the moon and is the second-largest crater in the world, measuring more than a mile across. Volcan Poas is just coming out of an active phase, and fumaroles are visible from the viewing point above the crater. Geysers in the crater sometimes spew steam and muddy water nearly 600 ft. into the air, making this the largest geyser on the planet. Although the crater is barren, the rest of the park is green: there is a dwarf cloud forest near the crater and a high-altitude wet forest with will-groomed and marked hiking trails. You may even see the often elusive Resplendent Quetzal. Don’t forget to check out beautiful Botos Lake, which has formed in one of the volcano’s extinct craters. The overlook is located about 15 minutes from the parking area, along a forest trail.

The Irazu Volcano is historically one of Costa Rica’s more active volcanoes, although it has been a little quiet as of late. There’s a good paved road right to the rim of the crater, where a barren stretch of gray sand nurtures few plants and the air smells of sulfur. The landscape of Irazu is best described as looking like the moon. On a clear day, visitors to Irazu can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

In Guanacaste, the Rincon de la Vieja soars almost 6,000 ft. above the forests of Guanacaste. One of its nine craters is active. There is a lot of thermal activity spread out along the flanks of Rincon de la Vieja, with numerous fumaroles and geysers, as well as hot springs, waterfalls, cold pools, and mud pots.

Volcan Arenal is the most dynamic and majestic of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes. Arenal with its almost perfect cone, is approximately 5,000 ft and rises high above Alajuela’s farmlands and is adjacent to its very own lake. Loud thunder like explosions herald an eruption, and colorful clouds of gas and steam spew out of the top. Since 1968, Arenal has consistently continued to rumble and erupt, although on a much more reduced scale, spewing forth fiery cascades of lava and rocks the size of small houses. Arenal is most magnificent at night, when glowing rocks and lava pour down the slope.