How to Plan a Visit to Poas Volcano

poas volcano
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Hi! We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica.

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Poas Volcano is located in Alajuela, Costa Rica. It is an impressive stratovolcano that has erupted over 40 times since the mid-1880’s. The most recent eruptions were in 2019. 

Yes, it is very active.

Despite the fact that it is an active volcano, tourists are still able to visit, just with stricter protocols than in the past.

We created this guide to Poas Volcano National Park to provide you with all the details for a fun-filled day trip to the crater.

Poas Volcano History and Facts

poas volcano

The volcano is 8,848 feet high and has two crater lakes. 

As I mentioned above, the volcano has erupted over 40 times since the mid-1880s. The most recent notable time was in April 2017. 

On April 9th of that year, the park rangers began monitoring the crater due to toxic gasses that began increasing. 

On April 12th the national park was closed as a precaution and nearby residents were evacuated. 

On April 14th two eruptions occurred which created an ash and vapor column that spread almost two miles. 

More explosions occurred on April 16th.

The national park remained closed until the fall of 2018. When the park reopened it was only possible to visit the main crater in 20-minute intervals. All side trails remained closed. 

In 2019 there were two periods of volcanic activity. One in February and one in September. The park closed temporarily for both eruptions but quickly reopened. 

As of September 2022, it is not possible to visit the park with more freedom. You can once again explore the side trails and spend as much time as you want at the crater.

How To Buy Tickets

The ticket purchasing process is a bit complicated. It is now no longer possible to purchase tickets at the volcano property. Instead, you need to purchase your tickets ahead of time online.

So, let’s go into more detail about that.

– You will need to purchase tickets online through the official national park website here

– When you purchase your ticket you will need to select an arrival time. They allow 88 people in at a time, which seems like a lot, but during the dry season it definitely can book out fast.

I just went through the process so I could check it out for you all, and it timed out twice while I was doing it. I’ve also heard that it is not unusual for the system to go offline often. Ugh!

Anyway, I’m just complaining at a high level. But, my point is to try booking early so you can deal with any issues that you might come across. 

Here is how you buy a ticket….

Click here to go to the ticket booking website. You will then to click “Create an account” on the left side.
You will then get an email with a temporary password and a link to log in. When you log in with the temporary password you will be asked to create a password. Once you create a password you will be asked to log in again using your new password.
You will be directed to this page. On the left side, choose “Buy” on the drop down menu and select “Online Reservations”
You will need to select “Parque Nacional Volcan Poas” as your destination. There aren’t any separate sectors, so that stays blank. And then select your entry date/ time.
I then clicked “Continue” and kept getting this message. Even though I hit “Accept” it kept popping up and I started to get frustrated. Eventually, it worked and I was able to scroll down to select my entry time.
You are most likely entering as a non-resident adult for $15. Children over the age of two cost $5. There is tax added to this after. You will then be directed to complete your billing info. When your booking is confirmed you will receive a confirmation email.

Another option is to book your tickets through Viator. You will pay about $3 more per ticket, but it seems to be a bit more straightforward.

Things to Keep in Mind

– The negative of having to purchase your ticket online is that you need to select an arrival time. This can be difficult because you never know if the volcanic crater will be visible at that time.

– You can book somewhat last minute if you want to see how the weather is that day, but it is hard to say if it will be all booked out.

– The cell service can be spotty at the volcano. Once you buy tickets it is best to take a screenshot or download them so you won’t have to stress about finding service up there.

Visit Poas As a Day Tour

If you will not have a rental car and would like to visit Poas with transportation included, we suggest a combo day tour. 

This is a great way to see a few things within one day without the stress of planning it all yourself. 

A couple combo day trips we suggest are:

Poas Volcano National Park Half-Day Tour – This tour only goes to Poas Volcano. It is a half-day trip with transportation from Alajuela or San Jose area hotels. The tour includes breakfast and an experienced guide who will tell you all about the volcano.

