If you’re planning to take a trip to Costa Rica, the beautiful Central American country’s towering stratovolcanoes should be high on your list of must-see destinations. The fiery, unpredictable geography of the region has made Costa Rica home to some of the most stunning and active volcanoes in the world, and the Poas Volcano certainly fits both of those descriptions. It boasts the largest open volcanic crater in the world, and with a fascinating landscape, great amenities and attractions and an abundance of natural beauty, there’s nothing else quite like the magic of Poas.
An Active History
Rising to a tremendous height of 8,885 feet, Poas stands out strikingly against its rugged, verdant backdrop. Though it appears beautiful and placid during its periods of dormancy, don’t let that fool you: this volcano has a long and troubled history. A series of lava flows, ash falls and pyroclastic flows swept the area from 1953 to 1956, but the many explosive episodes since then have been phreatic eruptions. These violent paroxysms are caused when groundwater inside the volcano system is suddenly flash-heated into steam by the roiling magma that lurks deep beneath the surface. The most recent of these events occurred in April 2017, sending blankets of ash, clouds of toxic gases and large, incandescent boulders spewing throughout the area.
Exploring the Region
Poas volcano may stand out above its surroundings, but the entire region is well worth exploring. The mountain is located within Poas Volcano National Park, a 14,000-acre parcel of sprawling cloud forests, plantations, steaming fumaroles, geysers and other fascinating geologic features. The main volcano crater is home to one of the most desolate and corrosively acidic lakes in the world. Named Laguna Caliente, this inhospitable crater lake is lined with a layer of liquid sulfur and frequently reaches a pH of nearly 0.0. Acid rain and acid fog are common, making this area extremely harsh and unfriendly to plant and animal life. You’ll also find the extinct Von Frantzuis crater and the deep, cold, placid waters of Lake Botos nearby. The park itself is also filled with a bountiful variety of natural wildlife, including unique tree and plant species, nearly 80 distinct bird species, coyotes, marmots and much more.
The region in which Poas and its national park are located is famed for having beautiful weather virtually year-round. Its tropical climate and elevation combine to produce temperatures that are consistently pleasant regardless of the time of year, typically ranging from the middle 70s to the lower 80s Fahrenheit for highs and the middle to upper 60s for lows. However, because of the cooler weather at higher elevations, you should bring a light jacket on any trips to the area surrounding the volcano itself. The rainy season runs from May through November, with September through November typically seeing the heaviest and most frequent rains. If you plan to visit Poas, it’s best to do so early in the morning. Cloud cover often moves in by late morning, and the volcano is commonly partially obscured by midday.
Like several of Costa Rica’s volcanoes, Poas resides in a relatively easy location to access. It’s located in Alajuela Province, in Costa Rica’s North Central Plains, and it’s part of the Cordillera Central mountain range. There are many ways to get to Poas from virtually anywhere in Costa Rica, but the most popular and cost-effective method is by bus. You can find public bus transport for just a few dollars, particularly from within the Central Valley. San José and Alajuela are especially common starting points for a day trip to Poas if you intend to travel by bus.
If public transport isn’t your thing, you’ve got plenty of other options as well. Private drivers are frequently available for hire, especially in the larger towns and cities. Taxi and shuttle services are available in some areas as well, though the cost may be higher than bus travel. You may also rent a vehicle and drive to Poas yourself, but remember to bring extra money for parking costs.
Things to Do
Unsurprisingly, the main attraction in the region is a trip to see the volcano itself. Though walking trails near the volcano are sometimes closed due to volcanic activity, there are many scenic views to be had throughout the area. The surrounding cloud forests and tropical rainforests also provide rich wildlife and natural beauty for you to experience. Walking and hiking trails spider through the park, ranging from leisurely strolls to more rugged, challenging hikes. At the nearby Colinas del Poas, you can embark on canopy tours, zip line adventures, canoeing, trout fishing and so much more.
There are also horseback tours available nearby if you’d rather rest your feet. For a more relaxed experience, the Doka Estate Coffee Tour gives you a fascinating look at how the rich volcanic soils in the area produce some of the finest coffee in the world. Family travelers will also appreciate the easy access to shopping, as the City Mall is located just a short distance away in Alajuela. There are a number of museums, nature parks and gardens dotting the surrounding area as well, ensuring that there are attractions for people of all interests, ages and physical abilities.
Where to Stay
Whether you’re planning a trip with your family, looking for a romantic honeymoon or even going it alone, there are accommodations for everyone in the Poas area. Peace Lodge in nearby Heredia is one of the most memorable destinations in all of Costa Rica for couples and honeymooners, offering a stunningly beautiful setting, excellent dining, outstanding staff and even access to the wonderful La Paz Waterfall Gardens. El Silencio Lodge & Spa offers a similarly superlative experience, and its easy access to on-site nature walks and waterfalls makes it a great choice for families and couples.
For solo travelers, the convenient location, low prices and great food at Villa Pacande Bed & Breakfast make it a highly appealing option. Altura Hotel is a great choice as well, with excellent amenities and a peaceful, rustic setting that is sure to appeal to nature lovers and anyone else seeking a bit of solitude. For a more active and all-inclusive option, AmaTierra Retreat & Wellness Center offers a wide variety of amenities, activities and services in a peaceful and secluded setting.
A trip to Costa Rica is sure to be something you’ll never forget. Whether you’re hiking through the ruggedly beautiful cloud forests, catching a glimpse of Poas’ stunning volcanic peak or just getting some rest and relaxation at one of the area’s upscale resorts, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So, why wait around? Get out there and see all that Poas has to offer!
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