No matter where you go in Costa Rica, if you’re traveling with children, there is nothing like a personal, hands-on experience to enhance past or future school lessons. Seeing the coffee plantations & coastal beaches, wildlife & waterfalls, mountains & markets, and volcanoes and views are life-long experiences. Whether it’s science, geography, social studies and culture or language, every ecotourism activity has educational aspects that make concepts like volcanoes, rainforests, cloud forests, tropics, or the value of Spanish and conservation more real and meaningful.
If ecotourism is your thing, visit the Irazú Volcano! For sure it’ll be a trip you and your family or companions will remember. Going to Irazú is an easy and relaxing day trip from San José. It’s located just 19 km from the city of Cartago, so plan to visit Cartago at the same time. The Parque Nacional Volcán Irazú was established in 1955 in the province of Cartago. The over 2000 hectares make up the reserve dedicated to the conservation of the surrounding rain and cloud forests and all the plant and animal life that lives there.
A visit to the Irazú Volcano will be a trip you and your family or companions will remember. To start, Irazú Volcano is the largest and highest volcano in Costa Rica, standing at an impressive altitude of 11,260 feet (3,432 meters), and over 300 miles (500 km) around its base. Be sure to dress in layers with warm clothes and shoes for this adventure. It can be very cold even when the sun is shining at the crater’s edge. Late afternoon and nighttime temperatures drop quickly and sometimes are low enough to create dew-frost.
The next thing you will want to know is that Irazú is an active volcano. Irazú is an “active” volcano even though its last eruption was in 1963; curiously on the same day as U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In recent years, scientists have noted changes in the color of its lagoon and there have been recent rumblings. The dry and dusty, moon-like terrain leading up to the edge of the Irazú crater is as amazing as the view down into its crater.
The name "Irazú" comes from the indigenous word “ara-tzu” which roughly translates to "thunder-earthquake mountain." Along with its sheer size, this name probably gives us some genuine insight into the tremendous impact of historic eruptions.
If you see the roadside stands or vendors before arriving to the park entrance, stop to support these local entrepreneurs. They are local families selling typical Costa Rican candies, fruits, traditional home-baked goods and tasty cheeses from the region. Not everyone knows it, but these folks sometimes sell cheeses seasoned with fresh herbs, fruit flavors or spices. They are delicious and delightful! Whatever you buy, it goes directly contributing to a family's income. You benefit by expanding your Costa Rican cultural cuisine experience with tasty treats and knowing you helped.
If you’re looking for an excellent typical food restaurant either for breakfast or lunch near the Irazú Volcano National Park, consider stopping at Mi Tierra (My Land). It’s on the road to Irazú Volcano, 2 km east of the bailey bridge. Another wonderful place that locals will be quick to recommend is the restaurant/gardens/lookout Bocadito del Cielo (A Bite of Heaven) which is just outside of Cartago on highway 10. The gardens are lush and rich green valley views are as amazing as the foods.
The province of Cartago is probably best known for the Irazú Volcano and for its highly productive farming communities in the lands that extend beyond the base of the volcano. The city of Cartago is known for its historical value, for the Basilica Our Lady of the Angels and for the Technological University of Costa Rica. If you like bird watching and gardens (especially orchids), then the nearby Lankester Botanical Garden is a place you’ll enjoy.
Whether you’re taking a break from Costa Rica’s beaches and other cities, or just escaping from San José for the day, a trip to Irazú Volcano National Park is an experience you’ll remember. Just 19 km northeast of Cartago, it’s an especially educational experience for children and adults alike. It’s a chance to experience first-hand a cloud forest climate and look directly into the active crater at Irazú Volcano –Costa Rican adventures you and your family or traveling companions won’t want to miss.
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