Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An active volcano: The Poas in Costa Rica

One of our favorite places to visit in Costa Rica is the Poas Volcano, we first visited it last August and were among the lucky visitors to get to see the crater. It doesn't happen every day as it gets cloudy or foggy you sometimes have no visibility of it. To put this more into perspective my husband's friends have mentioned they've visited all their life and have never seen the crater! ever!

I guess you can say we are truly lucky because every time we've been -except on our last visit, we've seen the crater and we've hiked up one of the walking trails to see the Botos Lake which used to be the crater a long time ago. The scenery is breathtaking and our preschooler son loves visiting the volcano he gets very excited, I guess this has to do with him having a great view of the volcano from his bedroom's window.

The road to the volcano.

The Poas volcano is located in the province {state} of Alajuela, it is roughly 25 km from the downtown area. It is very easy to get there, on our first trip there my husband drove and I got to sit back and enjoy the scenery. On our second trip I drove my out of town family there, it was my first time and I accidentally missed one of the exits lucky for me it wasn't that bad because I used my waze app on my phone and found a new road to it that is less confusing. Either way as I drove I noticed there were signs leading the way everywhere.

As soon as you drive through the downtown area of Alajuela you are led up to a road called "camino de las hortencias" which means "hydrangea road" you will notice the name was chosen due to all the wild hydrangeas lining up the road. As you begin to go up the mountain you look back and on  a clear day you can see the city of San Jose, the mountains of Escazú and beyond.

On the road there are coffee plantations, strawberry fields, banana plantations, lodges that have signs inviting you to stay. There are also many restaurants to stop and eat at even some that have man made lakes with fresh trout for you to fish and have the chef prepare it for you so you may enjoy it, although our family's favorite is called "El Descanso" they have the best "Casados" but that will be shared in detail in another post ;).

Main Entrance

What to do once you reach the Poas National Park.

Once the curvy road {about 25 km after} ends you will be arriving at the Poas National Park, the park is open year round from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to enter you must pay admission fees at the Ranger Office {it's the little building at the main gate}:

$10.00 U.S. dollars per non-resident 
¢1,500 Colones per resident adult*
¢400 Colones per resident child*

*Please note you will be asked for your Cedula to prove you are a legal resident. 

After you pay for admission you are instructed to drive up the road where parking attendants will instruct you where to park. In the parking lot you will see several picnic benches for you to enjoy a snack. Please make sure you do not leave any valuables in your vehicle as the park rangers are not responsible for items left behind. Also note you are to back up to your parking space, as in most of Costa Rica parking your vehicle this way ensures you will easily leave in the event of an emergency. 

You walk up a couple of yards and you will see a large building, this building has restrooms, coffee/snack shop, souvenir shop and a museum that explains in detail all about the volcano and the natural wildlife in it. 

The uphill hike to the main crater is less than a mile. During the walk there are different hiking trails on the sides that you may take and there are also restrooms halfway up. While you are hiking up you will see lots of vegetation and you may also find squirrels, birds and other wildlife. It is prohibited to feed these wild animals to protect them and you. 

100 meters before you reach the main crater there is a hiking trail to your right that leads up to the Botos Lake, this used to be the main crater years ago. It is now a beautiful lake with green water that you can't swim in due to it's high acid content. There is a viewing point and the trail you hike to reach it is simply breathtaking with lush green scenery and little sunlight. It is after all a rainforest. 

Lake Botos

What to bring to the Poas Volcano.

There are a couple of factors to consider when preparing for your trip to Poas Volcano, for example the average weather there is 53ºF {12ºC} obviously this doesn't sound too cold when you are from California. However to give you an idea the average weather in most of Costa Rica is always between 80º - 100ºF with high humidity levels, so yes this will feel great if you are missing the cooler temperatures but you will be feeling the change -believe me you will. That said here are some suggestions:

- Light jacket or sweatshirt.

- Comfortable walking shoes or even hiking shoes.

- Water.

- A snack.

- Binoculars to enjoy an up-close look of wildlife without getting too close and also to see the deep turquoise tone of the crater.

- Cash, it is easier to pay in cash.

- A fully charged camera, you will take lots and lots of pictures!

Main Crater

Poas Volcano Facts.

A few facts about the Poas Volcano:

- The main crater is 950 feet deep and is active, there have been frequent small geyser and lava eruptions. The last major eruptions were between 1952 and 1954.

- The park has a total area of 16,000 acres.

- The main crater's altitude is 2,574 meters over sea level. Which is equivalent to 8,445 ft above sea level. That is high!

- It is said that quetzal's have been seen here, however I have yet to see one. Among the hiking trails there are many opportunities to see orchids as well as wildlife.

When planing your visit to the Poas Volcano keep in mind that the park is frequently closed to visitors due to gas emissions {sulphuric}. When you arrive to the main gate, make sure you ask the park attendant if there is visibility, normally they mention if there is full/none or partial visibility so that you don't pay for admission and not get to see it. After all the main reason why people visit the Volcano is to enjoy the view. 


  1. So if it's an active volcano, when was the last time it erupted? I loved going to the volcanos in Hawaii when we were there.

    1. Major eruption? 1954, however today at noon there was news that there was some activity such as steam and magma coming out of it and on 02/14 there was smoke and red glow around it. We actually tried visiting again on the 02/16 and weren't allowed in.

  2. Those photos are beautiful. Love how peaceful it all looks too! Lovely!

    1. Thank you! The weather helps a lot with lighting. :D