Last Updated: Jun 15, 2015
Measuring approximately 62 square miles, the massive Barva Volcano sits at the edge of Costa Rica's Central Valley. Scientists believe that the dormant volcano was last active 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, contradicting reports from several writers claiming to have witnessed a major volcanic eruption in 1772. Evidence suggests that the 1772 event was the aftermath of an earthquake that caused landslides, avalanches and cracks in the volcano, triggering lava flows that mimicked the conditions of a volcanic eruption.
Location : Braulio Carrillo National Park
Altitude : 9,700 feet above sea level
Hours : 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Telephone : 2261-2619 and 2268-1039
Entrance Fee : $8.00
Barva Volcano forms Braulio Carrillo National Park’s highest point, approximately 9,700 feet above sea level. Several cold-water, rain-fed lagoons dot the volcano’s surface, remnants of the once-bubbling and lava-filled craters.
The largest and most visited lagoon, aptly named Barva Lagoon, is the volcano’s now-dormant main crater. The lagoon measures 230 feet in diameter and plunges 28 feet deep, its water averaging a temperature of 52° F. Copey Lagoon, located less than two miles from Barva Lagoon, is the only other lagoon open to the public.
There are four major trails that snake through Braulio Carrillo National Park’s Barva Sector: Stag Horn Path (Sendero Cacho Venado), Barva Lagoon Path, Copey Lagoon Trail and Vara Blanca Lookout Path.
Take advantage of the park’s 7 a.m. opening, and arrive early: the most common hike begins on the Stag Horn Path (1.5 hours), hooking onto the Barva Lagoon Path (1 hour), linking to the Copey Lagoon Trail (2 hours – optional), and finally looping down into the Vara Blanca Lookout Path (1 hour). The full Barva Volcano hike, including a picnic lunch, will take at least 6 hours. Get there early to avoid foggy conditions at the lagoons.
Flora and Fauna:
In addition to hiking, wildlife and bird watching are top-notch at Barva Volcano. Though Barva Volcano’s high altitude creates conditions less hospitable than warmer cloud forests, hikers and scientists have reported seeing 23 mammal species, 75 bird species, nine arachnid species and several reptile and amphibian species.
Birds such as the resplendent quetzal, golden-browed chlorophonia, flame-throated warbler and hummingbirds join lizards, salamanders, snakes, toads, frogs, deer, monkeys, pumas, jaguars, ocelots and paca, the park’s mascot.
The Barva Sector ranger station, located less than two miles north of Sacramento, offers park information and camping facilities. The Barva Sector is the only section of Braulio Carillo National Park that permits camping.
Temperatures at Barva Volcano can fall to below freezing at night, so if you plan to camp, pack appropriately. Always take rain gear and hiking boots, even if only hiking for the day.
Car: The Barva Sector is accessed via Heredia, traveling north through the towns of Barva, San Jose de la Montana, Paso Llano and, finally, Sacramento.
The road from Sacramento to the Barva Sector ranger station measures 2.2 miles, but is very rocky and potholed – this road can only be traveled in a 4WD vehicle. During the rainy season (May-November), driving from Sacramento to the ranger station is not recommended.
Bus: A public bus leaves Heredia three times daily. The journey takes just under two hours, and drops passengers off in Paso Llano, five miles from the Barva Sector ranger station. Many hikers choose to walk to the park entrance, though a 4WD taxi may be hired for approximately $20 one-way.