Costa Rica - Poas Volcano


What? :

Poas Volcano towers 2,697-metre high into the clouds and is topped by one of the world’s largest volcanic craters.

The volcano is still active today but without any exposed melted lava. In the main stratovolcano caldera, you can see, when there are no codes, the lower crater filled with sulfur lake and bubbling gasses.

At the top of the mountain there are two craters, the main caldera of 1.5 km in diameter and 100 m deep, and the Botos lagoon, cold water lake filled by rain.

The beauty of this park is the fact that you can drive almost all the way up to the caldera rim and with a short easy 15 min walk from the parking lot you are arriving to the view deck overlooking the massive crater.


Allow yourself something around 2 hours to this park visit (not including the driving time), assuming you are doing the full 3.5 km hike else this can be much shorter visit.


Where? :

Located in central Costa Rica relatively close to the capital city San Jose.

There are few rods leading the base of the mountain and from the junction of road 146 with road 120 there is only one road (120) that will lead you to the park entrance.

Google Map Link


When? :

The park open year-round but in the rainy season the chances to get there and see only the clouds covering the mountains is high.

Even in the dry season, December to April, clouds may cover the view well before noon.

The best time to visit this park is always early in the morning.


Due note 1: Hours of Operation: Every day from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. when reserving entrance online you will book your arrival time.


Due note 2: Advance reservations online are absolutely required* and there is no cell coverage at the park entrance.

Online booking:

Once you get the reservation to your mail print or download it (take a picture of it) because there is no cell reception in the park entrance.


Due note 3: In August of 2022 the Laguna Botos trail was reopened.


Due note 4: Before coming check the weather conditions and try to visit here in the morning before clouds start to build up above the high mountain. Often, the volcano is hidden behind a thick layer of clouds and can’t be seen.


Due note 5: Because of the unique view and the park San Jose proximity this is one of the most visited national parks, do not expect to be the only one here, especially during weekends and holidays. We visit here during Christmas weekend and it was crowded but we still enjoy the view.


Due note 6: Once you know your date buy the tickets, they are letting in visitors according to a specific quota.


Due note 7: Dress in layers, this is high mountain, and the top can be quite windy or even cold and rainy. Bring some warm clothes with you. Carry with you raincoat or poncho, as rain may come and it’s often misty with all the clouds.


Due note 8: You no longer need to get a helmet and watch a safety movie or to walk in group.


Due note 9: I’m not covering restaurants (or hotels) recommendation, but you can find many restaurants on your way down from the mountain along the main roads.



My thoughts:

This is not as excited as seeing bubbling lava flows, but it is impressive to see this huge caldera crater where below you in the cone the turquoise sulfuric lake.

The hike to Laguna Botos is nice and highly recommended extension but we did not saw a lot of birds when walking there.

If you are not walking to Laguna Botos this visit can be very short, 1 hour.



The visit:


After driving and climbing high into the mountain you will reach the park entrance, they will check your online reservation and you will need to pay extra fee for parking.


Right after the parking lot you will reach the visitor main park building.

No longer you need to watch a movie or were protecting helmets (as I saw in many YouTube videos).

When we visit here (Dec. 2022) the small museum was close the café and souvenir store where open.


From the building there is a wide and easy paved trail (0.5 km) leading to the volcano crater over-look. It will probably take you 10-15 min of easy walking to reach the viewing platform.


The viewing platform provide amazing view to the volcano crater below you and surrounding mountains to the north.


The Poas volcano is an active one and erupted 40 times since 1828.

Poás is active, but don’t expect to see any lava flow here.

In April of 2017 an eruption of gas, ash and rocks. As an outcome of this eruption poison gas monitors were install and concrete bunkers were added, at the end of August 2018 the park partially re-opened to the public.


The crater is 1,050 feet (320 meters) deep and almost a mile (1.6 km) across, it is the largest active crater in the world. 


When there are no clouds, you will see way below you the sulfuric, bubbling, green lake. Around it you will see steam and volcanic gases rising from fumaroles cracks. Water from the lake is constantly seeping through cracks in the hot rock, evaporating and building pockets of steam.


If there are clouds when you arrive, be patient. The weather around Poas is constantly changing so the crater to be clouded over one minute and visible the next.


From the platform, on a good day, you can clearly see the effects of acid rain. For several miles downwind (to the left) the vegetation is stunted brown and black by the tainted moisture that precipitates from the omnipresent clouds near the peak.


From the viewing platform there is an entrance to a side trail leading to Botos Lagoon.


The narrow trail will take you through cloud forest and after some climbing you will reach to Lake Botos. This extinct volcanic crater that is 400 meters (2,525 feet) wide and 14 meters (46 feet) deep. It’s covered in a pool of cold blue-green water.


After seeing the lake, you can continue your hike on the trail, and after additional climbing you will reach long descend section that will lead you back the parking lots and the visitor center.


Overall, the loop hike to the crater viewing deck and to Botos Lagoon is 3.4 km long and can be done by kids.





*How to buy tickets to a National Park:

Go online to the SINAC government website.


Create an account.

Go to Buy on the left, then select Online Reservation.

Use the dropdowns to select the Park you are looking for.

Choose your date and time of visit. You’ll see that there are different available timeslots.

Select the number of people, adults and children.

On the last page, you will need to fill in everyone’s full names and passport numbers, enter your credit card information to pay.

You’ll then get a confirmation mailed to you.


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