Irazu Volcano National Park

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Irazu Volcano National Park

Irazu Volcano is one of the most active in Costa Rica.
Irazu Volcano is one of the most active in Costa Rica.

Irazu Volcano National Park is located just east of the capital city of San Jose. Irazu is a strato-volcano and is Costa Rica’s highest volcano at 3,432 meters. It is also one of the most active in the country, with a history of frequent eruptions dating back from 1723. The last major eruptions occurred from 1962-1965, with periodic smaller eruptions ever since. As with all active volcanoes, the level and type of activity changes periodically, often abruptly. Since the last series of eruptions, between August of 1962 and March of 1965, Irazú's principal crater has only emitted fumarole activity -- but things could change again at any time.

The gently sloping southern flank with its patchwork pattern of potatoes, cabbages, and other vegetable crops, replaced by bucolic dairy farms at higher elevations, belies the violent past of this sleeping behemoth that looms above the city of Cartago. Upon nearing the summit the destructive forces of volcanism begin to become more noticeable with the presence of scorched dead tree trunks that are still standing. On top of Irazú you will find several deep craters in this barren windswept terrain that is reminiscent of a moonscape. The high elevation itself, being just above the tree line at this latitude, keeps the vegetation from growing very tall, but the periodic devastating effects of eruptions help to keep plant life rather sparse. Among the few species of birds that live in this habitat are the aptly named Volcano Junco and Volcano Hummingbird.

Another point of interest in the park is the coloring of the lake at Diego de la Haya Crater. The extraordinary bright greenish yellow coloring is caused by rainfall dissolving the minerals along the crater walls. Biologists closely monitor the lake for changes in chemistry and temperature.

The park is home to some wildlife as well; mainly clay-colored robins, black-faced solitaries, coyotes, eastern cottontails, tiger cats and long tailed weasels.

It should be noted- You can always spot the real tourists on Irazú, they're the ones wandering around in shirt sleeves and shorts -- and shivering to death. Don't be fooled by the fact that Costa Rica is a tropical country, even here it's cold at 3,400 meters.The wind chill on the summit can add to the sensation, too, so dress accordingly.


There is a visitor center with a scenic overlook at the volcano area that has a small coffee shop and restrooms, and is open from 8:00am to 4:00pm.

The Ricardo Jimenez Oreamuno Recreation Area has trails and camping available.

Getting to Irazu National Park

• from San Jose

• take the highway to Cartago

• from Cartago a paved road will lead you through the mountains to the visitor center and scenic overlook at Irazu Volcano National Park