The Poás volcano national park is one of the natural attractions in Costa Rica you can’t miss. This active volcano has one of the largest craters in the world with a bright blue-green lagoon at the bottom. From the crater rim of Poas volcano you’ll have a beautiful view on this natural wonder. However, due to to safety reasons and boiling sulphurous gases that are being released from the acid crater lake, it is not allowed to stay longer than 20 minutes at the crater rim. Your time is monitored as you have to book your ticket in advance and you’re divided in several groups. But nevertheless, it is totally worth a visit. Read in this complete guide everything you need to know before visiting Poas volcano national park.
About Poas volcano
Póas Volcano National Park was established in 1955 and boasts an approximate land area of 1200 hectares. The Poas volcano is at 2697 meters above sea level (8,848 ft) and is a so called stratovolcano with several eroded calderas, cones, and two crater lakes at or near its summit.
Fun fact is that the crater of Poas volcano is the second largest open volcanic crater in the world with 1.5 kilometers in diameter (0.9 miles) and is 300 meters deep (900 feet). At the bottom of this crater is a blue-green lagoon called Laguna Caliente, which you can see from the crater rim. The bright blue green colors of the lake are a beautiful contrast against the grey, orange rocks. The water in this lagoon has a pH level close to zero making the liquid acidic and toxic. Sometimes boiling sulphurous gases are being released from the lake which is also directly the reason why it’s not allowed to stay longer than 20 minutes at the crater rim.
Previously Laguna Caliente even blew the acid liquid hundreds of meters high up in the air like a geyser, producing acid rain and fog. This resulted in completely wiped out vegetation near the summit of Poas.
There is actually even another crater lake but unfortunately the trail to this part of the national park is closed since 2017 until further notice. The given reason is to protect visitors against the danger of exposure to noxious fumes and gases.
Opening time and entrance fee Poas volcano national park
Poás volcano national park is everyday open (including holidays) from 7 AM until 2 PM (last entrance is at 1.20 PM. You have to pre book your tickets in advance via the SINAC website where you can choose from different time slots. Take into account that you can only stay at the crater rim for 20 minutes.
The entrance fee to Poas volcano is $15 for for adults (13+ years) that are foreigners. For Costa Rican residents the entrance fee to Poas volcano is 1000 colones.
There is also a separate parking fee at Poas national par which is 2000 colones and must be paid cash upon arrival.
How to buy Poas volcano tickets – Entrance fee Poas volcano
Before you depart to visit Poas volcano it is important to know that you have to purchase your tickets in advance online. You can’t purchase tickets at the visitor centre anymore! You have to book and pay your Poas entrance ticket online in advance at the official website of Sinac. You can only pay the entrance fee to Poas volcano of $15 with credit card. To be sure you’ll have a spot, best is to make your Poas reservation (at least) one day in advance. Take into account that the time slots to be at the crater rim of Poas volcano are only 20 minutes.
Instructions on how to book your Poas volcano tickets
To book your tickets at the SINAC government website, you must first create an account on the website. When you are logged in, click ‘buy’ and select ‘online reservation’. Then you can select the National Park in Costa Rica you want to visit. In this case select ‘Parque Nacional Volcán Poas – Sector Crater’. Then you can choose the date and time you want to visit Poas volcano. The time slots are available per 20 minutes from 7 AM to 1.20 PM which is the last entry time slot. Select the amount of adults / children and then click continue.
You will then be taken to the payment page where you can enter your credit card details. Make sure to have your credit card ready because you have 10 minutes to complete the transaction. If you take longer to do the payment, you will have to do the whole booking again. Once you’ve completed the payment, a bookings confirmation will be emailed to you. Make sure to bring this to show the park ranger at the entrance. They will check the verification number from the reservation to check your booking in the system.
How to get to Poas volcano national park
The road to the entrance of Poas volcano national park is mostly highway and well signed. From San José you have to take the Pan American Highway west to Alajuela. Follow this road until it becomes route 130 to Itiquis and Fraijanes where you will already see the signs for Poas National Park. From San Jose it it a little more than an hour drive. The Poas or Bajos del Toro area makes a great stop on your way to La Fortuna from the Central Valley. You can also perfectly combine a visit to Poas volcano together with a visit to the La Paz waterfall gardens which are only 30 minutes away.
The best way to get around in Costa Rica in general if with a rental as public transportation is not always going on time or directly to the entrance of attractions.
The La Paz waterfall gardens are a great option to combine with a visit to Poas volcano
Best time to visit Poas volcano
The best time of the day to visit Poas volcano is in the early morning because clouds usually roll in later in the morning. The best months to visit Poas volcano are January thru May as these are the dry months. Rainy season in this area begins in May until November, December.
As always, the weather can change quickly and you are at a high elevation on Poas volcano. So bring an extra jacket for when the clouds roll in and temperatures drop.
What to expect when visiting Poas volcano
Visitingone of the active volcanoes in Costa Rica is must do. And luckily, volcano Poas and Irazu are the two easiest volcano National Parks in Costa Rica giving access to their active crater rim.
The volcanic activity of Poas is well monitored, as well the sulphurous gases coming from the acid crater lake. There are always park rangers around that keep an eye on the visitors. Because of safety reasons everyone has to wear a helmet and the time you can spend at the crater rim is limited to 20 minutes.
The trail to Poas volcano crater rim
The only trail that is consistently open in Poas National Park is the short 500-meter (0.3 mile) paved walking path. After not more than 10 minutes walking from the parking lot you will get to a large observation deck that overlooks the rim of the crater and Laguna Caliente, the blue green lake inside the crater. There are several viewpoints but it’s unfortunately not possible to walk around the crater rim. You can only observe Poas crater from one side.
It is mandatory to keep your helmet on the entire time you are at the crater rim of Poas. Possibly you will notice the distinct smell of sulfur, but don’t worry, gas levels are being monitored on a daily basis. There are also some shelters near the crater rim that come in handy with sudden rainfall. There are always park rangers around that will keep an eye out for the safety of the visitors. But they are also the ones saying you have to leave after 20 minutes. Which was disappointingly fast in our experience. So make the best of your visit and start making pictures as soon as you can!
What to prepare when visiting Poas volcano
I hope to have given you already the most important information need to visit Poas volcano. However, here a short summary and some additional information on clothing to be well prepared for a visit to Poas volcano.
Wear comfortable shoes, sneakers or hiking shoes would be the best. We personally wouldn’t recommend flip-flops.
Bring sunscreen or a hat on sunny days.
The weather can change quickly and clouds can roll in fast at this height. To be sure you can bring an extra jacket to be well prepared for sudden rain or cooler temperatures.
Keep in mind that it is not guaranteed that you will have clear views. If there’s a lot of fog, you might get disappointed with a blocked view. And unfortunately, there is then not more than 20 minutes for you to wait for the clouds to disappear.
Given the volcanic activity, make sure to respect the rules and pay attention to the regulations and instructions given by the park guards. This includes wearing a helmet and leaving the crater rim after 20 minutes.
Where to stay near Poas volcano and other things to do
If you want to stay close to Poas volcano then we can highly recommend staying at Poas volcano lodge. This beautiful hotel is only a 25 minutes drive to the entrance of Poas national park and offers beautiful spacious rooms including breakfast.
Other things to do in the near surroundings are the La Paz waterfall gardens which are absolutely worth a visit. If you continue your journey further up north, then have a stop in Bajos del Toro to visit the impressive Catarata del Toro and the other beautiful waterfalls in the area.
More Costa Rica travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about Poas volcano National Park in Costa Rica.
For more travel inspiration about Costa Rica, have a look at our other Costa Rica travel guides.