How to drive to Barva volcano without getting lost

Last updated on August 24th, 2023

Facts about Barva Volcano¹

  • Area: 51000 ha .Around 126023.74 acres. This is the total extension of the National Park Braulio Carrillo)
  • Altitude: 2906 meters ( Around 9534 Feet Above Sea Level)
  • Type of ecosystem:  Rainforest, Wet forest, and cloud forest
  • Dry season: January until April
  • Conservation Category: National Park
  • Wildlife: Birds, amphibians like the endemic toad Bufo Holdridgei, Baird´s Tapir and Jaguars and Pumas.

Why isn’t this Volcano as popular as Poas and Irazu?

When I was in college, we took a class called: Geography of Costa Rica and we studied about Poás, Barva and Irazú volcanoes. Surprisingly, since that class, I learned that this volcano has the same type of forest and is the same distance from the Central Valley as the other two volcanos, but it gets way fewer visitors per year. The main reason is the access to the park is way more difficult than the other two volcanoes. To put in two words, the route is Narrow and Steep. 

You will need a SUV or a 4WD car, especially if you are going during the rainy season, no doubt.
The National Park administration is doing their best to improve the route.  But for now, the reality is that people have 3 main options to get there:

  1. By car, you can only access the volcano in a SUV or 4WD.
  2. Leave your car 3 kilometers before the entrance and walk to the main entrance.
  3. To get there by bus, you will have to walk around 8 kilometers to the entrance.

Another factor is that the park hasn’t been as promoted as much as the other two, so mainly locals visit the park during the weekends. I read on a couple of blogs that some tourists got there during a weekday and even the rangers were surprised by the visit.

In one sense, this is good because it makes the area quieter for birdwatchers and photographers and good for hikers since the access requires more effort. It’s ideal for people who are looking for a forest area similar to the Poas/Irazu volcanoes but without the masses of tourists!

A good day of hiking (Voting day, lagoons and the quetzal)

I think we were the first ones voting that day…

…Easter Sunday in Costa Rica is crowded everywhere, but Easter Sunday also happened at the same time as the 2nd round of presidential elections (one of the most polemical one that the country had had). We really want to escape from the crowds and our devices and wait until later to know what happened.

We couldn’t go far because we had to vote, so our friend Julio (who is from Heredia) recommended Barva Volcano as a close option to visit from the central valley—and a less explored one. Driving there can be confusing, but fortunately, we had Julio with us to guide us. We got there and there were a few cars, cyclists, and hikers enjoying a beautiful sunny summer day. (This is important because I am sure our experience will be totally different if we come in rainy season).

The ranger was extremely nice and gave instructions to our friend Brian in English. He explained to us also about the camera system that they have in the National Park to register nocturnal animals like the pumas (we still haven’t seen him, but one day!), but he was clear that mainly we will be able to see birds and squirrels.

And that was Ok with us! We were more interested to see the lagoons and enjoy the forest. It’s a whole different vibe to be in the cloud forest in dry season. I was really into paying attention to details in the trees, like hummingbird nests, epiphytes plants and the regeneration of the forest. We decided to do the short trail up to the Barva lagoon and the viewpoint and then the Copey lagoon trail.

Laguna Barva and Viewpoint

After less than a mile walk, you will see an old crater that now is a lagoon. It’s a dark green color that actually matches with the rest of the surrounding nature. There’s not much infrastructure here, just a deck to take pictures, but it was alright.

Then we hiked to the viewpoint where you can see the crater and a beautiful view of the surrounding areas of the volcano and you feel that you are above the clouds. We had an insane contrast of colors for pictures from the green of the trees, the white of the clouds and the blue sky. So cool!

Laguna Copey

We headed back to the trail and went to the left, following the Copey trail. This trail is in less shape than the other one, mainly because a lot of trees have fallen after the last rainy season, so fewer people visit it.

This trail is muddier and there are a lot of tree branches. And when you get to the lagoon, at least for us, the platform to take pictures had a huge tree that had fallen on it. So very natural!

The lagoon is smaller than the other one. It’s a very mystic atmosphere with all these trees that fell and are decomposing. The color of the water is kind of dark/black, giving the impression of not much lives there.

We took some pictures and had our snack time on top of the fallen trees. By the time that we were hiking back, the sunny bright day was transformed by the clouds in the mystical cloud forest that we are used to.

We had the trail to ourselves because most of the visitors had gone. I kept walking by myself meditating and enjoying my solo time in nature.

