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Fodor's Costa Rica 2014
Poás Volcano Review
Towering north of Alajuela, the verdant Poás Volcano is covered with a quilt of farms and topped by a dark green shawl of cloud forest. That pastoral scene disappears once you get to the summit, and you gaze into the steaming, bubbling crater with smoking fumaroles and a gurgling, gray-turquoise sulfurous lake. You'll swear you're peering over the edge of a giant witches' cauldron. That basin, 2 km (1 mile) in diameter and nearly 305 meters (1,000 feet) deep, is thought to be the largest active volcanic crater in the world.
Poás is one of Costa Rica's five active volcanoes—it has erupted 40 times since the early 1800s—and is one of those rare places that permit you to see volcanic energy this close with minimal risk to your safety. Authorities closely monitor Poás's activity following several eruptions in March 2006, the first significant increase in activity since 1994. The most recent activity took place in October 2012 and involved phreatic eruptions and landslides. Access is normally open, but park officials close the route up here on those occasions of any activity they deem "irregular." A paved road leads all the way from Alajuela to Poás's 2,708-meter (8,885-foot) summit. The 2009 earthquake wrecked the eastern-approach road from Varablanca, so check before you try that route. No one is allowed to venture into the crater or walk along its edge. Take periodic breaks from viewing: Step back at least every 10 minutes, so that the sulfur fumes don't overcome you. Be sure to bring a sweater or a jacket—it can be surprisingly chilly and wet up here.
- Address: From Alajuela, drive north through town and follow signs, Volcán Poás National Park
- Phone: 2482–2424; 192 national parks hotline in Costa Rica
- Cost: $10
- Hours: Daily 8:30–3:30
- Location: Poás Volcán National Park
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