In Costa Rica Central Valley may be found many volcanos. We can stare at them from far points of view or thanks to hikes that can be done on the slope of the volcanos, or even up to the craters for some of them. Here is a small guide that will explain you what you can do and what you can’t do, if you decide to explore this part of Costa Rica’s beauty.
The One you can’t miss is, Arenal Volcano.
This is an unmissable for any trip to Costa Rica. This volcano has a perfect conical shape at the summit: the typical shape we could think of when we think about volcanos. For this, many tourists are attracted by what will make you do for sure beautiful pictures. You’ll have to go through La Fortuna, then continue for a dozen of kilometers to arrive at the entry of the National Park. From there, you will have to choose among several paths: they are quite easy hikes through the fields at the bottom of the Volcano and on the slopes. You’ll even be able to take the lava trail that follows the lava flow from 1968, which is quite spectacular. It’s forbidden to hike up to the top because of the volcano activity.
Tip 1 : After the hike(s), you might want to take your car and start to go around the lake, to gaze at the view with the tremendous lake with the volcano in the background, if the weather let you see that.
Tip 2 : Many hot springs can be found around the volcanos. You will often have to pay for it, but the inhabitants know the good deals…
The Little Brother: The Cerro Chato
Just next to the Arenal stands the Cerro Chato. Lower, it allows the visitors to enjoy an amazing view on its big brother along a sliding trail in case of rain. The pro of this volcano, is that you can go and see the crater where sleeps a lake that you will reach after a quite difficult hike (climbing one). You deserved to swim a bit up there!
Tip: If someone tells you that the hike is closed, go straight to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, from there you will be able to do the hike.
The All or Nothing: The Poas Volcano
This volcano, located not far from Alajuela (the city of the international airport) can happen to be, depending on the days, a scam or a beautiful spot! Because of risks for your safety, we can only stay 20 minutes above the crater on a platform, at scheduled time (You’ll have to book this visit). But, if the sky is cloudy, smoggy or rainy, you won’t be able to see the beautiful lake at the heart of the crater. And as you can only stay 20 minutes, you cannot say “ok, let’s wait here for the sun to rise here”. That is why it can be an unsafe move to pay these 15 dollars to, if at the end you can’t see anything. On the other hand, if the sun is with you this day, the view of the lake from the platform is worth paying the entry of the park, with its turquoise-blue colour.
Tip: You have to book your entry before coming, not only because the number of entries per day is limited, but also because there is no way to buy tickets on site.
The Closest to San Jose: Irazu Volcano
The Irazu volcano is located at only 1 hour-drive from San José and is an incredible natural experience. You will be able to spend the whole day in the volcano National Park and enjoy the magnificent view on the lake (once again) located in the crater. There are a lot of animals and flowers living in this park. If the weather is fine, you’ll be able to see the Caribbean Coast, and the other mountains and volcanos in the distance from the highest point in the park (3432 meters high).
Tip: Take a warm jacket with you (yes, even in Costa Rica) because it can be quite cold up there.
The Most Remote: The Rincon de la Vieja
Far, up in the North of the country, after driving some kilometers on a track, you will find the Rincon de la Vieja. Very remote, there are a lot less tourists there than in the Arenal. Otherwise, they are quite similar: a very conical shape for the top that makes it quite photogenic. Here too, you will only be able to hike on the slopes, because of the volcano activity.
Tip: You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy hot springs there, where you’ll be almost alone because there are much less tourists than in the springs near Arenal.
Tip 2: You’ll also find just before the entry of the park, on your left, a path that will lead you to a turquoise-blue small river where you will be able to swim (just like in the Rio Celeste, except that in this last, you can’t swim).