IRAZU VOLCANO COSTA RICA – Complete Guide for visiting
Irazu volcano National Park is one of the most popular natural attractions in Costa Rica. Because it’s so easy to visit Irazu volcano as you can drive all the way up to the summit, many visitors flock to the highest volcano in Costa Rica for a day trip. During a visit to the impressive 3,432 meters high Irazu volcano, you can view the craters from above and walk around along the crater ridge to several viewpoints. The total time for visiting Irazu volcano shouldn’t be longer than 1 hour because there’s not more to see than the craters. The walk from the parking lot to the crater is also just a few minutes along a paved path, so it’s a great activity for every age! However there are a few things you need to prepare before visiting Irazu volcano. One of them is buying the entrance tickets online. In this blog post I share everything you need to know about visiting Irazu volcano National Park and some interesting facts about Mount Irazu!
How to get to Irazu volcano Costa Rica
The Irazu Volcano location is 55 kilometers (34 miles) east of San Jose in the Cartago province. Just like Poás volcano National Park in Alajuela, the way up to Irazú volcano is an easy drive on paved roads. The best way to explore Costa Rica is with a rental car. However, if you’re traveling on a budget, then there is an option with the public bus that leaves from downtown San Jose every day at 8AM. It takes about 2 hours and arrives at Irazu Volcano between 10 AM and 10.30 AM. The bus departs from Irazu back to San Jose at 12:30 PM and will cost about $2 each way.
The drive up to Irazu Volcano is beautiful as you will pass many farmlands with amazing views. Below some of the most beautiful moments we captured along the way up to Mount Irazu.
From San José to Irazu volcano with the car takes about 1- 1.5 hour driving depending the traffic. It is a perfect day trip (or morning activity) from the surrounding area. After presenting your tickets at the gate you are almost at the main parking area where the short trail to the crater sector of the National Park starts. You get directly at the level of Irazu’s craters which means there is no big hike involved to get to the crater ridge of Irazu. Just a few minutes of walking along a paved path.
Opening times Irazu volcano National Park
The opening times of Irazú Volcano National park are 7 days a week from 8 AM to 3.30 PM.
Entrance fee Irazu volcano National Park
The entrance fee for Volcán Irazú is $15 for tourists and ₡1,000 for Costa Rican residents. You can only purchase tickets for Irazu online! More about that in the next paragraph. When parking at the visitor centre, you have to pay a separate parking fee from about $2 (₡1,100). Another option is to book an organised Irazu volcano tour that included transport, guided tours and all entrance fees.
How to buy Irazu volcano tickets – Entrance fee Irazu volcano
Before you depart to visit Irazu volcano it is important to know that you have to purchase your tickets beforehand online. Officially you can’t purchase tickets at the visitor centre anymore! You have to book and pay your Irazu entrance ticket online in advance at the official website of Sinac. You can only pay with credit card and to be sure you Irazu reservations succeeded, best is to book (at least) one day in advance. Take into account that there are 150 people allowed per hour, so in high season you might want to check availability a few days before. Especially if you want to visit in the morning.
Instructions on how to book your Irazu volcano tickets
To book your tickets at the SINAC government website, you must first create an account on the website. When you are logged in, click ‘buy’ and select ‘online reservation’. Then you can select the National Park in Costa Rica you want to visit. In this case select ‘Parque Nacional Volcán Irazú – Sector Crater’. Then you can choose the date and time you want to visit Irazu volcano. The time slots are available per hour from 8 AM to 2 PM. Remember that there are 150 people allowed per hour. Select the amount of adults / children and then click continue. You will then be taken to the payment page where you can enter your credit card details. Make sure to have your credit card ready because you have 10 minutes to complete the transaction. If you take longer to do the payment, you will have to do the whole booking again. Once you’ve completed the payment, a bookings confirmation will be emailed to you. Make sure to bring this to show the park ranger at the entrance. They will check the verification number from the reservation to check your booking in the system.
