If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica, you are most likely interested in all the beautiful nature this small country has to offer. Of course, there are jungles and beaches and cloud forests, but besides all this, Costa Rica is also the home of numerous volcanoes. 61 volcanoes are dormant or extinct, while six of them are still very much active.
The most famous and most popular volcano of Costa Rica is probably Arenal, but when you’re looking for an extreme, Volcano Irazú is the way to go. With its 11.260 feet or 3432 meters, it is the highest volcano in Costa Rica. When you are at the top of the volcano, you are treated to jaw-dropping views over the crater. The crater itself is already very impressive, but the green lake in the middle completes the whole experience. If you are lucky and it is a clear day, you can see all the way to both the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea. Don’t worry though if it turns out to be a little cloudy, because you will most likely be walking above the clouds which is a very surreal sensation.
Luckily the volcano is one of the easiest places to reach in Costa Rica. It is very closely located to Cartago and San Jose, so it only takes one or two hours by bus. There’s only one bus per day from both San Jose and Cartago, leaving at 8:00am and 8:45am, respectively. Both buses return at 12:30 pm.
The drive up is worth it alone, with the most beautiful, scenic route through the Costa Rican mountains. As the bus does not drive so quickly, you will really be able to take in all the beauty. Along the way, you will probably see the occasional dog or cow on the side of the road, and many fruit stalls selling all kinds of fresh goodies. Of course, you can also go there by car and drive all the way up, or park a little more at the bottom and hike to the top.
Once you are at the entrance of the volcano, you will have to pay a $15 ($5 for kids up to 12 years old) entrance fee. Tico’s, however, pay considerably less. This is definitely something to consider when planning a trip to Irazú. Some people might not think it is worth the money, as you will be done in about an hour. The volcano is open from 8 am till 3:30 pm. Something you should not forget to bring is a warm jacket, as it’s only about 7°C/45°F at the top. You might also see people wearing hats and gloves, but this is really not necessary in my experience. Also, bring some snacks and/or water, because there is only one shop that sells coffee, snacks, and souvenirs, but it’s obviously very overpriced.
The volcano can be easily combined with other sights nearby. Bosque de Prusia, for example, is a pine forest in the National Park of Volcano Irazú. Its vegetation is completely different from everything that you see in other parts of the country. There are various hikes that you can do of different lengths. Just a few meters before the entrance of the entrance to the forest, you will find the entrance to the Flores Amarillas. This is a huge field full of yellow flowers, which bloom from February till April.
Other interesting sights that you can combine with a trip to the volcano are the Sanatorio Durán and the city of Cartago. The Sanatorio Durán is located just a very short drive from Irazú, and the buses also stop there. It is said to be one of the most haunted places in all of Costa Rica. In the early 1900s, it was built as a hospital for people that were suffering from tuberculosis and mental issues. It was built relatively far away from civilization, which made it the ideal location. After the building was no longer necessary as a hospital, it was converted into an orphanage and a prison. After an eruption of Irazú, it was left damaged and abandoned.
For not even $3 you are free to roam and explore most of the buildings if you are brave enough. After all, legend says that there are still spirits haunting the property.
A visit to the volcano and the Sanatorio is also very easy to combine with Cartago. Cartago is one of the bigger cities in the country. It also used to be the capital of Costa Rica back in the days. Two of the main sights in Cartago that you cannot miss are the ruins and the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. Especially the basilica is a real gem, both in- and outside.
From Finca Escalante, you can walk to downtown San Jose or take a taxi and then take the bus at the bus stop to the Volcano.