Turrialba Volcano National Park

Turrialaba Volcano National Park is located not far outside of San Jose in the Central Highlands of Costa Rica, on the eastern coast. Although it’s still an active volcano, the last major eruptions occurred in the 1860s. The park sprawls over nearly 4,000 acres of beautiful natural landscapes, excellent for viewing tropical flora and fauna.

Turrialaba is the second highest volcano in Costa Rica. From the summit, you can see the Carribean and the Atlantic Ocean as well as surrounding volcanoes, including Poas, Irazu and Barva. The main crater is still active and emits dangerous gases, but visitors can walk along the inactive craters to see the yiguirro, or clay-colored thrush, Costa Rica’s national bird. At the summit, the Rio Turrialba begins and flows towards a beautiful 100-meter waterfall.

Turrialba Volcano National Park, Costa RicaThe Turrialaba Volcano National Park is not as frequently visited as some of Costa Rica’s other parks, so there are fewer amenities. Visitors will find lots of walking trails with restrooms and picnic areas, but otherwise, organized activities are limited. Driving tours can be arranged, but you can also go alone if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Visitors should be careful if they leave the park’s main trails, as there are coyotes.

Visiting Turrialaba Volcano National Park is a chance to get away from the crowded cities and enjoy the natural beauty of Costa Rica. It’s a chance to bask in the sights and sounds of nature, to relax and breathe some fresh air. The best time to visit is during the dry season, in February and March, despite the cold. Bring a warm jacket, hat and gloves along with a good camera and a pair of binoculars so you can fully enjoy everything the park has to offer.

If you do visit during the rainy season, be sure to bring a waterproof jacket and/or an umbrella. A flash light isn’t a bad idea, either, particularly if you’re in the park later in the day. Before you make a trip to the park, check ahead to be sure it hasn’t been closed due to dangerous weather or volcanic activity.

From San Jose, you can take a bus directly to the park. Driving is also possible, and there are buses from Santa Cruz as well. There is an admission fee to enter the park.

Braulio Carillo National Park

 Braulio Carillo National Park is located about 20 miles to the northeast of San José and is an easy day trip from San José, or perhaps a stop along the way to Limón or the Caribbean beaches. At the urging of environment lobbyists, the park was established in 1978 as an effort to prevent development the area around the Limón Highway, which was under construction at that time. The park was named in honor of the third president of Costa Rica whose administration supervised the building of the first highway from San José to the Caribbean coast in the early 19th century.

Trams through the Rain Forest, Braulio Carillo National Park, Costa RicaThe Limón Highway, which bisects the park, is surrounded by virgin forest of both sides. The altitude in this 117,300-acre park ranges from 118 to 9,500 feet so both high-altitude cloud forests as well as tropical lowland rainforest can be found in the park. Home to approximately 500 species of birds and 150 species of mammals, the park boasts one of the highest levels of biodiversity in Costa Rica.

Whether you´re interested in walking down a short path from your car to an overlook or waterfall, or spending the whole day hiking 32 miles from Barva to La Selva, Barulio Carillo offers activities for everyone. On the east side of the park, the Aerial Tram takes you on an open gondola ride through two levels of the rainforest canopy. On the way up the mountain, the gondola travels several feet above the ground to allow you to examine the understory and lower canopy. On the way back down, the gondola travels in the treetops, reaching as much as 170 feet above the ground. Several hiking trails with guides are included with the admission and tram ride. Visitors should try to take walks at different elevations to contrast the distinct flora and fauna. Geological features of interest include Barva volcano, which has three crater lakes, and the Sarapiquí River watershed.

Braulio Carillo National Park can be reached by car or by taking any of the buses that travel to Guápiles, Siquirres, or Limón. Many tour operators also offer day trips from San José to Braulio Carillo National Park, including specialized tours like bird watching. There is no overnight accommodation available in the park. Other attractions in the area include Poás Volcano National Park, Irazú Volcano National Park, La Selva Biological Reserve and Lankester Botanical Gardens.

