Poas Volcano National Park
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2013
The volcanic lagoons, fumaroles and otherworldly Poas Volcano craters make it one of the country's most popular national parks with more than 175,000 visitors every year. Approximately an hour drive (depending on traffic) from San Jose, Poas National Park is comprised of three craters and four major habitats: arrayans (wiry, wind-swept trees), cloud forest, stunted forest and barren scrub lands.
Location : 23 miles north of Alajuela
Altitude : 8,900 feet above sea level
Area : 16,000 acres
Hours : 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily
Telephone : 506-2482-2165
Entrance Fee : $10
Among the most accessible active volcanoes in the world, the park is wheelchair-friendly with paved trails leading to a sensational view of the second-widest crater (9/10th of a mile) in the world and the green/yellow lagoon at its center. At a depth of nearly 1000 feet, it is the largest and most acidic volcanic lagoon on earth.
Another of the craters is home to a cold-water lagoon, known as Botos Lake, which flows down the mountain and feeds the Sarapiqui River. The hike to the lagoon is another half mile of steep, paved terrain from the main crater viewpoint. Surrounded by cloud forest, the edges of the lagoon are blanketed in giant ferns, poor man's umbrella plants and wildflowers.
Several tour companies in San Jose offer excursions to the volcano. These often include stops at other area attractions such as coffee plantations or butterfly farms. Tours usually run between $45 and $80 and include transportation, a naturalist guide and lunch.
Annual Rainfall: 140 inches
Temp: 45 °F – 70 °F
There is a visitor center with a small cafe, gift shop, museum and auditorium.
There are three marked trails in the park. Crater Trail is a 2,460 foot-long paved path to the lookout of the main crater. Botos Lake Trail is a half mile trail that winds through chilly cloud forest to a cold-water lake that occupies an extinct volcano crater. The thirty minute hike ends at a wonderful spot for a picnic. Escalonia Trail starts at the picnic grounds and, with fewer hikers, is the quietest of the three trails.
Flora & Fauna:
The park is home to eighty or more bird species, including sooty robins, black guans, the resplendent quetzal, toucans, flame-throated warblers, squirrel cuckoos, great curassows, purple-throated mountain gems, golden-hooded tanagers and hummingbirds. Less commonly seen are Baird's tapirs, coyotes, squirrels, rabbits and bats. Vegetation includes orchids, royal broom zorrillos and poor man's umbrellas, famous for having the largest leaves of any plant in Costa Rica.
Places to Stay:
There are no hotels within the park; however, the quaint town of Poasito is dotted with rustic cabins, some with heaters or a fireplace. Cabins usually rent for $30-40 per night. In nearby Vara Blanca, the Poas Volcano Lodge inn has 12 well-appointed suites. The lodge's architecture conjures images of an English cottage with its exposed beam ceilings, sweeping arches and rough-hewn stone walls. Suites come equipped with a large bathtub, in-room heater, wireless internet and a French Press for morning coffee or tea.
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season (December through April) when the crater visibility is most consistent. Visitors are more likely to see Poas Volcano's main crater in the early morning, though clouds roll in periodically throughout the day. Daytime temperatures can dip into the 50's so a light jacket or sweater is advised. Weekends are always more crowded, as Costa Ricans pour in from San Jose and surrounding cities.
Taxi: A taxi from San Jose to the main entrance of the park costs between $55 and $60. A taxi from San Pedro de Poas costs $25 - $30.
Public Bus: There are two buses from San Jose to Poas Volcano. A private bus leaves from Parque La Merced Sundays at 8 a.m. The bus stops at Restaurant El Poas in the hamlet of Poasito and arrives at the park around 10 a.m., returning to San Jose at 1:30 p.m.
A TUASA bus departs from Avenida 2, Calles 12/14 in San Jose at 8:30 a.m. that makes one stop in Alajuela's main bus terminal around 9:00 a.m. en route to Poas Volcano. The journey is usually a little more than 2.5 hours each way, and only one return bus departs Poas for San Jose (via Alajuela) at 2:30 p.m. The cost is $7.15 round-trip. 506-2442-6900
Car: From San Jose take Highway 1 to Alajuela. Follow signs into town on Calle 2. Continue on this road all the way through Alajuela, following numerous signs to Poas. The route is scenic and takes roughly one and a half hours. Alternatively, from San Jose, take highway 3 or 5 to Heredia, then 126 north through Barva and Roble to Varablanca where you drive west toward Poasito, following signs six miles farther to Poas Volcano National Park.