Insider’s Guide to Poas Volcano in Costa Rica
The Poas Volcano National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most visited parks and an easy add-on trip from the capital, San Jose. This is one of the country’s most active peaks and it is an incredibly picturesque sight, with a bubbling lake of aquamarine water in its crater spewing out plumes of steam during times of explosive action. Poas Volcano boasts the largest active crater on the planet, with powerful geysers shooting up more than 800 feet in the air. In dry season, between the months of December and May, the spectacle is at its very best. The lack of cloud cover and mist make this the most ideal time to visit Costa Rica if catching glimpses of Poas in action is on your must-do list.
Getting to the Poas Volcano
Alajuela is the base town from where you can visit the Poas Volcano National Park, and it’s only a half-hour drive north of San Jose. A daily bus service from Alajuela takes you up to the peak, gives you a few hours to wander around and brings you back in the afternoon. There isn’t much else to do in town, although it is only a couple of miles from the international airport so if you wanted to end (or start) your Costa Rica adventure trip here it would certainly be very convenient, especially if you intend to visit Poas for a few consecutive days. A smattering of lodges and B&Bs cater to visitors of all tastes and budgets.
At the Poas National Park, you’ll find a visitor center and a museum which details the geothermal activity of the region, and a small café with plenty of refreshments.
What to Expect
Poas’ reputation for being so active may lead some to believe that you’ll be on the lookout for lava showers every other day, which really isn’t so. The last major eruption was over a century ago, and aside the geysers (which really are very impressive) you’ll encounter a peaceful (if not bubbling) environment. On the absolutely brilliant other hand, however, Poas grants you the chance to hike to the peak and look into the crater of a non-dormant volcano, and for this reason alone Poas attracts visitors from every corner of the globe. The landscape is spectacularly dramatic to say the least, with the colossal amount of acid rain rendering all the nearby area striking shades of grey and brown.
Aside the startling scenes you should also expect high winds and very frigid temperatures. Poas rises from the mist during dry season very early in the morning and, by lunchtime, is almost entirely shrouded in clouds. Get here early on a splendidly clear day for the very best views. The Poas crater sits at a breathtaking 8,885 feet in elevation.
What to Do
Poas is home to the stunning quetzal, as well as a multitude of other birds. This and more you can admire when you take one of the many hiking trails in the National Park. A short 15 minute walk from the visitor center takes you to the crater viewing platform (which is a whole mile in diameter) and the Escalonia half-mile trail which is ideal for birdwatching.
Poas actually has two craters. The second, Botos Lagoon, is not as enthralling as the main crater, yet taking the 25 minute hiking trail to reach it grants stunning views of the landscape so it’s well worth it nonetheless.
Due to the high average elevation of the park, you won’t find large mammals, yet for birdwatchers and small creature lovers the wildlife viewing is superb.
You can combine a visit to Poas with a stop-over at the lovely La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a jungle haven that’s become one of the most popular day-trip destinations of San Jose residents. A trio of gorgeous waterfalls and a myriad of wildlife exhibits make this a great place to visit, especially if you’re only in San Jose for a few days.
Park Entry Info
The Poas Volcano National Park is open from 8.30am to 3.30pm every day, and costs USD$10 to enter.
Want to include a visit to Poas on your next trip to Costa Rica? We can organize a whirlwind journey of adventure and discovery for you, and plan a bespoke itinerary to include all your most desired Costa Rica destinations. Check out our extensive array of fantastic Costa Rica adventure tours, and contact us for more details.