The Parque Nacional Volcán Poás is not without reason Costa Rica’s most visited national park. Close to the capital San José, and within easy reach, it allows a breathtaking view of a seething volcanic crater – or of an impenetrable fog wall. You will therefore find in this article everything you should know before a trip to the Poás Volcano as well as my experiences during the rainy season.
For whom is the Poás Volcano worth a visit?
A trip to the Poás Volcano is especially worthwhile if you want to marvel at an active volcano without having to go for an exhausting hike. On well-paved roads, you can simply drive up almost the entire volcano by car or bus and from the final parking lot, it’s only a few hundred meters to the main crater. This broad path to the lookout point of the main crater is even suitable for wheelchair users.
A visit of the Poás Volcano is therefore ideal for all volcano enthusiasts and especially for families and people with reduced mobility.
About the Parque Nacional Volcàn Poás
After a few meters from the parking lot, you are going to reach a visitor center with vivid information about the park. There are also public toilets, a souvenir shop, and a restaurant on the first floor. However, I would really recommend to visit the visitor center later on your way back and to follow the path to the main crater first, so that the fog will have less time to rise.
After about 600 meters you will reach the lookout point and – with a bit of luck – you’ll be able to admire the seething main crater. But keep in mind that the weather up there is unpredictable and that unfortunately, it often happens that you only get to see a huge wall of white fog behind the fence.
This risk should be known in advance, so that you won’t be too disappointed in this case.
Nevertheless, the trip is well worth a try, because the cloud forest around the crater is quite as well waiting to be explored. Besides, there is also a chance that the wind will blow away the clouds and release the main crater when you return from a short circular walk. So do not give up immediately, but come back again to the viewpoint later!
Starting from the main crater, you can walk along the Sendero Botos for about 1.4 km through miniature cloud forest to the Laguna Botos, a cold water lake in an extinct crater. The tour takes about 30 minutes and is worthwhile even for the unique cloud forest all around.
From the lake, you can continue hiking on the 1.8 km long Sendero Canto de Aves for about 45 minutes, leading through a larger forest area, in which mostly fewer visitors will be sharing your way. This path is especially worthwhile for birdwatchers, as rare species such as the fiery-throated hummingbird are native to this area.
The 400 meters short Sendero Escalonia leads back to the main path and finally back to the visitor center.
Practical information about Poás Volcano
Opening hours: 8 am – 3:30 pm
Entrance fees: ₡ 8000 / $ 15 per person for tourists, ₡ 1000 / $2 for locals
Parking fee: ₡ 500 / $ 1
Best time to visit Poás Volcano
Generally speaking, the best chances for a good view are early in the morning during the dry season. Anyways, this is not a guarantee. Since the park is always well attended, you should avoid the weekend, as it can be particularly crowded then. In the rainy season, however, there are also fewer tourists during the weekend. In any case, you should try to arrive at the park as early as possible, preferably at 8 o’clock.
No matter how hot and sunny the day presents itself down in the valley, at the top of the volcano it can still be very windy, cold and rainy all year round! At night, temperatures can even drop below freezing.
Essential gear to bring:
- sweater and rain jacket (to pull over if it gets cold)
- sun protection
- snacks and drinks (if you do not want to eat in the restaurant)
- solid shoes (sometimes you can also walk to the main crater in Flip Flops)
How to get to Poás Volcano?
🚌 Get to Poás Volcano by public bus
If you are traveling in Costa Rica as a backpacker with a limited budget, I definitely recommend the uncomplicated journey by public buses.
In San José, there is no direct public bus to Poás Volcano, so you have to get to Alajuela first. For that, it is best to take the bus at 8:15 am at the bus terminal of Tuasas (Avenida 2 between Calle 12 and 14) to Alajuela. After a 45 minutes drive you only have to walk one block south to the bus stop Volcán Poás in Alajuela.
- bus fare San José – Alajuela: ca. ₡600 / $ 1,10
- total costs round-trip San José – Poás Volcano: ₡ 3.700 / $ 6,80
From Alajuela, there is a daily Coopetransasi bus leaving at 9 am to the summit and going back at 2:30 pm. The journey takes about 1.5 hours each way. These two are the only public buses to the Poás Volcano, so better be on time at the stop!
- total costs round-trip Alajuela – Poás Volcano: ca. ₡ 2.500 / $ 4,60
🚕 Get to Poás Volcano by car or taxi
The big drawback, if you travel by public buses or a booked tour to Poás Volcano, is the late arrival. With both options, you usually arrive at the summit at around 10 am – just in time when the clouds like to wind up and cover the view.
So if you are traveling with several people, I would definitely recommend to share a rental car or a taxi. From Alajuela on, the trail is well signposted. Doing so, you not only increase the chance of seeing the main crater without clouds, but you also escape the crowds of visitors who arrive at 10 o’clock.
- costs for a rental car: from ₡ 21.000 / $ 40 per day
- costs for a taxi Alajuela – Poás Volcano: ca. ₡ 16.000 / $ 30 per ride
- costs for a taxi San José – Poás Volcano: ca. ₡ 27.000 / $ 50 per ride
✍ Tip for the onward journey
Not far from Poàs Volcano lie the famous La Paz Waterfall Gardens. The way there leads through picturesque pastureland and is well signposted. If you get to the volcano early in the morning, both destinations can be explored in one day.
My experience at Poàs Volcano during the rainy season
At the end of June, I set out with friends from Heredia to Poás Volcano. We enjoyed brilliant sunshine during the ride and the view from the road over the cities and the woods below was simply fantastic! Even the ride alone is therefore an experience in itself. But the closer we got to the volcano’s peak, the more it got cold and misty. So when we arrived at the main crater, unfortunately only the white fog presented itself in full splendor and the blue, bubbling crater could only be guessed by the slight smell of sulfur.
After all, despite a weekend day, we were the only ones at the lookout point – no single trace of tourist crowds!
Therefore, we enjoyed a lonely walk through the mysterious cloud forest instead, which was defenitely worth the visit. When we returned to the main crater afterwards with some hope for a change in the weather, many more visitors had arrived and were looking expectantly into the white nothingness – the wind had not turned. Unfortunately like many others, I was not lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the main crater that day.
Nevertheless, I have not regretted the trip, because also the rest of the park is really beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Plus, of course, I got one more reason to come back.
Did you have more luck at the main crater? I’d be very interested in your experience!
Please tell us in the comment section below.
So good luck with the fog and Pura Vida!
! Due to an increase in volcanic activity and several larger eruptions, Poas Volcano National Park has been closed to visitors as of April 2017 !
JUST FOR INFO
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