Costa Rica is covered in volcanoes, so naturally one of the things we couldn’t miss on our trip to Costa Rica was a visit to at least one of these volcanoes. We narrowed it down to the most popular Arenal Volcano, the most active Poás Volcano, and the tallest Irazu Volcano. Ultimately we chose the Poás Volcano because it was the very volcano my dad came to when he lived in Costa Rica for two years back in 1960.
► Ranking: #cleandiaper
Alajuela Province, Alajuela
Hours: 8:00am – 3:30pm
Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle
From the Poás Volcano it is said that you can see both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. The chances of seeing both, though slim, are more likely to happen the earlier you arrive as the fog rolls in as the day presses on. We got an early start, as early as we could with three children who needed food, and bathroom breaks, and treats, and water, and more food. We arrived about 10am, which was incredible timing for our family, and we were already too late – if there was ever a chance.
The fog was covering the view, but not all was lost. We could view the side by side craters, one of which being Laguna Caliente, one of the world’s most acidic lakes. The sulphuric emissions and active fumaroles from both, were eye-catching and very cool to watch for both us and our kids and indicated this volcano was alive! In fact, nearly one year exactly from our visit, the Poás Volcano had its biggest eruption since 1953, evacuating the area and the sending ash 3,200 feet into sky visible from airplanes flying directly overhead. The floor of the visitor center was crushed by falling rocks.
— Scott Rovak (@scottrovak) April 14, 2017
Due to the acidic and active nature of this area we could only witness the craters from the viewing area. This location was cold, foggy and naturally smelly. After milling about checking out the craters and watching the emissions, hoping the fog would dissipate, we finally conceded that it wouldn’t and made our way up the trail to the southern crater, Lake Botos.
To reach this crater, you walk along a trail that includes quite a few stairs through a dense forest higher in elevation. Our children loved veering off the path into the forest and climbing through the branches and trees. This is the second crater on the volcano, directly opposite to Laguna Caliente. It’s not acidic, but cold and clear and nearly hidden within the surrounding forest. This area didn’t feel like we were at the summit of a volcano.
There were birds and chipmunks playing in the trees, and it was warm and bright at this location, a direct contrast from just a few steps away. It was gorgeous and the inactive crater has blossomed and given birth to a plentiful forest with beautiful flowers and trees.
We headed back down the trail to Laguna Caliente, stopping once more before heading out to see if the fog had cleared. In fact, it was the exact opposite. The fog was now so dense, you couldn’t see the craters at all. The fog mixed with the sulphur was thick, salty, and formed a giant wall blocking the view. It was incredible to see the difference a mere half hour could make.
Before leaving we stopped at the Visitor Center to peek around at the gift shop and have some food. It is terrible, there is nothing noteworthy here. Still starving from the terrible food at the visitors center, we stopped for some strawberries on the drive back to town from a street side vendor. They were the juiciest, sweetest, most decadent strawberries I have ever tasted, no doubt due to the fertile volcanic soil.
► For Kids: This is a great experience to visit an active volcano, while staying relatively safe. You can discuss all the scientificky stuff and point out the different items on display in nature. Another thing we learned about were umbrella leaves. The leaves of this particular plant are used by natives as actual umbrellas. They are huge! Kids will love running, playing, hiking and of course, smelling the wonders of nature.
When we lived in Oregon, Mt. Saint Helens was threatening to erupt again. We spent a few days in her shadow in Washington but nothing ever happened. Have you ever visited an active volcano? Poas, or maybe one of the other hundreds of volcanoes in Costa Rica? What was your experience?
► Nap-Time Version: One of the three most popular volcanoes in Costa Rica with bi-polar craters.