Mountain Ranges of Costa Rica

Mountain Ranges of Costa Rica

Mon, 06/13/2022 - 21:42
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Nestled in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica boasts an array of diverse mountainous regions that span from its northern border to its southern shores. Two chains of mountains run from northwest to southeast, almost the entire length of Costa Rica.

Mountain Ranges of Costa Rica

Nestled in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica boasts an array of diverse mountainous regions spanning its northern border to its southern shores. Two chains of mountain ranges run from northwest to southeast, almost the entire length of Costa Rica. 

Running from the northwest to the central part of the country is the Cordillera Volcánica Central, which is noted for its volcanic activity. It is made up of three sub-ranges.

1. Cordillera Volcánica Central

The Cordillera de Talamanca, along with its northern sub-range, Cerros de Escazú, runs from the south-central part of the country to the southeast.

2. Cordillera de Talamanca

  • Cerros de Escazú
Map of Costa Rica's main mountain ranges: Talamanca, Central volcanic, Tilarán and Guanacaste

Map depicting Costa Rica's main mountain ranges: Guanacaste, Tilarán, Central, and Talamanca.

Cordillera Volcánica Central

The Cordillera Volcánica Central (Central Volcanic Range) in Costa Rica is a prominent and geologically active mountain range that runs roughly northwest to southeast through the central part of the country. It is a segment of the more prominent Central America Volcanic Arc known for its diverse range of volcanoes, landscapes, and ecosystems.

The Cordillera is home to stratovolcanoes (composite volcanoes) and volcanic complexes. These volcanoes are characterized by their steep slopes and symmetrical cone shapes, formed from layers of volcanic ash, lava, and other materials.

The Cordillera Volcánica Central in Costa Rica can be divided into three sub-ranges, from northwest to southeast: the Cordillera de Guanacaste, the Cordillera de Tilarán, and the Cordillera Central.

Two of the highest peaks in the Cordillera Volcánica, Irazú and Poás, have paved roads reaching their active craters' rims. These volcanoes overlook the Central Valley (Valle Central).

Geologic Activity

The volcanoes in this region are active and have experienced eruptions throughout history. Some are still active, with occasional eruptions or fumarolic activity. This geological activity results from the Cocos Plate's subduction beneath the Caribbean Plate, which generates magma that rises to the surface and leads to volcanic eruptions.

Biodiversity

The varying altitudes and microclimates created by the different elevations of the volcanoes contribute to a rich diversity of ecosystems. The Cordillera encompasses tropical rainforests, cloud forests, and paramo (alpine grassland) ecosystems. These areas are home to many plant and animal species, many unique to the region.

Agriculture

The fertile volcanic soils of the Cordillera Volcánica Central have historically supported agricultural activities such as coffee cultivation and agriculture. The region's volcanic soils are rich in nutrients, making them ideal for growing various crops.

Cordillera de Guanacaste

The Cordillera de Guanacaste is a volcanic mountain range in northwestern Costa Rica, near the border with Nicaragua. It is the northernmost range in the Cordillera Volcánica Central as well as the country of Costa Rica.

The mountain range forms part of the southern region of the Continental Divide and extends 113 km (70 mi) northwest-southeast. It contains primarily complex stratovolcanoes and reaches a high point at the dormant Miravalles Volcano at 2,020 m (6,627 ft).

Cordillera de Tilarán

Located in the northwest of the county, it is one of the two subdivisions of the Cordillera de Guanacaste, the other being the Cordillera Central. The Arenal Volcano is located in this range.

Cordillera Central

The Cordillera Central is formed by five main stratovolcanic complexes in a generally east-west direction: Platanar, Poás, Barva, Irazú, and Turrialba.

Located in the center of the county, the Cordillera Central is one of the two subdivisions of the Cordillera de Guanacaste, the other being the Cordillera de Tilarán.

Cordillera de Talamanca

The Cordillera de Talamanca, in southern Costa Rica, stretches from southwest of San José to beyond the border with Panama. It contains the highest peaks in both Costa Rica and Panama:

  • Costa Rica's highest point, Mount Chirripó at 3,821 m (12,536 ft)

  • Panama's highest point, Volcán Barú at 3,474 m (11,398 ft)

This spectacular mountain range rises from sea level on the Caribbean side to over 3,650 m (12,000 ft) and then drops back down to the Valle del General on the Pacific side.

Cerros de Escazú

The Cerros de Escazú is the northernmost portion of the Cordillera de Talamanca. It serves as the southern border of the Costa Rican Central Valley. Containing five peaks over 2,000 m (6,500 ft) asl, it can be seen from the southwestern suburbs of San José.

Topographic map of Costa Rica

Topographic map of Costa Rica.

Active Volcanoes

The Cordillera Volcánica Central includes six active volcanoes. Three active volcanoes are located in the Cordillera de Guanacaste:

Three active volcanoes are located in the Cordillera Central:

Volcano map of Costa Rica

Map of active and inactive volcanos throughout the Cordillera Volcánica Central in Costa Rica.

Protected Areas

Numerous protected areas are located among Costa Rica's mountain systems. They include the following: