Land Area: 6,506 ha
Hours: 8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Poas National Park
Like the other volcanoes in the Central Volcanic Cordillera, the silhouette of Poas Volcano as seen from the Central Valley gives no hint of the power and pent-up fury below the surface. But once at the summit and standing on the crater's rim, it becomes easier to understand the forces that have shaped this region of the planet.
With a diameter of 1.5 km, the active crater is reportedly the widest of any volcano in the world. If it is clear enough to see to the bottom of the 300-meter deep crater, you will surely observe some type of activity, ranging from fumaroles to bubbling emissions on the surface of the small rain-filled lake to actual geyser-type eruptions, but it is constantly changing. During the early 1990s, there was enough geyser activity to cause the lake to lose its water by the end of the dry season (April/May); this resulted in increased gaseous emanations that forced the park to close on a few occasions.
Looking to the left of the crater, you can see the deleterious effects of the volcanic gases that cause a localized form of acid rain. For several kilometers downwind from the crater, the vegetation is brown and dying. On exceptionally clear days, you can see the top of Arenal Volcano (60 km. distant) by looking in this direction. If you keep your eye on it long enough, you may be able to see the cloud of ash that accompanies an eruption.
A few meters back down the trail from the active crater overlook, a 1.5 km. trail leads off to Lake Botos, a densely forested dormant crater filled with rain water. A portion of this trail goes through an eerie-looking section of stunted forest. The trunks and branches of the small trees here are gnarled and twisted from the harsh climatic conditions in exposed areas at high elevations. At the Lake Botos overlook, you'll be near the highest point in the park, which is 2,704 meters.
At this elevation, wildlife is not particularly abundant, but there is usually a fair amount of bird activity. Some of the more common species are the Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Mountain Eleania, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and Black-and-yellow Silky-Flycatcher.
Given its high visitation, the National Park Service has chosen Poas as a model park. One of the benefits of this is the Visitors' Center, which presents a thorough explanation of volcanism and the natural history of Poás using a variety of entertaining and informative displays.