Planning a trip to Poas Volcano in Costa Rica? Poas Volcano is an amazing natural attraction and worth a visit! It is known for its geothermal wonders, lush forests, and breathtaking crater lakes!
In this full guide, we’ll cover all the MUST-KNOW DETAILS to visit the volcano. From the best times to visit, to the safety guidelines, entrance fees, and what to expect from the park’s hiking trails and viewpoints. If you’re ready for an adventure of a lifetime, keep reading!
- Poás Volcano National Park, located near San Jose, Costa Rica, offers two crater lakes and a rich biodiversity with lush forests.
- We advise you to plan your trip during the dry season from December to April for optimal conditions (no clouds on the viewpoint).
- Tickets to the park must be purchased online in advance.
- You can enjoy multiple trails and observation points within the park, with facilities and tour options available.
What to expect from Poás Volcano National Park
Just 50 kilometers from the city of San Jose, deep in the Central Valley region, you’ll find the AMAZING LANDSCAPE of Costa Rica’s Poás Volcano, which is the main attraction inside the Poas Volcano National Park.
FUN FACT: Thanks to effective management and safety protocols, the Poas Volcano has successfully reopened to visitors, even amidst increased volcanic activity (we’ll cover this below).
How should you imagine the volcano? First of all, Costa Rica’s Poás Volcano stands tall at an elevation of 8,885 feet (2,708 meters) above sea level. BUT even more special are the crater lakes!
The Two Crater Lakes
The Poas volcano, with its two craters, is a powerful symbol of the GEOTHERMAL FORCES that formed Costa Rica.
The park’s main attraction, the Laguna Caliente, or HOT LAGOON, is an active crater filled with acidic and toxic water (don’t even think about swimming in there). However, the crater also provides a unique opportunity to observe the ACID RAIN phenomenona.
INSIDER FACT: Since 1989, the volcano has naturally increased its gas emissions so much that it is causing acid rain phenomena that have already damaged nature in some sectors of the park and surrounding agricultural plantations in the area.
Lake Botos, an EXTINCT crater lake, is a peaceful contrast to Laguna Caliente’s volatile state. The Botos Lake is cold but has see-through water and is surrounded by a cloud forest within the Poás Volcano National Park.
These two crater lakes, each with its own distinct character and deep history, make you feel very much alive and respect the power of Mother Nature. We felt fortunate to see the two crater lakes.
Flora and Fauna
The Poás Volcano National Park spans nearly 15,000 acres. Some locals even say the national park is a treasure trove of biodiversity and birds. With the help of park rangers, birdwatchers will be delighted to spot some of the park’s 80 (!) bird species, including the resplendent quetzal, hummingbirds, toucans, sooty robins, and black guans.
The park’s diverse flora, ranging from small cypress and tucuico to small cedar, makes it one of the most diverse ecological places on the planet.
Keep reading to know what your visit would look like!
Planning Your Visit to Poas Volcano
A well-thought-out plan will help you maximize your Poas Volcano experience. We’re here to provide you with one, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
Ideal Visiting Time
The park opens its doors at 8 AM, and we (definitely) recommend an early morning visit to increase your chances of clear views (and fewer people). Yet, you should be ready for cold, cloudy, and windy weather. So definitely take some warm clothes with you. Don’t feel sad when there are clouds; the Poas Volcano has a microclimate, so half an hour later the skies might be blue again!
Also, keep in mind that the park may temporarily close due to increased volcanic activity or eruptions. In such cases, you can either reschedule your visit or request a refund (we’ll go over this below).
Poas Volcano is known for its weather conditions, which include:
- During the DRY season, temperatures at the volcano can reach up to the mid-70s F (24 Celsius)
- In the RAINY season, temperatures can drop to the low 60s F (16 Celsius) or colder.
Furthermore, clouds typically start to form over the top of Poas Volcano every day, beginning at 9 a.m., potentially hindering visibility (so visit at 8 a.m. when the park opens). Therefore, checking live weather reports from nearby stations, which heavily influence the cloud cover around the crater, is recommended before your visit.
What in case of emergency? How safe are you? Keep reading to find out!
Your safety is important during your visit to Poas Volcano National Park. Here are the safety precautions to keep in mind:
- Upon arrival in the national park, you’ll be required to wear hard hats for protection.
- View a short safety video that educates about the volcano and safety precautions.
