Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s most spectacular volcanoes, learn more about the Irazú volcano.
Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s most spectacular volcanoes. Like other countries in the Central American region, Costa Rica is very seismically active due to the Caribbean and Cocos tectonic plates which grind against each other. Of the 200 visible volcanic structures throughout Costa Rica, only around half are considered active. Costa Rica’s volcanoes help contribute to the country’s wealth of natural beauty and are a major draw for tourists from around the world.
Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano conforms to a lot of people’s visions of what a typical volcano should look like. It dominates the landscape rising 1,657 meters above the Costa Rican countryside in a perfect conical shape with steam and smoke pouring out of its summit the majority of the time. This Costa Rica volcano was thought to be dormant until 1968, when an earthquake triggered a huge eruption that wiped out the local town of Arenal. The volcanic eruption left 87 inhabitants dead and also destroyed crops, livestock and vast areas of forest.
Since the 1968 eruption, Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica has been the most active in the country, with small scale eruptions reported every five to ten minutes. Much of the Costa Rican volcano is strictly off limits due to its volatile nature. However, Arenal Volcano is a breathtaking sight even from a long distance, especially on clear nights when eruptions produce bright, thick, orange lava that flows slowly down the mountain’s steep slopes and lights up the dark sky.
The Irazu Volcano is another one of the most famous volcanoes in Costa Rica. At 3,432 meters, it is Costa Rica’s tallest volcano and, like Arenal, is a “strato” volcano with steep sides and a conical shape. Records of Irazu’s eruptions date back to 1723, with the last major one taking place between 1963 and 1965. Irazu Volcano received its name from the word “Istarú” which, in the indigenous language of the area, means “Thunder and Earthquake Mountain”.
From the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica, the drive to the summit of Irazu Volcano is just 40 miles east on good roads, making the Irazu summit one of the most popular volcanoes in Costa Rica for tourists. From the top of this spectacular Costa Rican volcano, visitors can enjoy impressive views of Costa Rica’s Central Valley and, on a rare clear day, both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Irazu Volcano is located in the center of the Irazu Volcano National Park, where a reforestation project is taking place to repair the damage left by the 1965 eruption. Irazu is home to a wide range of flora and fauna including species that are specifically adapted to cope with life in the tough volcanic habitat, such as the Volcano Hummingbird and the small Volcano Junco bird.
Diego de la Haya, Green Crater Lake
The five craters at the summit of Irazu Volcano in Costa Rica are also a huge draw for tourists. The two most significant Irazu craters are the Crater Diego de la Haya and the Crater Principal. The Crater Principal is the larger of the two measuring 1,050 meters across and 300 meters deep. At the bottom lies the famous Green Crater Lake, formed by the collection of rain water. The lake gets its characteristic luminous green color due to the water which runs down the crater’s edge and picks up a variety of minerals that are expelled by the volcano. The water in the lake can even change color, from gray to red or even pink, depending on which gasses are being emitted underneath the surface at the time. The adjacent Diego de la Haya crater is slightly smaller, measuring 600 meters in diameter and 100 meters deep, but still provides an impressive sight. For all of these reasons, the Irazu craters in Costa Rica are a magnificent natural spectacle. It is recommended that visitors see the Irazu craters in the morning because clouds build up towards the afternoon as the heat in the valley rises. It is also advised to wrap up in warm clothes as average temperatures at the summit are only 45°F/7.2 °C.