volcanoes allow you to drive all the way to the rim.
Poás does--well, at least to within 300 meters,
where a short stroll puts you at the very edge of one
of the world's largest active craters (1.5 km wide).
The viewing terrace gives a bird's-eye view not only
320 meters down into the hellish bowels of the volcano,
with its greenish sulfuric pool, but also magnificently
down over the northern lowlands.
Poás (2,708 meters) is a restless giant with a 40-year
active cycle. It erupted moderately in the early 1950s
and was briefly active in 1989, when the access road
was closed, and again in May 1994, when the park was
temporarily closed. In July and August 1994, it rumbled
dramatically. The park is frequently closed to visitors
because of pungent and irritating sulfur gas emissions--many
plants bear the scars of acid attacks.
the millennia it has vented its anger through three
craters. Two now slumber under a blanket of vegetation;
one even cradles a lake. But the main crater bubbles
persistently with active fumaroles and a simmering
lake. The sulfuric pool frequently changes hues and
emits a geyser up to 200 meters into the steam-laden
air. The water level of the lake has gone down about
15 meters during the past decade, one of several indications
of a possible impending eruption. In the 1950s a small
eruption pushed up a new cone on the crater floor;
the cone is now 200 feet high and still puffing.
as not it is foggy up here and mist floats like an
apparition through the dwarf cloud forest draped with
bromeliads and mosses. Clouds usually form midmorning.
Plan an early-morning arrival to enhance your chances
of a cloud-free visit. Temperatures vary widely. On
a sunny day it can be 21° C (70° F). On a
cloudy day, it is normally bitterly cold and windy
at the crater rim. Dress accordingly.
Poás is popular on weekends with local Ticos who arrive
by the busload with their blaring radios. Visit midweek
if possible. Hours: daily 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The gates
close promptly at 3:30 p.m.
The Botos Trail just before the viewing platform leads
to an extinct crater filled with a cold-water lake--Botos.
This and the Escalonia Trail, which begins at the
picnic area, provide for pleasant hikes. The park
protects the headwaters of several important rivers,
and the dense forests are home to emerald toucanets,
coyotes, resplendent quetzals, sooty robins, hummingbirds,
frogs, and the Poás squirrel, which is endemic
to the volcano.
Poás National Park, tel. 442-7041, fax 441-0308,
is the most developed within the Costa Rican park
system. It offers ample parking, toilets, and an exhibit
hall and auditorium, where audiovisual presentations
are given on Sunday. Upstairs is the Heliconia Nature
Store run by the Fundación Neotrópica,
plus the pleasant Café Botos, serving coffees,
cappuccinos, and snacks such as muffins, sandwiches,
and pizzas. There's wheelchair access to the exhibits
park has no accommodations, and camping is not permitted.
Hours: 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Entrance: $6 ($3 students).
Most tour operators in San José offer day trips
to Poás (average $35 half day, $55 full day).
Many arrive fairly late in the morning, which reduces
the chances of seeing anything before the clouds set
in. Try to get a tour that arrives no later than 10