CRC Daily: You can finally visit Turrialba Volcano. Here’s how
Costa Rica’s second-tallest volcano is a sight to behold. It's well worth a visit.
For many Costa Ricans, Turrialba Volcano is little more than a nuisance. Its frequent eruptions coat nearby cities in ash and on some occasions even force the country’s airports to close.
Turrialba Volcano National Park has never been a top tourist destination, either. It’s literally overshadowed by the neighboring Irazú Volcano, and you’ll see 100 postcards of Arenal before you see a single one of Turrialba.
A decrease in explosive eruptions (and the installation of emergency shelters) has finally allowed Costa Rica to reopen Turrialba Volcano National Park after an eight-year hiatus. We, of course, visited on its re-inauguration day last Friday.
And allow me to let you in on a little secret: Unlike so many other places in Costa Rica, Turrialba actually feels like a national park — and not like an outdoor mall.
(Not to criticize Manuel Antonio or Monteverde too harshly. They’re popular for a reason, but sometimes you want to be immersed in nature … and not immersed in other people who themselves are trying to be immersed in nature.)
To reach the Turrialba crater, visitors hike 4 km (2.5 miles) uphill on a muddy and rocky road — hiking shoes definitely recommended. But that difficulty adds to the attraction: It means fewer people and more wildlife.
And the work is definitely worth the reward:
In addition to coming face-to-face with an active crater and experiencing breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding valleys, we saw several species of high-altitude birds, including a Resplendent Quetzal!
If you can stomach the hike, we highly recommend visiting Turrialba Volcano National Park. Its beauty is deserving of bigger crowds, so there’s no better time to visit (before those crowds show up).
If you do visit Turrialba, consider telling a friend: The local economy could really use the support. But maybe don’t spread the word too far — let’s keep the magic between us.
How to visit Turrialba Volcano National Park
Visitors must reserve their spot by calling +506 8534-1063 from Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. It took us several tries before we reached someone, so have some patience. (We’re told an online reservation system is coming soon.)
Hikes to the summit occur daily and are led by an obligatory guide. They begin on the hour from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m., and the total time (hiking and at the summit) is four hours.
The cost is 6,000 colones (about $10) for the guide. Residents and citizens pay an additional 1,000 colones as the park entry fee; foreigners pay $12. The park fee is collected at the ranger station, situated about halfway through the hike. Cash is not accepted; you must pay with a credit/debit card.
Children under 12 are not permitted “due to the difficulty of the hike and the ability to respond to an evacuation.”
Guests are required to wear hard hats. (Look at the roof above the ranger station bathroom and you’ll understand why.) Time at the crater’s two lookouts is limited to 30 minutes.
The hike is strenuous and not suitable for people with mobility or certain health issues. It is legitimately difficult. We recommend hiking shoes (or at least sneakers), plus a light jacket for the cold. Bring water and a snack.
The hike begins at “Finca Monte Calas” in El Tapojo. The Finca will soon feature a full restaurant; right now, they have potable water, bathrooms, and snacks. Click here for a Google Maps link to Finca Monte Calas, or see below for a map. The last couple of kilometers are gravel but are manageable in any vehicle.
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