Poas Volcano National Park
Location: 90 minutest from San Jose 23 miles (37 km) N of
Poas Volcano, stand at the edge of a multicolored crater almost a mile (1.5 km) in diameter, look down 984 feet (300 m), and watch geyserlike eruptions that leave no doubt this mountain still has something to say.
Of the five craters on this 8,884-foot (2,708-m) giant, two get the most attention from visitors: the large active crater responsible for more recent lava, rocks, ash, and steam, and the extinct one that now cradles beautiful Bows Lake. The lookout at the edge of the active crater affords a spectacular view of a greenish hot-water lake. The earlier you go, the better chance you have of an unimpeded view. Clouds that drift in as the day progresses can obscure the bottom. Don't give up too easily, however, if it is socked in-glimpses come and go. While you wait for a column of mud and water to shoot into the air, notice the fumaroles and look for small measuring devices scattered around the crater. Costa Rica has fine volcanological and seismological observatories whose staffs keep close watch at poas and other sites around the country. Depending on wind direction, you may get a good whiff of sulfur. Gas emissions sometimes damage vegetation both in the park and nearby-look for evidence of the acid rain.
Trails lead through shrubs, dwarf forest, and cloud forest covered with epiphytes.
Because of volcanic activity, hunting, and deforestation outside the park, few mammals
remain. Coyotes, rabbits, frogs, and toads are common, and at least 79 bird species are
at home here. Qquetzals has been seen flying over the road between the park entrance and
administration building in early morning. Hummingbirds are everywhere; you might also
spot an emerald toucanet, brown robin, black gum or masked woodpecker.
If you visit by tour, check to see that it gets to Poas by 9:30 a.m. at the latest and how much time it spends here. Some allow barely enough time to peer into the crater; others offer more time and a naturalist guide.
Bring a jacket and rain gear; rainfall is 138 inches (3,500 mm). Temperatures average between 50'F and 57F (10'C and 14'C), but bright, sunny days can be 70'F (21'C).
The visitor center's first floor houses a nature shop, rest rooms, auditorium, and a snack bar operated by Cafe Britt; an outstanding insect exhibit is on the second.
By bus: Once a day buses from San Jose.
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