After some sand and surf on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, we headed inland to the high country to see Poas and Arenal, two of Costa Rica’s six active volcanoes.
Poas last erupted in April of 2017, spewing chunks of rock that damaged nearby buildings. The park reopened in 2018 but on a limited basis; visitors have to reserve tickets on line for a 20 minute visit to the rim of the volcano crater.
The website where we had to go to buy the tickets was extremely slow and non-intuitive. Fortunately we found an online guide to walk us through the process. Showing up early in the day provides the best chance of a clear view so we jumped on one of the earliest time slots.
Upon arrival at the park we were given hard hats and a quick orientation at the park headquarters covering what to do should the volcano erupt during our visit. After getting these instructions we took a short walk to the viewing platform at the rim of the volcano.
Our early start paid off and we had a great view of the crater. Steam wafted up from a bubbling pool in the middle of the crater, and we could see sulfur deposits along the walls.
Damage from the 2017 eruption was clearly visible, and the craters and dings were circled with yellow spray paint.
The kids marveled at the damage that had been done by flying rocks. After the last eruption the park service constructed concrete bunkers so that visitors would have a place to seek shelter if needed.
The volcanic soil around Poas is extremely fertile, providing an ideal place to grow coffee. Starbuck’s only company-owned coffee farm, “Hacienda Alsacia,” is located just down the road from Poas National Park.
Hacienda Alsacia offers 90 minute tours for $30 pp (children get a $3 discount). Given the cost we decided to skip the tour and head straight to the coffee shop. There we found some delicious baked goods and fancy coffees made with beans from the farm.
The coffee menu offered flights of different preparations of hot and cold-brew coffee that showcased the quality of the raw ingredients. We settled on a cold brew flight (normal cold brew and nitro cold brew) and a hot coffee made with a Clover machine.
We enjoyed the view of the valley full of coffee plants below.
After getting fully caffeinated, we wandered around the property where we found some coffee beans drying in the sun…
… along with some coffee plant seedlings.
The volcanic soil is also ideal for growing strawberries and around the town of Poasito there are strawberry vendors everywhere. Of course we had to try them so we bought a couple of pints.
The berries were sweet and delicious. The kids decided they would be even better chocolate covered so we bought a Hershey’s bar and melted it in our AirBnb microwave.
We had a great view from our front porch in Poasito. At night we could see the lights of San Jose down below. The elevation also brought some delightfully cool temperatures.
After two nights in Poasito we continued to La Fortuna, near the base of Volcano Arenal. When we arrived at our AirBnb we were surprised to find out that the owner had just installed a pool. It didn’t take long for the kids to get in.
Zip-lining at Ecoglide
The La Fortuna area offers a great variety of adventure tours including canyoning, white water rafting, ATV and horseback tours, and zip-lining. We decided on zip-lining on the side of the volcano at Ecoglide Arenal Park.
After getting instruction on how to ride the zip-lines, we loaded up in the bed of a specially modified truck and drove through the forest up the side of the volcano.
The kids were a little apprehensive at first and we had to provide bribes of ice cream to get them to agree to go on this adventure.
Despite being scared at first, they quickly got the hang of it and whooped excitedly on each run.
We were very impressed with the staff and safety measures. Each run had two lines for safety, and the guides always made sure we were clipped in to a safety cable while we were on the platforms. After the experience the kids were very happy they had agreed to go (and yes, they still got ice cream afterwards).
On our second full day in La Fortuna we had planned to visit one of the natural hot springs but unfortunately we had to call a sick day when both of us parents came down with a very unpleasant stomach bug. Wes was also suffering from bruised ribs (apparently a common newbie surfing injury) which made the other illness even worse. Sick days are never fun, but when traveling for a year they are bound to happen from time to time so we try to take them in stride.
Exploring two of Costa Rica’s volcanoes was a fun and educational experience. There was such an abundance of things to do (particularly around La Fortuna) we definitely would like to return for another visit.
Next time, surf’s up on the Pacific Coast!