Pinnacle Points: Touring the Highest Mountains in Costa Rica

It's known for its pristine beaches and lush rainforests, but Costa Rica's highest mountains are equally as impressive. Read on as we explore these awe-inspiring heights.

Travel and Exploration
9 October 2023

Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, bordered by the vast Pacific Ocean and the tranquil Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is a country overflowing with natural treasures. From pristine beaches to dense rainforests, its borders are packed with biodiversity. Added to this wealth of inherent beauty is its terrain. A harmonious blend of rugged highlands and low valleys, it encompasses hundreds of named mountain peaks and a number of volcanoes, several with elevations exceeding 10,000 feet.

So, what are the highest mountains in Costa Rica? And which mountain stands out above the rest? Read on to find out, starting with an overview of its main mountain chains.

A Tale of Two Chains

Cordillera de Guanacaste, Costa Rica. (Credit: Erenbjerg via Getty Images)

Two mountain chains act as Costa Rica’s spine, running almost its entire length. In the north lies the fiery Cordillera Volcánica, renowned for its volcanic fervour, split into three ranges: Cordillera de Guanacaste, Cordillera de Tilarán, and Cordillera Central. On the other hand, the southern Cordillera de Talamanca, a vast granite marvel and UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983, stands stoic and ancient, a contrast to its northern counterpart’s fiery disposition.

Mount Chirripo

Chirripó, known as 'the roof of Costa Rica'. (Credit: Atonaltzin via Getty Images)

Not only does Mount Chirripo dominate the list of the biggest mountains of Costa Rica, but it’s also the second loftiest in Central America, boasting an elevation of around 12,535 feet. Nestled in the Cordillera de Talamanca, Chirripo National Park wraps this giant in a blanket of ecological diversity, ranging from thick primary cloud and rainforests to the ethereal beauty of the Paramo, a unique wet desert landscape, at higher altitudes. A journey to Mount Chirripo’s peak presents a medley of ecosystems, from premontane forests to mystical cloud forests.

Cerro Ventisqueros

The view from Cerro Ventisqueros' summit. (Credit: Aaron D Vargas / 500px via Getty Images)

A mere mile and a half or so from Mount Chirripò lies the imposing Cerro Ventisqueros. This is the second of the highest mountains in Costa Rica, rising to an elevation nearing 12,506 feet. The name, translating as “snowdrifts,” pays homage to the chilling winds that brush its summit. Meanwhile, the Paramo plants give this mountain a distinct vegetation cover, reminiscent of the Andes’ Paramo.

Cerro de Terbi & Cerro Pirámide

Mountains in Costa Rica (Credit: DEA/G. COZZI via Getty Images)

Both peaks make notable marks among the tallest mountains in Costa Rica. Cerro de Terbi, another peak in Chirripò National Park, has an elevation of around 12,333 feet. Meanwhile, Cerro Pirámide reaches an estimated height of 12,490 feet, with a prominence of 377 feet.

Volcanic Majesty: The Cordillera Volcanica

Arenal volcano at the national park in Costa Rica. (Credit: 35007 via Getty Images)

The Cordillera Volcanica is home to some of the biggest mountains of Costa Rica, including Irazú and Poas. Irazú, an active volcano and the highest in the Cordillera Central, has a summit of roughly 11,260 feet. Its indigenous name, hinting at “thunder”, captures its fiery spirit.

The Irazú Volcano National Park encases this behemoth, featuring a multitude of geological wonders. From its active 980-feet-deep crater to the viewpoint of Sapper formation, where on a clear day, one can glimpse both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.

Another notable mention is the Arenal Volcano. Although not among the tallest mountains in Costa Rica, its significant eruption in 1968 and its continued volcanic activity make it a point of interest.

The Highest Mountains in Costa Rica

Poas volcano, Costa Rica (Credit: Matteo Colombo via Getty Images)

From volcanic peaks to granite giants, Costa Rica’s highest mountains stand as vast natural landmarks, narrating tales of the nation’s rich geological past, while offering a blend of awe-inspiring vistas, diverse ecosystems, and a sense of adventure.

From the towering height of Mount Chirripo to the volcanic majesty of Irazú, the rugged terrains and diverse ecosystems showcase a variety of natural beauty. Each peak, whether cloaked in verdant greenery or bearing the scars of volcanic activity, contributes to the rich tapestry of Costa Rica’s geographical landscape, highlighting the nation’s extraordinary diversity and its place as a beacon for geological richness.


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