By Eric Robinson
Your closest volcano from San Jose (and Adventure Inn Hotel) is Barva, inside Braulio Carillo National Park. To get to Barva Volcano, drive uphill from Heredia to Sacramento, where the dirt road begins and follow the signs. Without a 4WD, you’ll want to leave your vehicle outside the park entrance and walk along the picturesque mountain road. The entrance fee of 600 colones for residents, and $7 for tourists is used to maintain the park.
Rated a moderate hike (which left me a bit breathless), it will take four or five hours to reach the crater and return. The trail is wide for the most part, well marked and easy to navigate. During the green season, it is muddy in places. You will pass through tropical rainforest with rich green-grey mosses clinging to and hanging from the established trees. The beautiful views out over San Jose and the Central Valley far below make the slightly uphill walk to the crater all worth while.
Unlike neighbouring and expansive Poas Volcano, Barva’s crater is only about 160 meters across. It has laid dormant for three hundred years, and is now filled with water, making it a lovely quiet pond surrounded by lush rainforest. At the top is a wooden platform to view down into the crater. There is another path leading down to a small platform beside the water. This is a good time and place to rest, have your picnic lunch, and take in the sensory overload. When you finally leave, you can be confident it is mostly downhill from here.
At any time of the year, but especially the green season, it is best to go early in the morning before the afternoon clouds roll in. It can be drizzly and cool at times so dress for extremes, rainwear plus layers. Hiking boots are best, plus a couple of liters of water, and sunscreen. Just like the Boy Scouts, be prepared!