Juan Castro National Park

Juan Castro National Park Situated in the Arenal Huetar Norte Conservation Area of Costa Rica, this national park has naturalized cloud forest and rainforest regions. Its beautiful, natural attractions as well as its colorful birds and amazing wildlife are worth a trek even if there are no public facilities. Walking paths do cross the forests to the main sites, and exploring park is an exciting eco-adventure.

Directions to the Park

To the west of the park’s main entrance is found Ciudad, Quesada. Taking the highway southeast, San Jose is about 75 kilometres from Ciudad Quesada.

Juan Castro Blanco National Park, Costa RicaArenal Huetar Norte Conservation Area

The area set aside by the government that takes up most of northern Costa Rica. The land is divided into wildlife refuges, forest conservation areas and Juan Castro National Park. Parts of the conservation areas also contain vast wetlands.

Natural Features of Juan Castro National Park

The park has two volcanoes. Porvenir is a dormant volcano, but Platanar is active. The park’s highest point above sea level is 2,270 metres. Hot springs and lovely waterfalls are found along the river system. Exquisite orchids are everywhere throughout the mixed forests that include yayo, landswoods and a variety of oaks. About half of the forests are cloud and the other portion is rainforest. Those who like to go trekking and enjoy nature photography will be happy to explore all the amazing sites of nature in this Costa Rican national park.


Birds – Over two hundred and thirty bird species have been found in the park, a phenomenal number. One of the best activities for the park is bird watching. Those that bring binoculars and cameras with telescopic lenses may be able to capture spectacular birds.

Mammals – Fifty-seven different species have been recorded within this national park. This collection of animals includes over twenty species of bats. Other animals are common to the region like sloths, ocelots and howler monkeys.

Endangered Wildlife

Here are four endangered creatures found in Juan Castro National Park:

Black Guan and Curasow – These large birds live in trees in the subtropical highland forest. They are loud birds with a distinctive voices and calls according to species.

Red Brocket Deer – Small deer that live in the deep jungle forests of the park. They only stand about 70 centimetres tall.

Quetzal – Brightly colored birds in the highlands of the cloud forests, the quetzals’ height measures about 32 centimeters.

Irazu Volcano National Park

Irazu Volcano National Park in Costa Rica, offers visitors a unique chance to see a live volcano. Just 38 miles from San Jose and driving over good roads, makes the park a perfect day trip. Established in August of 1955, the 5,705 acres of Irazu Volcano National Park is home to Irazu Volcano, the tallest volcano in Costa Rica, which towers over the land at a height of 11,260 feet (3,432 meters).

The most spectacular of the volcano’s multiple craters is Diego de la Haya. Visitors come to view this 300 feet deep crater because of its mineral lake that has the ability to change color from a deep emerald green to striking crimson red. The color change is caused by the minerals that are present in the crate lake.

Irazu Volcano National Park, Costa RicaThe last activity of the Irazu Volcano was recorded in 1996 and the last eruption occurred in 1963. The park is located in the higher elevations above the frost line and in some places above the tree line. The higher elevation, which is usually above the clouds, brings chilly temperatures that are near freezing at the rim of the volcano. Visitors to Irazu are warned to prepare for cold wind and freezing temperatures, but the danger of sunburn still exists because of the areas proximity to the Equator, where the sun in more intense.

Tourists to the Irazu Volcano National Park can take the half mile hiking trail path, which winds between the multiple craters of the Irazu Volcano, and loops around giving hikers a closer look at the pyroclastic cone and each crater.

Indigenous wildlife that makes this rugged volcanic terrain their home includes the Volcano Junco, Volcano Hummingbird, Agouti, Armadillo, Coati, and Spiny Green Lizards. There is a great opportunity to see a Three Wattled Bellbird or even a Chestnut Mandibled Toucan when hiking in the park. The lower elevation of the volcano is rich in vegetation which supports indigenous squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, foxes, owls and birds like robins and woodpeckers.

The Irazu Volcano National Park has a small Visitor Center where visitors can learn about how a volcano functions and about the local wildlife of the Irazu Volcano. Inside the park, visitors will find public restrooms, tourist information, drinking water, and a gift shop. After hiking in the park, visitors can get a meal at the park snack bar and eat at nearby picnic tables.