Best time to visit Irazu volcano Costa Rica
Considering moment of the day, the best time to visit Irazu volcano is early in the morning. As with every volcano, it is very common that the crater gets wrapped into the clouds as the morning passes. So try to be at the entrance gate as early as possible. We went to Volcán Irazú in March and arrived at the entrance at 8 AM and had beautiful clear views at the crater. There was a beautiful low deck of clouds which really made us feel ‘on top of the world’.
The best season to visit Irazu volcano is in the dry season that goes from December to April. During these months you will have the highest chance of clear views. When rainy season arrives from May to November there is more chance of fog at the crater which makes visibility harder. However the weather is very variable on 3,432 meters height and the clouds can pass. So if you have some patience, wait for some time when it’s cloudy because the clouds may pass.
Irazu volcano facts
Irazú is a stratovolcano formed by lava and pyroclastic flows and has five distinct craters. Irazu is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica at 3,432 meters height (11,260 feet, more than 2 miles) above sea level. The currently hyperactive Turrialba volcano is just a bit smaller at 3,340 meters and is only 12km away from Irazu.
The Irazu craters with Turrialba volcano in the backdrop
With Irazu being an active volcano, it means there is still seismic activity existing. The first Irazu volcano eruption was reported in the years around 1723. The last volcanic activity was in 1994 when there was a big explosion of steam, rocks and volcanic bombs. This occurs when water is heated by magma. No noticeable volcanic activity has occurred since the 90s so Irazu volcano is safe to visit nowadays being a dormant volcano. Scientists in Costa Rica currently give Irazu a level 1 out of 5 for activity which means it is safe to visit.
The Irazu volcano National Park was created in 1955. But not the whole area is open to the public. The park has a size of 2,300 hectares (5,705 acres) and the public can visit only the main craters.
What to expect when visiting Irazu volcano
Once you set off to the crater area of Mount Irazu, it’s only a few minutes of walking. An easy, paved trail leads from the information center to the first lookout point over the craters.The area of Irazu volcano National Park looks like a moonscape. The vast grey rocky terrain with beautiful textures that show the volcanic activity is so impressive to see. When the sun reflects the colours inside the crater you can really see the nerves and different colours. Very interesting to see and capture with your camera!
The National Park’s landscape contains montane forest, including primary, secondary and cloud forests. There is not much wildlife in this harsh environment, however a few inhabitants such as coatis, coyotes, armadillos, tiger cats, squirrels, foxes, weasels and some species of birds live in the National Park.
The craters of Irazu volcano
Irazu volcano has five distinct craters but you can’t see all of them. The two craters that you can see when visiting Irazu National Park are the main crater and the Diego de la Haya crater which you will see first on your right hand side. Both craters had a beautiful emerald turquoise coloured lake, but unfortunately both Irazu crater lakes dried up. Some people say the lakes might return after heavy rainfall which was the case in 2016. However because of many cracks in the crater wall, the water disappears again.
Diego de la Haya Crater
The Diego de la Haya crater lies 91 meters (300 feet) down and has a diameter of 690 meters and a depth of 80 meters.
Main crater of Irazu
The main crater of Irazu has a diameter of 1,050 meters (3,400 feet) and a depth of 300 meters (1,000 feet). Surrounded by dark ash and sand, the inside of the crater has varied shades of gray, brown, black, and white from old lava flows and volcanic activity.
Playa Hermosa is the flat and plain dark sand area between the craters. If you walk along the wooden fence you will eventually get to the end of this part of the park. To get back to the parking you will have to walk the same way back as you came.
If it’s a clear day, then you definitely have to go to the highest viewpoint which you can reach with your car. More about that in the next paragraph.
Highest viewpoint on Irazu crater
The final spot you have to check out on a clear day is the highest viewpoint on the Irazu crater. You can get here with your rental, or by foot. Turn left on the dirt road right before you go down the hill towards the parking lot of the National Park. This viewpoint is at 3,500 meters (11000 feet) and will give you an incredible view over Irazu. Here you can take some really cool pictures as well with the impressive craters behind you.
More Costa Rica travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and found all the information you need about Irazu volcano in Costa Rica.
For more travel inspiration about Costa Rica, have a look at our other Costa Rica travel guides.