When people think “Costa Rica” they think of three things: pristine beaches, prolific wildlife and colossal volcanoes.
Costa Rica is home to over 200 volcanic formations speckled throughout the country – most of them accompanied by piping hot springs and challenging hiking trails. Here’s a list of the top 5 most impressive volcanoes in Costa Rica in order of their proximity to Tamarindo (and recommendations on which ones are OK for day trips versus which ones require overnight stays).
(NOTE: I’ve included directions, but do yourself a favor and ignore them. Instead, rent a GPS along with your car and let it take you where you need to go.)
Rincon de la Vieja Volcano
Rincon is one of only two volcanoes close enough to Tamarindo for a day trip. It’s an incredible place to hike, as there are boiling mud pots and loads of wildlife around every corner. There is so much to do here I couldn’t possibly list it all here. Horseback riding, hot springs, ziplining, waterfall rappelling, tubing and pretty much anything else outdoors you could imagine. Talk to Lola at RPM about booking a tour. Keep in mind the park is closed on Mondays.
Directions: Drive north along the Pan American Highway past Liberia for 3 miles/5.8 km and turn right at the signs for Curubande/Rincón de la Vieja National Park/Las Pailas sector. Travel 8.6 miles/14 kilometers on a dirt road to the village of Curubande which is 8.5 miles/13.6 km away and continue in the same direction along the same road. Watch for signs to Rincón de la Vieja National Park/Las Pailas sector.
Miravalles is a fairly smooth 2-hour drive from Tamarindo (it’s definitely worthy of a day trip!). It’s about 45 minutes away from Liberia and 10 miles north of the small town of Bagaces. There aren’t really any EASY hiking trails, but if you really want to get crazy you can hire a guide to take you on a 9-hour round trip hike to the top. There are also some hot springs that are easy to reach by car, where you can soak in the thermal waters or rub soothing volcanic mud all over your body.
Directions: Take the Interamerican highway to Bagaces, then turn off to the right. Drive about 20 miles toward Guayabo until you see the signs for Miravalles.
Tenorio’s two craters and four volcanic cones are not nearly as impressive as the unbelievable celeste blue river running through the national park. This vibrant blue color is an effect caused by the sulfuric hot springs heated up by volcanic activity. The best time to visit is during dry season between February and May, when the river is at its best. It’s about a 2.5-3.5 hour drive from Tamarindo depending on road conditions and how fast you drive, so it’s best to make a visit to Tenorio National Park an overnight one.
Directions: Take a left in Villareal and drive until the road ends in Huacas. Take a right and follow the signs to Liberia (when you reach the main intersection at Belen you’ll take a left). Pass the Liberia international airport, which will be on your left. After 10 mi (16 km), in Liberia downtown, follow the signs to San Jose. Drive straight through until you get to the city of Cañas. About 6 miles after Cañas is a turnoff to Bijagua. About 20 miles past Bijagua, you will find the entrance to the Park.
This is by far Costa Rica’s most famous volcano, and with good reason – it’s pretty much the iconic shape and size of what you’d expect a volcano to be. Plus, from 1968 to 2011 it used to erupt with hot lava each and every night. Now it mostly smolders as it’s considering not quite dormant, but “sleeping.” Arenal is definitely NOT a day trip from Tamarindo. You want to allow at least 2-3 nights in La Fortuna (the town next to Arenal) to really experience the area – perhaps even 4 or 5 nights if you want to really take your time.
Directions: From Tamarindo, drive to Huacas and onto Belen, through Liberia and on to Cañas. Follow signs to Tilaran and on to Arenal. Click here for more in-depth directions.
Poas is the no-brainer of all of Costa Rica’s volcanoes, particularly if you’re flying into the San Jose International Airport. It literally could not be easier to reach by car (however keep in mind it’s a 6-hour drive from Tamarindo, so plan on spending the night in the Central Valley!). Just drive to the parking lot, and walk less than 10 minutes along the perfectly level, well-kempt path to reach the neon-blue crater. Be sure to plan your trip as early as possible in the morning (I’m talking be ready and waiting the moment the park opens), otherwise it will probably be too foggy to see anything. It’s super windy there, so if you’re lucky you might end up with a funny family photo like this one!
Directions: From San Jose, take the highway to Alajuela. From there, take to road to Itiquis and Fraijanes, following the signs to the volcano.
Blog by: Genna Marie