Irazu Volcano National Park

Location: 20 miles (32 km) NE of Cartago.
Size: 5,706 acres (2,309 ha).
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. to 3:30 P.m.
Information: Telephone hotline 192, (see Appendix A: Parks and Reserves Information), (506) 290-1927, fax (506) 232-5324.

Indians who lived on the mountain's slopes named it Izataru "mountain of trembling and thunder." Indeed Irazu Volcano has a history of showing off. Its awesome power is evident long before you reach the impressive craters. Near Cartago, notice the devastation from the most recent major eruptions, 1963 to 1965. Whole areas were buried in mud ' floods were significant, and volcanic rock still peppers the countryside. But as you travel the paved road to the park, credit the volcano for the rich soils that now produce cabbages, potatoes, onions, and dairy cows' grasslands.

Highest peak in the Central Volcanic Range, Irazu reaches 11,260 feet (3,432 in). It has been known to send ash as far away as the Nicoya Peninsula; steam clouds have billowed 1,640 feet (500 in) high, and debris has shot up 984 feet (300 in). The rumbling giant tossed boulders weighing several tons from its innards in 1963, and its tremors rattled buildings miles away.

Today, with Irazu in a sometimes-restless resting phase, visitors can go to the top of a lunar landscape that muffles its fiery nature. But thin streams of steam or gas and occasional tremors remind us that Irazu is not dead; it only sleeps. Walk along the rim of the main crater, which has a 3,445-foot (1,050-m) diameter; peer down to a bright green lake almost 1,000 feet (300 in) below. Volcanic grays and blacks are highlighted by swatches of reds and oranges in the steep sides. The other principal crater, linked by a trail, is Diego de la Haya, 1,968 feet (600 in) across.

Tenacious plants dot largely empty areas around the craters; some bravely sport bright flowers. On slopes where the green of secondary growth testifies to nature's powers of recovery, old, barren branches rise like ghostly fingers above the new forest. Animal life is scarce at the park because of both human and volcanic activity. Where cougar and jaguar once thrived, today you can see rabbits, coyotes, armadillos, and squirrels. Hummingbirds are numerous; you might spot a volcano junco, mountain robin, ruddy woodcreeper, or ant-eating woodpecker.

For clearest views and a chance to see both oceans, go early. The park closes earlier now.

Whatever time of day you visit, take a jacket. Average temperature is 52'F (I I'C)-lowest recorded temperature, 26'F (-3'C). Frost is possible December through February. Annual rainfall is 85 inches (2,158 mm).
Irazu park, one of the country's most visited, is the birthplace of rivers that flow into major waterways: Chirripo Reventazon, Sarapiqui, and Rio Grande de Tarcoles Rivers. Within the park is a small information hut with posters and park information, rest rooms, and a picnic area.

Getting There

By bus: Bus from San Jos& to the park only on weekends.
By car: From Cartago, head for San Rafael de Oreamuno and Cot, follow park signs.
San Jose tour companies offer day trips, some in conjunction with a visit to Lankester garden, Cartago, or Orosi Valley.

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