 The words “beautiful valley” describe the town of Orosi Costa Rica . Orosi is situated in a valley that is considered to be the most beautiful in the whole country. Orosi offers breathtaking views and swaying pine trees that are covered with Spanish moss. Orosi, Costa Rica is known for its peaceful and tranquil settings and is a pleasure to nature lovers. Beautiful hot springs, amazing waterfalls, rich soil, and the perfect climate are all enjoyed in Orosi.

Orosi is located 18 miles from San Jose and 7 miles from Cartago. The small town of Orosi has a population of a little over 4,600. Orosi is a well-preserved colonial area that has made it through numerous earthquakes over the years. This town was named after a Huetar Indian chief who lived in the area; Orosi was later colonized by the Spanish.

Orosi Valley, Orosi, Costa RicaThe production of coffee is the leading industry in the area of Orosi. Beautiful coffee plantations and private farms such as Chucaras Hotsprings Estate are places where tourists can learn about the production of coffee and enjoy Hot Springs swimming pools. The thermal baths of Los Balnearious and Los Patios offer relaxation and comfort to visitors and residents alike.

Rain forests, volcanoes, valleys, and hills with sugar cane and coffee plants are all part of the Orosi region. Orosi is rich in history and has monuments dating back many years ago. A colonial capital founded in 1563 and archeological excavations that date back to 1000 B.C are part of Orosi’s history.

Boating, fishing, mountain viewing, bird and wildlife watching, and shopping are all popular activities in Orosi. A much-visited attraction in Orosi is Tapanti National Park. Lake Cachi is popular for boating and fishing, while the Rio Reventazon is a great location for white-water rafting.

Important landmarks in Orosi include the oldest church being used in Costa Rica, the Ingelsia de San Jose Orosi. This church was built in 1734. Inside of the church is an altar carved from wood and decorated with religious paintings; the roof of the church is made from roofing cane and ceramic tile. Near the church is a museum that displays some of Costa Rica’s old religious artifacts that are Spanish-influenced.


For those that are looking for a new vacation destination, an option that must be considered would be the city of Cartago, Costa Rica.  While when most people think of Costa Rica they think of spending time in a typical resort located on a beach, Cartago provides a much different and very unique travel experience.

Cartago is conveniently located in the Central Highlands region of the country.  It is a great place for someone to either spend their entire trip or spend a couple of days while they are touring the country.  The city is best known for having some of the richest history of any city on the Western Hemisphere.  The city has a rich history that dates back nearly 600 years, when it was first settled by Spanish explorers.

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles, Cartago, Costa RicaThe city is considered a spiritual destination for many people.  Each year, millions of people head to the city to visit Costa Rica’s principal church, which is the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles.  The most popular traveling day to the church is August 2, which is well known for being the feast and celebration day surrounding the Virgin of Angels.  Outside of the church stands the historical Black Madonna statue, which is rumored to bring spiritual healing powers to the weak and sick.

Beyond the church, there are other historical architectural buildings located through Plaza Mayor, which is the city’s central business and entertainment district.  In this area, there are many modern buildings as well as ruins of historical buildings that were devastated by one of the many earthquakes that have affected the area.

Many travelers that come to Cartago, Costa Rica come to take advantage of the beautiful environment and diverse topography.  Immediately surrounding the city is a very dense rainforest, which contains some of the most diverse animal and plant life in the world.  The city also sits at the base of the Irazu Volcano, which is an active volcano that last erupted in 1963.  Tourists can frequently take guided tours through all of the wildlife in the area.  Similar to other areas of the country, the weather in Cartago is ideal 12 months per year, with high temperatures ranging to between 75 and 80 degrees all year long.


Alajuela, Costa Rica has the honor of being the country’s second most profound city. It’s ideally located within miles of the San Jose capital and several other important areas. Due to its perfect location in Central Highlands, the city attracts many who come to explore its rich history and culture.The city sits comfortably nestled in the Valley surrounded by coffee plantations and farmland. Visitors undoubtedly notice these vast landscapes as they travel by bus from the Santamaria International Airport to their hostel or hotel accommodations. Travelers can even see the city’s numerous cattle on their drive, its other means of trade.

