- End of paved road: N10.11119 W84.12354
- Park entrance: N10.12988 W84.12563
- Main crater / lagoon: N10.13368 W84.10574
- Lookout point on Vara Blanca trail: N10.14142 W84.12136
The Barva Volcano is an extinct volcano located in side the Braulio Carrillo National Park. It's one of the longer hiking tours you can do when you're in San Jose, and will take you through a good climb, and then several hours of rainforest trails.
The main crater of the Barva Volcano has filled up with water and become a lagoon, measuring 70 m wide by 8 deep. A seconday lagoon has formed about 2 Km away from the main one, and can also be hiked to.
There's no evidence of volcanic activity remaining here, like you would see in Irazu or Poas, only dense rainforest and a spectacular view of San Jose as you're climbing.
The trip to Barva volcano is best done by car. Paved roads go up to a few Km away from the park entrance, from there you can either hike, or brave the gravel roads. A 4x4 with good ground clearance should be able to make the trip all the way to the entrance (the park service uses Frontier pickups). And if you're patient and not squeamish about handling very rough roads on steep hills, you can make it to the park entrance in any basic 4x4 vehicle, you just have to take the turns slowly, avoiding the boulders.
If your car doesn't make it up (or you don't want to drive all the way), there's several houses on the paved road where you can leave your car for the day and hike the rest of the way.
Coordinates where you can park:
- House at the end of paved road: N10.11119 W84.12354
- House about 100 m from paved road: N10.11267 W84.12348
- Last parking before park entrance: N10.11652 W84.12086
You can also go by bus, but if you do, you've got quite a hike ahead. Take any bus to the center of Heredia, and from there take Heredia - San Jose de la Montaña/Paso Llano (route 433, Transportes del Norte S.A. ). Check their website for the specific times that buses leave Heredia, and the times they come back down. You'll need to take the bus that goes all the way to Paso Llano.
Once you're at Paso Llano, you'll need to hike 9 Km to the park entrance, and from there hike the trails. You're looking at a good 20-30 Km hike if you decide to go by bus. Obviously, comfortable shoes are a must for this trip.
Park admission is 1000 colones for nationals, $8 for foreigners.
On the way to the park entrance, you'll find steep climbs with gravel roads, and spectacular views of the city below. You'll make your way through cattle pastures and mountain homes, with vegetation typical of the San Jose de la Montaña area (pine trees, low grasses and abundant mosses)
Inside the park, the climbs become more moderate, and you'll be hiking through rainforest similar to the one you see in Braulio Carrillo. Trails are well defined and marked, and for the most part, well maintained. You'll still find a mud puddle here and there, and don't be surprised if you end up in mud to your ankles.
Inside the park, rain is normal. You should take a rainproof jacket, and if possible, a change of clothes for the end of your trip. Drinking water and lunch items are recommended, since you'll probably be spending noon and the hours past in the park. A sweater or warm jacket is also necessary, the temperature is generally around 18 C, with a good wind chill that can bring it down to 16 C or so as you're hiking.
And, don't forget your sunblock. You'll be at 2900 meters above sea level, at that altitude the clouds don't filter much UV, and although it might not feel hot, you'll be getting burned if you don't wear sunblock.
The mandatory trip is up to the lagoon. It's 6 Km total from the park entrance through the main trail. The main trail branches off about 500 m from the park entrance to another trail called Cacho de Venado. Cacho de Venado is similar in length, but is a bit steeper and runs through the heart of the forest, so you get to see a lot more vegetation.
Also on the main trail is another branch-off to a trail called Vara Blanca. This add 1.8 Km to your trip, and will take you to a lookout point where you can see the Poas Volcano and the valley below.
It's recommended you start your hike no later than 9 AM at the park entrance. This will give you the best chance of getting a clear view of the lagoon and the valley below, before it clouds over. It will also help you avoid the rain that normally comes in the afternoon.