... Volcan Poas National Park ...
by Infocostarica Staff
Botos Lagoon is a filled-up crater in the Parque Nacional Volcan Poas. Its deep blue waters contrast with the dense tropical forest that surround it, making it the perfect spot for the stereotypical Indian sacrifice- throwing a young maiden into the mouth of a crater or a lagoon. Volcan Poas is one of the most visited volcanoes in Costa Rica, because of its proximity to San Jose and because of the luxuriant forest that surrounds the two craters. The park measures 5600 hectares, and this basaltic volcano stands at an altitude of 2708 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level.
One of the craters measures 1.5 kilometers in diameter (0.9 miles) and is 300 meters deep (900 feet). At the bottom of this prehistoric-looking hole, there is a medium sized lagoon, that spews boiling sulphurous gases. The other crater is the one mentioned above, called Botos Lagoon, which unlike the other lake, contains cold water that connects to the Rio Angel, and later to the large Rio Sarapiqui. The volcano has had a long history of eruptions, going back as much as 11 million years ! On January 25, 1910, the volcano spewed out 640,000 tons of ash, and in the period of 1952-1954, it bombarded nearby areas with ash and rocks. Since then, the Poas has maintained a low profile, but as recently as 1989, the park was closed because of dangerous sulphurous gas emissions. Its geyser-like eruptions of muddy water and steam, have given it the reputation as the world’s largest geyser.
Apart from its volcanic activity, this national park offers four different habitats; this, in a relatively small area, is evidence of Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity. The four habitats are the following: areas with scarce vegetation, a stunted forest, a cloud forest, and an area of arrayans. There are 79 species of birds in this park, including the robin, the hummingbird and the spectacular quetzal. Among the mammals found here, are the coyotes, long-tailed weasels, skunks and some small felines. If you see a green-yellow squirrel, take a good look at it, because it’s the Poas green-yellow squirrel, and as its name suggests, it’s only found in this park, and nowhere else in the whole world! One of the most interesting ecosystems present at the park, is the dwarf or stunted forest, where the tough ferns and bonsai-type trees aren’t allowed to grow much because of the acid rain that’s emanated from the volcano.
There are well-kept but short trails around the craters and into the forest. The “Crater overlook trail” is 750 meters long, and it’s a paved road that winds around and right to the crater. The side trail, which takes 20 or 30 minutes to cover, leads to the interesting Botos Lake, mentioned above. The “Escalonia Trail” (named after a tree of the same name), also takes about thirty minutes to walk, and it takes you through the forest. It’s important to keep in mind that the weather here is extremely humid, and that even if it doesn’t rain, you’ll need good shoes for muddy paths, as well as a raincoat and sweater.
There are numerous ways to reach this national park. Getting there by public bus can be both complicated and lengthy, since the bus from San Jose stops in San Pedro de Poas, which is still far (28 kms) from the volcano. Most tourists rent a car or pay a cab from San Jose, which isn’t that bad if split into four or five people. Before embarking on this trip, though, make sure that you pack a lunch, water and a hot thermos or coffee or chocolate, since there’s nowhere to eat inside the park. It’s a good idea to reach the volcano before 10 a.m., since the clouds come in and cover the natural show- the main crater.
If you don’t want to arrive too late for the show, then you might consider accommodations near the volcano. There are three mountain lodges which don’t offer very “rustic” prices: Juanbo Mountain Resort (482-20-99), Poas Volcano Lodge (441-91-02), and La Providencia Ecological Reserve (232-24-98). These are all quaint lodgings, set on working dairy farms and with views of pretty, rolling hills. The most economical choice is the Lo que tu quieras (whatever you want) cabins, which offer three small cabinas with hot water and a restaurant (482-20-92).
The Volcan Poas National Park is one of the most visited protected areas in the country. The ride there is scenic and pleasant, and since it’s only 47 kilometers away from San Jose, many local and foreign visitors flock to the park, especially on weekends. The La Paz waterfall, which is only twenty minutes away from the park, is the most photographed waterfall in all of Costa Rica. Visitors to the park won’t want to miss out on it.