Our first Costa Rican volcano experience was with Arenal – the 5,358 foot giant that was among the most active in the world until 2010. The lodge we stayed in those first days boasted “the best volcano view” in the region, and this might have been the case, but we never saw it as the rain and fog had us socked in for our three night stay. I can’t complain too much as it did clear up enough to see Lake Arenal, the 33 square mile reservoir which is the largest lake in Costa Rica. But I also should have known better than making plans to stop at Poás Volcano during the last days of our trip.
|Grand views on our way up to the Poas National Park|
Poás is 8,884 ft tall, part of the Poás National Park which encompasses 14,000 acres of the Central Valley Mountain Range. Easily accessible from San José, the park is Costa Rica’s most visited park; most of its visitors probably like us, making the trip, paying the fee, hiking in and seeing absolutely nothing due to the rain and fog!
From the little town of Poasito where we were staying it’s an incredibly scenic 6 miles to the park. Views appeared and disappeared, coffee fields and dairy pastures providing beautiful views along the winding road. A rather steep entrance fee later we parked in the lot and walked ten minutes along a paved path to reach the rim of the crater.
According to DK Eyewitness Travel “a viewing terrace grants visitors an awe-inspiring view down into the heart of the hissing and steaming caldera, which is 895 ft deep and a mile wide. It contains an acidic turquoise lake, sulfurous fumaroles, and a 245-ft tall cone… On clear days, it is possible to get magnificent views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.” After sticking around in the wind and rain for over thirty minutes, the clouds parted for about 7 seconds for this view…
I’m curious as to the ratio of clear to cloudy days on the summit of Poás. Of the two days we attempted both were cloudy, as is to be expected in the cloud forest, despite it being morning and the dry season - as suggested by all the guide books. As a comparison, here is the view on a clear day as seen on Wikipedia.
The park is well known for the 80 species of birds that reside within its forests, among them the rare resplendent quetzal. Overheard on the rim of the crater was a group of tourists whose bus driver had stopped on the road to the park “because there was some bird on a branch, a pretzel bird – it was pretty cool.” We did not see the elusive pretzel bird, but did stop at the visitor center to learn more about the region, the volcanos and the history of eruptions.
On both trips up the volcano we stopped at the same restaurant, one with fantastic views (despite the clouds), delicious milkshakes and friendly staff. I highly recommend eating lunch at Quieres? instead of the Poás National Park cafeteria.
Finally, strawberries. The slopes of Poás are famous for their rich volcanic soil, supporting numerous coffee plantations, flower farms, dairy pastures (Costa Rica’s famous white farmer’s cheese is from the region) and strawberry farms! For a foodie post on all the regional delicacies to be had you can read this post, but we can attest to the strawberries; they were juicy and fresh, as luscious as they were red and beautiful, and you have your choice of vendors on the roads leaving Poasito.
Although disappointed in the cloudy view of the crater, our trip to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens later that afternoon turned out more memorable than we could have hoped for. The day was a wonderful 40th birthday celebration for the husband, and the final hoorah on our Costa Rican adventure.