Irazu Volcano National Park: Things to do, see and eat

Irazu Volcano is the highest volcano in Costa Rica, but it actually doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to visit. It´s an ideal option for families and elders.

Easily accessible and close to the city, it’s one of the favorite destinations for one-day tours that leave from San Jose. It’s also a popular spot for locals to visit over the weekends.

Usually, when we are driving to San Jose, we see a lot of mountains that surround the beautiful landscape of the central valley. We always try to figure out which mountains are one of the 3 volcanoes: Poas, Barva, or Irazu because they are next to each other.

The ones that are the most popular with the tourists are Poas Volcano and Irazu volcano, which are currently actives volcanoes. 

If you are planning to a volcano during your time in Costa Rica, we’ve got you covered with these travel guide tips to help you plan your own visit.

General information

Entrance fee and schedule:

Make sure you buy your ticket online before you get there at Sinac’s Website.

You will have to create a username and password and then inside the website choose the wildlife area Parque Nacional Irazu – Sector Crater because also there is another area that you can visit that it´s called: Sector Prusia but here you can´t see the volcano.

Select the schedule that you prefer and payment. You will have to present this at the entrance.

  • $15 per person for foreigners 
  • $5 per child (2-12) 
  • Open every day from 8:00 am until 3:30 pm. Try to get there by 2:00 pm at the latest.

COVID Regulations: Basically the same as the rest of the country, wear your mask and wash your hands. The place is wide open so we saw people without masks inside the crater.

Entrance at Irazu Volcano

Parking Lot:

  • They charge 1100 colones per car, which is around $2, and you pay at the souvenir shop inside the park. You can pay with card.
Parking lot


  • The weather is much cooler than other parts of Costa Rica because of the elevation. When we visited in June, it was around 8 ℃ (around 46 ℉). That day was sunny in the morning and rained in the afternoon. For that reason we recommend to visit as early as you can.


Type of forest:

  • Cloud Forest
Irazu Volcano National Park

How to get to Irazu Volcano from San Jose

If you are in San Jose, you will have to drive to the east side to Cartago providence. From there, it will be 32 kilometers (19 miles) to the volcano entrance.

Depending on the traffic, it will take 1.5 or 2 hours from San Jose. You can find directions on Waze.

What to do in Irazu Volcano National Park

The Irazu Volcano is divided into two sections where the craters are located and also the Prusia sector, which is more popular for locals to go hiking. 

The last period of strong volcanic activity took place between 1963 and 1965 with a lot of ash and volcanic dust that reached the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean.

In the main area of the National Park, there are three main craters on the top.

After you park the car, there are restrooms and a coffee shop with some picnic tables. Then you can start walking on a 300-foot paved trail and see the craters. 

The park is not too big, so the map at the main entrance will be enough to understand where you need to walk.

Diego de la Haya crater: To your right this is the first crater that you will see. It’s an inactive circular crater, 690 meters in diameter and 80 meters deep. 

Not much to see, honestly. 

Main Crater: “El principal” is active and almost circular. It’s 1050 meters in diameter and 250 to 300 meters deep. 

There is where you will see a temporary lagoon that used to be greenish yellow and now is a green-turquoise color. 

The new color of the lagoon made me want to swim in the 230 meters across and 14-20 meters deep of beautiful turquoise pool on that sunny day at the volcano. 

Of course, that will only happen in my imagination! But I love the new color of the volcano lagoon that changed few years ago.     

Walking to the main crater
Main crater. However, during our last visit in December 2021 the crater was dry.
The lagoon. Depending during the season can´t be seen.
Another shot of the lagoon

Playa Hermosa: After you walk the craters, you can explore walking on the opposite side of the craters. This area, called “Hermosa beach,” is very flat, and if it’s rainy it will be a little muddy. It’s surrounded by beautiful vegetation typical of the cloud forest.

Rodrigo walking at Playa Hermosa

Highest viewpoint: You can walk or drive to this area.

We drove from the parking lot and it’s on your right. You can park there, and if it’s sunny like the day we went, you can see the volcano lagoon and also there is a building that looks abandoned but we saw some people taking pictures from the top.

If the day is cloudy, it might not be worth it to go.

View from the highest point

Things to do around Irazu Volcano area

Stop in one of the restaurants on the way to the Irazu Volcano

After our visit to the volcano, we were hungry. Right outside the National Park entrance, you will see some locals that sell coffee and empanadas in some sort of food truck. 

There are also some souvenirs and fresh products that they produce in the area. 

Tip: If you don’t want to carry food, buying inside the park is quite expensive. You might want to buy something here and take a snack to eat later in the picnic area inside the park. 

We stopped for lunch in one of the restaurants that are on the way to the volcano that is popular because of all the papers they have on the walls. It’s called: Linda Vista.

Los sueños del Irazu restaurant is another option just down the route from the main entrance.

There are several options along the way. Wherever you see tourist buses will be a good sign that the tour guides trust that place. We also visited Mi Tierra Restaurant one — it is very popular in the area.

So take the chance to try the local food, because this area produces vegetables with a good quality of volcanic soil.

Visit Sanatorio Duran

This is a popular place for locals to visit during the weekends, especially youth that are looking for pictures in this “haunted” looking place with an interesting vibe.

When you are going down the volcano, you will see to your right infrastructure with space to park the cars and a view of what looks like a huge old mansion. Well, if you keep driving and take a right at the next turn, you will get to Sanatorio Duran Farm, a historical building with a lot of myths that locals love to visit.

Visit Prusia Sector

Here is another popular place that locals love to visit to take pictures, run trails, or just hike. 

Unfortunately, this area is part of the National Park, but with a different administrative office, so they will charge the entrance fee again. 

Remember to book online at Sinac entrance as we mentioned before.

They have 10 trails (around 16 kilometers). 

There is a camping area, picnic areas and a forest with a lot of pine trees. For Costa Ricans, this is very different than the rest of the tropical forest. 

You can enjoy hiking here, and if you like photography, I think you would like it. 

If you are looking for animals, this might not be the place for you.

Enjoy the Landscape

The drive to the top of the volcano is gorgeous. You can stop and take pictures on the way. 

Some people go to the flower fields if they are accessible to take pictures. However, technically you are on private property, so it may not be the best idea. At least you should pay the entrance fee — some of these places offer access for $2. 

If not, you will still get nice spots with beautiful landscapes to enjoy and take pictures!

Other recommendations

  • What to wear: Dress warmly and bring a rain jacket, umbrella or poncho in case it starts raining. Wear long pants, for sure.
  • The best time to visit is in March and April.
  • Sunscreen will be a good option. Even when there is high elevation, the sun rays are more perpendicular and we got burned that day. 
  • Try to get there as soon as the park opens. Around 9:30 most of the tourist buses arrive, and also if you get early you can enjoy your time around the area and visit other places.

If you are interested to learn more about other National Parks that we have visited similar to Irazu Volcano, check the links below:

Altitude Sickness: Is it common in Costa Rica?

The first time that I hear the term altitude sickness was working as a volunteer coordinator and I got an email from a girl saying: ”My home is at sea level and I am concerned about altitude there”.

At that time I didn’t quite understand her concern until we started hiking higher altitudes like the Cerro Chirripó that is the highest mountain in Costa Rica. 

Altitude sickness it’s not a very popular topic when you are thinking about your time in Costa Rica. 

However, if you are planning to visit areas like volcanos, do some long hikes or move from the beach to a higher elevation on your itinerary. 

So in order to write this article besides my research about the topic I have asked some people to share where they experience in Costa Rica altitude sickness during their time here. 

