The Miravalles Volcano Protected Zone was created on March 16th, 1976, through Executive Order No. 5836-A, in order to protect and conserve the rain forests, very humid forests, cloud forests and biodiversity that cover the area surrounding the slopes of Miravalles Volcano, the almost perfectly conical volcano and the highest in the Guanacaste Volcanic Mountain Range, located between the districts of Fortuna and Aguas Claras de Bagaces in Guanacaste, and the district of Bijagua de Upala in Alajuela.
The Miravalles Volcano Protected Zone in Costa Rica is known by some simply as the Miravalles Volcano. This is a very complex andesitic stratovolcano with six eruption points at its peak. The caldera was formed during several major explosive eruptions that produced voluminous dacitic-rhyolitic pyroclastic flows between about 1.5 and 0.6 million years ago. On its western and southwestern flanks there are lava flows. The only reported historical eruptive activity was a small steam explosion on the southwest flank in 1946.
Now, the Miravalles Volcano has a dormant and semi-destroyed crater with extrinsic cones and one- million-year-old lava-flows that descend to Las Hornillas, where interesting examples of hydrothermal activity in Costa Rica can be seen, as the Miravalles Geothermal Project lies in here (the hydrothermal field is a hot-water dominated system, with a vapor dominated cap in some parts of the geothermal field). This geothermal project is under the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE in Spanish) carry, with the main purpose of producing electricity. An estimated 18% of the produced electricity stays in Costa Rica and the rest is exported to Nicaragua and Panama. Although the Miravalles Volcano hasn’t experienced significant eruptions in some time, it continues to expel gas and geysers near its base.
Miravalles Volcano Protected Zone has a wide variety of climates influenced particularly by the Caribbean and the Pacific slopes, with temperatures between 15°C (59°F) and 32°C (90°F) and an average annual rainfall of 3,500 mm (140 inches), which is reflected in the variety of environments, ecosystems and species, distributed in different life zones, being the months of March and April the driest ones. Here the northern and eastern flank has a higher rainfall and humidity that the western flank, due to the influence from the northeast trade winds, which blow almost constantly throughout the year.
The area around the volcano is home to primary cloud forest and rainforest and moist forests, filled with innumerable rivers, waterfalls, thermal hot springs and abounds of flora and fauna species in multiple life zones. The western slopes are covered with savanna scrub; the northern and eastern slopes are lush mountains, fed by moist clouds that sweep in from the Caribbean, while the southern slopes are cut with deep canyons and covered by ancient lava channels, with fumaroles releasing and hissing constantly.
The flora found at Miravalles Volcano Protected Zone is very varied with species such as bromeliads, heliconias, palms and orchids. Among the most common trees are the Zapotillo (Couepia polyandra), Cedro Maria or Guanandi (Calophyllum brasiliense), Aguacatillo (Persea vesticula), Oak (Quercus costaricensis), Pilon (Hyeronima alchorneoides), Cucaracho (Billia hippocastanum) and Jicaro Danto or Pepino de Danta (Parmentiera valerii), which is endemic to this mountain range and is characterized by flowers and fruits attached to the trunk and it represents a major food diet of the Tapir.
Among the fauna present visitors can find a wide variety of mammals such as monkeys (howler monkey and capuchin monkeys), anteaters (Tamandua mexicana), agoutis (Dasyprocta punctata), collared peccaries (Pecari tajacu), Central American Agoutis (Agouti paca), coyotes (Canis latrans), red brockets (Mazama americana), tapirs (Tapirus bairdii), tayras (Eira barbara), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), jaguars (Panthera onca), margays (Leopardus wiedii), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), pumas (Felis concolor) and Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi), as well as some snakes like the Coral (Micrurus mosquitensis), Fer-de-lance or Terciopelo (Bothrops asper), Boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), Central American Bushmaster (Lachesis stenophrys), Lora or Parrot Snake (Leptophis ahaetulla), Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii) and Picado’s Jumping Pitviper (Atropoides picadoi). The Miravalles Volcano Protected Zone also has a wide variety of birds such as the Bare-necked Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus glabricollis), Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens), Great Curassow (Crax rubra), Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculata), Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias), toucans and trogons.
The water resource is extremely important, as in the area are born a lot of rivers, such as Guacalillo, Zapote, Tenorio, Giganta and Raudales, which is used for human consumption, hydropower and downstream for irrigation and river navigation mostly.
There are two paths that lead to the top of the volcano. Once visitors ascend they will experience the passage of the hot plains of Bagaces, to the cool misty mountains. Furthermore, within the park attractions is that visitors will be able to take mineral mud bath, and then enjoy at the natural hot springs. Miravalles Volcano tours are offered from hotels in Guanacaste. Some of them include visit to the hot springs, horseback riding and lunch. Also, it is recommended that visitors should bring sun block, swimsuit and towel, cool comfortable clothes, walking shoes, insect repellent, a complete change of clothes, jacket, binoculars and camera.
Although visitors are welcome at the park, there is no ranger station for visitor attention, but it has a restaurant area. Other nearby Costa Rica parks includes Tenorio Volcano National Park, Rincon de La Vieja National Park and Corredor Fronterizo Costa Rica – Nicaragua National Wildlife Refuge.
Getting to Miravalles Volcano Protected Zone:
Take the General Cañas highway towards San Ramón/Puntarenas. Keep driving on the Pan-American Highway to Bagaces and then turn right. Drive about 21 km (13 miles) north toward Guayabo until you see the signs for Miravalles Volcano. Now you can also take the new Caldera Highway. Driving time from San José is about 3.5 hours.
From Liberia (Daniel Oduber Airport) take the road heading towards the city of Liberia. At Liberia’s intersection take the Pan-American Highway to Bagaces and then turn left. Drive about 21 km (13 miles) north toward Guayabo until you see the signs for Miravalles Volcano. Driving time from Liberia is about 1.5 hours.
You can take a bus San José – Upala which takes about 4 hours (Transportes Upala, 2221-3318). You can also take a bus to Cañas (from various locations, including San Jose, Liberia, Fortuna and Puntarenas) and then another bus from Cañas to Upala.
You can also take a flight from the Juan Santamaria Airport to the Upala Airport, either with Sansa Airlines or Nature Air every day. From here you can rent a car and drive to the refuge, which is about 2 hours.
Location: app. 30 km (18 miles) north from Bagaces, Costa Rica.
Guayabo GPS Coordinates: 10.706611,-85.224989 (10°42’23.80″N, 85°13’29.96″W)
Size: 11.676 ha (28,840 acres)
Altitude: from 300m to 2028m (985ft to 7242ft) above sea level
Arenal Tempisque Conservation Area (ACA-T) Telephone: +(506) 2695-5908
INFOTUR Tourist Information: 1192