Doka Coffee Tour, Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall – We love this tour because it combines all the highlights of the area in one fun-filled day. Tour a coffee farm, visit the volcano up close, and visit the La Paz waterfall! This tour includes transportation from your hotel in the San Jose area. With breakfast and lunch included I think it is a really decent value tour.

Important Info About Visiting

poas volcano crater

Opening Hours

The national park is open from 8:00 am to 4 pm every day, including holidays. However, the last tickets are sold for the 2pm entry slot. 

Directions

Poas Volcano is located near the town of Alajuela, Costa Rica. This is a great place to visit if you have a day after you land in Costa Rica or before you leave the country. 

It is an easy drive from the San Jose Airport. 

The road to Poas Volcano National Park is well-maintained and easy to navigate. However, it is very curvy in spots. I get car sick and this drive kills me every time. 

If you are prone to car sickness, just be prepared with some motion sickness pills

To get to Poas you can just enter “Poas Volcano” in Waze or your GPS unit and you will likely have no problems getting there from Alajuela. 

If using Google maps, type in “Parque Nacional Volcán Poás”. For some reason, if you type in Poas Volcano it says that directions here are not possible. 

There are plenty of signs along the road on your way to the volcano, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it. 

Note: we always suggest renting a car for your trip to Costa Rica so that you can easily get around and explore. We suggest a local company called Adobe for all your rental car needs. Book your Adobe rental through us and save 10% plus other great perks!

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Parking

You need to pay $2 per car to enter the parking lot area. This fee is not included in your ticket. 

There is a large parking lot after you pass through the entry gate. 

Just keep in mind that you are required to park with your car facing out. This is for safety reasons. 

If the volcano erupts you need to be able to drive away quickly.

Facilities

cafe poas

There is a visitor’s center with bathrooms, a souvenir shop, and a small cafe. There is no potable water here, but you can always buy a beverage at the cafe if you need it. 

To Eat

You are no longer allowed to bring in your own food, so if you would like something to eat you will need to buy it at the cafe.

Also, I didn’t notice last time we were there, but I read on the national park website that they have gotten rid of all trash bins (except at the cafe). You will need to carry out whatever you bring in.

Another option is to bring a picnic and leave it in the car for after (or before). Along the road up to Poas, you will pass plenty of spots to pull off with nice views of the Central Valley. It is normal to see people pulled off enjoying a nice picnic next to their car.

What to Wear

It can get chilly chilly up there! 

I suggest wearing long pants, sneakers, and layers on top. I usually wear a short sleeve shirt with a sweatshirt and rain jacket. 

What to Bring

There is not much you need for the volcano besides yourself and a camera. However, you need to remember you will be at a very high altitude and the progression happens very fast. 

The last time I was here with my sister she got a really bad migraine from the altitude. So, be prepared the height change might affect you as well. 

I always bring a bottle of Gatorade with me. It seems to help a lot when I’m just feeling weird from the altitude. 

There are tons of mini-markets that you will pass on your way up to Poas. You can stop at any of them and grab a bottle.

Keep in mind that you are not allowed to bring outside foods or drinks into the park (except water). It doesn’t seem that they are actually checking bags, but it is probably best to leave anything in the car.

Where to Stay

There are some very nice accommodation options here if you would like to spend the night in this area. A few of our favorites are…

Best Time of Year to Visit

poas crater

The best time of year to visit is during the dry season (late December through late April). You are most likely to have great visibility and very few clouds.

We once visited in August and this was the view haha. ↑

Best Time of Day to Visit

Usually, the best time to visit is in the morning before the clouds have had a chance to roll in. 

If you are visiting during the rainy season, definitely visit early in the morning. 

Travel Tip – Check out the live crater camera to see the current visibility!

What It is Like to Visit the Volcano

As of September 2022, the national park has eased restrictions. You still need to enter during your slotted time, but you are free to walk around as you please upon entry.

We suggest first checking out the main crater and then taking a walk along the nature path to Laguna Botas.

