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Costa Rica Travel >>natural areas>>Irazú Volcano

Irazú Volcano National Park
ara—peak of tzu—thunder

National Park Costa Rica
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The last time Volcán Irazú awoke was in the first half of the 1960's, when, for four years it showered the residents of Cartago and San José with ash, clogged the air with smoke, and sent glowing boulders rolling down its sides. Today, as you travel along the southern slope of the volcano to the park, the potato, onion, and cabbage fields give way to dairy farms at higher elevations. The next eruption can't be predicted with much accuracy, but currently the only activity in the crater is from fumaroles releasing toxic steam.

The summit of Volcán Irazú is near tree-line, and the wind and volcanic activity conspire to give the effect of a moonscape. There are several craters rimmed by gnarled, scorched trees, and lined with brilliantly colored rain fed mineral pools. There are few inhabitants in this harsh environment, but two you should keep an eye out for are the aptly named Volcano Junco and Volcano Hummingbird. There is a small visitors center and displays explaining volcanism (if you are interested in how volcanoes work, there is an extensive visitors center and museum at Poás Volcano National Park).

In the region
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In the region:
Irazú National Park is an easy day trip from most locations in the central valley, and can be combined with a number of other activities.

Coffee TourA tour of a coffee farm is the perfect way to drive the chill out of your bones after an early morning battling the winds on Irazú.

Botanical GardensLankester Botanical Gardens outside Cartago specializes in orchids, but there are hundreds of other rainforest species on the 26 acre (11 hectare) grounds. The butterfly and hummingbird garden are especially popular.

BicyclingAlthough we don't know of any organized tours to do this, Irazú is a great downhill ride. Hire a taxi, get an early start, see the park in the morning then spend the afternoon coasting down 7,500 feet (2,300 meters) to the central valley. Just be careful what you drink from the roadside stands near the dairy pastures (Drink the Water, but don't Drink the Natilla).

When to visit Costa Rica
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When to visit:
This is the most visited National Park in Costa Rica. Many people come up on day trips from San José. Your best bet to get a view of the crater (and possibly all the way to both coasts) is early in the morning between December and April. One advantage of the extreme elevation of Irazú is that it's often above the clouds. Even when the central valley is socked in the sun may be shining on the crater.

Don't forget to bring at least a sweater and a windbreaker, and some have commented that they would have worn a parka if they had one. If the sun is out remember that you are near the equator at significant elevation and the intensity of the sun can cause burns in less than an hour. Carry and use sunscreen.

Books and other resources
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Toucan Ratings Explained | Lowest Available Price
Why Buy from Us?

by Mauro Rosi (Editor), Paolo Papale, Luca Lupi, Marco Stoppato, Franco Barberi (Editor), Jay Hyams (Editor), Paperback, 335 pages, Publisher: Firefly Books, (March 2003), ISBN: 1552976831

not yet reviewed
Written by experts in the field and beautifully illustrated. The first section covers the science and the second the details of over 100 active volcanoes around the world.
Buy from Amazon $US 17.47 -or-
Barnes&Nobel member price $US 24.95


Encyclopedia of VolcanoesEncyclopedia of Volcanoes
by Haraldur Sigurdsson, Bruce Houghton, Hazel Rymer, John Stix, and Steve McNutt, Hardcover, 1456 pages, Publisher: Academic Press, (October 1999), ISBN: 012643140X

not yet reviewed
Complete coverage of every aspect of volcanoes in a beautiful and accessible form.
Buy from Amazon $US 99.95 -or-
Barnes&Nobel $US 99.95


Why Do Volcanoes Blow Their Tops?: Questions and Answers About Volcanoes and Earthquakes
by Melvin Berger, Gilda Berger, Higgins Bond (Illustrator), Barbara H. Bond (Illustrator), Paperback, 48 pages, Publisher: Scholastic Reference, (November 2000), ISBN: 0439148782

Kids 9-12 years, beautifully illustrated and scientifically accurate.
Buy from Amazon $US 5.95 -or-
Barnes&Nobel $US 5.95

Toucan Ratings Explained | Lowest Available Price
Why Buy from Us?

Information on the web
Attractions | The Region | When to Visit
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Volcano information on the Web
Scientific site in Spanish tracking the activity of the volcanoes of Costa Rica

USGS volcanoes of the world

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History volcanoes of the world


Map showing the location of Irazú National Park in Costa Rica
Location—Irazú volcano is 15 miles (24 km) east of San José, 34 miles (54 km) by road.
9° 58' 30" N, 83° 53' 30" W

Getting There—Driving directions, and information on transportation by bus, and taxi will open in another window

Entrance fees—$US 7

Hours—The guard station is manned from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Hiking trails—A total of just over half a mile (1km) of paths wind between the principal crater and Diego de la Haya, Playa Hermosa, and La Laguna craters, forming a loop with the entrance road around the pyroclastic cone.

Camping—camping is not allowed

Tours and lodging—most tour operators in San José offer day trips to Irazú for $US 30-70 depending on what other attractions are included. There are no accommodations in the Park.

Quick Facts
All of Irazú park is above the frost line, and much of it above tree line. Temperatures hover around freezing, and constant winds and saturating humidity contribute to the bitter cold at the rim.
Rainfall and average high and low temperatures for Irazú Volcano

Size—5,705 acres (2,309 Hectares, 9 square miles, 7 times the size of central park NYC, 1/50th the size of Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado)

Elevation—11,260 feet (3,432 meters) at the summit.

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