Church, Alajuela, Costa RicaWith a population just over 46,000 Alajuela tends to be full of life. Visitors may experience numerous festivals, parties and other celebrations while visiting the city. The national holiday Juan Santamaria Day provides food, dancing and parades to the locals and visitors alike. This holiday celebrates Costa Rica’s national hero Juan Santamaria.

Alajuela’s history is greatly influenced by one important thing: its freedom. The city’s independence from Spain encouraged it to overcome adversity and turmoil. It was also Alajuela’s very own hero, Juan Santamaria that put the city on the world’s map. With his bravery and determination, the city defeated its adversaries at the Hacienda Santa Rosa. Since these tumultuous times, Alajuela has become a popular tourist attraction in Costa Rica.

Visiting the city’s surrounding areas is possible through day trips. These trips typically take travelers to Poas Volcano Park, the butterfly farm and several unique locales. Those who love coffee may take trips to the Doka Estate for coffee plantation tours. Staying within the city’s boundaries is also ideal. Travelers may choose to frequent Alajuela’s central park where they mingle with the locals. Here is where they people watch or munch on sweet treats from the many vendors who sell their wares.

The weather in Alajuela is temperate all-year round with temperatures reaching the high 80s in the summer and low 60s or 70s in the cooler months. The city’s tropical weather greatly influences the success of its crops and farmland. Most consider Alajuela’s weather to be perfectly suitable for agricultural growth.

Volcan Poas National Park

Costa Rica’s pleasant climate and beautiful scenery has led this country to become a popular tourist spot for travelers from all over the world. With numerous beautiful parks and culture rich cities, Costa Rica has something for everyone. The Volcan Poas National Park is one of the many spectacular tourist destinations. Located about one and a half hours from the capital city of San Jose and less than 30 minutes from Alajuela, Volcan Poas is easily accessible by vehicle and makes for a pleasant day trip on holiday.

The Volcan Poas National Park is home to an active volcano that still bursts out with small geyser and lava eruptions from time to time. The last significant eruptions were recorded in 1952 to 1954. With an interactive visitor’s center and handicap accessible routes, this national park is a great family outing for people of all ages and various abilities. The main crater of the volcano is a mere 15 minute walk from the visitor’s center. Visitors can enjoy the various wildlife and plant life along the way. If you spot a green yellow squirrel, do take note. This is the Poa green yellow squirrel and is only found in the Volcan Poas National Park, no where else in the world. Over 14,000 acres of lush habitat provides for many animals such as the coyotes, skunks and weasels as well as numerous birds including hummingbirds and the splendid quetzal.

Volcan Poas National Park, Costa RicaWith the captial of Costa Rica, San Jose, only about 90 minutes away, this park is easily reached for a day’s outing when staying in one of the many city hotels. San Jose is a bustling, busy capital that is rather utilitarian in design and appearance. However, beneath the industrial look are interesting museums, delicious restaurants and many fun things for tourists to explore. The city of Alajuela is closer to Volcan Poas National Park and is often more popular than the country’s capital. This is due to the smaller city being less crowded and prettier in general, drawing tourists from the busyness of San Jose to a slower pace of vacation. The climate for both cities is pleasant all year around with very few occasions of rain.

The accessibility and many short walking trails in the Volcan Poas National Park make for a great holiday outing, away from the cities and crowds as well as the daily routines of work and school. Rich in flora and fauna, the park is a beautiful destination for tourists and locals alike.

San José

San Jose, called Chepe by locals, is Costa Rica’s hub. It is not only the capital, but the economic and cultural center as well. Nearly one third of the country’s population lives in or near San Jose, and even more in nearby cities. Many visitors use San Jose as a gateway to the country’s natural wonders, since the urban area is only a short drive from the geological and biological attractions that draw many visitors to Costa Rica. The unique ecosystems of the mountaintop cloud forests are only a day trip away. So is Irazu Volcano National Park, with its eerie moonscape extending above the cloud cover. Manuel Antonio National Park with its gorgeous beaches and its four species of monkeys is only about eighty miles from the capital.