To finish, as usual, Rodrigo and the others saw something cool that I missed: THE QUETZAL!!! That is very common to see in this type of forest but usually from February to April. It was the highlight for Rodrigo.


You will need at least 2 hours to do one of the trails. We did 2 trails and it took us around 4 hours. (Wikiloc)

“Cacho de Venado” Trail: Special for a short hike and Bird watching.

Distance: 1890 meters (Approximately 1,5 miles)
Walking Distance: 1 hour 40 minutes round trip

  • Vara Blanca Lookout Trail: Excellent Panorama to take pictures.

Distance: 900 meters from the main path (Approximately A half mile)
Walking Distance: 50 minutes round trip

  • Barva Volcano Crater – Lagoon Trail: A panoramic lookout of part of a park and good for bird watching.

Distance: 3 Kilometers (Approximately  1.8 miles)
Walking Distance: 2 hours round trip

  • Copey Lagoon Trail: Attractive trail for serious hikers

Distance: 5 Kilometers (Approximately  3 miles)
Walking Distance: 3 hours round trip


  • Clothes: Hiking boots that you can get dirty, umbrella or rain jacket, snacks, water or camelback.
  • The high altitude is a factor to keep in consideration while hiking, especially at the beginning of the activity. If you’re coming from sea level, you might feel short of breath and even a light-headed.
  • As with many places in Costa Rica, it is better to go early to observe more wildlife and avoid the rain that usually takes place in the afternoon. Also hiking in silence will give you a better opportunity to be surprised by an animal and observe wildlife!
  • If you finish early and have some extra time, with the same ticket entrance, you can go to Braulio Carrillo National Park by the Quebrada Gonzalez side. That is located on the San José – Puerto Limón highway, 13 kilometers (around 8 miles) after the Zurqui tunnel.
  • Don’t leave leftover food in the forest because that can affect the behavior and the diet of the wildlife.
  • Always walk on the trails unless you want to say hello to the Fer- de- lance or similar vipers.

Important Information²

Facebook: Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo Sector Volcán Barva.
You can ask any questions here. They are super helpful.
Entrance Fee: 
– Nationals and residents ₡ 1,000 adults, ₡ 500 children.
– Foreigners: $ 12 adults, $ 5 children.

Camping area: You might read on the web that you can camp there. However, we asked the National Park staff and they said that is closed indefinitely. So it’s better to ask the Facebook page first to make sure.

How to get there? … without getting lost

Distance from San José: 22 kilometers (Around 14 miles)

By bus:
Information from National Park – Facebook Page 
Bus From Heredia to Paso Llano (Porrosatí). From the last bus stop, you will have to walk 8 kilometers (5 miles on a steep route).

From Heredia 5:25 am – 6:20am – 12:00 md – 4:00 pm
From Barva 6:15am – 7:10 – 1:00pm – 5:00pm

From Heredia 6:40 am – 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
From Barva 7:40am – 12:35pm – 5:10pm

From Heredia: 6:45 am – 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
From Barva: 7:40am – 1:00 pm -5:20pm

By car: 
The best way for getting to Barva Volcano National Park is by stopping at downtown Heredia first.

  • Heredia is the province where this national park is located. Usually to  it takes 25 minutes to get there from downtown San Jose (during a day when there is not much traffic, otherwise it can take 45 minutes in a busy day).
  • As soon you get to downtown Heredia, our first suggestion would be to use Google maps or even Waze app for driving up to the entrance of this national park. So these two apps are the ones that we recommend…
  • From Heredia, you take the route to Barva, and then you will pass around San José de la Montaña, Paso Llano and Sacramento until the entrance of the national park. There are a few signs on the way up to the volcano.

Barva Volcano is for cloud forest lovers that are interested in nature, plants, and hiking. It’s harder to get there, but it has a lot to offer for hikers and for people who are looking to an option closer to San José with fewer people and still supporting a conservation area that gets less attention than others.


  1. Various. (2004). Editor (Ed. San Marcos), Guía de Parques Nacionales(2 ed., Vol.1.)
  2. Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo Sector Volcán Barva. Q & A conversation with staff from National Park (personal communication, May 06th , 2018).

Posted by Ligia

I´m from the “Pura Vida” country, Costa Rica! My life in a nutshell: Background in Tourism and hotel managment. Married with Rodrigo a wonderful tour guide ;) Lover of cultures, nature and social causes! Full time administrador at Non Profit Children´s Organization in my hometown and part time blogger of Explore Tikizia. Favorite things: Coffee time, travel and Jesus!

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