Visitors to Costa Rica who can’t squeeze in a visit to Mount Arenal will be happy to learn that there are two other active Costa Rica volcanoes within easy driving distance of the capital city of San Jose: the Poas volcano in Poas Volcano National Park, and the Irazu volcano in Irazu Volcano National Park. Poas Volcano National Park makes a scenic and enjoyable day trip from San Jose. Surrounded by dense cloud forests and miles and miles of hiking trails, Poas Volcano National Park is a unique and rare geological wonder.
The road to Poas Volcano National Park is winds through lush greenery and picturesque Costa Rican farms and fields, then stops short about a half mile from the crater. Vehicles must be parked at this point so that visitors can hike the final half-mile to the crater’s edge. The entire trip is only about 23 miles, but if driving a car over dirt or semi-paved roads in unpredictable weather doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you have lots of other good options for getting there from San Jose.
Several professional touring companies offer guided trips to Poas National Park and Irazu National Park and will happily arrange transportation, informational walking tours, lunch, and more for a modest fee. The cost of a half-day guided tour of Poas National Park from San Jose runs right around $30 USD. A more extensive all day tour can be booked for around $80. To reserve a spot, simply inquire at any San Jose hotel, at the San Jose airport, or at any travel agency.
If you are feeling more adventurous, by all means rent a car. The roads are well marked and the scenery is gorgeous. A bus also departs from Avenida 2 between calles 12 and 14 at 8:30 AM and returns at 2:00 PM to the same San Jose stop. Bus fare to Poas Volcano National Park is only $4, but the bus fills up quickly so arrive early to guarantee a seat. The entrance fee to the park is $7.
The volcanic crater at Poas Volcano National Park is the second largest volcanic crater in the world. Over a mile wide, the Poas volcanic crater is filled with active geysers that constantly spew mud, steam, and acid gases high into the air, stunting the cloud forest below and giving the entire place an eerie, alien feel.
For much of the year clouds obscure a clear view of the crater, so if possible, visit the top of Poas first thing in the morning during the dry season, then spend the rest of the day hiking the trails and taking in other sights. On a very clear day you can actually see both oceans from the lookout station at the summit.
A fifteen-minute hike from the parking lot leads to a scenic view of Botos Lake, a body of water formed in one of Poas Volcano National Park’s inactive craters. The trails are all paved and well marked, and the information center offers an interesting slide show about the volcano and the area’s history.
Last but not least, it does get cool in the dense, damp shade at Poas Volcano National Park, so be sure to dress appropriately and bring a foldable rain poncho or waterproof jacket so you can fully enjoy one of Costa Rica’s least publicized natural wonders no matter what the weather!