City View of San Jose Costa RicaBefore Europeans came to the Americas two great empires dominated the hemisphere. The intersection of the cultural influence of Aztecs and Incas lay in what is now the nation of Costa Rica, just north of the Isthmus of Panama. The country remains urbane and cosmopolitan even today. Costa Rica is the oldest democracy in the region. It abolished its standing army in the middle of the twentieth century and today hosts the headquarters of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The capital, San Jose, hosts a large expatriate community, and short term tourists flock to the city for its natural beauty, cultural opportunities and delightful entertainment.
Possibly the most distinctive attraction in San Jose is the Museum of Precolumbian Gold located in an underground structure beneath the Plaza de la Cultura. For a more modern take on precious metals, visit the Coin Museum in the same building. The most extensive collection of American jade in the world is housed in the Jade Museum. History buffs will be fascinated by the National Museum, and art lovers will appreciate the Museum of Costa Rican Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art. For a more unusual but equally fascinating display, check out the Museum of Criminology.

After the indoor attractions many visitors choose to enjoy Parque la Sabana, a reclaimed airport with trails, an artificial lake and an assortment of playing fields. Others seek out the shopping venues of Barrio Amon or the Avenida Central. Many of San Jose’s best restaurants are conveniently located in these same neighborhoods. After dark locals and visitors alike enjoy the El Pueblo entertainment complex or the dance floors of Los Yoses or San Pedro.

Costa Rica is located deep in the tropics, less than ten degrees of latitude from the equator, but San Jose’s 1000 meter elevation and the prevalence of mountain breezes means its temperature is mild enough to enjoy the whole year round, although from May until November the Costa Rica weather is quite rainy. At any time of year a few days spent in Chepe make a great vacation and a priceless introduction to the real Costa Rica.

Central Highlands

It has been said the heart of Costa Rica is in the Central Highlands, surrounded by steep mountains to the south, coffee plantation covered hills and several of the countries most spectacular volcanoes. To the north lays the city of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica as well as the populous center of the country.
The Central Highlands are defined by the Cordilla Central mountain range running north to south, containing some of Costa Rica’s most visited volcanoes, Poas and the highest Irazu volcano at 11260 feet. To the east, the lower mountain range of Cerros de la Carpintera gives way to the Caribbean lowlands and the Caribbean Sea beyond. To the south the steep mountain ranges of Talmancas. In the center of these majestic mountain backdrops is the Meseta Central plateau, at the 3000 foot level the plateau is home to 70 % of Costa Rica’s population. The 3 biggest cities being Alajuela, Heredia and San Jose, to the east the historic and once capital of Costa Rica, Cartago.

Popular with the tourist is the colonial style architecture found in the cities to the fantastic views surrounding the valley. A visit to San Jose will give the visitor a view of a large Latin American city. Large parks, markets, bustling business center as well as the Plaza de la Cultura, with the Teatro Nacional located in this pedestrian only shopping area. Smaller towns of Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago will give the tourist a glimpse of a smaller less hectic Costa Rican lifestyle. Open air markets and small shops tend to give the area a low keyed atmosphere. A favorite with the arriving tourist is the many tours of the area, from driving tours to the many National Parks, such as La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Poas and Irazu Volcano National Parks to the working coffee plantation at Cafe Britt, or a day exploring the old section of historic Cartago and San Jose. With a temperate climate, the mountain slopes leading to some of the most viewed volcanoes are covered by coffee plantations, and rain forests. Often cloud shrouded mountain peaks give the visitor surreal views. From several mountain peaks and Irazu Volcano it is possible on a clear day to see the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

The Central Highland climate has a eternal spring like weather, with a rainy season from mid April to December one will find a average temperature in the lower to upper 50’s during the night to a high in the upper 60’s during the day. Below freezing temperature are not unheard of in the higher altitudes such as Irazu Volcano.
The Central Highland is also home to the largest and most frequented International airport of Costa Rica, Aeropuerto Juan Santamarie, located just outside of Alajuela and a 20 minute ride from downtown San Jose.