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POÁS VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
Destination content © Christopher P. Baker, used from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica, 5th edition.
Few volcanoes allow you to drive all the way to the rim. Poás does--well, at least to within 300 meters, where a short stroll puts you at the very edge of one of the world's largest active craters (1.5 km wide). The viewing terrace gives a bird's-eye view not only 320 meters down into the hellish bowels of the volcano, with its greenish sulfuric pool, but also magnificently down over the northern lowlands.

Poás (2,708 meters) is a restless giant with a 40-year active cycle. It erupted moderately in the early 1950s and was briefly active in 1989, when the access road was closed, and again in May 1994, when the park was temporarily closed. In July and August 1994, it rumbled dramatically. The park is frequently closed to visitors because of pungent and irritating sulfur gas emissions--many plants bear the scars of acid attacks.

Over the millennia it has vented its anger through three craters. Two now slumber under a blanket of vegetation; one even cradles a lake. But the main crater bubbles persistently with active fumaroles and a simmering lake. The sulfuric pool frequently changes hues and emits a geyser up to 200 meters into the steam-laden air. The water level of the lake has gone down about 15 meters during the past decade, one of several indications of a possible impending eruption. In the 1950s a small eruption pushed up a new cone on the crater floor; the cone is now 200 feet high and still puffing.

Oft as not it is foggy up here and mist floats like an apparition through the dwarf cloud forest draped with bromeliads and mosses. Clouds usually form midmorning. Plan an early-morning arrival to enhance your chances of a cloud-free visit. Temperatures vary widely. On a sunny day it can be 21° C (70° F). On a cloudy day, it is normally bitterly cold and windy at the crater rim. Dress accordingly.

Poás is popular on weekends with local Ticos who arrive by the busload with their blaring radios. Visit midweek if possible.

Photo by Adrian Hepworth
Trails
The Botos Trail just before the viewing platform leads to an extinct crater filled with a cold-water lake--Botos. This and the Escalonia Trail, which begins at the picnic area, provide for pleasant hikes. The park protects the headwaters of several important rivers, and the dense forests are home to emerald toucanets, coyotes, resplendent quetzals, sooty robins, hummingbirds, frogs, and the Poás squirrel, which is endemic to the volcano.

Information and Services
Poás National Park, is the most developed within the Costa Rican park system. It offers ample parking, toilets, and an exhibit hall and auditorium, where audiovisual presentations are given on Sunday. Upstairs is the Heliconia Nature Store run by the Fundación Neotrópica, plus the pleasant Café Botos, serving coffees, cappuccinos, and snacks such as muffins, sandwiches, and pizzas. There's wheelchair access to the exhibits and trails.

The park has no accommodations, and camping is not permitted.

Tours
Most tour operators in San José offer day trips to Poás. Many arrive fairly late in the morning, which reduces the chances of seeing anything before the clouds set in. Try to get a tour that arrives no later than 10 a.m.

This is an small excerpt from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica. CentralAmerica.Com highly recommends that you enhance your vacation by taking a copy of Moon's comprehensive Handbook with you. For more information visit the Moon Handbooks page on this site.

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