Costa Rica lays on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area characterized by tectonic movements and collisions, resulting in volcanic activity. There are over 200 volcanic structures in this small country that date back to more than 65 million years ago, however only about 112 show signs of activity. 60 of these volcanoes are considered dormant, which means they are currently not showing any volcanic activity at the moment, but could become active again. 5 of these volcanoes—Arenal, Poas, Rincon de la Vieja, Orosi and Irazu—have only present for about two million years and are considered active.
The rich biodiversity and green landscape that characterizes this country is due greatly to Costa Rica’s volcanoes. As they erupted in the past, they deposited minerals into the soil, making the land fertile and ultimately contributed to the dense forestation that covers the country.
The majority of the Costa Rica volcanoes are concentrated in the Northern and Central Highlands regions of Costa Rica. There are three volcanic ranges: the Central Volcanic Range, the Guanacaste Range and the Talamanca Range. The Central Volcanic Region is home to the Poas, Barva, Turrialba and Irazú volcanoes. Near the border with Nicaragua, the Orosi, Rincon de la Vieja, Miravalles and Arenal volcanoes make up part of the Guanacaste Range. In the southern Talamanca Range, there is one volcano, El Viejo. These volcanoes are mostly caldera volcanoes that are characterized by craters filled with water and rising steam.
Which volcanoes can I visit?
There are a variety of Costa Rica volcanoes you can visit while you are in this country, from the famous Arenal, Irazu and Poas volcanoes, to the less visited Rincon de La Vieja, Orosi, Miravalles and Barva volcanoes. Each of them have fascinating characteristics that makes them unique from the others. Get to know more about each volcano:
Arenal: Perhaps the most visited and mentioned in Costa Rica, this volcano is considered in the Northern Lowlands. It´s tall, imposing and perfect symmetrical shape makes it a must-see during your vacation. If you are lucky, you will see smoke rising from the top or lava flowing down its sides.
Poas: This volcano is known for its boiling acid lake within the crater, with steam and smoke rising from below. Located in the Alajuela province in the Central Highlands, it is one of the most accessible volcanoes in Costa Rica.
Irazú: This stunning volcano is set among the clouds nearby the city of Cartago. It is the highest active volcano in Costa Rica, standing at 11,260 feet over the Central Valley. It is famous for its spectacular green blue lake situated within one of its craters.
Barva: Also located in the Central Highlands, this volcano is situated in Braulio Carrillo National Park. Currently it is dormant, but it´s worth visiting as it’s off the radar and offers great hiking trails. Its lush green forests are home to a variety of flora and fauna.
Orosi: Orosi forms part of a volcanic complex along the Nicaraguan border in the Guanacaste province. It is currently dormant and is home to an important cloud forest. There are a variety of hiking trails and areas for camping.
Rincón de la Vieja: “The Old Woman’s Corner” is an active volcano about 15 miles from Liberia in Guanacaste. Visitors can awe at its hot pools and mudpots at the base of the volcano that are a source of geothermal energy for the surrounding area.
Miravalles: This is the highest volcano in the Guanacaste province and one of the six active volcanoes in Costa Rica. Geysers and hot springs can be observed at the base. Visitors can hike through its trails and observe the array of flora and fauna of the region.
Turrialba: Turrialba is a stunning volcano overlooking the Central Valley region. One can see lava flows while hiking along its trails. It is nearby Irazu Volcano, but is currently closed due to volcanic activity in 2016.