- The park uses a color-coded flag system to indicate current safety levels.
- A green flag indicates normal conditions, meaning all activities in the park can proceed as usual.
- A yellow flag signifies that there may be some minor disturbances, so stay alert.
- Lastly, a red flag is raised when there is significant volcanic activity or other serious risks, often leading to the closure of certain areas or the entire park for safety reasons.
- Concrete structures near the crater serve as shelters in an emergency.
- Adhere to park ranger instructions and avoid illegal or restricted areas. The park rangers can answer all your questions and ensure your safety.
Due to potential risks such as volcanic gases, ash fall, and falling rocks, the recommended VIEWING TIME at the active crater viewpoint is only 10 minutes.
In cases of high volcanic activity or dangerous gas levels, the park closes the viewpoint or the entire park, in which case you can reschedule your visit or request a refund by emailing the park office.
Tour Options and Independent Visits
Organized tours offer various options, from all-inclusive packages that span over a week to day trips that include visits to this and other national parks, waterfalls, and volcanoes. We love booking our day trips with Get Your Guide, as they offer qualitative and good value-for-money visits!
Getting to Poas Volcano
Whether you land at San Jose Airport or are already exploring Costa Rica’s Central Valley, getting to Poas Volcano National Park is straightforward.
You can either opt to drive or take public transportation. But do exercise caution on the narrow and curvy roads leading up to the park if you choose to drive!
There are also shuttle buses available from San Jose Airport directly to the park (see below).
The drive from San Jose Airport (SJO) to Poas Volcano National Park is around twenty miles (32.5 km), taking 48 minutes. You’ll take Route 1 (the Pan American Highway), then switch to Route 3 near Alajuela, which leads directly to the park. Along the way, you’ll pass through key landmarks such as the city of Alajuela, the village of Pilas, and the community of Flores del Poas, adding an extra layer of adventure to your journey.
If you prefer public transportation, you can take the TUASA bus from ‘Iglesia Parque de la Merced’ in San José at 8 AM to Alajuela (ticket price is around 1500 CRC, which is approximately $2.25), then transfer to Prospero Fernandez Park near the cemetery to take the COOPETRANSI bus directly to Poas Volcano National Park. The total travel time, including the transfer to Alajuela, is approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes.
These services are operated by two companies, TUASA and COOPETRANSASI, and the fare ranges in total around $5, making it the cheapest public transportation option.
Purchasing Tickets and Visitor Information
It’s important to note that tickets to Poas Volcano National Park must be purchased online in advance here (government website), as they are not available at the park entrance. Having all the necessary information ready before starting the online ticket reservation can prevent interruptions.
The park entrance fee is $15 for foreign adults and $5 for children aged 2–12. Additionally, there are parking fees for vehicles (2000 colones or $4). The park itself is open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and a live-feed camera is available online here for you to check current visibility conditions at the volcano’s crater before your visit.
Online Ticket Reservation
To purchase tickets for Poas Volcano, follow these steps:
- Create a SINAC account on the official SINAC website. Make sure to provide a correct email address, as tickets will be sent to this email without a separate registration confirmation.
- After account creation, accept the ‘Terms and Conditions’ and log in to begin the reservation.
- Be ready to input the full names and passport numbers of all members of your group, as well as credit card information, within an 8-minute window.
- Tickets are generally emailed within minutes after purchase and must be printed for entry. Digital copies on phones are NOT accepted (!).
For weekday visits, tickets can be purchased online through the SINAC system the day before your visit.
Park Hours, Fees, and Amenities
The park operates daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., admitting last entries by 2 p.m. and final viewing groups by 1:20 p.m. For those arriving by car, parking fees of 2000 colones apply, while motorcycle parking costs 1000 colones, to pay in cash.
The park provides basic facilities, including restrooms and a small cafe near the entrance that sells hot drinks and food. Take a look here for the best accessories for your visit to Poas Volcano!
Given that crater visits are timed and capped at 20 minutes, it’s advisable to be there 20 minutes before your reservation for a more seamless experience.
Experiencing Poas Volcano: Trails and Observation Points
Poas Volcano National Park is not just about the stunning landscapes and unique geothermal features; it’s also about the journey. As part of the national park system, the park offers many trails and observation points.
The main accessibility feature is a paved road that leads almost to the crater’s edge and is wheelchair-friendly, allowing you to approach within 300 feet (around 90 meters) of the crater’s rim. There’s also a 600-meter asphalted trail leading to the active crater observation point that is accessible for wheelchairs.
