Poás Volcano National Park, Alajuela

Active volcanoes are the most exciting features of Costa Rica’s geological composition.

There are five in the tiny country, and the most popular one is within easy driving distance of San José. Drive one and a half hours north of the city to find the Poás Volcano National Park.

Best Hotels in Poás Volcano National Park

How Poas Volcano National Park Became a Park

Mario Boza lead the effort to preserve the region after visiting the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee as a graduate student in the 1960s. Upon returning home to Costa Rica, he successfully persuaded the Costa Rican government to declare the volcano a protected area.

Visiting the Volcano

If you’ve never seen an active volcano before, it’s worth the time to visit this national park.

The roads north through the Alajuela district are in good condition, but be prepared for winding mountainous terrain the closer you get to your destination. Bus tours are available if you don’t want to drive the distance yourself.

The park opens at 8 AM and crowds of tourists pack the area full early in the day. Get in line to make sure you get your view of the volcano before it’s too late.

Clouds start to form over the top of the mountain every day beginning at 9 AM, and they get thick enough to obscure the view of the volcano’s crater.

The Largest Open Volcano in the World

The crater of the volcano is over a mile across and 1050 feet deep. Two small lakes at the bottom formed when craters filled with rainwater. The water interacts differently in each with the geological properties of the volcano.

One crater is highly volatile while the other is inert.

On the active crater, the water has a pH level close to zero making the liquid acidic and toxic. It still has a bright blue color that contrasts sharply against the rock.

Hot geysers are frequent resulting in heated rocks on the floor of the volcano expand and contract to form underground chambers. Moisture from rain sinks down through these cracks and becomes trapped.

Geothermal heat evaporates underground water and creates pressurized steam bursting through the rock throwing plumes of mud and debris. Some of these spectacular explosions are as high as 800 feet.

The extinct crater holds Botos Lake. Tropical vegetation surrounds this body of water. The contrast between the two lakes illustrates the impact of acid rain on the environment.

Plant life closer to the active crater becomes stunted as acidic water from geysers spray the area.

Short Hikes Around the Top of Poás Volcano

It takes approximately two hours to hike along all the well-marked paths in the park. These trails take you to the forested areas of the mountain where unique ecological systems.

Visitors are encouraged to check the views of the volcano first before trekking down the paths. Spend too much time idling around the forests, and you may miss your opportunity to see the crater before the clouds move in.

If clouds already obscure the sights over the crater, try a short stroll down a few trails and check back at the observation deck. Sometimes conditions change enough to allow brief windows for viewing.

Plan a Full Day at the Volcano Park

Check in at the visitor’s center for more information about the volcano. Park rangers answer questions and ensure safety for everyone. There is even a small café close by that serves hot drinks and sandwiches.

While Poás Volcano is worth the time to get there, you may finish early in the morning. Plenty of other adventures await on the return drive.

Complete your day trip out by stopping at a coffee plantation on the way back.

The beautiful La Paz Waterfall is also close to your travel route. The weather conditions at the top of the mountain are often cold and windy. Dress for the occasion. Bring warm clothes, hats, and jackets. Wear comfortable walking shoes and pack extra socks in case your feet get wet.

The volcano was closed from April 2017, but the park its now open with a renewed security system for all visitors.

Costa Rica Cloud Forest & Arenal Volcano Tour
6 Days / 5 Nights
Starting at $878 per person
Costa Rica Eco-Adventure Tour
12 Days / 11 Nights or 10 Days / 9 Nights
Starting at $2,352 per person

Where to Stay near Poás Volcano National Park

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Bosque de Paz
Starting at $120 / night
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Peace Lodge
Starting at $250 / night
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Hotel Mango Valley
Starting at $60 / night
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Vida Mountain Resort & Spa
Starting at $160 / night
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El Silencio Lodge & Spa
Starting at $350 / night
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Hotel Colinas del Sol
Starting at $84 / night
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La Terraza Guest House
Starting at $80 / night
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Hotel Iguana Verde
Starting at $77 / night

Things to Do near Poás Volcano National Park

Featured Activity
Waterfall, Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs Tour
Starting at $89 / person