Poas Volcano National Park

Location: 90 minutest from San Jose 23 miles (37 km) N of Alajuela.
Size: 16,076 acres (6,506 ha).
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Information: Telephone hotline 192, (506) 290-1927, fax (506) 232-5324.

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.
'The trail to Botos Lake, named for the Botos Indians who lived on the north slope when the Spaniards arrived, begins near the view point for the active crater; it's an easy 20-minute climb to the extinct crater. At this altitude, though, take
your time, enjoy the tangled shrub or dwarf-forest vegetation, and hear the tantalizing song of hidden birds. Amphitheater seating beside this rain-replenished lake offers a vantage point for bird observation and for remembering that the crater walls around you, now tranquil and forest-covered, were once witness to fiery emanations.
Trees soar overhead, bromeliads abound, and Peace Waterfall between Vara Blanca trail markers full of poetry salute the
forest's magnificence.

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.

Getting There

By bus: Once a day buses from San Jose.
By car: From Alajuela, go either through San Pedro de Poas and Fraijanes or through Heredia and Vara Blanca.
Other: Taxi from San Jose or Alajuela.

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Fax: +506.2643.1356

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