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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 10.135°N
  • 84.1°W

  • 2906 m
    9532 ft

  • 345050
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit

  • Volcano

The Global Volcanism Program has no activity reports for Barva.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Barva.

Index of Monthly Reports

Reports are organized chronologically and indexed below by Month/Year (Publication Volume:Number), and include a one-line summary. Click on the index link or scroll down to read the reports.

09/2003 (BGVN 28:09) Two crater lakes visited in December 2002

Contents of Monthly Reports

All information contained in these reports is preliminary and subject to change.

09/2003 (BGVN 28:09) Two crater lakes visited in December 2002

Geologist Raul Mora, along with Carlos Ramirez and Maritta Alvarado, visited Barva volcano during December 2002 and investigated the Barva and Copey crater lakes. Located in a small crater, the Barva crater lake (figure 1) was very clear; at 5 m from the shore the water had a temperature of 11-12°C with a pH of 4-5. Water in the Copey lake was amber colored and very cloudy, with a temperature at 0.5 m depth of 12.2°C and a pH of 5. Near-surface black lapilli deposits were found that were more than a meter thick near the Barva lake, but became more irregular in thickness around the Copey lake.

Figure 1. Photograph of the Barva crater lake, December 2002. The lake has an area of 9,000 m2 and a depth of ~ 7.7 m. Courtesy of Raul Mora.

Information Contacts: Raul Mora Amador, Red Sismologica Nacional, Laboratorio de Sismologia, Vulcanologia y Exploracion Geofisica, Universidad de Costa Rica, Apartado 214 (2060) UCR, San Jose, Costa Rica (Email:, URL:

The central and least known of three massive volcanoes towering over the capital city of San José, Volcán Barva (Barba) is a complex volcano with multiple summit and flank vents. Its three principal summits visible from the Central Valley give it the common local name of Las Tres Marías. The voluminous andesitic-to-dacitic Tiribí Tuff, exposed in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, was erupted about 322,000 years ago from the Barva summit caldera. Four pyroclastic cones are constructed within the 2 x 3 km caldera at the central and NW part of the summit. The SW peak contains four cones, one of which has a crater lake. Satellitic cones are found on the northern and southern flanks. Lava flows blanket the south side of Barva volcano. The Los Angeles flow, one of the most recent, descends nearly to the city of Heredia. A large plinian eruption occurred at Barva during the early Holocene. Eruptions were reported in 1760 or 1766, 1776? (also a mudflow), and 1867, but later visits to the summit did not provide evidence of eruptions during historical time.

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
[ 1867 Mar ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain    
6050 BCE ± 2000 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Tephrochronology

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.

Barba | Tres Marías, Las

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Achiotillal Stratovolcano
Cacho Negro, Volcán Stratovolcano 2150 m 10° 11' 38" N 84° 2' 38" W
Caricias Stratovolcano 2100 m
Chompipe, Cerro Stratovolcano 2259 m 10° 5' 2" N 84° 4' 0" W
Concepción Cone 1706 m 10° 3' 0" N 84° 4' 19" W
Cruz, Monte de la
    Lagunas, Las
    Redondo de la Cruz, Cerro
Cinder cone 1862 m 10° 3' 58" N 84° 4' 41" W
    Concordia, Cerro la
    Inglés, Pico
Cinder cone 2599 m 10° 8' 0" N 84° 8' 0" W
Hondura Stratovolcano 2047 m
Tibas Stratovolcano 2179 m 10° 4' 30" N 84° 3' 18" W
Turú Stratovolcano 2139 m 10° 3' 50" N 84° 2' 6" W
Zurquí Stratovolcano 2010 m 10° 3' 22" N 84° 2' 13" W
Volcán Barva (Barba), seen here from the Central Valley of Costa Rica, is a complex volcano with a broad summit containing three principal peaks and a dozen eruptive vents. Four pyroclastic cones are constructed within the central and NW parts of a 2 x 3 km caldera. The SW peak is capped by another 4 cones, one of which contains a crater lake. Satellitic cones are found on the northern and southern flanks. A large plinian eruption occurred at Barva during the early Holocene. There have been no confirmed historical eruptions.

Photo by William Melson, 1993 (Smithsonian Institution)
The SW peak of Barva volcano is capped by at least four volcanic cones. This 2840-m-high cone contains a well-preserved crater filled by the 70-m-wide Barva lagoon. Aztec legends tell of the formation of Barva lagoon and a fearful serpent that devoured children in a nearby village. Nineteenth-century visitors to Barva lagoon noted similar dense vegetation as seen today, discounting reports of earlier historical eruptions.

Photo by José Enrique Valverde Sanabria, 1999 (courtesy of Eduardo Malavassi, OVSICORI-UNA).
The forested summit area of Volcán Barva is composed of a series of overlapping cones with about a dozen vents. At the lower right is the well-preserved cone of Danta (whose name means tapir), with a small lake in its crater. Forest-covered lava flows can be seen to its left. Barva is the topographic high point of Braulio Carillo National Park, noted for its lush forests and exotic birds and wildlife.

Photo by Federico Chavarria Kopper, 1999 (courtesy of Eduardo Malavassi, OVSICORI-UNA).
Barva volcano rises to the east above the southern flanks of neighboring Poás volcano. The massive Barva volcano is dotted with numerous satellitic vents, some of which are visible along the irregular northern horizon (left). Multiple lava flows descend the southern flank of Barva. One of the more recent of these is the Los Angeles flow, which reaches nearly to the city of Heredia (out of view to the right). Barva is the only one of four major stratovolcanoes near the capital city of San José that lacks confirmed historical eruptions.

Photo by Ichio Moriya (Kanazawa University).
The southern flanks of Barva volcano lie in the foreground of this photo, with the flat-topped Irazú massif in the background to the SE. One of the youngest lava flows on Barva, the Los Angeles flow, traveled down the south flank almost as far as the city of Heredia. Barva and Irazú, Costa Rica's highest volcano, form backdrops to the nation's capital city, San José, which lies out of view to the right. Irazú is sometimes known as the "Colossus" due to its massive size and occasionally destructive eruptions.

Photo by Ichio Moriya (Kanazawa University).
Barva volcano (also spelled Barba) rises to the NE above the western outskirts of San José. The volcano lies about 22 km north of the city. Three peaks along the broad summit ridge give rise to the name Las Tres Marías (The Three Marias). No confirmed historical eruptions are known from Barva, but thermal springs are found near Porrosati de Barva, Gongolona peak, and along ridges to the north side of the volcano. Sulfur vapor and mineral deposition occurs at landslide scarps on the flanks of the volcano.

Photo by Ichio Moriya (Kanazawa University).
The roughly 300-m-wide Barva crater lake is surrounded by dense forest. The clear waters of the shallow lake are about 8 m deep, and a pH of 4-5 was measured in December 2002. Near-surface black lapilli deposits were found that were more than a meter thick near the lake.

Photo by Raul Mora, 2002 (University of Costa Rica).

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

Alvarado G E, 1989. Los Volcanes de Costa Rica. San Jose, Costa Rica: Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 175 p.

Alvarado G E, 2000. Volcanes de Costa Rica: su geologia, historia y riqueza natural. San Jose, Costa Rica: EUNED, 269 p.

Alvarado G E, Vega E, Chaves J, Vasquez M, 2004. Los grandes deslizamientos (volcanicos y no volcanicos) de tip debris avalanche en Costa Rica. Rev Geol Amer Central, 30: 83-99.

Alvarado-Induni G E, 2005. Costa Rica, Land of Volcanoes. San Jose, Costa Rica: EUNID, 306 p.

Barquero-H J, Saenz-R R, 1987. Aparatos volcanicos de Costa Rica. Heredia, Costa Rica: OVSICORI-UNA, 1:750,000 map and volcano list.

Carr M J, 1984. Symmetrical and segmented variation of physical and geochemical characterisitics of the Central American volcanic front. J Volc Geotherm Res, 20: 231-252.

Carr M J, Rose W I Jr, 1987. CENTAM; a database of Central American volcanic rocks. J Volc Geotherm Res, 33: 239-240.

Hannah R S, Vogel T A, Patino L C, Alvarado G E, Perez W, Smith D R, 2002. Origin of silicic rocks in central Costa Rica: a study of a chemically variable ash-flow sheet in the Tiribi Tuff. Bull Volc, 64: 117-133.

IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior..

Kutterolf S, Freundt A, Perez W, 2008. Pacific offshore record of plinian arc volcanism in Central America: 2. Tephra volumes and eruptive masses. Geochem Geophys Geosyst, 8: Q02S02, doi:10.1029/2007GC001791.

Mendez J, Hidalgo P J, 2004. Descripcion geologica del deposito de debris avalanche El Coyol, Formacion Barva, Costa Rica. Rev Geol Amer Central, 30: 199-202.

Mooser F, Meyer-Abich H, McBirney A R, 1958. Central America. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World and Solfatara Fields, Rome: IAVCEI, 6: 1-146.

Paniagua-P S, Soto-B G, 1986. Reconocimiento de los riesgos volcanicos potenciales de la Cordillera Central de Costa Rica, America Central. Unpublished manuscript, Simposio Internac sobre Neotectonica y Riesgos Volcanicos, Bogota, 1986, 29 p.

Perez W, Alvarado G E, Gans P B, 2006. The 322 ka Tiribi Tuff: stratigraphy, geochronology and mechanisms of deposition of the largest and most recent ignimbrite in the Valle Central, Costa Rica. Bull Volc, 69: 25-40.

Sapper K, 1925. The Volcanoes of Central America. Halle: Verlag Max Niemeyer, 144 p.

Siebert L, Alvarado G E, Vallance J W, van Wyk de Vries B, 2006. Large-volume volcanic edifice failures in Central America and associated hazards. In: Rose W I, Bluth G J S, Carr M J, Ewert J W, Patino L C, Vallance J W (eds), Volcanic hazards in Central America, {Geol Soc Amer Spec Pap}, 412: 1-26.

Stine C M, Banks N G, 1991. Costa Rica volcano profile. U S Geol Surv Open-File Rpt, 67 p.

Vogel T A, Patino L C, Alvarado G E, Gans P B, 2004. Silicic ignimbrites within the Costa Rican volcanic front: evidence for the formation of continental crust. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 226: 149-159.

Volcano Types

Pyroclastic cone(s)

Tectonic Setting

Subduction zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Andesite / Basaltic Andesite
Basalt / Picro-Basalt


Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Barva Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.