It’s also important to mention that will be different for each person depending on specific conditions, age, or not having an acclimatization period.

Altitude sickness: What to know

People in Costa Rica don’t mind much about it because usually those who are at elevation for short periods of time experience what are described as hangover-like symptoms and simply returning to lower elevation relieves them. 

Even though we don’t have elevations like  Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Puno, Titicaca Lake which are famous from high altitude definitely there are areas in Costa Rica with enough high altitude Altitude Sickness that could be a concern. 

So it’s important to educate yourself in order to avoid it. 

According to Carol DerSarkissian, a board-certified emergency physician from WebMD:

Sometimes called “mountain sickness,” an altitude sickness is a group of symptoms that can strike if you walk or climb to a higher elevation, or altitude, too quickly.

When you travel in a plane, drive or hike up a mountain, or go skiing, your body may not have enough time to adjust. 

What causes Altitude sickness?

Higher altitudes have lower levels of oxygen and decreased air pressure.

If you live in a place that’s located at a moderately high altitude, you get used to the air pressure.

But if you travel to a place at a higher altitude than you’re used to, your body will need time to adjust to the change in pressure.

Some articles said that any time you go above 8,000 feet others said 12,000 feet, you can be at risk for altitude sickness.

Pushing yourself to quickly hike up a mountain, for example, may cause acute mountain sickness. mentioned who is at higher risk to experience altitude sickness.

  • You live at or near sea level and travel to a high altitude.
  • You have had the illness before.
  • You ascend quickly.
  • You have not acclimatized to the altitude.
  • Alcohol or other substances have interfered with acclimatization.
  • You have medical problems involving the heart, nervous system, or lungs.

Which places in Costa Rica are considered a “high elevation” in terms of getting altitude sickness?

Again this will be different for each case since previous health conditions, age, and how fast you move from one place to the other. Also, we heard people getting nauseous on the ride to these places because routes are very curvy. 

Moderately high altitude: 5000 to 8000 feet (1500-2500 meters)

If you know you’re particularly susceptible, altitude is probably not a factor in your headache or hangover-like symptoms at these elevations.

  • Monteverde: Most of the hiking trails are on the reserve that has a higher altitude around 5000 ft than the town where most of the lodging areas are located.  
  • Varablanca: Almost 6000 ft of Altitud people visit this area because of the number of waterfalls that you can hike like Tesoro Escondido or Rio Agrio. Al least you are coming directly from the beach and do a long hike it might be affected.  
  • Cartago: It will be very rare but some people that have visited the area may notice a difference in breathing especially if they are doing activities near Irazu Volcano like Prusia or Lancaster Garden.

High Altitude: 8000 to 11,000 feet (2500-3500 meters) 

  • Poás Volcano: 8884 ft (2708 meters)  you can drive up all the way there and the altitude is lower than Irazu Volcano, it´s not rare to experience mild symptoms like headache and fatigue, also because of the gases on the area. 
  • Barva Volcano:  Here you can do more hiking on the trails of the National Park and also is higher with an altitude of 9534 feet. Usually, people don´t spend the night here so might be fixed just after your visit by just staying in a lower elevation. 

Very High Altitude: + 11,000 (Above 3500 meters)

  • Irazu Volcano: Irazu is 11,000 ft. (3432 m). That is the same altitude as Brian Head, the tallest peak in the state of Utah. Here is where the majority of people report altitude sickness from mild to severe.   
  • Cerro de la Muerte: People who usually drive up to this route when they are visiting the Dominical area might feel air trapped and if you are doing hiking might feel fatigued or have headaches. 
  • Cerro Chirripó: 12536 ft the highest point in Costa Rica, we highly recommend acclimatization because even locals climbers are likely to experience an altitude-related illness.

What are the symptoms of altitude sickness?

In Costa Rica, we have heard the following symptoms and experiences: 

Recently on the Cerro de la Muerte, I have had intense tooth pain, I think due to air trapped in a filling, I think it must have leaked out as the pain only lasted seconds.

I had altitude sickness visiting Irazu. It was absolutely horrible as I became weak as a newborn kitten and was vomiting and fighting for breath. If you tend toward breathing problems I’d say as beautiful as it is take a virtual tour rather than go through that

There are effects of high altitude that not necessary is altitude sickness like:

  • Awakening frequently at night
  • Increased urination
  • Shortness of breath during exertion

According to Cleveland Clinic, there are different levels of altitude sickness that have different symptoms:

Symptoms of mild, short-term altitude sickness usually begin 12 to 24 hours after arriving at a high altitude. 

They lessen in a day or two as your body adjusts. These symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sleep problems.

Symptoms of moderate altitude sickness are more intense and worsen instead of improving over time:

  • Worsening fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.
  • Difficulty doing regular activities, though you may still be able to walk independently.
  • Coordination problems and difficulty walking.
  • Severe headache, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Chest tightness or congestion.

Severe altitude sickness is an emergency.

The symptoms are similar to moderate AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), but more severe and intense. If you start experiencing these symptoms, you must be taken to a lower altitude immediately for medical care:

  • Shortness of breath, even when resting.
  • Inability to walk.
  • Confusion.
  • Fluid buildup in the lungs or brain.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema HAPE, when fluid builds up in the lungs, prevents oxygen from moving around your body. You need medical treatment for HAPE. Symptoms include:

  • Cyanosis, when the skin, nails, or whites of your eyes start to turn blue.
  • Confusion and irrational behavior.
  • Shortness of breath even when resting.
  • Tightness in the chest.
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness.
  • Feeling like you’re suffocating at night.
  • Persistent cough, bringing up white, watery fluid.

High Altitude Cerebral Edema HACE happens when the brain tissue starts to swell from the leaking fluid.

 You need medical treatment for HACE. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Weakness.
  • Disorientation, memory loss, hallucinations.
  • Psychotic behavior.
  • Coma.

We have heard people that visited Peru and got their lesson after their first trip when they were newbies and run, jump from happiness, and then passed out on the floor. 

How can altitude sickness be prevented?

If you feel concerned and want to be sure that you don’t have altitude sickness in Costa Rica we highly recommend you double-check with your doctor to prescribed an altitude medicine. 

We have compiled the best advice from our fellow travelers. 

Here are the 10 Golden rules for safe exploration in Costa Rica if you feel altitude sickness might affect you.   

  1. Plan your trip in order to ascend gradually from one elevation to the other. 
  2. If you’re going to spend any time over 3000 meters or hike it in a day, try and spend a night of 2 at a lower elevation first, 2000-2500 maybe. 
  3. Resting for at least a day before moving to a higher altitude
  4. Drink a lot of water and move slowly
  5. Returning to a lower altitude as soon you feel bad
  6. Reducing your activity level
  7. Avoid Alcohol because can dehydrate your body. It also has stronger effects at higher elevations, which can impair judgment.
  8. Eat carbs, Eat a diet that’s more than 70% carbohydrates.
  9. Know the “don’ts”: Avoid tobacco and depressant drugs, such as sleeping pills and tranquilizers.
  10. Medication. Ask your doctor about taking acetazolamide (the former brand name of Diamox) two days before a trip and during your trip there’s some evidence that can help prevent altitude sickness according to 

Curious explorer tip: I got a message from a reader who recommends Ginko Biloba. Apparently taking 2 weeks before your trip will reduce the risk to suffer AMS. If you like nerdy information read the following article that I found. 

I am writing about these because the more we explore Costa Rica hiking we realized that it’s a topic that became more relevant to us and for those travelers that want to do different types of hiking or visiting a volcano. 

We hope this information helps you to have a better idea that even when in Costa Rica altitude sickness is Unlikely but not impossible. 

