Rising above the Costa Rican central valley is the broad shaped Volcan Poas, one of Costa Rica's most active volcanoes. It rises to an elevation of 2708m above sea level and it hosts two summit craters. The active crater is surrounded by barren landscape and it contains an acidic lake with a pH of almost zero and some active fumaroles. Geyser-like eruptions have often occurred from the acid lake. The inactive crater, Laguna Botos however is the opposite. It contains a freshwater lake and is surrounded by cloud forest. Access to the Poas Volcano is easy from San Jose and Alajuela because a road goes all the way to the summit area.
The story begins in 2009 and I just bought myself a DSLR camera, a Canon EOS 1000D after being inspired to take up photography upon looking at photos on website Flickr.com especially volcano photography. I gave myself a choice of visiting Indonesia, Costa Rica, or Ecuador. I chose Costa Rica after being drawn towards Volcan Arenal (then the most active volcano in Costa Rica) after seeing photos and videos of it online.
Fast forward to my trip to Costa Rica and it was the morning of my half day tour to Poas and I was still recovering from airsickness only the day before when I arrived, what a way to start a trip huh? Anyway, already I was excited about Costa Rica and what I was going to see and the shuttle bus I was travelling in had drove past the town of Alajuela before gradually going uphill passing a fault line and various cantons and coffee fields on the way.
One stop we made before reaching the destination was to get a view of the central valley where the most built-up area of Costa Rica is concentrated, with towns and cities including Alajuela, Heredia, San Jose, and Cartago.
Finally we reached our destination and was inside the Volcan Poas National Park, located around the summit area of Poas Volcano. The short trail from the car park was roughly a 10 minute walk towards the mirador, where one could view the active crater. I was told that viewing the active crater was subject to weather conditions but to my delight I just successfully encountered my first Costa Rican volcano. There were steep cliffs beneath the mirador so a descent to the crater wasn't possible. Was access possible from other parts? yes, but only to those who have a permit especially scientists and volcanologists. What was my first impression of looking at the active crater of Volcan Poas? it was like staring at a quarry except that it was emitting sulphur dioxide fumes.
Being at an altitude I experienced being short of breath whenever I moved about too quickly and just like the Pacaya and Etna volcanoes I previously visited (in Guatemala and Sicily respectfully), it smelled of sulphur in the air. Two plants which caught my eye in the park were Bromeliads and the Poor Man's Umbrella plant.
Moving on, we left the mirador to take the trail uphill through a cloud forest and one thing I remembered was seeing Bromeliad plants growing on tree trunks and branches. We eventually reached a lookout point where the Botos lake was right in front of us, a freshwater filled inactive crater surrounded by lush vegetation. We headed back for the park entrance but not before I persuaded the guide to let me take a few more parting shots of the active crater.
One stop we made on our way to the Doka Estate was a store where I sampled some locally grown strawberries and some local coffee.
Inside the Doka Estate now and we were passing numerous plants which coffee beans grew on, Arabica. In the tour of the coffee plantation we were shown how the coffee beans were processed from seedlings to growing on bushes, vats to being dried out in the sun, to being roasted. The coffee beans were roasted in different ways for flavour. One type of coffee beans was sent to Germany to be roasted in a special way (as they didn't have the equipment in Costa Rica) before being sent back again.
From the lookout tower within the Doka Estate one could view the neighbouring Poas and Barva volcanoes subject to weather conditions.
My tour ended halfway through the day as I only paid for a half day tour and was taken back to San Jose. In retrospect, I should've opted to go on a full day tour visiting the La Paz waterfall in the afternoon on top of seeing Volcan Poas.