Main Crater Observation Point
The main crater observation point offers a close-up view of the active crater. From this platform, you can look into one of the largest active craters in the world. However, given the high altitude of Poas Volcano, weather conditions can quickly change, which can include cold and wet conditions affecting visibility. To ensure safety and accurate monitoring, a volcanological and seismological observatory is nearby monitoring all the volcanic activity.
INSIDER TIP: If clouds obscure the crater view, you can take a short stroll down nearby trails in the cloud forest and return later to the observation deck for another chance to see the sulfuric pool, smoke, and geysers.
Laguna Botos Trail
For those seeking a slightly more adventurous experience, the Laguna Botos trail is a must-try. Considered to have a medium level of difficulty, the trail spans 2.1 miles (3.4 kilometers). The main viewpoint of the inactive crater lake can be reached after a 0.5-mile (800-meter) hike from the start of the trail, which takes visitors about 20 minutes to arrive at the viewpoint. DOWNLOAD THE TRAIL FOR FREE HERE.
To complete the entire Laguna Botos trail, including the return journey, you should allot approximately 40 minutes. This hike not only offers spectacular views but also encounters with wildlife, such as various bird species and chipmunks, creating an enchanted feeling.
What to Pack for Your Visit
You should be prepared for your visit to Poas Volcano in the mountains. Here are some items to bring with you:
- A sweater or jacket, as the volcano’s higher elevation can be chilly
- Closed-toed shoes and long pants for protection against the terrain and weather conditions
- Dressing in layers to adapt to fluctuating temperatures at elevated heights
Some other essential items to pack for your visit to Poas Volcano include:
- A rain jacket or poncho, as the weather can be unpredictable
- A camera to capture your memories
Other Nearby Attractions and National Parks
Even though Poás Volcano National Park is a must-see, there are many other attractions nearby that are worth visiting.
The Barva Volcano, with its even higher elevation than the Poás Volcano National Park and a safe, inactive status, offers opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing.
Just a short drive from Poas Volcano, you’ll also find the city of Alajuela. Known as the ‘City of Mangoes‘, Alajuela is the second-largest city in Costa Rica and is rich in history and culture. It’s the birthplace of the country’s national hero, Juan Santamaria, and home to his museum. The city’s central park, Parque Central, is a lively spot where locals gather, and the nearby Alajuela Cathedral is a must-see. Alajuela is also home to a variety of markets, offering a plethora of local fruits, vegetables, and crafts. For a more in-depth look at what Alajuela has to offer, check out our comprehensive guide here.
For a peaceful mountain retreat, the Bosque Alegre National Wildlife Refuge is less known and features the Lagunas de Hule and Congo for hikes and picnics. Animal enthusiasts can visit the Territorio de Zaguates, a large no-kill shelter for around 900 dogs, offering a unique opportunity to interact with animals and support the shelter.
If you want to extend your Costa Rican adventure, a visit to Bajos del Toro is a must. This cute, off-the-beaten-path village is nestled amidst lush cloud forests and offers a wealth of natural attractions. From the amazing Bajos del Toro Waterfall, the tallest in the country, to the beautiful blue rivers at the Blue Falls of Costa Rica, there’s plenty to explore. You can also enjoy birdwatching, hiking, and immersing yourself in the local culture. For more information, check out our comprehensive guide to Bajos del Toro here.
If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, be sure to include Poas Volcano in your itinerary.
You’ll be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind experience that captures the essence of Costa Rica’s natural beauty and charm.
Let us know in the comments below how your experience was!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Poás Volcano worth visiting?
Yes, Poás Volcano is worth visiting because it features an active crater and the world’s largest open volcanic crater, surrounded by lush vegetation, making it an impressive and unique experience.
How much time do you need at Poás Volcano?
You should plan to spend around 2 hours at the Poás Volcano if you want to explore both trails, but if you only want to visit the summit and main viewpoint, an hour should be sufficient.
Is Poás Volcano active?
Yes, the Poás Volcano is active, having erupted 40 times since 1828, including an eruption in April 2017.
Where is Poas Volcano located?
What is the best time to visit Poas Volcano National Park?
The best time to visit Poas Volcano National Park for optimal viewing of the crater is during the dry months of December to April, preferably early in the morning. It allows for the best visibility and experience.