Again just remember that investing time in good planning that takes into consideration acclimatization time will be the key to have a successful exploration in Costa Rica preventing altitude sickness.  

How do you get to Poas Volcano?

If you’re reading this, you’re likely planning a trip to Poas Volcano or are curious to learn more about it.

The Poas Volcano National Park, located in the Alajuela province, is a favorite destination for both locals and international tourists.

In fact, it’s the National Park we’ve visited most often in our lives – no exaggeration.

For Costa Ricans residing in the central valley, the park serves as a weekend family getaway, a popular school day trip, and for those of us in the tourism industry, a frequent work destination.

If you’re traveling to Costa Rica and considering a visit, Poas Volcano is a great choice due to its easily accessible crater by car.

The ascent takes you up to approximately 2,708 meters (8,884 feet), offering stunning views of the Central Valley.

How far is the Poas Volcano from

San Jose: 

It’s about 30 miles / 48. km approximately and the driving time around 1.5 hours to 2 hours (depending on traffic). There is no need for a 4×4 car. All the routes are paved.

Airport/ Alajuela: 

From the airport is around 20 miles/ 33 km. The driving can take around an hour. If you have a flight in the afternoon you can take advantage of doing a visit in the morning as many people do.  

San Ramon: 

It’s about 41 miles / 66 km and the driving time around 1.5 hours. You drive to Grecia and from there follow the signs that will take you to Fraijanes and then to Poasito, the town next to the National Park. 

Getting there

By car

The majority of people who visit the volcano get there by car. We highly recommend installing the Waze app to drive in Costa Rica and the Poas Volcano National Park is included on the search list on Waze, also Google Map.  

By bus

We have called COOPETRANSASI (+506-2449-5348). We are leaving the numbers here so you want to double-check if they are back offering the service.

Hiring Private Transportation

As in many other countries, the Uber app is popular to use as private transportation.

The cost for example from the Airport to the Poas Volcano is around $25 one way or more but you have to take into consideration the waiting time adding to the final price. 

We have asked a couple of transportation providers and the price that they gave to us is between $100 and $150 roundtrip from San Jose to give you an idea. 

This is a better option for people who travel in groups to split the cost.

How do I get tickets for Poas Volcano?

It is essential to buy the tickets before the visit, as they will not be sold on-site. 

During busy tourism months (Dec-May), tickets sell out well in advance, so plan ahead!


  1. Go to the official website from the System of Conservation areas SINAC to buy it: LINK. You can switch to English on the top right corner. 
  2. If you are a new user create an account with the information they required. Accept the terms and conditions and you can sign up on the system. 
  3. Click on Buy – Online Reservation and choose PARQUE NACIONAL POAS 
  4. Check availability and complete the purchase with your credit card information. 

Here is a small video where we show you how to purchase the permits.

You don`t need to print the tickets they will only ask you about the confirmation number. We just showed a screenshot of the confirmation email on a phone which was more than enough.

They say to bring passports and credit card paid on too (as you have to enter names a passport numbers of those you are booking tickets for) but we weren’t actually asked to show these on entering.

On an important note, if they cancel your visit like happened to us, could be because of an emergency due to the activity of the volcano at that time we didn`t get a refund. Tourists may use the entrance to visit another national park.

What you should know about the park?


From 8 am until 4 pm. Last time to access 2:20 pm.

Prices for Tourist Non-residents

Children under 2 years old won´t pay.

We did with our baby without problems. His first visit to the Poas Volcano. November 2020
  • $15 per person
  • $5 Children(ages of 2 until 12 años).

*If you are a student, show your ID. It is not a guarantee, but it could help to get a discount.

Parking lot:

Yes. The cost of the parking lot is 2000 colones ($4) per car. You can in $ or colones and also you can pay with a credit card also.

How many chances are to observe the crater?

Visitors prefer to go as early as possible since there is more chance to observe the crater as the main attraction right now of the National Park.

For weather reports or to see the volcano is open you can check the National park´s Facebook page the day before you visit.

From our visits and experiences, we can tell you that there are 50/50 chances for looking into the crater.

In our case with Poas, we were greeted with a beautiful morning during the rainy season but sometimes we have been there with tourists and we got to see nothing but dense clouds and the smell of sulfur.  

The time that you can spend in the crater area will be around 20 minutes, some people feel that it’s not fair since the price are high and the chances to see the crater are unknown. 

Is the parking lot safe? Do you think it is reasonable to leave your luggage in the car? 

It’s patrolled by a person from the Red Cross who is always there so it’s pretty safe, those $4 that you pay at the end is a contribution for them.

Are you wonder if you are visiting an active volcano will be safe for your health?

They do a good job tracking the level of gases on site. You will probably experience a smell like rotten egg and is the sulfur and that’s normal but if the levels of gases go up they will close the park for the safety of the visitors. 

However, people with severe respiratory problems are not recommended to visit the volcano because if the levels of gases can cause irritation such as coughs, irritated or watery eyes, headaches, and a cold sensation.

They have always an ambulance patrolled by the Red Cross in case of an emergency. 


No. You cannot take pets in any National Park in Costa Rica, according to law.

What do you wear to visit Poas Volcano?

  • Rain jacket/ sweater because it gets chilly up there.  
  • Tennis shoes are fine you don’t need hiking shoes
  • Comfortable clothes like leggings 
  • Umbrella or Poncho
  • Bottle water because there is no potable water. 
  •  Sunscreen, yes, even when it’s cloudy the elevation exposes you to more ultraviolet light. 
  • Don’t forget your mask! 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations

If you are wondering how safe would be to visit a popular National Park like the Poas Volcano.

Let us tell you that our experience in November 2020 when we visited the Poas Volcano was pretty good we felt that they are very organized.

We got there and they took our temperature and requested to put the masks on.

For this national park, it’s mandatory to wear a mask during the whole time that you stay in the park.

Once we were at the welcome center they asked us to wash our hands in the bathrooms before we got the instructions to access the crater.

They keep smalls groups and asked you to exit the park in a different place where you are coming in to avoid crowds.

If you would like to read more about the coronavirus situation in Costa Rica, check this

Link: Costa Rica Coravirus; Stats & Travel Info (COVID-19)

If you still want more peace of mind to make sure that the Poas Volcano it’s a good fit for your Costa Rica trip you can read our Poas Volcano Self- Guide and discover more of this experience that you can have in Costa Rica.


Visiting Poas Volcano
Poas Volcano National Park
Poas Volcano map
Ligia at Poas Volcano trail
Main building at Poas Volcano

Coronavirus Costa Rica; Stats & Travel Info (COVID-19)

Last Updated: Dec 14th, 2020

Disclaimer: Current travel rules are changing without notice and being updated constantly. We do our best to keep this article up to date.

Another blog about Coronavirus Costa Rica!

So far, we guess that you probably have heard/read about this virus enough (enough!), however, we have decided to create this post with the purpose of helping you make decisions for your future travel plan to Costa Rica base on the travel restrictions that our government is implementing.

Which airlines are flying to Costa Rica?

Tourists from all countries allowed entry as of November 1st. Land borders remain closed at this moment. 

According to the Juan Santamaría International Airport (AERIS), these are the airlines that are flying to Costa Rica.

Dates are subject to change as coronavirus Costa Rica restrictions and reduced demand continue to impact international travel.

Keep close contact with the airline for more information. We have learned from travelers that had to changes several times their plans.

So far we have had two flights canceled. Both were departing from our preferred airport and flying direct to San Jose. We will now have to fly from another airport and travel via Madrid. This means we now have an added 6 hours to the overall journey plus there is an additional Spanish health form to complete as we stop off in Madrid.

