Temperamental Volcano Turrialba

Volcano Turrialba may not be the most popular but it is definitely the most eruptive

The beautiful Turrialba Volcano is covered in dense vegetation and looks out over approximately 3,900 acres (1,577 ha) of mostly mountainous rain forest. It is the second tallest volcano in Costa Rica (Irazu being the first). A large area of the national park is composed of both primary and secondary rainforest, where it is common to see smaller wildlife scurrying around, such as the agouti, coati and armadillo. Several miradors or lookouts along the well preserved trail around the rim of the summit give spectacular 360 degree views! It’s truly a great background to an area that offers some incredible exploration opportunities for the more adventurous traveler.


When the park is open, the hike to the top may take one to three hours but the views make it worthwhile

Located in the Cartago Province in Central Valley, the Turrialba volcano sits at 10,919 feet (3,328 m) along the southeast end of the Central Volcanic Corridor. On a clear day, the picturesque view from the summit includes the Atlantic coast to the east and the volcanoes Barva, Poas and Irazu. Visitors used to be able to hike down the main crater before the increased activity in 2014 – 2016 has caused the surrounding park to close. This stratovolcano, made up of alternating layers of lava and ash, is about 45 minutes from the Atlantic slope town of Turrialba. The summit has three craters and below it is a mountain range and forest with ferns, bromeliads, lichens and moss.

Turrialba Volcano Eruption in Night, September 2016


Turrialba has been erupting sporadically since October 29, 2014.  A tremor started that remained constant until a phreatic eruption occurred, which is caused by the heating and expansion of groundwater. This sent a large amount of volcanic material to areas of up to 40km (25 miles) away. Citizens reported ash falling on their properties and a strong smell of sulphur. On March 12, 2015, eruptions sent ashes through all the Central Valley causing both the Juan Santamaria and Tobias Bolaños international airports to close due to visibility being less than 100 meters! An eruption occurred the following day. A little over a year later in May 2015 there was another eruption which caused a subsequent closing of the capital’s airport. Fast forward ahead to May 21, 2016 which marked one of the largest eruptions since 2010.

Ashes To Ashes 

At least 500 people went to hospitals complainig of breathing problems. Once again, flights into San Jose were cancelled due to concerns about ash. Due to these eruptions, over the past two years, Turrialba Volcano National Park is currently closed to visitors. The volcano`s explosion last September 19, 2016 launched ash and rock 4 km high. There were actually two eruptions on that day almost eight hours apart. Reports were received of ash falling on communities north and west of San Jose.  Since the beginning of 2017 until present ash advisory warnings have been in place. This past February, Turrialba erupted again. 


The park will reopen once again when it is considered safe for visitors so don’t lose heart over missing out on the opportunity to experience Turrialba and the surrounding park. It can be a little difficult to get to though. The hike to the top can take anywhere from one to three hours and motorized vehicles aren’t allowed. The trails tend to be more rustic and challenging than other national parks; however you don’t have to worry about crowds and the park is gorgeous. In the meantime, when planning your trip to Costa Rica, make sure to check the latest activity report. It is not uncommon for incoming or outgoing flights to be delayed due to ash fall out (near Juan Santamaria Airport in Alajuela.)

While this possibly could turn out to be your experience of Turrialba, at least it makes for an interesting anecdote. As always, The Costa Rica Team wishes you safe travels and great experiences in this enchanting country.