One day: I only had one day in my Costa Rica itinerary to explore San Jose and surrounding areas. After debating between Poas and Irazu Volcano National Park, I finally picked the latter due to its unusual, stark terrain created by its last eruption in 1963.
In fact, scientists and researchers alike called such eruption the “highway from hell,” as they believe it happened due to magma that took a nonstop route from the mantle over just a few months. I knew I would take some stunning pictures there, so I went for it!
Irazu Volcano via Public Transportation
The owner of the Monkey’s Tribe Hostel and fellow Couchsurfer Hazel was gracious enough to take me to Irazu Volcano National Park despite my tight schedule. I was skeptical when she mentioned we were taking public transportation there, I’m not going to lie. Yet, I was wonderfully surprised once at the bus stop! The coach was unusually comfortable, with reclining seats and large picture windows. It was also a pretty direct, stunning route, which made it the best Irazu Volcano tour on a budget.
To get to Irazu volcano from San Jose, just go to downtown’s Central Avenue: right in front of the National Theather. From there, you will see a bus stop called Volcan Irazu. The first bus leaves at 8 AM every day and costs less than USD $1.
The ride takes about two hours and best of all? The bus drops you off inside the National Park (by the souvenir shop) and entrance fee is only USD $10 for foreigners. You will have a solid 2-2.5 hours to explore, as the bus won’t go back to San Jose from that same spot until 12:30 PM.
The Crater Lake (That Wasn’t There)
Spectacular scenery: green rolling hills, puffy white clouds, light blue sky. “Are we really going up to Irazu Volcano National Park? Doesn’t feel like it!” exclaimed Hazel upon our arrival. We were being blessed with an unusually-sunny day, as the way up is typically foggy (such is the volcanic climate).
As we finally reached the summit though, the city of Cartago below was slowly covered by a gentle mist. This only added to the incredible landscape.
The stark contrast of beautiful flowers and oddly-shaped leaves against the dark gray ashes left me in pure awe:
I kept walking, thinking we would be trekking for at least 30 minutes before anything “exciting” happened… Boy, was I wrong! Just a few minutes in, I was slapped in the face by the sheer size and depth of Crater Principal (“principal crater”):
Sadly, the province was experiencing a drought during my visit last month, so Irazu’s crater didn’t have its characteristic green-turquoise lake. At all. It had DRIED, fully!
Blame it on climate change.
I tried to look on the bright side though: this gave us the rare chance to admire the volcano in all its glory. The uneven surface, barren walls, and ashy bottom. In turn, we could also focus on other often-overlooked gems around the National Park, such as the unique flora and fauna that play with visitors (whether they like it or not!):
The Irazu Volcano National Park might be relatively small, but its close proximity to San Jose, ease of access, and rich landscape make it a must-see attraction when visiting Costa Rica — whether you go by public transportation or book a guided tour.
For many more pictures of IRAZU, check out my Central America album