Dave Clever, UK – Oct 2020

Airlines from Europe:

LUFTHANSA: Resumed operations on August 5 from/to Frankfurt.

Air France: Resumed his operation on October 31st from/to Paris.

KLM: Resumes operations on November 26, from / to Amsterdam.

British Airways: Resumes operations in 2021.

Iberia: Resumed operations on August 3 from/to Madrid.

Edelweiss: Restart operations on 2021.

Airlines from the US and Latin America:

AEROMEXICO: Resumed his operation operations on October 18 from/to Mexico.

AIR CANADA: Resumes flights on November 1 from Toronto. 

AIR FRANCE: Resumes flights on October 31 from Paris.  

ALASKA: Resumes flights on November 20th from Los Angeles. 

AMERICAN AIRLINES: Resumed operations on October 9th from/to Miami and Dallas.

AVIANCA: Resumed his operation on November 1st, from / to El Salvador and Bogotá.

COPA AIRLINES: Resumed its operation on September 10, from / to Panama.

Resumed its operation on November 23, from / to Guatemala.

DELTA: Resumes flights on November 2 from Atlanta, and on December 17 from Los Angeles. 

JETBLUE: Resumes flights in November from Fort Lauderdale (Nov. 1), Orlando (Nov. 4), and New York (Nov. 20). NEW ROUTE on December 18, from/to Los Angeles.

SOTHWEST: Resumed operations on 2021.

SPIRIT AIRLINES: Resumed operations in September  from/to Fort Lauderdale. 

UNITED AIRLINES: Resumed operations in September. 

Resumed operations to / from Houston and Newark.

Resumed operations on November 7, from / to Chicago.

Resumes operations on December 19, from / to Washington.

NEW ROUTE on December 17, from / to Los Angeles.

NEW ROUTE on December 19, to / from Denver.

VOLARIS: Resumes flights on October 29 to Mexico (via Guatemala) and on November 26 from/to Cancún. 

WINGO: Resumes operations on December 4th, from / to Bogotá.

Entry Requirements (Coronavirus Costa Rica):

COVID-19 Testing Entry Requirements 

*PCR (molecular test) Testing is NO LONGER REQUIRED. Therefore this decision has saved travelers a lot of money.

So seems that our goverment has reduced the list of requierments to these 2:

  1. Fill out the electronic epidemiological HEALTH PASS form, available at

Make sure to click in the right corner to switch language to English. You will be asked personal information, dates of your trip, and questions related to your overall health. Then you will obtain the QR codes that you will have to show up on your arrival in Costa Rica.

2. Traveler’s Medical Insurance- international or purchased in Costa Rica.

Can I use my International Insurance? Tourists with an international insurance policy must request a certification from their insurer, issued in English or Spanish and stating at least three conditions:

  • Policy validity, effective for the duration of the tourist’s visit to Costa Rica.
  • A guarantee of coverage for medical expenses, with pandemic coverage for COVID-19 in Costa Rica, for at least US $50,000 (fifty thousand dollars of the United States of America).
  • A minimum coverage of US $2,000 for extended lodging expenses due to illness associated with the pandemic.

 If you have questions or want to check theconditions of the insurance, please email [email protected]

You can get quotes from INS and Sagicor direct (remember to click in the right corner to switch the language to English):

For some travelers they feel like the cost for the insurance is barely acceptable and there are not many international companies that they have found who will cover us to meet the US$2000 quarantine ‘lodging’ criteria.

Ultimately, it seems for some travelers that for peace of mind upon entry it’s better to use INS or Sagicor.

Note: You can buy insurance anytime. You have to fill out the health form within 48 hours of travel.

Quarantine Entry Requirements 

No longer required.

COVID-19 Health Requirements While in Costa Rica

Upon landing in Costa Rican territory, travelers must:

-Wear face protection.

Masks or also the face shield protector “Careta” this is complementary to the mask it´s not allowed to wear the face shield without mask below.

You will find surgical masks mostly in supermarkets and pharmacies, and every place charges differently but an acceptable price is around $0.50.

People sell/wear the fabric ones that are better for the enviroment.

Most common protocols that you will see:

  • Clean your feet at the carpets. Some people feel strongly that this is useful. However, you will see some sort of grass carpet that you wipe your feet when you enter a place.
  • Taking temperature reading.
  • Some places request to wash your hands and hand sanitizer are available everywhere.
  • Driving restrictions. The country to avoid massive gatherings restricts vehicles with a schedule that tells which license plates ending in even or odd numbers could not circulate. Rental cars, people driving to/from a hotel reservation were exemptions for the daytime circulation restrictions.
  • Stay with your social bubble

Let’s be honest here as much we wish everyone follow strictly the protocols always will be a situation that will catch you off of guard.

For example, we have been on tours recently where everyone started wearing masks, and then because they asked to smell a flower or drink a sip of sugar cane in the end some people forgot to put their mask back on like there is not coronavirus in Costa Rica.

Also, we have experienced some trails in National Parks that got crowded but so far only have been few experiences like that.

What makes Costa Rica an option for future travel?


  • Costa Rica is like someone said: “naturally socially distanced”, our small country with a small population and a sparsely populated rural area outside the city it’s a plus in pandemic times.
  • Costa Rica has a good healthcare system, it’s not perfect but it’s considered one of the best in Latin America. Private and Public
  • Clean country. New protocols by the ministry of health that extreme the education on the way we do our daily habits like wash hands, sneeze covering your mouth, etc, has been a good investment in cleanliness. The majority of the country has potable water, which contributes to the overall health of residents and visitors alike.


  • With many Americans and Canadians (Costa Rica’s largest tourism base) finding it difficult to fulfill the international health insurance requirements, many travelers were looking elsewhere to vacation, notable countries with no health insurance requirements.
  • The trip can be expensive than before. No longer that easy to come with flight cancelations, adding insurance expenses, and the associated dates changes in lodging will be extremely difficult to accommodate for most travelers.
The tourism sector has been deeply affected and for us and other friends that work in the industry apprecited you choosing Costa Rica to spend your vacations.   

Costa Rica Coronavirus Stats:

Useful links: You can stay informed at the following links:

Guayabo National Monument: 5 interesting facts about these Costa Rican ruins

There are many ancient ruins sprinkled all around Central America, and Costa Rica is no exception. Even if it doesn’t have places like Tikal or Tulum, Costa Rica has places for people that are looking for cultural tours.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I’m in nature or visiting a historical place, I love trying to imagine what it used to be like “back in those days.”

Even when it’s hard to picture it, it’s still fun knowing that the ground we’re walking on was once a busy city street or a marketplace to trade stuff. Or that the crumbling ruin I’m looking at used to be the tribe chief’s home.

Knowing a bit of history not only helps me imagine what it used to be like, but it is also integral to understanding its cultural significance.

A brief history of Guayabo Archaeological Site

More than just watching old rocks (as some people like to write in reviews on Tripadvisor) this place is an awesome place to learn history.

Some people might tell you that Costa Rica doesn’t have culture, but the more we explore, the more we learn more about our country. 

So, here are the 5 main facts we think you need to know before visiting Guayabo National Monument:

  1. The archaeologist that discovered this place back in 1968 was Carlos Piedra Aguilar, known as the grandfather of archaeology in Central America. He thought that it was an indigenous cemetery. Only a small percentage (around 20%) has been excavated.
  2. On the grounds of Guayabo, there have been signs of life dating back from 1,000 B.C. to 1,400 A.D. It was a village for around 2,400 years in total. Researchers aren’t entirely sure of the exact population of Guayabo, but they believe that it mostly influenced by the South American native tribe called the Chibchas. Because of the tropical weather, they couldn’t find bones to do tests and determine the DNA of the population. 
  3. There is evidence that Guayabo back in those days was a city, let’s say like the San José of today. It was an important spot to do business between the people from tribes from North and South America.    
  4. Nerdy fact #4: The Guayabo National Monument was designated in 2009 as a World Heritage of Civil Engineering according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). This is because of the technology used to design a network of aqueducts to transport water from a spring in the mountains to the city.  

