Irazu Volcano is the highest volcano in Costa Rica, but it actually doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to visit.
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 active volcanoes.
Whatever draws you to read about Irazu Volcano, we’ve got you covered with these travel guide tips to help you plan your own visit.
Entrance fee and schedule:
- $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.
- They charge 1100 colones per car, which is around $2, and you pay at the main entrance.
- 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.
- 3432 meters (11,260 feet)
Type of forest:
- Cloud Forest
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.
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.
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 talking pictures from the top.
If the day is cloudy, it might not be worth it to go.
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 is on the way to the volcano that is popular because all the papers they have on the walls. It’s called: Linda Vista.
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 to hike.
Unfortunately, this area is part of the National Park, but with a different administrative office, so they will charge the entrance fee again.
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 landscape to enjoy and take pictures!
- 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: