Mt. Arenal, Costa Rica
Last Eruption: Continuing
Why It’s Cool: The almost daily incandescent spectacle, rising 5,480 feet above an expansive lake and surrounding jungle, makes for a dramatic photo op. The woods, laced with hiking and walking trails across old lava fields, are rich with howler monkeys and toucans, while the lake is a prime windsurfing and fishing spot.
Hot Hotel: Built by the Smithsonian Institute, the nearby Arenal Observatory Lodge offers prime fireworks viewing from picture windows in most guest rooms, the restaurant, and the terrace. Don’t miss their guided El Silencio evening forest hike.
Rotorua & Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Last Eruption: Mt. Ruapehu (the most active of the park’s three volcanoes), 2007; Rotorua, not since the Ice Age.
Why It’s Cool: Steam rises everywhere in Rotorua, a geothermal spa city. Walk among the boiling waters in Kuirau Park or hit the national park for hiking, downhill skiing, or riding a chair lift up Ruapehu. Hard-core hikers can tackle the Tongariro Crossing, an eight-hour trek across a desolate moonscape.
Hot Hotel: The veddy English Bayview Chateau Tongariro, at the foot of Mt. Ruapehu, celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. Hint: Book the McLaren Suite for views of Mt. Ngauruhoe, another of the park’s volcanoes.
Great Volcano Vacations
Mt. Bromo, East Java, Indonesia
Last Eruption: 2004; weak activity in 2007
Why It’s Cool: You’ll find activities galore here. Ride horseback or walk across the thick ancient volcanic ash that coats the caldera floor. Then take a Jeep to the summit of Mt. Pananjakan, rising high on the volcano’s rim, for a crowded but world-class sunrise, with smoking Bromo in the foreground.
Hot Tour Company: VolcanoDiscovery’s five-day “Volcanoes of East Java” tour (49-22/41-208-0175) includes two days exploring Bromo and its surrounding caldera.
Anne-Marie Palmer / Alamy
Last Eruption: 1887
Why It’s Cool: Hike or just look down from the rim at this volcanic depression’s spectacular boiling mud, smoking vents, and sculpted gullies. Hikers should walk the steep path down from Nikea, a whitewashed village on the rim, to Stefanos, the largest of the craters.
Hot Hotel: In the port city of Mandraki, Ta Liotridia offers two rooms set in a 100-some-year-old building, with old olive oil mills in the ground-floor cafe.
Courtesy of Chile Tourism
Volcano Villarrica, Chile
Last Eruption: 2008
Why It’s Cool: A forest dense with beech and monkey-puzzle trees surrounds this 9,340-foot-high volcano, where crampons may help you cross its snowy, icy upper slopes. The climb is five hours, but a chair lift shaves off two hours. The reward, only visible from the top: views of a cauldron of lava and billowing smoke and vistas of other Andes peaks.
Hot Tour Company: Politur (56-45/44-1373) offers heart-pumping climbs to the crater’s top, as well as more mellow tours to explore the volcano’s lava tubes.
Furnas, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal
Last Eruption: 1630
Why It’s Cool: It’s not just a volcano, it’s also an oven for the locals. Sure, adventurers can canoe, mountain bike, or horseback ride in this foliage-draped crater. But there’s a culinary adventure here, too: Locals cook pots of meat and vegetable stew slowly in the hot earth, and in the Caldeiras (hot springs) area you can try corn that has been steamed in the geysers. Wash it down with mineral water.
Hot Tour Company: Geo Fun (351-91/993-1562) offers bicycling, kayaking, and other tours, including a guided walk from the Furnas Crater to the sea.
Last Eruption: 1984
Why It’s Cool: The lakefront road—perfect for driving and biking—has walking-trail offshoots that lead to lava pillars, clusters of mini-craters, and an eerie primordial “city” of naturally sculpted black lava. Or head to the nearby Leirhnjukur lava field, a barren hot spot of scalding springs, swirling steam plumes, and jumbles of hardened lava.
Hot Hotel: Hotel Reykjahlid is set along the shore of Lake Myvatn, a birdwatcher’s paradise that’s riddled with curious volcanic features.
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
Last Eruption: Continuing
Why It’s Cool: The red glow of molten rock pouring from a lava tube into the ocean—with plumes of volcanic gas billowing in its wake—makes this volcano a classic. Helicopter and boat tours afford spectacular views, but you can also walk to an observation point outside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Hot Hotel: The only hotel inside the park, the Volcano House sits over a series of steam vents on the rim of Kilauea caldera and most days offers early-bird guests a beautiful sunrise.
Mount St. Helens National Monument, Washington
Last Eruption: 2008
Why It’s Cool: Drive the winding roads and you’ll get an eyeful of how the 1980 eruption irreparably reshaped the landscape. (A helicopter trip will give you a bird’s-eye view of the destruction.) For a more intimate experience, hike the Harmony Trail that drops down to Spirit Lake, which is partly blanketed by a log mat (the result of downed trees swept off the slopes). On the other side of the monument, stop by the Johnston Ridge Observatory with views directly into the crater and the still-steaming lava dome. Then hike the Boundary Trail for its eye-popping views into the heart of the blast zone.
Hot Tour Company: Reserve a spot on one of the Mount St. Helens Institute’s geologist-guided volcano climbs (360/449-7887).