… And this blog post would be done if the idea was just to share the most interesting things to learn about this place in a short “listicle” style. 

However, my friend, our goal is to share deeply about must-see places that are not that touristy — places you can’t find a lot of information about. 

It’s easy to find those facts above on other websites, but we’re going to walk you through what we did when we visited Hacienda La Central and Guayabo National Monument, because these places might fit with what you are looking for.

Best ways to visit

The Guayabo National Monument is located in Turrialba, where there is also a town that hosts an active volcano (Turrialba Volcano) and the Pacuare River, home of one of the world’s best whitewater rafting adventures. 

Take in consideration if you want to do whitewater rafting and also visit the volcano and the ruins will be a better place to stay in the area at least one night.

Tip: We recommend to do the volcano and Guayabo National Monument the first day, then stay in Turrialba and do whitewater rafting the next day.

But if you are looking for more like a one day tour that you can do easily from San Jose, you can do what we did. 

1. General Information:

The land is under the protection of SINAC, same institution that managed the National Parks in Costa Rica.  The primary difference lies National monuments have objects of historical, cultural, and/or scientific interest.

  • Schedule: They open daily (including holidays) from 8:00 am until 3:30 pm 
  • Cost: $5 per person Foreign Adults and kids  + Tour Guide service cost (Depends on the number of people)
  • Access: The monument is located 30 minutes from Turrialba Downtown (around 10 miles away). However, we came from another route that has a road paved for most of it and gets unpaved for a small sections, we always prefer recommend a  4×4 to be safe.
  • Parking Lot: They don’t have one. We have to leave the car outside on the street in front of the entrance and a “wachiman” like we call the guys that help to park and take care of the cars will help you to park in exchange of few coins at the end. 

2. Visiting in the morning or afternoon?

Since we visited during January that is dry season we took the chance to do it during the afternoon and prefer to hike near the volcano in the morning. 

Since the hike at Guayabo Monument is easier even if it’s raining in the afternoon is better than do the hiking at Turrialba Volcano when its raining.

3. Should you hire a tour guide?

It’s a very personal decision.

However, we read reviews from other people that was worth it since is place with a lot of history. 

The tour guide went beyond our expectations. Martin Umaña was his name and let me tell you he has a heart of anthropologist that really take you back 3000 years ago and just make your visit very special.    

On top of that, we love to support the local association of guides since we know they make a leaving from visitors. 

We would have never learned all this information without one.

They have a office next to the window ticket where you pay your entrance. Also you can learn more about them here: Link

4. Trails:

The trail that we did was around 1.6 kilometers (less than a mile).

 It’s pretty easy to walk. It will take around 1 hour and a half. 

There is a small hill to get to the Lookout point but nothing too strenuous. 

The trail is like a loop and pretty easy to follow.

Top Tips for visiting

Where to eat? 

Picnic areas or just a couple local restaurants before  

What to wear? 

  • Comfortable clothes, 
  • Closed shoes
  • Rain Jacket/ umbrella
  • Insect repellent
  • Bottle of water
  • Cap/ sunblock 
  • Walking stick *Optional

Our Visit to Guayabo National Monument

Preparing for our visit

  1. Wake up early: 

Since we didn’t planned to stay overnight, we wanted to kick to spots in one day.

We arranged with Hacienda La Central to take the 9:00 am hike and explore the Turrialba  Volcano area.

So we left San Jose around 6: 15 am and got to Hacienda La Central around 8:00 am  and was perfect to have some extra time to get  breakfast.

Our hike there finish around 11:30 am and rush it a little bit and just grabbing a sandwich to have lunch on the way because we need to be at Guayabo National Monument before 1:30 pm. 

After hiking Turrialba Volcano at Hacienda La Central, we took the route and drive for around hour and  a half  down to the town Santa Cruz de Turrialba and then we got to the Guayabo National Monument. 

From Hacienda La Central to Guayabo National Monument was around 1 hour and 15 minutes.  

  1. Booking  uSure in advanced

We contacted the local Association of Tour Guides uSure and made the reservation to took the tour with a Tour Guide and settle our approx arriving time at 1:30 pm.

Take in consideration that Guayabo close at 3:30 pm so the latest tour will be around 2:00 pm, if you get late they will do a shorter trail of 800 meters.  

If you have Whatsapp it’s easier to do the reservation or send a email to them. 

As locals, they required a wire transfer of the entrance into their bank account in advanced but we saw people just walk in and were able to pay as they walk in. 

However, they highly recommend if you want the tour in English to book with at least 8 days in advance. 

Exploring the monument:

After we bought our entrance across the street we saw a little grocery store, use the restrooms and also families were having lunch in the picnic area. 

We hear that you can camp there, if you are interested I am sure the uSureCR the local association can help you with more information. 

So our tour guide, Martin Umaña was there waiting for us and we started the tour talking about the wildlife of the area.

We did spot wildlife like the Toucans, white-faced monkeys and we are sure that in the 573 acres of land that belongs to the monument there is a lot of wildlife protected. 

Then we got the explanation of the artistic manifestations found in the area like the monolith (rock) with the shape of Jaguar and snake. 

The monolith (rock) with the shape of Jaguar and Snake
The mounds

The tombs, the aqueduct, the mounds and  just learning more about pre-columbian history the time went fast.    

We left the place with a lot of new information about our ancestors surrounded by a nice atmosphere and the view of the Turrialba Volcano at the back. 

Guayabo National Monument,  definitely is a nice historical spot of Costa Rica. That you can do in a short visit in the middle of the nice countryside. Good for a day trip including other spots around! 

The Tallest Waterfall near Jaco, Costa Rica

Have you heard about waterfalls in Costa Rica? I am sure you have because it is one of the great ways to discover the country. 

If you Google “Waterfalls in Costa Rica,” names like Rio Celeste, Del Toro Waterfall, La Paz Waterfall, etc. will show up.

Waterfalls usually aren’t one of the first results when you search for things to do around Jaco/ Herradura — famous beaches in our central Pacific area. You’ll get Google results about surfing or spending a day at the beach. Some people find the area too touristy and will recommend that you skip it. 

However, we decided to investigate what else you can do in the area.

Of course, according to our style of trips, when we saw the opportunity to hike waterfalls near Jaco, we were sold! 

One, known as Bijagual waterfall or “Manantial de Agua Viva” Waterfall, is one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica with a trail inside the beautiful rainforest and next to a river so that you can refresh yourself after a hike.

How to get to the Waterfall “Manantial de Agua Viva”

Located in Bijagual de Turrubares

Distance from Jaco/Herradura: 25 minutes North from Jaco. 

Driving on route 34 from Jaco, you will find signage for a road to “Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls” on your right, (that’s the road) it’s BEFORE the Crocodile bridge. 

Follow that road allllll the way up until you see the shack stacked with hiking sticks and a handmade sign that says waterfall. The signage on the road says it’s 4 km up – but it may be a bit further.

Distance from San Jose:

Driving route 27 from the Tárcoles River bridge, it is 10 km towards Jacó where Hotel Villa Lapas is. 

From that intersection, drive 5 km all the way up the hills, keep driving until you reach the sign of the waterfall on the right-hand side. 