The Main Crater

poas volcano crater

The northern lake is called Laguna Caliente (hot lagoon). This is the active crater. This is one of the most acidic lakes in the world and it is known to produce strong acid rain.

It is not unusual to see steam coming off of it when you visit.

The walk is on a wide paved pathway. It will take you about 10 minutes to get here. There are nice view points that make it easy for you to get a close-up view of the crater.

Laguna Botas

laguna botas

The southern lake is called Lugana Botos. This is an inactive crater, which last erupted in 7500 BC.

To get here you will need to walk about 20 minutes on a woodsy, unpaved trail.

The trail here is mostly flat, but due to the altitude, you might find that you get out of breath faster than usual. So, take it slow.

What to Do After the Volcano

There are so many great things to do near Poas Volcano! Here are a few of our favorite activities in the area. 

Tour a Coffee Farm

hacienda alsakia coffee tour

You will pass several coffee farms on your way up to Poas. I suggest going to Doka Estates or Hacienda Alsacia

Hacienda Alsacia is the only coffee farm run by Starbucks in the world that you can actually visit. 

We personally like Doka because we like supporting our small local businesses, but if you do the tour at Doka it is still worth visiting Hacienda Alsacia. They are only a few minutes’ drive away from each other.

You can always go to Hacienda Alsacia just for a drink at their open-air Starbucks with a waterfall view. 

Eat Lunch at a Trucha

trucha

Visiting a trucha is one of our favorite non-touristy things to do in Costa Rica. 

The concept is that you go to a property with a restaurant and a small man-made lake on it. You are then given a line and some bait to try and catch a fish (trout) in the lake. 

Once you catch your fish you can go into the restaurant and they will deep fry your fish for you along with some side dishes (usually rice, beans, plantains, and salad). 

It typically costs about $12 for your meal and that includes your fishing experience. 

The one we usually go to is called Restaurante Las Lluvias. They don’t have a website, but here is a Google map link for you! 

Visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens

la paz waterfall

This is the perfect outdoor activity for the whole family.

Here you can walk to an impressive waterfall, see rescued animals, and learn about Costa Rican culture.

Just note that the animals are kept in somewhat small cages. They claim that these animals are rescued and otherwise would have been killed, but if you are sensitive about this type of thing I suggest skipping this place. 

You can prebook your La Paz tickets here.

We have a complete La Paz guide for more info. 

Also, if you want a free experience, you can just park on the side of the road near La Paz and visit this waterfall. You can even walk behind it if you want. Be careful though, during rainy season it can be really wet and muddy. 

Go to Corso Dairy Farm 

This dairy farm offers daily tours at 9:00am, 11:00am, and 1:30pm .

This tour lasts two hours and includes a delicious lunch, a chance to milk the cows, a fun ride through the farm, and information on their cheese and milk production process. 

We hope this helped you to plan the perfect day to Poas Volcano National Park and the surrounding area. 

Let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out! 

Also, if you visit Poas, let us know how it went! We would love to pass on your tips to other travelers.

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About Us

We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica. It was a spontaneous decision to move here, but it was the best decision!

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2 Responses

  1. Hello. We are arriving (by shuttle) July 6 at El Churrasco in Poasito in order to be near Poas to visit first thing on July 7. However according to the hotel it is very difficult to get transportation from the hotel to the volcano. They said there are 2 taxis or we could try to get an Uber (which I have never done). Do you know if it is difficult to get to the volcano? Do you have suggestions for us? Any recommendations appreciated!

    1. Hi Beth. The place you are staying is so close to the volcano. I wouldn’t think you would have much trouble. I would go by taxi. You can try Uber, but that is a somewhat remote location and there might not be too many Ubers around. If the hotel knows of two taxis you should see if they can call one of them and arrange a pickup for you. I would suggest not having them wait (taxis are not the cheapest here) but get a phone number to call one of them to pick you back up when you are done. Sorry I can’t be more helpful! Let us know if you think of any other questions though. 🙂

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