Irazú Volcano National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most popular because of it’s proximity to San José and the good paved road all the way to the crater. From the top the views into the emerald and turquoise lakes of the main crater and across the mountains and lowlands are equally spectacular.
We’ve visited several times and it’s been amazingly different each time. The color and size of the lakes varies with recent rains and activity levels and the weather can change in minutes.
There is a trail map but the trails are a bit vague because the cinder and pumice rim of the craters are like one big gravel parking lot easy to wander on. Head out along the crater rims and then return along the treeline for a different perspective. There is an abandoned mirador restaurant on the short road (sometimes closed to vehicles but you can walk up) south of the parking lot and visitors center. The views from the top are spectacular on a clear day.
It takes about an hour to drive to the top and the gates close promptly at 3:30 p.m. (see herding tourists below). Mornings are also much clearer and in the afternoons the clouds move in, the wind picks up and it can be downright frigid at 11,260 feet above sea level. The views across the countryside and the views into the craters and lakes can be obscured so get an early start.