During my trip through Central America in 2015, I leapt at every chance I could to see volcanoes. Central America is positively overflowing with stunning active volcanoes, plenty of which you can visit. Unfortunately there were still plenty that I missed to my dismay. So when the opportunity came for our group to visit one from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, I was in. The volcano in question? Poas Volcano in the centre of Poas National Park. Our day trip to Poas Volcano and National Park turned out to be for me the highlight of San Jose, a city I didn’t really care for.
Poas Volcano Main Crater
Situated in the centre of Costa Rica, the national park is about one and a half hours drive from San Jose. Once we had arrived in the park, it was straight to the main crater of Poas Volcano. Poas is an active volcano with two craters, sitting 2,708 metres above sea level.
In fact, due to an eruption in April 2017, the park actually had to be evacuated. As it stands, the craters are still closed to the public. However, when we visited was another story. We were able to make the short walk up to the viewing platform and lay eyes on the impressive main volcano crater.
What strikes you first, beside the size of the crater, is just how inhospitable the crater looks. From the rugged rocky ground to the sickly colour of the lake, it almost looks like a foreign planet. It certainly doesn’t look like somewhere to which you want to get too close. This is reinforced by the signs around, telling you not to spend longer than 20 minutes by the crater. See, the lake is one of the most acidic in the world and its fumes can often cause irritation. There’s a price to pay for the stark, beautiful sight in front of you.
When our time by the main crater was up, we ventured off into the nearby Cloud Forest. Throughout Costa Rica you’ll encounter Cloud Forests, which are basically dense tropical rainforest often submerged in low cloud. It may sound rather ordinary, but trust me the results are anything but.
As we wandered along the trail, many in our group likened it to an enchanted forest. The trees were often gnarled and twisted, low cloud hung over head. I’d say it was almost eerie if it wasn’t at the same time so beautiful. Sadly, this is one of many scenarios where my old camera couldn’t cope. As such my photos of the Cloud Forest really don’t do it justice.
After wandering up through the Cloud Forest we arrived at the second of Poas’ craters, Lake Botos. The two craters couldn’t be more different. Whereas the main crater is rocky with a small lake, Laguna Botos is a large lake surrounded by lush forest.
Shortly after we arrived, low cloud rolled over and the visibility of the lake went from ok to non-existent. What was noticeable though was how much cooler and damper it felt at Laguna Botos. This is because Lake Botos is now inactive, although there were still warning signs here too.
From there, it was back into the deep rainforest to follow the trail circuit back to the visitors centre. In total the circuit would have to be less than 2 kilometres but with surroundings like that, who wants to rush. All up, we spent a little under 2 hours there before diving back to San Jose.
Tips for Visiting Poas Volcano
- First of all, check to see whether the park and craters have been opened to the public. As of 28 July 2017 they had not;
- As I was travelling on a group tour through the Americas, this day tour was arranged by our group leader. I believe there are plenty of companies that offer this tour from San Jose. With a group of 8 people, including entry and transport by minivan, the cost came to about US$50 per person. Sadly I don’t have more information beyond that.
Have you visited Poas Volcano or another of Central America’s volcanoes? Would you visit a volcano that has just recently erupted? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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