As we have traveled around the United States we have adopted some strange challenges. One…
As we were travelling from San Jose to Puerto Viejo we had seen signs for ‘Parque Nacional de Irazú’ which tempted us. Irazú turned out to be the highest (at 3,432 m or 11260ft) active volcano in Costa Rica. It last erupted in 1994. The drive there took us up and up through some stunning countryside. As we started our journey upwards the weather was okay, cloudy with intervals of sun. As we went up in altitude the clouds started to roll in. We followed the route on the GPS and in the final few miles the road conditions got bad with steep sections, partly paved and narrow. There were also some very deep and scary looking drainage ditches to the side. Our poor little Hyundai Accent was not made for these conditions. Eventually, we got to the ticket station only to discover we were in the wrong place. We had ended up in the part of the park which was a forest area with trails. So, we had to retrace our steps down the mountain and past the sanatorium we had passed on the way and take a different road.
Luckily, this road was not so bad and again had some lovely scenery to enjoy. The bad news was that the weather had closed in even more. We climbed and climbed and reached the entrance to the Irazú crater. We didn’t know that you had to make a reservation to enter the park – but the staff were amazingly helpful and even more incredible was that this station in the middle of literally nowhere at the top of a mountain had Wi-Fi, so we were, after a long while, able to make our reservation and carry on.
We parked up and walked the short distance to the edge of the crater. If you see pictures of Irazú you see the bottom of the crater filled with a beautiful blue lake – sadly no more. About 8 years ago there was some volcanic activity that resulted in the water draining away. The bottom of the crater is now a desert. There is a viewing platform, but you don’t get a great view down into the crater, we thought that this was a missed opportunity! After walking along the crater rim for a few hundred yards that was essentially it, so we walked back to our car and continued onwards to our destination for the day, Puerto Viejo.
Planning your visit to Parque Nacional de Irazú
The Irazú Volcano location is 55 kilometres (34 miles) east of San Jose. From San José to Irazú volcano by car takes about 1- 1.5 hours driving depending on the traffic, and it is an easy drive on paved roads. owever, 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 8 am. It takes about 2 hours and arrives at Irazú between 10 am and 10.30 am. The bus departs from Irazú back to San Jose at 12:30 PM and will cost about $2 each way.
Before you depart to visit Irazu volcano it is important to know that you have to purchase your tickets beforehand online (we didn’t know this before we got there!). Officially you can’t purchase tickets at the visitor centre anymore! You have to book and pay for your entrance ticket online in advance at the official website of SINAC. You can only pay with a credit card and to be sure of your reservations it is 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 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.
|Address:||Oreamuno de, Provincia de Cartago, Cartago, Costa Rica|
Every day from 8 am to 4 pm Including holidays.
For the Craters Sector the last entry is at 2:00 pm
$15 Non-resident visitors over the age of 13.
$5 Non-resident children (age 2 to 12 years).
Craters Sector-Prussia Sector: Only through the online system
Best time to visit Irazú Volcano National Park
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.