Country Guide » Volcanoes
Costa Rica is situated firmly (ish!) on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of the Earth stretching from New Zealand, up through the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Eastern Russia and across to Alaska and down the Pacific Coasts of Canada and the US, Mexico and onwards down to Chile. This is an area of earthquakes and volcanoes. About 90% of all earthquakes on earth occur within the Ring of Fire, and it possesses 75% of all volcanoes on the planet. Out of these volcanoes, Costa Rica has 112, of which 60 are considered dormant and 5 are considered active. Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity is due greatly to the presence of its volcanoes. As the volcanoes erupt, they deposit minerals into the soil, making the land fertile, and so promoting the growth of the rain forest that used to cover the entire country. Costa Rica’s volcanoes contribute to eco-tourism, with many of them being relatively easy to view/access and learn about. Below you’ll see a list of Costa Rica’s top volcanic attractions!
- Volcan (“volcano” in Spanish) Arenal. When one imagines a volcano in their mind, they imagine Arenal. The quintessential “volcano cone shape”, Arenal sits on the Northern Plains of Costa Rica close to the town of La Fortuna. This is the most famous volcano in Costa Rica and was the countries most active one between 1968 and 2010. Since then, things have calmed down, and it is now considered to be “sleeping”. The national park around Arenal provides great hiking, and the natural volcanic hot springs that are produced by the volcano provide soothing relief. This area is considered the “eco-tourism” capital of Costa Rica and offers more to do in terms of hiking, rafting, rappelling etc than anywhere else in the country. Last eruption: 2010
- Volcan Poas. The largest active volcano in the world! At just over an hour north of San Jose, Poas offers a great day trip from the capital. Situated in dense cloud forest, it’s nonetheless easy to reach, and is possible to drive almost straight up to the main crater, where you’ll find an acid lake. The second crater is surrounded by cloud forest and contains rain-fed water. Poas is best seen at dawn as clouds cover the craters very quickly. Last eruption: 2011
- Volcan Irazu. Most famous for its 1963-1965 eruption which showered San Jose with ash on the day of President John F. Kennedy’s official visit, Irazu is another volcano close to San Jose, east of the capital. At 3,432 meters (11, 260 feet), it’s the highest active volcano in Costa Rica, and is also easily reached as a day trip. Last eruption: 1994
- Volcan Rincon de la Vieja. Situated in Guanacaste Province, in the north of Costa Rica, the Rincon de la Vieja rises out of the heat soaked northern flatlands like a mirage. A great day trip from the Guanacaste beach resort areas, Rincon offers great hiking as well as hot springs and vitamin-enriched mud pools to bathe in. Last eruption: 2011
- Volcan Turrialba. Adjacent to Irazu, this volcano is nowhere near as easily reached. Horseback or on foot are the name of the game here. There is a viewing platform once you make it to the summit, but this volcano is currently “in activity” since 2010. Last eruption: 2012