Visiting the Turrialba Volcano
Located close to San Jose in the Cartago Province of the Central Valley, Turrialba is a great off the beaten path volcano in Costa Rica that should definitely be on your list. The Turrialba volcano is active and has known quite a bit of activity in recent years. So much so that the Turrialba National Park has been closed to visitors several times. The nearby volcanoes of Irazu and Poas share an active history but are far more popular than Turrialba. Turrialba Volcano is also close to Costa Rica’s most important archeological site – the Guayabo National Monument.
Turrialba Volcano National Park
Visiting the Turrialba volcano will introduce you to a wilder national park than those of Poas and Irazu. The first 10 kilometers of the official park road are paved but after that, you will be traveling on a dirt road. If you are traveling by car, only a 4×4 will do!
Other than wildlife like agouti, toucans and monkeys as well as rich foliage such as bamboo, you can see old lava flows that point to a past of hot, magma and lava rivers flowing down from the volcano.
Turrialba is the second largest volcano in the country (3328 meters) after the Irazu volcano and is named after the white smoke it used to emit. The Spanish settlers referred to the volcano as Torre Albam meaning white smoke. There are three main craters that can be visited when the park is open to the public. Enjoy the rugged charm of a Costa Rica volcano without the crowds!
The most recent volcano eruptions were registered in 2014 and are ongoing. The volcano erupted after being dormant for 130 years with the last eruption being in 1866.
Gayabo National Monument
The Guayabo National Monument is Costa Rica’s most valuable pre-Columbian site as well as the most enigmatic. The circular mounts and archaeological remains of an old aqueduct, point to a once highly sophisticated civilization. The Guayabo National Monument was discovered when the area was being cleared for coffee plantations in the late 1800’s. It is believed that at its peak, around 10.000 people used to live in this ancient city. The first settlers are thought to have come to these parts around 1000 BC and created a bustling city by 800 AD. As to why they disappeared, it is still not known. Theories include those of the plague of even volcanic activity.
Rafting the Pacuare river
The Turrialba Volcano is about a two-hour drive from the Talamanca Mountain Range. This is where you will discover the Rio Pacuare. This river is rated one of the Top 5 Rivers of the world for its stunning scenery and challenging rapids. This is the ultimate river to visit for its white-water rafting. In fact, Rio Paralta (upper Pacuare) is said to be one of the most difficult rivers to take on in Central America. Additionally, Rio Reventazon and Rio Pejibaye surround the majestic Valley of Turrialba and are available for kayaking as well as rafting tours.
If you happen to be visiting on a Friday or a Saturday, don’t miss the chance to shop at the Turrialba Farmer’s Market. Here you can gain a valuable, cultural experience and be part of a great socializing occasion for the locals. They come here to buy fruits and vegetables as well as locally grown produce, but they also drop by for a visit and to catch up on the latest news.
Visit between December and May: This is the Costa Rica dry season and your best chance for sunny weather as well as stunning views.
Check the availability: Recent eruptions have kept the park closed to visitors but always keep updated! Perhaps it will open again at the time of your visit.
Visit Guayabo: When in the area, don’t hesitate to visit the most famous pre-Columbian site in Costa Rica.
Explore the area: The city of Cartago as well as the Central Valley have a lot to offer in terms of history as well as natural beauty.
You can always take advantage of the excellent dining options available in the above-mentioned hotels. But if you feel like dining outside of the hotel for the night, you can do so in the small town of Turrialba. For a wide selection of local cuisine as well as a vegetarian friendly menu, go to Restaurante Rancho del Sapito or Adriano’s Restaurante. If you favor a fusion styled restaurant with delicious Chinese food, stop by at Wok and Roll.
Where to stay
The intimate, quiet Valley of Turrialba, has some wonderful lodging options for you to choose from. There is the plantation and Hotel Casa Turire as well as the stunning Rancho Naturalista. You will appreciate the remote sensation, the genuine friendliness of the people, the spectacular mountain views and the wide variety of activities offered here make a visit to Turrialba Volcano well worth the effort.