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Costa Rica: Poas Volcano

by Kathy 19. April 2013 16:13

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Poás Volcano—Emerging Splendor


Arrival in Costa Rica

One of the exciting aspects of this trip was sharing the adventure with Ben’s mom Jo Ann and her husband David. Here they are at the airport with Genevieve and Sebastian, after our red-eye flight:

With three different generations traveling together, things flowed remarkably well. Costa Rica provided a glorious adventure for all of us—smooth and easy.

The only hiccup occurred at the beginning, when the car rental company tried to pull a fast one on us. In the end, everything was resolved with calm negotiations and repeated reference to the text of our printed reservation and confirming emails. Two and a half (very long) hours later, we finally drove away in an older-model vehicle that had a few quirks but otherwise served us well. The long delay meant that we missed our planned butterfly garden tour, but we were all so grateful to finally reach our oasis of a hotel.

We had reserved rooms at a modestly priced local hotel, La Rosa de America, located about 20 minutes from the airport. Here is the outside of our room with the kids:

The expansive grounds were beautifully maintained, with a wide variety of plants and flowers:

And there was even a large pool that the children enjoyed despite the nip in the air:

For lunch, we walked a few blocks to a local restaurant called Delicias de mi Tierra, which served us one of the best meals that we had on this trip. We ordered “tacos” and received a heaping plate of tender meat, accompanied by one small tortilla, fresh salsa, beans, and (my favorite) fried plantains. Yum.

Here are David and the kids on our walk from the hotel to the restaurant:

Delicias de mi Tierra:

Ben and the kids:

Back at the hotel, we celebrated our arrival:

Poás Volcano

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready for our first adventure. We set off for the nearby Poás volcano, which has one of the world’s largest active craters, about a mile wide. A narrow, winding road leads almost to the top, where you can park and walk another .3 miles to a viewing terrace on the edge of the caldera.

We had read that clouds form over the crater mid-morning, so the best chance for a clear view is an early arrival. From our hotel this morning, we could see that the volcano top was already shrouded in clouds, but we remained optimistic!

The roads in Costa Rica are generally 2 lanes, even much of the freeway system.  However, they are paved and generally in very good condition.

The twisty roads were a favorite for bicyclists, all decked out in spandex:

The drive to the volcano took over an hour, but we enjoyed looking at the houses, small towns, and farm land.

Most of the homes that we passed were modest in size and neatly maintained:

Occasional signs let us know that we were heading the right way:

A pretty church:

In the upper elevations, we came across some crops covered in black plastic:

Along with crops, there were grazing cattle:

As we approached the volcano entrance, the clouds became more dense.

The hope of a clear view took a nose dive. But we were still happy to be here!

The volcano is part of a national park, with an entrance fee ($10 per adult, free for children 12 and under, and a vehicle fee of $3). We waited in a long line of cars to pay.

The man at the gate advised us that the crater was covered in clouds and asked if we wanted to enter the park anyway. Of course we did! We were here for the experience—clouds or no clouds!

We continued our curvy drive to the top parking lot, and then made a beeline for the crater. The wide, paved trail passed by the visitor’s center:

Sebastian and Jo Ann shared a nice chat:

Genevieve led the way. Here she is next to a rhubard-related plant with humongous leaves, commonly known as the “poor man’s umbrella.”

The viewing area had a brisk wind and an elevation of 8444 feet—no wonder we felt short of breath!

And looking over the edge into the caldera, we saw . . . nothing:

At the top!

We lingered on the viewing platform for at least half an hour, hoping that the sun would break fully through the clouds:

Occasionally, the wind would reveal some of the barren landscape on the sides of the caldera.

But the center lake remained shrouded.

We finally pulled ourselves away and ventured off to hike the Botos Trail, an approximately 1 mile loop that started near the main caldera viewing platform and climbed past another lake-filled crater called Laguna Botos.

Here is a map of the general caldera area, showing the Botos Trail loop:

The path was paved and twisted through dense vegetation that was dripping with moisture.


With her grandma, Jo Ann:

When we reached the viewing platform for Laguna Botos, the clouds once again obscured the lake--another view of "nothing." However, there was a large photo to show us what we would have seen on a clear day:

Continuing on the path:

On the sides of the trail were many fallen leaves; one our favorites was a rigid leaf with many channels in the surface:

The larger tree trunks were often wrapped in vines or roots of other plants:

A bold jungle flower:

Moss flourished in the damp, sun-deprived environment:

Although the trees may grow tall, their root system is very shallow. Sebastian checked out the roots of a fallen tree next to the trail:

The end of Botos Trail left us next to the visitor’s center:

Inside were a number of exhibits about animal life within the park, the various climatic regions in Costa Rica, and a small-scale model of Poás Volcano, showing the main caldera with its small aqua-colored lake and the larger dark-blue Botos Laguna:

As we headed back to the parking lot, large patches of blue sky started appearing overhead. Ben was checking out the sky and looking over toward the main caldera area (about 1/3 mile away). Just as we were climbing into the car, he announced, “I think that the clouds are clearing. I’m going to run back and see!” I looked at my watch and hesitated. We had a pineapple tour scheduled for early afternoon, and we still had to drive over the mountains and find a lunch spot. Ben said, “I’m going!” And off he went. Genevieve was already running ahead of him. And then David took off after them. Hey, uh, wait for me!

Huffing and puffing, we arrived at the caldera. Were the clouds clearing? Yes! We could barely see the edge of the crater lake, but there it was below:

As we stood there with our eyes glued to the crater, it was suddenly revealed in most of its glory:

Steam was constantly billowing out of the lake, so we never got a completely clear view. Although the photos we had seen of the crater always showed a brilliant turquoise lake, today we were treated to a lake that was milky white, reflecting the cloudy sky.

We were ecstatic! And so were the people around us (lest you think we were enjoying a serene moment all to ourselves!):

In less than 10 minutes, the caldera was once again filled with thick white clouds, and the lake was hidden from view.

Ben and David, running back to the car (we're late!):

With high fives and big smiles all around (“We saw it! We saw it!”), we piled into the car and started the long drive to the pineapple farm.

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin