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A walk in the cloud Forest to stand beside a volcano
Poas Volcano National Park (Costa Rica)
Member Name: catsholiday
Poas Volcano National Park (Costa Rica)
Date: 29/06/10, updated on 27/10/11 (64 review reads)
Advantages: Lovely walk, interesting vegetation, fantastically close to an active volcano
Disadvantages: Often rains, animals are too good at camouflage and hiding
These two places of interest are located in the Poās National Park which is a high rain forest area or cloud forest so the chance of rain is extremely high and if it is not actually raining then low damp clouds are most likely. However, we were so very lucky as on the day of our visit we had a bright sunny day and the views were clear. Apparently the chance of seeing the volcano clearly is only 30% so we were so thrilled to have a clear picture of the entire volcano and the surrounding area too.
This is one of Costa Rica's most visited volcanoes since 1828 it has erupted several times and is thought to be one of the world's largest active craters, it is about a mile wide and 1000 feet deep and there are frequent geyser like eruptions. Near the volcano are a number of molten lava lakes which are thought to be the only ones in the world.
When you arrive at the visitors centre near the car park you can enjoy the use of a cafeteria and clean toilets as well as a gift shop. There is also a video presentation of the volcano and a museum in case the weather is so bad that you are not able to see the real thing. From the visitor centre you can walk up on a tarred pathway which is suitable for wheelchairs and after about 1/3 mile you reach the volcano rim. On the way you can enjoy the wonderful tropical rainforest vegetation which is lush and green and has some amazing flowers so the walk is a pleasant easy walk on a slight incline upwards.
Once at the volcano rim we had a fantastically clear view of the entire area and could clearly see the crater. It was possible to climb on to a viewing platform in order to get an elevated view but to be honest the view from the path level was pretty good.
The volcano is 8,871 feet above sea level and at times the smell of the sulphurous gases can be over powering but on the day we were there the smell was not really noticeable at all. From the volcano rim the path about 20 feet back takes an upwards turn and this is the start of the hike through the Escalonia Cloud Forest. After about 100 yards you come to another volcanic crater which is now the lovely green Botos lake. This is where you have to make the choice as to whether you want to return along the relatively easy pathway to the visitor centre or to walk along the trail and through the cloud forest and back to the car park up quite a steep trail through the forest.
We chose to do the walk and were informed by a notice that the trail was 1800 metres long as we set out from the lake. Going up was quite hard work at that altitude and the trail was a mixture of slopes and steps for about 2/3 of the way. After this was a short passage on a relative flat followed by a long, constant slope or steps down wards. This was very hard on the knees going down for such a long distance and it was steep and quite slippery. They have recently added rope hand rails and sunk concrete grippy bricks in the path so heaven only knows what it was like before these were added as it was tricky enough as it was.
It was quite a challenging walk but the vegetation that we passed through was interesting and as it was so high it was quite cool in the shade so we didn't get hot and bothered despite the effort we had to put in. Others in our group declined to do the walk and some that did do it came back feeling rather more tired and challenged than they thought it would be as we did too. We did enjoy seeing the orchids, epiphytes, ferns and plants with huge leaves called 'Poor Man's Umbrella' so felt that our walk had been worthwhile but we did feel that we should have been warned how slippery and steep the trail was coming down as there some people in the group who were not quite so fit and they did struggle a bit and could have slipped and hurt themselves.
In this area it is possible to see hummingbirds, tanagers, and even Quetzals but we did not see any of these birds although we could hear a few bird noises they were too well hidden. A Poas squirrel can only be found in the park but you might also see coyotes, long-tailed weasels, skunks and wild cats but once again we saw none of these animals which was a bit disappointing but we did enjoy the walk through the interesting vegetation in a lovely clear and bright day.
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Summary: Enjoy the volcano, the vegetation and the often challenging walk but do not expect to see animals
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