Hiking The Poas Volcano In Costa Rica
Before I go any further, when I say ‘hiking the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica’ I’m literally only referring to the fact that I reached the crater. It is undoubtedly the easiest ‘hike’ that I’ve ever done.
It would, in fact, be better described as a ‘stroll’, because it really is that easy.
Costa Rica itself is a country primed for the outdoors fanatic. Being home to 67 volcanoes, 6 of which are currently active, it’s a volcanologists dream.
Besides this, it also boasts an array of beautiful beaches on both its Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
Keen on nature? You won’t be disappointed either. With several national parks in the country, you will get the chance to see wildlife such as monkeys (I saw some on the country’s main highway), sloths, capybara and, if you’re lucky, maybe even the elusive jaguar.
Another major thing Costa Rica has in its favour is that it’s widely considered to be one of Central America’s safest countries. This comes hand in hand with it being the most expensive but, in comparison to Europe or some parts of the US, it’s still relatively cheap.
The Poas Volcano
One of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes and with an elevation of 2708 metres (8885 ft) the Poas volcano is about an hour and a half bus ride from the country’s capital, San Jose.
The most recent notable eruption was in April 2017 where visitors and residents were evacuated. This eruption sent plumes of smoke up to 1km into the air and ashfall was recorded in some surrounding residential areas.
There are 2 main lakes on the summit crater. Lake Botos has been dormant for thousands of years so it’s the other one, Laguna Caliente, which is the visitors’ main interest.
La Laguna Caliente (hot lagoon) is one of the most acidic lakes on earth. With no marine life whatsoever, this lagoon has a high concentration of liquid sulphur which is sometimes the cause of acid rain and fog in surrounding areas.
With a reported pH level of less than zero (that’s pretty damned acidic for anyone not familiar with the scale), it’s definitely a place you don’t want to dip your toes.
Hiking The Poas Volcano
About 90% of this ‘hike’ consists of a bus ride from San Jose. It’ll take you to the Poas Visitor Centre where you’ll have to pay the entry fee.
For this kind of trip a tour group probably won’t be worth your while so, unless you have hired a car, the local bus is definitely the way to go.
I know that there are tour groups from San Jose and other locations in Costa Rica which do organised tours but, being brutally honest, this will most likely be a rip-off. I’ve heard of tour groups charging in excess of $150 just to go up and see the volcano.
The park visitor centre has what you would expect: an information section on the Poas volcano, a cafe to grab a snack, and a small area to buy souvenirs.
There is a clear road from the visitor centre which leads along to the crater itself. The walk should take around 15 minutes.
There’s a platform which has been built as the Laguna Caliente viewpoint. The view you get really all depends on the current weather conditions!
When I first arrived I got a lovely view of white, acidic fog….
After waiting around for a good half an hour I decided to head back to the visitor centre for some coffee. After trying my luck a second time I was greeted by some brief, but excellent, views of the deadly lagoon.
The crater itself is massive, just under a mile in diameter, and really does put into perspective the epicness of the volcano.
I wasn’t lucky enough to witness it but the lagoon often amazes its visitors with the explosion of geysers up to some 200 metres into the air. You are quite a distance from the actual lagoon so I wouldn’t worry about getting covered yourself. The park has actually been known to close when the rain or surroundings are too acidic.
Concentrating, you’ll actually be able to notice the smell of sulphur in the air, it’s an aroma which becomes quite distinct after visiting a few volcanoes.
On a clear day from the top of the Poas volcano, you can sometimes get views of both of Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
The park itself also offers various other trails in the surrounding rainforest. I didn’t bother because I didn’t take the appropriate rain gear (it was a wet day), but there are viewpoints which offer some great views of the other crater and other parts of the mountain.
There’s an array of small wildlife on offer such as snakes, frogs, coyotes, as well as several species of birds and insects.
The local bus goes from central San Jose > Alajuela > Poas and really is very little hassle. The country functions a lot better than most of its Central American neighbours so security isn’t much of an issue and English is spoken quite widely.
The bus times and prices change frequently all over Central America so I’m not going to go into details with the times. I often used online review and blogs as my guide only to find that the times had changed drastically.
It’s a beautiful ride up, passing through green landscapes and several coffee farms along the way. I even got the chance to see some monkeys swinging on the power lines!!
When I did it, June 2016, each bus cost a little over $1 USD so I doubt it will have gone up by much at all.
A quick online search just before you plan the volcano visit should give you the most up to date San Jose bus timetables. Just make sure that it’s as up to date as possible.
Where To Stay
There are literally dozens of options in the surrounding areas.
The Poas Volcano Lodge is a popular option and, although relatively pricey, is in a great location situated only 4km from the volcano itself.
San Jose also has dozens of different hostel and hotel options.
During my stay in Costa Rica I actually did some Couchsurfing, which is great for the budget traveller and it also provides you with an insight to the country which you won’t get in a hostel or hotel.
Best Time To Visit
The dry season which runs from December – April.
This is when you’ll have the best chance for clear weather. Bear in mind that view can be obscured with fog on any day at any time of the year.
In terms of time of day they recommend that you get there early in the morning, from 8 am, to avoid the daytime rush and get the clearest weather conditions – it commonly clouds over in the afternoon.
- Waterproofs if it’s the rainy season.
- Money for the park entrance fee and buses.
- Your camera.
- Sun cream.
National Park Opening Hours
8 am – 3:30 pm
$15 (8700 colones) entry in high season: December – April (could vary).
$10 (5800 colones) entry in low season: the rest of the year.
If you’re planning on hiking the Poas volcano in Costa Rica then you should definitely try to get there in the dry season. You greatly heighten your chances of getting good views of the crater’s lagoon, and just it’s better for the general enjoyment.
Due to the fact that you basically reach the summit by bus, it can be accomplished by absolutely anybody.
This makes it a fantastic option for those who would love to see a volcano but are dead against doing any kind of physical exercise to do so.
Look here if you’re in Central America and fancy seeing an erupting volcano after a strenuous, but stunning, hike.
As always, thanks a lot for reading and please add your thoughts or leave any questions in the comments section below. I reply to absolutely everything. 🙂