The Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve, located in the central highlands of Costa Rica, is one of the richest reserves in both natural resources and cultural heritage. It encompasses four national parks, two forest reserves, six protected zones and a national monument.
The Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve is located in the central highlands of Costa Rica, about 60 km (37 mi) northwest of San José. This biosphere reserve is one of the richest in both natural resources and cultural heritage. On its long axis there are several volcanic cones with their still well formed craters.
The Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve comprises four national parks, two forest reserves, six protected zones and a national monument: The national parks include:
Poás Volcano National Park, established in 1955 with an approximate land area of 1200 ha (2965 acres), features permanent fumarolic activity. Barva Volcano features prominent hydrothermal activity (hot springs) and is an active volcano with one of the largest craters in the world, Póas Volcano has a history of eruptions, including an eruption in 1910 which consisted of a huge cloud of as that rose to about 26.246 feet (8000 m).
The Póas Volcano National Park is one of the most important natural attractions in Costa Rica and is a destination for national and international tourism.
Braulio Carrillo National Park, one of the largest protected areas in Costa Rica (50,000 ha or 123,500 acres). This national park is named in honor of Braulio Carrillo, the third head of state who governed Costa Rica between 1837 and 1842, and whose administration had helped foster the nation's early agricultural economy, building the first road linking San José to the Caribbean coast.
The landscape consists of high mountains, covered with dense forests and canyons through which run several rivers and streams of great importance in the production of hydroelectricity. The park contains many notable geological features, such as the Barva Volcano and several dormant volcanoes including Cerro Chompipe, Cerro Cacho Negro, and Cerros las Tres Marias.
Ranging from high-altitude cloud forests to lowlands tropical rain forest, it has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in Costa Rica. More than 90% of the park is covered in primary forest, providing a unique snapshot of ancient ecological conditions.
Irazú Volcano National Park is home to the highest volcano in Costa Rica. Easily accessible and close to the city of Cartago, it has five craters and breathtaking views. The origin of its name comes from an Indian village called Iztarú, meaning "hill of tremor and thunder" that existed near the volcano. Within this protected wilderness area, several streams empty into the basins of the Reventazón, Sarapiqui, Sucio and Toro Amarillo Rivers.
- Turrialba Volcano National Park, centered on Turrialba Volcano features fumarolic activity and gas emissions. The park is located in Cartago Province, within the easternmost part of the Central Volcanic Range Conservation Area (ACCVC), 14.9 miles (24 km) northwest of the city of Turrialba. Its name comes from the Spaniards who first named it Torre Blanca (White Tower) or Torre Alba. The volcano has three craters with the presence of dry lava flows on their flanks. It has a maximum elevation of 10,958 ft above sea level (3,340 m s.n.m.) and is the second highest volcano in the country
The Cordillera Central is part of the American Cordillera, a chain of mountain ranges (cordillera) that consists of an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges known as the Continental Divide that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America, South America and Antarctica.
Significant variation in its physical characteristics has fostered a very rich biological diversity evidenced by life zones ranging from wet and rain tropical forests to semi-paramos.
Currently, only small patches of vegetation remain in the volcanic peak zone, generally in the riverbeds. Here it is possible to distinguish several oak species, and other trees such as (Escallonaceae), Dogwood (Cornaceae) and Magnolia (Magnoliaceae).
The topography is very steep and broken with a great altitudinal range with many streams, waterfalls and several lakes. Premontane rainforest, tropical humid forest, lower montane rain forest and montane rain forest are the reserve’s major land cover types.
Over 300,000 inhabitants live on land reform settlements surrounding La Selva Biological Station, engaged mainly in agriculture (coffee, cardamom, beans, manioc, maize, and black pepper) and animal husbandry.