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irazu volcano crater with poor man umbrella plants
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Irazu Volcano National Park

Irazu Volcano National Park

Quick Facts

  • Location : 19 miles northeast of Cartago
  • Altitude : 11,260 above sea level
  • Forest Type : Rainforest and sub-alpine paramo
  • Hours : 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily
  • Tel. : 2551-9398
  • Entrance Fee : $10.00

Irazu Volcano National Park craters' resemble a moonscape: a vast expanse of grey dust and rock with a green lagoon at its center, which swells and dries up with the seasons. One of Costa Rica's active volcanoes, Irazu infamously erupted in 1963, raining ash clouds on Cartago, San Jose and most of the Central Valley for nearly three years. The volcano's landscape changes with altitude, from tropical, fertile fields to the wind-swept, treeless plains situated from 10,827 to 13,124 feet.

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Volcanologists speculate that Irazu Volcano has been erupting for over 500 years. It has recently entered a dormant phase to the great relief of farmers and property owners along the slopes. On a perfectly clear day, visitors can see both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts from atop the volcano. The principal crater, some 3,445 feet in diameter, is filled with lime green water. Depending on mineral concentrations, the lagoon can also take on a red hue. 

The craters here are fringed with a battered collection of bushes and trees, the remains of forests and grasslands damaged by eruptions and vapors. Wind-twisted oak and cedar trees, interspersed with poor man’s umbrella plants and patches of scrubby grass add to the area’s otherworldly feel.

Temperatures hover around 45-55 ºF, and strong winds are common, so bring a sweater. The best time to view the craters is early in the morning, as cloud cover usually thickens after 10 a.m. Visitors during the dry season (December- April) are more likely to get clear views.

Weather:

Temperature:  40º F annual average
Precipitation: 80 inches annual average 

Activities:

A trail leads from the information center to a lookout point over the craters. Visitors should keep an eye out for high-altitude wildlife such as the sooty robin and volcano junco. A visit here is strictly a day trip, as there is no place to stay inside the park, and camping is forbidden. 

Facilities:

There is a restaurant with restrooms and a gift shop at the top in the parking area. 

Trails:

There is one trail with views to the volcano’s crater.  More trails are available in the Ricardo Jimenez Oreamuno recreation area. 

Flora & Fauna:

Flora: Arrayan and arracachillo, cedar, black oak and poor man's umbrella
Birds: Volcano junco, sooty robin, woodpeckers and hummingbirds
Mammals: Coyotes, rabbits, weasels and armadillos

Getting There:

From San Jose, take Highway 1 south to Cartago. Follow signs to Irazu Volcano. There is a paved road that leads through the mountains and continues to the park where a small information center is located.

A bus goes to Irazu Volcano National Park everyday, leaving at 8 a.m. from the intersection of Avenida 2 and Calles 1/3. The round-trip fare from San Jose is $8. The bus drops visitors off and picks them up in the parking area of the main crater where there are restrooms and an information desk. The bus stops at the Restaurant Linda Vista, which has wonderful views, and returns to San Jose at 1 p.m. For more information, call 2530-1064. 

Irazu Volcano National Park in Pictures

Experiences in Irazu Volcano National Park