Access (NO 4X4 needed) The road up is paved, although not in great shape (which route in Costa Rica is, right?), you will see signs showing you where to go.

General Information

The waterfall is located among a 300-acre farm owned by a Costa Rican family. They have been in business for several years.

  • Schedule: 8:00 am until 3:00 pm 
  • Contact information:  (506) 8831 2980 or Facebook 
  • Cost: 5000 colones for locals – $20 for foreigners. There are packages with an extra cost that the hotels in the area offer.  
  • Parking lot (It’s safe!): No cost. You pay the entrance fee there and the same guy that collects the money will stay in the lot while you are on the trail.

More details about the hike and waterfall

The hike is mostly under the trees, so there’s no real danger of sunburn. You can wear just shorts for guys and shorts and a bathing suit for women.  

We didn’t see a lot of people that day, so it’s perfect because it is not a crowded trail, but it’s not so empty that you feel on your own. 

The wildlife there is abundant. Rodrigo had a good time taking pictures of toucans and falcons. 

Gray Hawk
Fiery-billed Aracari
Black-throated Trogon (female)
Chestnut-mandibled toucan

We even had an interesting encounter with a snake. The birds were screaming more than usual, and we saw the snake sliding down slowly on the trail. It stopped just right in front of us. 

I started to panic a little bit, but Rodrigo said, “I need to take a picture.” 

“Great timing,” I thought! and I started screaming like the birds, “Move, Move!” to Rodrigo and walked fast. 

Rodrigo knew that the snake wasn’t dangerous and he was cracking up to see me screaming!

Fortunately, the snake did a kind movement and went inside the woods, so after a few videos after the encounter, we keep hiking up to the main entrance.

  • Distance/Time: 4 kilometers — 45 minutes to an hour to get to the waterfall and 1 and a half hours on the way back because of the hill to get back to the entrance.  
  • Difficulty: Moderate/ Difficult. Might be challenging for children or older people or for inexperienced hikers.  
  • Weather: Humid and you will feel a lot of heat depending on the time of the year that you go. We did the hike in August and we were lucky that it didn’t rain that day.
  • Natural swimming pools: We decided to do the hike all the way to the waterfall and then hike back to the swimming pools, and we think this is the best way to do it rather than swimming before the hike back.     
  • Wildlife: The area is rich in wildlife because is located next to Carara National Park. 
  • Facilities (Bathroom): In this part we agreed that there is room to improve. The trail is well-maintained taking into consideration that it is a mountain and it’s not easy to keep clean. However, the bathrooms could be in better condition.

Our experience & recommendations

From the entrance, you will hike 2 km downhill on a narrow path in the middle of the mountains that will take you to the waterfall.

This waterfall is about 200 meters of falls. It’s not the classic waterfall with abundant water, it’s more a fall of water with a nice rock formation and then the river starts to be formed. Watch out next to the waterfall — the rocks are pretty slippery!!

The return path has some intersections that lead to the water pools hidden into the jungle. These are ideal for bathing, resting a little, eating some snacks and preparing for the way back.

On the way back, the situation is a bit more complicated because the hike is quite intense and it takes a longer time to get back to the car. 

Upstairs near the access, there are showers that are necessary to remove the sweat that invades the body after the climb back. Because one thing is for sure: this hike is very humid.

What to bring?

At least a liter of water, snacks, mosquito repellent, swimming suit and towel, sport or comfortable clothes, shoes that are not slippery  (NO sandals) – Maybe Chacos, a rain jacket for rainy season.

Other things to do near Jaco/Herradura

Our central Pacific beaches like Jaco or Herradura have so much to offer than surf and nightclubs. 

I have to recognize that usually when I think about Jaco it wasn’t a place that I would recommend to people. 

Now, the more we explore places, the more I found myself enjoying hikes near places like Jaco. 

There are places like Carara National Park where a local guide recommended this hike and we don’t regret following his advice.  

Other things to do near Jaco are a Mangrove tour in Playa Guacalillo, watch the sunset in the Penon Guacalillo or join the Beach cleanups organized by amazing groups in the area.

Cascada El Pavon: Nice little fall in a quiet and energizing environment

Cascada El Pavon sits in the South Pacific area of Costa Rica, close to two popular beach towns: Uvita and Dominical. 

The area is surrounded by beautiful beaches and waterfalls that are hidden inside the mountains like Nauyaca Waterfall.

When people visit these areas, they are not aware of some places like this waterfall, which  are more off-the-beaten path, but well-known by locals. 

You will see that the waterfall has a unique rock formation where it seems like someone has put a rock in the middle of the two rock walls.
So whatever draws you to this area, we’ve got you covered with this information as locals to help you plan your own trip and pictures to spark your wanderlust.

How to get to Cascada El Pavon?

Located 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from Ojochal, around 15 minutes driving in a narrow and steep side street from the main highway. 

A 4 wheel drive will be a good option but is not extremely necessary.  

4 reasons for you to visit this waterfall

The clear and fresh water makes this waterfall so attractive in the humid and hot weather of the South pacific side of Costa Rica. 

I love the beach more than Rodrigo. He is a mountain lover, so visiting waterfalls is the perfect mix for us of water and mountains together.

1. Free entrance

When we got there, I was waiting for the sign with the entrance fee.

I didn’t believe the part that the entrance was free, but there’s no sign and no one is charging, so you go on your own.

You can park beside the route and walk down to the waterfall. 

Tip: For safety, there is a restaurant next to the main entrance that you can park at.

Ligia having a good time at Cascada El Pavon

2. Not a lot of tourists

Even though a lot of people from all over the world have visited this waterfall, some people feel that is out of the way, so it is less crowded than other spots. 

The times that we have visited, the place hasn’t been packed.

However, we have been told that during weekends or holidays it might be popular for a lot of locals.

Exploring Cascada El Pavon

3. Perfect for adults and children

The place is perfect for families since it doesn’t involve a lot of hiking.

Also, the place is not that big, so it’s easier to keep an eye on the kids. A lot of local families visit the area, especially during vacation time (Jan-Feb).

Cascada El Pavon

4. Easy hike

The hike is around 75 meters (less than a mile) from the main entrance. 

You can wear flip flops since the hike to the waterfall is not difficult.  

Apparently, there is another trail that takes you to the top of the waterfall.

Tip: If you hike also a little down the river, you will find a “poza” — clear pools below the waterfalls

Restaurant and facilities

Tilapia restaurant: Centro Turistico Tilapia El Pavon

The restaurant is located across the street from the main entrance of Cascada El Pavon. 

It’s a familiar restaurant with wide open space where you can fish for fun and eat your own fish (great for kids!). 

We usually get so hungry there that we just order a big plate with fish cooked with wood fire kitchen ready to eat! 

They are developing the concept from the farm to the table. 

They have a green area to walk around, and also we have seen a group of monkeys that get into the trees next to the restaurant. 

Tip: Ask for the veggie food — I know this restaurant concept is not the best for vegetarian folks, BUT our friend order patacones, yuca, chimichurri and it was really good.

Bathroom to change

There is no place to change at the waterfall, so make sure that you bring your towel and wear your swimming suit. 

Most of the people go to the restaurant and use the restroom to change, however there is no place to shower there.

Parking place

As we mentioned before, we prefer to park the car at the restaurant and walk to the Pavon waterfall and enjoy and relax. Then when we get hungry, we walk back to the restaurant to change and have some food.

For me, Cascada El Pavon makes you feel like you can have your own private waterfall.

We are really glad to have discovered this place, which together with the restaurant brings a great experience in the area. 

