Welcome to Costa Rica. The land of profound natural beauty and hundreds of volcanoes.
Costa Rica occupies the easternmost edge of the Pacific Ocean’s notorious Ring of Fire. The country’s distant past was characterized by major geological upheavals when several tectonic plates collided.
This took place between 65 and 75 million years ago. A meeting of landmasses below which bubbling magma pushed to the earth’s surface. Resulting in the formation of five towering mountain ranges that vivisect the country from north to south.
Volcanoes of Costa Rica
So much of Costa Rica’s Charm is attributed to its volcanic past and present. Eco- and adventure tourism are the country’s trademarks because of it. And a visit to one or more of its active volcanoes is essential to experience the country fully.
Ancient craters and steep peaks dominate the mountainous cordilleras. The region’s rich volcanic soil and the temperate climate gave rise to dense forests and other ecological wonders. Forests and their distinct habitats that today cover most of Costa Rica’s landmass.
Tropical dry, rain, mangrove, and cloud forests are among the several types of woodlands found in this tiny country. And each one is nourished by soil created by Costa Rica volcanoes.
The steep volcanic topography and ancient lava flows also created deep canyons. From which Costa Rica’s many rivers flow. The perfect landscape for hundreds of magnificent waterfalls and thrilling whitewater rapids.
The following Costa Rica volcano map will serve as your guide to discovering Costa Rica to its fullest.
Active volcanoes in Costa Rica – from north to south
The Guanacaste Cordillera is the northernmost mountain range in Costa Rica. It is home to active volcanoes and a host of dormant ones.
Rincón de la Vieja, Miravalles, Tenorio, and Arenal volcanoes lie within mere kilometers of each other. Yet each harbors distinct and remarkable features despite their vicinity to each other.
Popular activities around the volcanoes and their national parks include horseback riding, mountain biking, canyoning, rock climbing, canopy zip line tours, waterfall hikes, river rafting, hot springs, and tubing.
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano is a marvel of science and different from the classic volcano people expect. It is a complex type of volcano, meaning its eruptive behavior is spread out across the landscape. Emitting heat and gasses in every form imaginable.
Science-minded visitors are awed by the variety and quantity of geothermal marvels on display throughout the park. Fumaroles, steam vents, bubbling clay pots, and hot springs are scattered across the countryside.
Rincon de la Vieja and its neighbor Miravalles provide geothermal energy to the country. A valuable part of Costa Rica’s renewable energy sources.
Perhaps Costa Rica’s least visited mountains. Miravalles has the country’s largest geothermal field and is well known for its abundant hot springs. It is also a wonderful spot for hiking for the park’s well maintained trail system and few visitors.
The dramatic Tenorio Volcano is draped in rain and cloud forests and harbors an abundance of wildlife. What makes it one of Costa Rica’s biggest attractions is the Rio Celeste River. The river is an otherworldly shade of turquoise blue. The result of its unique mineral content reflecting sunlight—a spectacle of nature flowing from the mountain’s base.
Day trips to the stunning Rio Celeste Waterfall are on the top of most vacation must-do lists.
Arenal is perhaps Costa Rica’s biggest attraction. Its iconic cone looms over the countryside, aweing everyone who sees it. It was famous for its near-constant eruptive activity until 2010, when the volcano suddenly became dormant.
Although fiery lava no longer bubbles down its flanks, Arenal still draws tens of thousands of visitors annually. Its mineral-rich hot springs are a huge draw. And the town of La Fortuna and its surrounding area is brimming with Costa Rica volcano resorts and spas.
Nearby lies the Arenal Lake and Dam. Not only is it an important energy source for hydroelectric power. The scenic lake is known for its great sportfishing, windsurfing, and sailing. It is also home to an incredible variety of adventure tours and sightseeing opportunities.
Central Valley volcanoes
The Central Volcanic Range is home to three active volcanoes. Over the past few years, volcanic activity close to the capital city of San José resulted in business and airport closures.
Poás Volcano National Park is the most visited in Costa Rica because of its vicinity to the capital. The park was recently renovated and offers visitors several hiking options. Trails lead to the volcano’s main crater overlook and its eerie acidic lakes.
The flanks of Poas are renowned for their fertile soil and lush beauty. Flowers, strawberries, and other exotic crops are grown throughout the area.
Despite its proximity to San Jose, Barva Volcano is the least visited volcano in the Central Valley. A fact that draws visitors wanting to get away from the crowds and experience nature to its fullest.
Barva’s three peaks form the highest point of the Braulio Carrillo National Park. Various hiking trails lead hikers through the mountainous countryside of quiet forests, streams, and lagoons.
Turrialba is currently Costa Rica’s most active volcano. A series of large eruptions first began in 2010, resulting in heavy ashfall across the Central Valley. Nearby residents were evacuated from the area while activity was at its highest.
Turrialba is a popular tourist destination when the mountain is calm. Its namesake town is known for its serene beauty and verdant farmland.
The region’s fertile pastures nourish several dairy farms. The milk produced in the area is famous for its taste and quality. Turrialba cheese, for example, is a national favorite and is found in virtually every grocery store and market across the country.
Nicknamed El Coloso (the colossus) for its massive size, Irazu Volcano has had a turbulent and eruptive past. Visiting its national park is a popular day trip from San Jose.
Hiking trails crisscross the volcano’s steep slopes and mountainous peaks. Its most notable feature is the bright green Diego de la Haya crater lake deep within the summit.
Below Irazu is the charming Orosi Valley. It is famous for its rich soil, high quality coffee, and hot springs bubbling from the valley floor. Public pools and wellness resorts draw visitors with promises of their water’s rejuvenating properties.