Costa Rica has 6 active volcanoes and 61 that are dormant. After seeing the Poas Volcano, I knew I wanted to see as many as I could. Turrialba is another active volcano in Costa Rica and not too far from Turrialba is Irazu volcano. I had ambitiously planned to see them both on the same day, and yes it can be done, but no, I was unable to do it. (If planned properly it can be done, read how here)
Turrialba is over 10,000 feet high. It is the second highest volcano in Costa Rica. It is located about a 2.5 hour drive from San José, in the Cartago province, inside the Turrialba Volcano National Park. Due to eruptions in 2014-2017, the park was closed. In 2020, it reopened to visitors. To hike this volcano, you are required to have a guide, wear a helmet and sign a waiver.
At this time there is only one authorized guided tour. Here is the link: https://icetur.com/volc%C3%A1n-turrialba They have tours every hour on the hour from 5am – 11am. You can reserve your spot and pay in advance or pay at the base camp: Cortijo Quetzal Lodge. The rate is 22500 CRC for foreigners, which is about $40 and then you have to pay to enter the park, once you’re there which is $12 usd. The hike will take no less than 4 hours.
As I mentioned, it takes about 2.5 hours to get to Turrialba. The first hour of driving is highway, then windy roads. If you get car sick, prepare. As you get closer to the base camp, the road is no longer paved. It is rocky and steep. A 4×4 is highly recommended for these back roads. For this reasons, I chose to drive during daylight. If you are not familiar with the roads in Costa Rica and curvy, steep roads make you feel uneasy, I recommend a tour at 9am or later.
The Hike and the Summit
The elevation mixed with the rocky paths made this hike particularly difficult for me. I was pretty slow going up. It also rained which made the hike slippery and muddy. It took almost 3 hours to reach the summit. If you want to know just how out of shape you are, hike Turrialba.
At the top, Unfortunately, the clouds and fog would not let up and we were met with disappointment. We could not see the craters. We waited for awhile to see if the clouds would depart but they never did. It is also cold and windy up there.
Although we didn’t get to see inside the tummy of the beast, it was an enjoyable hike. I admired the scenery along the way. The ash settled upon the leaves of plants are memories left behind from previous eruptions. Eventually we began our descent. Descending is always easier for me which is the opposite for others. We made some stops along the way to take in the views and watched as the sky began to clear. I wondered if it would be possible to see inside the crater now but I was not willing to climb back up to find out. The total experience lasted 4 hours 47 minutes and was so worth it.
If it didn’t get recorded, it didn’t happen. Thank God for my Garmin
This hike is not an easy one, doable, but not easy, take that into consideration. Bring a walking stick but walking sticks are available at base camp to use for free. Dress appropriately, comfortable but in layers. You’ll be cold from the weather, then hot from the walk, then cold at the top, then hot during the descent. I wore work out tights, sports bra, tank top. But I also took a puffer jacket that can be easily folded and packed and a rain jacket. I used everything. Wear hiking boots or sneakers. My Merrils have been my saving grace. Carry a lightweight, hiking backpack. Bring snacks, water, hot tea (if you don’t mind carrying it in a canteen) and a portable charger. Bring some money too, because you can purchase snacks and coffee at base camp.
There are bathrooms at base camp and halfway up the volcano, where you pay for the park admission.
When driving away from Turrialba, take your time and enjoy the views but be mindful that it is a farming town. You may be met by a roadblock.
Would you hike Turrialba? Let me know in the comments.