In Costa Rica, it’s illegal to climb areas near active volcanoes. However, many choose to ignore the law and engage in this dangerous activity, risking their own lives and safety.
Often, people will post pictures and videos of their hikes. They usually take advantage of the early morning hours and side paths to evade authorities. There are also guides and tourism companies advertising this unlawful and risky activity.
People are known to climb near the active craters of volcanoes such as Rincon de la Vieja, Poas, Arenal, and even ascend the Turrialba Volcano.
“The road they follow is called ‘lomo del burro.’ They are about 300 meters from the active crater of Rincon de la Vieja and therefore, they are in prohibited territory,” said Javier Pacheco, from the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory (OVSICORI).
Since August, the Rincon de la Vieja volcano entered a new eruptive period, as reported by OVSICORI.
“A small eruption could hurl rock fragments at high speeds toward those altitudes. Obviously, they are headed for the crater, so it is even more dangerous, the gases escaping during an eruption could asphyxiate them,” warned Pacheco.
Pacheco also commented that Rincon de la Vieja has a “very dynamic system,” which means conditions can change suddenly.
Specialists even warned that, for instance, the Poas Volcano had a small eruption in August, after months without any activity.
“The increase in volcanic activity could be a precursor to a period of phreatic eruption like the one observed in 2019. When a moderate eruption was energetic enough to damage a solar panel at the edge of the crater,” the institution noted.
On the other hand, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) has repeatedly voiced its concerns.
“Illegal entries to National Parks and Protected Wildlife Areas is a problem that puts people’s lives at risk. All of them have official sites, where experts have considered that it is possible to enjoy without exposing oneself to risks”, highlighted the institution.
Additionally, SINAC officials stated that illegal tourism has many consequences and generates multiple issues.
“At the sites where it’s done, tourists often encounter rough terrain, damage vegetation, and have negative interactions with animals. Additionally, these areas, especially near volcanic zones, have imperceptible gases that can irritate the respiratory tract,” SINAC emphasized.
It is also important to consider that since these are restricted areas, entry for rescue teams in the event of an emergency is very complicated, which also puts the lives of rescuers at risk.
Therefore, the population is urged to avoid tours that promise access to these places and to report any suspicious activity through the emergency number, 1192.