Turrialba Volcano has been making headlines the past few years when it started erupting and spewing ash over San Jose and the Central Valley. Though volcanic activity has been noted since the 80’s, it has been gradually getting stronger every year since 2010 with 3 large eruptions in 2015, closing down the SJO airport and creating a national level alert.
Though the national park is closed due to volcanic activity, visitors can still drive up to the entrance to get a close look at Turrialba Volcano. which is one of the most impressive volcanoes in the country, standing at the 2nd highest.
Location of Turrialba Volcano National Park
Turrialba Volcano National Park is in the Turrialba canton in the Cartago province, about 15 miles northwest of Turrialba city.
The volcano is in the easternmost part of the Central Volcanic Range, very close to Irazu Volcano. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from San Jose. You could visit in a day or make it a stop if you’re spending a few days in the Turrialba area.
About Turrialba Volcano
Turrialba Volcano has 3 craters and two cones: Cerro Tiendilla and Armado. As the second tallest volcano in Costa Ria, Turrialba stands at 10958 feet above sea level with two different types of forests.
Since it is high up in elevation, temperatures are around the 60’s and at the top, there is a view of the Talamanca mountain range, Poas Volcano and all the way to the Caribbean. Various birds and wildlife live in the area including the Resplendant Quetzals, foxes, armadillos and hummingbirds.
In its current state in 2016, it has been erupting off and on, spewing ash and gas with ashes reaching as far as to San Jose. If you watch the local news, you will most likely see a report on Turrialba Volcano as least once every week or so.
Visiting Turrialba Volcano
Since the national park is closed, visitors can drive up to the national park and see the volcano from outside. You have to be at least 2 kilometers from the entrance. The road up to the volcano is well paved and there is even a little cafe near the entrance, run by a local Turrialbeno family. They have a great view of the volcano from there or you can find another point along along the road for impressive views.
When we visited in March 2016, we went on the day that Turrialba Volcano started erupting again after a month of being quiet. Small eruptions continued the entire 2 hours we were there and soon, our car and clothes had a light covering of ash. If you look at the grass, fences and plants on the road, you can see that many of them have a thick layer of ash from previous eruptions.
When the park was open and Turrialba Volcano was much quieter, visitors were able to hike up to the observation platforms to take in the views of Irazu Volcano and surrounding landscapes. It’s too dangerous now to get that close and the park rangers will stop you if you try to go any further.
Farmers and local families still operate in that area as usual but you can see as you’re driving up to the volcano, some fields of crops destroyed by the ash. Turrialba is a large farming area and areas close to the volcano has been affected by the volcanic activity but the locals continue on as usual.
The road up to Turrialba Volcano is in good shape. Curvy but well paved and only reaches unpaved roads when you get to the top. I highly recommend going slow, there are some beautiful views of Turrialba city and the surrounding landscapes.
You may see some hard core bikers on the way, this road is a popular one for mountain bikers!
Here is a quick timelapse video of Turrialba Volcano and the small eruptions.
Since Turrialba Volcano has continuous activity and eruptions, the national park is closed indefinitely. It will only open when it is deemed safe for visitors but for right now, visitors can admire and marvel at this impressive work of nature safely from afar.
For our Turrialba trip, we stayed two nights at Guayabo Lodge which has a wonderful view of Turrialba Volcano. The day after we visited the volcano, we looked outside our window for a clear view as it was still steaming and smoking.
Even though the national park is closed, it is still an incredible experience to drive up to Turrialba Volcano and watch it from the entrance. It may be erupting like when we visited, which is thrilling to see but a little scary. It reminds us how powerful nature is and how we need to take care of our planet and respect it.
When it comes to volcanoes in Costa Rica, Turrialba is one of the most extraordinary. You can feel the difference in the air the moment you arrive at the base of the volcano and it is simply astonishing to see the eruptions. Hopefully it will quiet back down one day so they can open the national park again!
You can watch a short video of visiting Turrialba Volcano National Park below.
Poas Volcano (another active volcano in the Central Valley)