Other posts in series:
Costa Rica Trip Review: Hotel & Flight Planning
Costa Rica Trip Review: Day 1
Costa Rica Trip Review: Day 2 Part 1- The Rental Car Drama Continues
Costa Rica Trip Review: Day 2 Part 2
Costa Rica Trip Review: Day 3
Costa Rica Trip Review: Day 4 – Part 1 – Getting to Manuel Antonio
Costa Rica Trip Review: Day 4 Part 2 – Manuel Antonio National Park and Beaches
Costa Rica Trip Review: Day 6 Arenal Volcano, Arenal Hanging Bridges, and The Arenal Lodge
My wife and I had been enjoying our adventures in Costa Rica for 4 days now. The first few days had been interesting with a few setbacks but day 4 had gone great and we were looking forward to the last few days of the trip. Day 4 had been a great day of exploring a national forest in Manuel Antonio. We also spent a lot of time swimming and soaking up the sun at Manuel Antonio’s great beaches.
Our 5th day in Costa Rica was initially left open in case anything came up on our trip that sounded like something we wanted to do. Initially we figured that we would probably end up spending this day at a beach but due to the wonderful weather on day 3, we still hadn’t had the opportunity to see Poas Volcano nor the La Paz Waterfall. I was initially a little torn between trying to see them again or being lazy at the beach for another day. But, when I woke up I still looked like a lobster. That pretty much made the decision for us.
Volcan Poas National Park
After breakfast we asked the gentleman at the front desk if he had heard the weather forecast for the volcano area for that day. The answer was not what we were hoping for. According to him the weather on the mountain was supposed to be cloudy all day.
The mountain looked clear from the hotel so we decided to risk it and headed up the mountain. We had luck on our side that day. It was a gorgeous morning on the mountain with hardly any clouds at the top.
The volcano stands at an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet. It is an active volcano which has erupted 39 times in the last 185 years. Even though it is active, there is no lava flow to see. There is a large observation deck located on the cliff next to and overlooking the crater. At the center of the crater is one of the most acidic lakes in the world. As a result, acid rain has scorched the surrounding vegetation. The air is also very acidic above the crater and did mildly irritate our throats.
The park entrance fee was only $20 for the two of us and accepts both US $ and Colones. If you are ever in Costa Rica, this is an absolute must see. The views from the volcano are breath-taking. At that altitude we were above the clouds which had rolled in over the valleys late that morning. I love looking down on the clouds from a plane, but it is even cooler to be on the ground and looking out at the tops of the clouds.
The nights are cold up on the mountains but when the sun rises the temperature rises quickly. The result is visible water vapor rising from the ground, plants, and trees with the appearance of steam or smoke. By 9:30, vapor could be seen rising up everywhere as we walked through trails in the cloud forest surrounding the volcano.
One of the trails leads to an inactive crater which has filled with water and become Lake Botos. The trail is like walking through a jungle tunnel with walls of curved trees growing up the side and over top of the concrete path through the forest.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
After a couple of hours at Poas Volcano clouds began to form above the mountain. We still had another stop that we needed to see before the weather turned bad so we hit the road.
The La Paz Waterfall Gardens are a short drive from Poas around the mountains and within 30 minutes we had arrived. The La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a private ecological reserve next to the most famous waterfall in Costa Rica. The gardens also contain a luxury mountain lodge known as The Peace Lodge. The gardens were built on the side of the mountains while preserving a majority of the lush tropical vegetation through out it.
The gardens contain over 100 species of animals. I felt like I was in a jungle zoo. But we took our time walking through and looking at the animals since Jen was enjoying it. On one end of the gardens there is also a private trout lake with a restaurant overlooking it, a large sun deck, bar, and Jacuzzi to relax in.
The gardens were beautiful, but none of that was my reason for coming here. I was looking forward to hiking the trails around the waterfalls. The trails lead into the cloud forest and take you down along the river passed a series of waterfalls. The trails are well maintained and make for an amazing scenic hike.
The hike took roughly an hour and ended at gift shop where a shuttle was waiting to transport hikers back to the entrance of the gardens. I didn’t realize until we reached the end of the hike that the trails do not take you next to the actual La Paz Waterfall. Rather the road continues down the mountain a few hundred yards further and crosses the river right next to the waterfall. We could have driven straight to the waterfall without having ever paid the $36/person to go into the gardens and hike the trails, but it was well worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Volcan Poas National Park and The La Paz Waterfall Gardens are a perfect day trip out of San Jose. As far as I am concerned, no trip to Costa Rica would be complete without taking a day to see these two beautiful natural landscapes.