Irazu Volcano reaches over 11,000 feet above sea level. You can book a tour to visit it or go on your own. It’s about 1.5 hour drive from San José and is located in the Cartago Province. It is about an hour away from another active volcano, Turrialba. (You can read about my visit to Turrialba here) If you want to go on your own so you can explore at your own pace, you just need to purchase your tickets here. You can reserve a spot from 8am-2pm daily. The cost for admission to the Irazu Volcano National Park is $15 for foreign adults. It is significantly cheaper for residents. There are two tickets for this park. To see the crater you want to purchase the ticket for the Parque Nacional Volcan Irazu – Sector Crater. The other ticket is for the forest hike. (A trip to Irazu is not complete without visiting the Sector-Prussia. I will post about that later)
The drive to Irazu is pleasant. The first hour is highway, then you drive around the curves of mountains. The scenery is beautiful, through farmland and countryside. On a good day, you can even smell the cauliflower.
Parking is less than $4; you pay that in the cafeteria before leaving the park. Inside the cafeteria, you can also purchase souvenirs and snacks. I enjoyed the most delicious sweet roll covered in caramel here. There are also bathroom facilities here. Once you park your car, there is a short paved walkway that leads right up to the crater. The crater is very easily accessible and hiking is not required.
There is more than 1 crater at Irazu. If you walk too fast, you will miss the other one, like I did. It is off to the right and a sign is posted. I took a picture of the sign but still walked right past (insert slapping face emoji). If you keep walking straight, you will see the main crater.
There is a fence that goes around the crater that you can walk along to try to get pictures from different viewpoints.
It was clear skies on the day we visited, perfect weather. However, it is the dry season and as far I could see, the crater was as dry as a desert, black and brown with sun burnt shrubs. The fence is there for your protection but it is pretty far back making it very difficult to see into the crater.
Behind the crater is Playa Hermosa, not to be confused with the Playa Hermosa located in Guanacaste. I’ve never been there but I can imagine the stark contrast. Playa Hermosa translates to beautiful beach. At Irazu, it is not a beautiful beach. It is a gray, ashy dry land with volcanic rocks. However, there are some interesting trees in the area. It always amazes me how nature still seems to thrive in the weirdest environments.
You will want to visit early to avoid crowds. Our reservation was for 9am and there were only a few other cars when we arrived, but by the time we left after 10am there were significantly more visitors. Irazu is very accessible, so anyone can visit. Wear warm clothes. It gets cold at that high altitude. Remember you are more than 11,000 feet above sea level. It is also windy so hold on to your hat if you wear one. Remember that the fence is there for your safety. Plan to spend about an hour in the crater area.
I must admit, I was unimpressed by Irazu. After visiting Poás and being amazed by the turquoise lake that sat at the bottom of its crater, I was expecting too much of Irazu. Is it worth the visit? Yes. Do you need to go more than once? No. However, if going in the rainy season could guarantee I’d see something different, then sure.
Would you visit an active volcano? Let me know in the comments.