Poas Volcano National Park is one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica as the volcano crater geyser is one of the biggest in the world. Sitting over 2000 meters in elevation, visitors get a chance to experience a volcano in the cloud forest. Poas Volcano is an excellent day trip from San Jose and great national park to visit for first timers to Costa Rica.
Here is our guide to visiting Poas Volcano National Park. Make sure to read carefully how to purchase park tickets.
Poas Volcano National Park
Poas Volcano National Park was created in 1971 to protect the volcano and surrounding flora and fauna. In 2017, Poas Volcano erupted several times, spewing rocks so big it damaged the roads and buildings in the park. These eruptions forced the national park to close its door for nearly 1 and a half years.
At the end of September 2018, the national park opened its doors to welcome visitors once more.
Poas Volcano National Park is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from San Jose and a 1.5 hour drive.
How to Get to Poas Volcano National Park
If you rent a car in Costa Rica, the drive is very nice. You can find directions on Google Maps and Waze (just type in Poas Volcano National Park or Parque Nacional Volcan Poas). The road to Poas Volcano National Park is completely paved, no 4×4 necessary. However, you will need to drive very slowly because the road up the valley is windy, curvy and narrow.
Along the drive, you will have a great view of the valleys valley and pastures and you’ll pass by local stores that sell strawberries and souvenirs. We really enjoy driving there because the views up to the national park are just stunning.
Parking: There is a large parking lot at the national park. They will charge you 2000 colones per car and 1000 colones per motorcycle. This parking lot does have surveillance and there is a guard there at all times.
Bus: There is just 1 bus that departs on the weekends from “Parque de la Merced” in San José at 8 am and the same bus passes by Alajuela around 9 am. Read more about taking public transportation in Costa Rica here.
The same bus will leave the park at 2:30 pm.
Entrance Fee, Park Tickets and Hours
Poas Volcano National Park is open everyday from 8 AM to 4 PM including holidays. The latest entry into the park is 220 PM.
The Poas Volcano National Park entrance fee is $15 USD for foreign adults and $5 USD for children ages 2-12. Every visitor has to purchase entrance tickets beforehand in order to visit the park as they are only allowing a certain number of people in the park a day. They do not sell tickets at the door.
Visitors can only stay in the park for 40 minutes. 10 minutes to walk to the observation point, 20 minutes at the observation point, then 10 minutes to walk out. Due to the high amount of gases from the active crater, they are now only allowing 20 minutes at the observation point for safety.
How to purchase Poas Volcano National Park tickets
Go to the SINAC website (they have an English option), create an account, register and purchase your tickets there. You can save it on your phone to show to the park ranger or print it out. Tickets are nonrefundable, non changeable and they do not give refunds for no shows.
When you purchase tickets, select “Parque Nacional Volcan Poas” and then select the schedule you want. They have tickets available every 20 minutes from 8 AM to 220 PM.
Things to Know About Visiting Poas Volcano National Park
- Visitors have to wear a helmet. Do not take it off in the park. They will tell you which color helmet to take.
- The maximum amount of time allowed in the park is 40 minutes.
- All visitors have to watch a safety presentation.
- Pregnant women, people with high blood pressure and/or heart problems and those who recently underwent surgery are not recommended due to the high altitude and volcanic activity.
- It can get cold and it may rain any time of the year so bring a sweater and a rainjacket.
- All trails are closed except the path to the observation point.
- Only facilities are bathrooms at the entrance and the gift shop.
Poas Volcano National Park Observation Point
Once you’re inside the park, follow the signs to the observation point. This trail is about 500 meters or so and takes about 10 minutes on a asphalted road.
This path is also handicap friendly.
Once you are the view point, you can walk around the platform to see the crater.
Tips for seeing the crater
Since Poas Volcano is up in the cloud forest, it is not always a guarantee to see it completely clear. So don’t get disappointed if you arrive and see it covered in clouds. Unfortunately that’s just how it is with the weather in high elevation!
We have visited Poas Volcano National Park 4 times from 2012-2022 and have seen it clear one out of four times.
August 2012 (before park closed and volcano erupted)
When we went at the end of August, we were lucky to have a very beautiful and clear day so the crater was clear the whole time we were there. We went early in the morning, right when the park opened around 830 AM.
The second time we went at the beginning of November. It was incredibly cloudy and we saw nothing but fog. The volcano hadn’t erupted yet and the park was operating like normal.
We also tried to visit once in July 2015. The park entrance office has a webcam so we asked them what it’s like. It was raining at the crater and the webcam showed it was very foggy so we decided not to go.
October 2019 (volcano erupted, park had been closed for awhile)
We recently visited beginning of October 2019 and we didn’t see the volcano crater either. The volcano had actually erupted a couple times the very beginning of October, prompting the park to close for a few days. It also had a mini eruption the morning we went on October 11th but the park remained open.
Unfortunately, as October is the rainiest month for most of Costa Rica, it was very cloudy and we saw nothing but clouds again.
We tried again recently but was super unlucky again. Even though March is one of the driest months in Costa Rica, we were having really weird weather these days with lots of wind and cold fronts.
You can guess that we didn’t see the crater, and you guessed correctly!
Out of all the times we’ve been to Poas Volcano National Park, this visit had the worst weather. It was raining a lot and it was very windy. The temperature was 57 degrees F (14 C). I wasn’t anticipating so much rain and we got very wet.
Hopefully our fifth time will be the charm!
Poas Volcano sits at around 2700 meters (almost 9000 feet) in elevation so this area gets cold. The average temperature of Poas Volcano is 60s F (around 16 Celsius).
During dry season (end of December to end of April), it can get sunny with temperatures up to mid 70s F (~24 Celsius). In rainy season (beginning of May to mid December), it can get down to low 60s (16 C) or colder if it’s windy/raining. Because it’s in the cloud forest it can rain even during dry season.
What to Bring to the Park
We recommend you to bring a sweater or a jacket and a rainjacket or poncho. Wear closed toed shoes and long pants.
I recommend to bring a rainjacket anytime of the year you are visiting Poas, even if you’re visiting in dry season. As you can see, it rained while we were there in March which is right in the middle of dry season.
Poas Volcano Tours
If you’re in San Jose and would like to visit on a tour, you can take a Poas Volcano day tour from San Jose. We have a tour partner who operates tours to Poas Volcano and we have a small discount for the tours. This is one of the best day trips from San Jose.
They also do Poas Volcano and Doka Coffee, Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee and La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee and Grecia/Sarchi tours. Please click to get our San Jose day tours discount here!
Read about other national parks here!
Arenal Volcano National Park: Popular national park by La Fortuna with the Arenal Volcano, rainforest and lava trails. Great for hiking.
Manuel Antonio National Park: Popular national park in the Central Pacific coast with white sand beaches, hiking trails and lots of wildlife.
Marino Ballena National Park: National park in Uvita with beach and rainforest. One of the best places to see humpback whales.
Carara National Park: National park by Tarcoles and Jaco. Excellent for hiking and birdwatching, has the biggest colony of breeding Scarlet Macaws.
Turrialba Volcano National Park: Open for hikes and to see the volcano.