We do believe that it is a great half-day trip to enjoy the waterfall and the restaurant while you visit the area of Uvita, Dominical or Ojochal. 


Read up on How to do a responsible Whale Watching tour at Marino Ballena National Park.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park: Exploring like a Keen Hiker

Under the sun of February at Guanacaste province, we were not first-timers visiting Rincon de la Vieja National Park, but it was the first time doing Escondida waterfall trail for all of us.

It was also the first time my best friend from elementary school and I went hiking and got lost together.

Catarata Escondida” is not the popular trail at Rincon de la Vieja National Park, and that day, we understood why.

This National Park is very interesting because you can find bubbling pools, mini mud volcanoes, and sulfurous rocks.

You will also find dusty paths in the dry season and the tropical vegetation that hosts wildlife, plus waterfalls that refresh your hikes.   

Ligia and Rodrigo at La Cangreja Waterfall

How to get to Rincon de la Vieja

Rincón de la Vieja” (Corner of the old)—well, that was a good attempt at translation. Rincón, as many call it, is the volcano closest to the Pacific beaches, and the most popular after Arenal.     

You will see a lot of signs to get there, but here is the information to give you an idea where the park is located:

  • The Sector Las Pailas located approximately 25 km from the city of Liberia.
  • You must continue along the northern inter-American highway, from Liberia toward Nicaragua (5 km) to the community of Guadalupe.
  • Then take a detour (towards the east) toward the community of Curubandé, to continue for 20km on a paved road almost in its entirety, until the entrance to the Sector.

Entrance, Schedule, Map, and Trails at Rincon de la Vieja National Park (Las Pailas Section)

The National Park has two sections to explore in its 14,127 ha:

  • Santa Maria
  • Pailas (The most visited part). This area was under construction a few years ago and now it has a new welcome center and one trail with universal accessibility.



Locals : 1000 ($2 US)

Foreigners: $15 US


Locals : 500 ($1 US)

Foreigners: $5 US

Note: You can pay in American dollars or credit cards are also accepted.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park – Las Pailas Section


The park is open from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The opening days are from Tuesday to Sunday.

We recommend noon as the latest time to get there so you will have time to explore at least a trail.

Important: The National Park is CLOSED ON MONDAYS

Map and Trails

Click Here and download the PDF version for the map

What is the best way to explore Rincon de la Vieja National Park?

Everything depends on how you want to experience the park and the expectations that you have in mind.

I have visited this park around 3 times but never like I did in March 2019.

We did 2  trails to the waterfalls and we ended up hiking for about 8 hours total — 19 kilometers total including a small “getting lost experience.”

Our advice is to come with no big expectations but let nature surprise you in each trail.

If you want to know our opinion, we recommend to do the trails in this order:

  1. “Pailas Trail”
  2. La Cangreja Waterfall
  3. Escondida Waterfall
White-faced monkey at Rincon de la Vieja National Park

The mud pods trail – Universal trail

Circular Trail

Distance: 3 Km

Approx time: 2 hours

Ok, let’s be clear: this is not like Yellowstone National Park, located in the U.S.A (like one Tripadvisor review compared it to), but if you’ve never been in contact with volcanic activity this is really cool to see.

Here is where you can feel the earth so alive!

The main attraction of the trail is the observation of volcanic manifestations (fumaroles, mud pots, water pans, fumarolic lagoon, small volcano) with temperatures between 78 ° C to 106°C (Don’t try to put yourself in risk like a vulcanologist).

This trail doesn’t require too much effort.

La Cangreja Waterfall

Lineal Trail

Distance: 10 Km

Approx time: 2 hours

It took us 2 hours to get to the waterfall since we stopped a lot to take pictures and videos.

The trail has a lot of changes in the type of forest. Some areas are close, others are open and the last part of the trail is a little steep but not terrible.

We have visited in the rainy season and in the dry season. It is two different experiences for sure.

If you are visiting in the rainy season, you will definitely have a lot of mud, and it is not recommended to swim in the waterfall because it can be dangerous.

During the dry season, there is a lot of sun, and swimming in the waterfall is very tempting.

However, there is a sign that says that swimming is not allowed (but tourist still do it).

To your left is a small creek with hot water. We wanted to sit there, but a crab didn’t let us do it.

La Cangreja means crab in English — so I was thinking that was one of the reasons that they called the waterfall that might be because the guardian of this place is a huge crab that almost pinched our butts. haha

Make sure that you bring snacks and enough water. They don’t have a bathroom or any facilities around the place.

La Cangreja Waterfall
Ligia and her friend at La Cangreja Waterfall

Escondidas Waterfalls

Lineal trail

Distance: 4.3 Km (8.6 km in total round trip)

Approx time: 4-5 hours

Escondida waterfall — what an experience! I was wondering why I haven’t read a lot of information online about it.

We started the trail around 1:00 pm and we thought it would take us around two hours because 4.3 km didn´t sound that bad.

Well, the latter half of the path is of high difficulty, due to the ascent that must be made.

So we started going up and up, looking back with beautiful views on our back.

The signs in the rocks tell us that we have to get to the top, and nobody was on the trail.

Hiking Las Escondidas Waterfalls trail

Curious about what was coming next, we kept hiking up and the sun was really strong. Fortunately it was also windy.

When we got to the top of the hill it looks like a type of canyon that we have to go down.  

There was beautiful scenery, so we started to hear some people and thought: Ok we are not the only ones! But they were leaving so we got the place to ourselves.

There was just a small waterfall, which I assume wouldn’t seem that great to the majority of people after such a hard hike.

Small waterfall at the end of Las Escondidas trail

But oh well! We love hiking, so the challenged was worthy. I jumped in the cold water and I saw another orange arrow pointing in another direction, so we started following that, and guess what?

The real “Catarata Escondida” was right there! What a way to hide! JA!

We jumped into the waterfall again, and now our crazy hike was making more sense.

Ligia in the bigger waterfall at Las Escondidas

After enjoying the beautiful scenery and getting energized with that water (it was cold, by the way), we started hiking back. Going down sometimes is harder for me than going up.

Maria and I were so concentrated on the path that we lost sight of Rodrigo, and then we lost track of the trail.

Yep, the Sabana started to look all the same and no sign of the trail. We were trying to be calm and not tell each other that we were lost.

We started to strategize the best way to find the trail, but deeper in our brains we were panicking, thinking of the fact that was 4:30 pm already and the sun would be going down soon.

My brain started thinking the worst — for a second I pictured a helicopter, a puma.

But we kept calm and retraced our steps. Finally, we found the turn that we missed, and right was Rodrigo looking for us.

UFFF! We breathed again and with a nervous laugh confessed our worst fears if we would be lost.

The way back, the forest just was more than alive than earlier, but there was no time to stop to watch animals because we probably were the last people in the park since it was after 5:00 pm.

In fact, we got to the parking lot and our cars were the only cars there.

Can I hike to the crater trail at Rincon de la Vieja National Park?

Note: Since the crater has been active for quite a while. They keep the trail closed.

It is linear, extension of 8 km (16 km in total round trip).

It is the most difficult route in the sector, so if one day they open it again, we would love to hike this trail.

The ascent that must be made is around 1,000 meters of gain from the base of the path to the top.

The route has an average duration of between 6-8 hours one-way and return.

This “old lady” has been here for millions of years, and for the fortunate that have observed the crater they say that the landscape is pretty impressive, which gives the name to all this volcanic massif (I know the nerdy word to say a group of mountains compacted) composed of 9 craters.

For several years, the active crater has had a series of phreatic eruptions and gas emanation, with variable activity so that this path remains closed until the activity does not decrease and it is considered safe to access this area.

