As the tallest volcano in Costa Rica standing at 11,260 feet (3,432 meters), Irazu has impressed visitors for years and is one of the most popular in the country. It has even caught international attention as it was the starring feature in a famous Sony ad a few years ago.
No noticeable activity has occurred since the 90’s, making Irazu Volcano National Park an excellent place to visit, especially now that Poas Volcano National Park is closed.
Here is our guide to help plan your visit.
Click the section to skip to it.
- Location and Directions
- Entrance Fee and Hours
- The National Park
- Craters and Trails
- What to know before visiting
Irazu Volcano National Park
How to get to Irazu Volcano from San Jose
You will need to drive to Cartago from San Jose first. The drive is about 1.5 hours depending on traffic. You can find directions on Waze.
There is one bus that leaves everyday at 8 AM from Ave 2, Street 1-3 in downtown San Jose, south side of Gran Hotel Costa Rica by the National Theater. It arrives at the national park at 10:15 AM and leaves the park at 1230 PM.
Entrance Fee and Hours
Irazu Volcano Facts
Irazu Volcano erupted in 1963 and created quite a frenzy as it happened on the same day that then US president John F. Kennedy arrived in Costa Rica.
The park was established not too long before in 1955 to protect the flora and fauna and various ecosystems and biomes that exist in the area. Though the park itself is fairly big at 5,705 acres (2,300 hectares), the whole area isn’t completely open to the public. The public can visit just a short area of the national park to see the main craters.
Irazu Volcano National Park Map
Below is the map of the national park. You can see there is a short trail to the craters.
There is another map at the entrance that shows more tourist information (bathrooms, picnic tables, food, etc.) but since the public area of this park isn’t very big, you don’t need a map.
Once you arrive at the national park, you’ll walk about 300 feet on a well paved trail. There aren’t any hiking trails in this national park and the craters are easy to see.
Although there are 4 craters in the park, only 2 are accessible to the public. The two craters are the main crater and the Diego de la Haya crater. The first one you’ll see on your right hand side is Diego.
Diego de la Haya Crater
The Diego de la Haya crater lies 300 feet (91 meters) down and is known for its lake which can change colors from emerald green to red. When we visited in 2015 and 2018, it was dry.
Unfortunately there aren’t any billboards or signs with any facts about this crater. It would be interesting to read if they had some otherwise it’s just an empty crater.
That’s not too exciting so keep walking forward to the main crater which is much more impressive to see.
The main crater used to be dry like Diego de la Haya but in 2016, the water in the crater came back. It had been dry for a couple years and suddenly starting coming back, delighting visitors who may have been slightly disappointed by the dry first crater.
At the barrier, you can see the brilliant blue-green color of the water in the crater below. Now you can see why Sony chose this volcano for their ad! The color is absolutely astonishing.
It is a bit hard to see the whole lake so I saw some people stepping on the barrier to get photos.
If you want to keep walking, you can continue on the trail to see the other side of the crater. You can also see Playa Hermosa behind you.
Playa Hermosa isn’t a beach, it’s the very flat and plain terrace between the other craters. Supposedly this area actually holds the most water when all three craters’ lakes are full!
Around both craters it is astonishing to see so much vegetation flourish. Primary, secondary and cloud forest exist in the park area and we saw plenty of trees, poor man’s umbrella plants and yellow flowers here and there.
Besides the craters and short loop, there isn’t anything else. Outside the national park is a small picnic area, bathroom facilities and visitor center.
Highest View Point
There is also a view point at the highest point of the national park (around 3,500 meters). Sadly, when we went, it was super cloudy so we couldn’t see anything.
It’s a turn to the left right before you go down the hill to the national park parking lot.
What to Know About Visiting
- Try to go early in the morning for less people. Now that all the tour companies go to Irazu instead of Poas, it gets very busy by mid-morning rolls around. We went during end of May (low season) and the parking lot was packed. In high season, you may even have to wait to find parking.
- If it’s cloudy, wait. The clouds may clear up again in a bit.
- No accommodations in the park.
- Don’t feed the wildlife and don’t litter.
- There is a small cafeteria and gift shop outside the park for snacks, souvenirs and drinks.
Since there are no hiking trails, a visit to this national park will not last long, especially on a cloudy day. There are beautiful views as you go up to the national park and if you’re going on your own, I recommend visiting Finca Sanatorio Duran nearby to make it more worth the trip up.
Irazu Volcano Weather
The weather in this area is much cooler since it is very high in elevation. Make sure to bring a jacket, wear long pants and shoes. If you go in rainy season, definitely bring a rain jacket!
Irazu Volcano Tours
You can take an Irazu Volcano tour from San Jose and most tour companies will combine it with other activities since the national park doesn’t take more than 1 hour at most. You can do a Irazu Volcano half day tour or a Irazu Volcano and Cartago day tour. Click here to get our discount for this tour!
Watch our video of the national park here.
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Want to read about other national parks in Costa Rica? Here you go!