In other words, we don’t want to breath poison gases that can kill us. So we will wait until the experts say that is safe!

You can explore the other two trails and that is a lot of hiking for a full day inside the park.

Important things to have in consideration:

What to bring? 

  • Close-toed shoes, water (the water bottle can be insulated — mine got boiling hot), jacket, snacks (a lot of them!) or sandwich for lunch, coat (when it is the rainy season).
  • A hat or cap and lots of sunscreens are absolute musts.
  • The route to get to the National Park is pretty accessible for all type of cars. You can book your car with us.
  • If you really like hiking, this National Park offers a lot of options, just plan ahead and be prepared because still, the trails are not well marked and you can get lost! Just kidding, but really though.
  • We think this park is a good option for the people who don’t want to stay at the beach, but you can visit the beaches around it for a day.   

That’s how our day as a keen hikers ends.

Though our first trail was easy … the second trail left us tired. It was my first experience getting lost, but it was an adventure that makes me want to go back one day to hike the trail to the crater!  

Understanding bus schedules and routes from San Ramon, Costa Rica

Let’s just pretend that I am coming from the past and I need to tell you how people used to travel in Costa Rica.

Well, they used to travel with a Costa Rica handbook guide trying to figure out bus schedules. They didn’t have Facebook groups or travel blogs, so they often ended up just getting lost.

People used to see only backpackers using the public buses to go to tourist destinations.

But traveling by bus in Costa Rica is becoming more common as part of the adventure.

We see a lot of travelers coming through San Ramon as a connection point to travel from one tourist spot like Arenal Volcano to another travel destination.

During my time as a volunteer coordinator, I had to learn how to explain our public bus system quite often.

In those days, for example, I was in charge of buying the bus tickets, and there was no option to do it online. (Well, things haven’t changed much – there are still not many options to buy tickets online).

So I had to go all the way to San Jose get the ticket to Guanacaste. Then I had to tell the guy at the bus station in San Jose that a “gringo” would be waiting in San Ramon. I would get the driver’s phone number if was possible to make sure that the volunteer would get to the turtle conservation project in Guanacaste.

Yes, as many volunteers can tell you, it’s a real story.

Easy? For a local, maybe, but add the language barrier to the equation and coordinating bus travel gets more difficult. Information on the internet wasn’t available as much as these days. Now things can be a little easier but still confusing for some travelers.

What are the advantages to staying in San Ramon?

There was a time also where most people stayed in San Jose during their first night in Costa Rica.

Then the population in San Jose got bigger, the traffic got crazier and travelers started looking for options to stay outside of the city. Places like Alajuela, Grecia or San Ramon started to become more tourist-friendly for those who wanted to avoid the chaos of the city.

So here are some of the advantages to take in consideration:

  • Distance. San Ramon is located 40 minutes away from the airport.
  • Location. The location of the town is on the way to most of the tourist destinations.
  • Easy to take buses for tourist destinations.

About the Bus Stops:

There are 3 main bus stops in San Ramon:

1.​​​​ Parada Municipal (In front of Central Market):

The ​​​​​​​buses to La Fortuna (Arenal) leave from here daily

This is the main bus stop where people take the buses to the areas around San Ramon like: San Juan, San Pedro, Los Angeles, Rio Jesus, Palmarés and Naranjo.

It looks very disorganized and full of people. There are small restaurants to eat while you wait for the bus.

2. Empresarios Unidos (also known “Parada de Puntarenas”):

This bus stop is one block away from “Parada Municipal.” The main services from here are San Jose and Puntarenas.

They have a small cafeteria and restrooms.

3. La Pista” Bus Stop:

This bus stop is more on the side of the main highway.

The only infrastructure here is a small bus stop, but this is where buses stop that are coming from San Jose and go to routes like: Monteverde and Guanacaste

Routes and schedules from San Ramon:

San Ramon to Fortuna:

The buses runs daily from “Parada Municipal” Bus Stop.

The company name is “Compañia Carbachez.”

Schedule from San Ramon: 5:30 AM, 9:00 AM, 12:30 PM, 4:00 PM, 5:30 PM.

Schedule from La Fortuna: 4:30 AM, 5:30 AM, 9:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 4:00 PM.

More precisely, the bus leaves from in front of the restaurant area in the middle of the bus stop.

The cost of the ticket is 2350 (Around $5).

The distance is around 71 km (44 miles) and the ride can take approx. 2 hours.

Bus Station at La Fortuna
Bus schedule

San Ramon to San Jose/ Airport:

Empresarios Unidos is a local company that runs buses daily from San Jose to San Ramon and Puntarenas and vice-versa.

This bus stop is pretty close to “Parada Municipal” – less than a block away.

You purchase the ticket in their window and say if you are going to San Jose or Puntarenas.

The price of the ticket to San Jose is around $3, and to Puntarenas around $4.

They have a direct and an indirect service:

– Direct Service: This bus will only stop at the authorized bus stops.

Let’s say that you are going to the airport you buy the ticket in San Ramon and they will drop you off.

The schedule for the direct bus will be every 45 minutes or as soon as the bus gets full.

-Indirect: This one works better for people who are coming from Alajuela or the airport.

The bus leaves from San Jose, picks up people along the way and drops off in San Ramon, but continues all the way to Puntarenas.

San Ramon to Puntarenas:

The buses to Puntarenas are in the same bus stop that we mentioned above.

There is not “technically” a direct bus from San Ramon to Puntarenas because all of the buses are coming from San Jose and come through San Ramon.

However, they managed a daily schedule that you can see here:

The bus ticket cost …

Check their website for the most accurate information:

San Ramon to Monteverde:

This service the bus doesn’t enter downtown, it just stops at “La Pista” bus stop.

The original route is San José – Monteverde, but the bus company Transmonteverde stops in San Ramon.

This is one of the few bus companies that lets you buy the ticket onl (unfortunately it has a lot of glitches).

There are only two buses per day. You have to add around one hour from San Jose to estimate the time you will be passing through San Ramon.

Schedule from San Jose: 6:30 am (7:30 am in SR approx), 2:30 pm (3:30 pm in SR approx)

Schedule from Monteverde: 5:30 am (7:30 am in SR approx), 2:30 pm (4:30 pm in SR approx)​​​​​​​

The cost of the bus ticket is around $6.

San Ramon to Guanacaste:

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Not all the buses that leave San Jose will pass through San Ramon.

You have to make sure when you buy the ticket that the bus will stop in San Ramon or when you check online it doesn’t say “Directo.”

  • To Liberia – Pulmitan Bus Company: If you are going to Playas del Coco, Tamarindo or Liberia Airport, you will have to use this company that leaves daily from San Jose.​​​​​​​

Phone number 2222-0610 or WhatsApp 60342578.

The bus schedule is almost every hour.

It takes about 3-4 hours to get to Liberia.

There is a bus that goes directly to Playas El Coco

The price is around $7.

  • ​​​​​​​​​​To Santa Cruz – Alfaro Bus Company: Use this company if you are going to Samara, Nosara, Ostional or Nicoya.

The bus schedule to go to Santa Cruz is this one:

We hope this information we’ve compiled will be useful for those who are passing through San Ramon or staying here in our hometown.

In Costa Rica, it is hard to have buses schedules updated because they always change or they will run “Tico Time” but don´t trust that much because I have lost the buses when I think the bus driver will run Tico Time every day.

However, we have found resources like this Facebook Group where people ask and someone who has recently traveled that route might answer with the more precise information.

So why not explore Costa Rica by bus?

If you have a funny story about traveling by bus in Costa Rica, we would love to hear it. Please leave us a comment!