OverviewVolcán Poás (2708 meters) and Volcan Barva (2906 meters) are located very near San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Volcán Poás is the more famous of the two because of volcanic activity and has a road to near the crater rim. Volcan Barva has a trail to the top and is considered to be extinct.
Volcan Poás had a huge eruption in 1953. Another eruption occurred in 1969 as well as many small eruptions on several occasions since then. The last eruption was in 2006.
There is a bubbling bluish-green colored lake in the active crater of Poaz. The crater is 320 meters/1050 feet deep. Apparently the water occasionally forms a geyser and shoots up in the area.
Volcán Barva hasn't had a large eruption in thousands of years (small eruptions were recorded in the 1700's, but later years provided so evidence of any eruptions in historical times), and the craters are forested. There is also a lake in one of the craters.
Both volcanoes slope's are rich in wildlife and covered with lush rainforest. The area is covered with clouds often, so a little luck is needed to visit the volcanoes on a clear day.
Getting ThereVolcán Poás
Most people visit Volcan Poás on a guided tour from San Jose. Since every hotel and hostel in the country will book a tour to Poaz, there's little reason to list any of the tour companies!
Volcán Poás can also be visited independently. Public transport is available to the crater daily. A bus leaves (about $3 one way) from Avenida 2, Calle 11 and Calle 12 at 8:30AM. The bus returns at 2:30PM.
Unlike Volcán Poás, most people climbing Volcán Barva are independent hikers and climbers rather than on a guided tour. Here is the information as I found it in 2004, and it is probable that not that much has changed.
You must first take a bus to Herida. Buses leave from San Jose to Herida every 15 minutes 6AM to 10PM from Calle 10 & 12 and Avenida 2. From Herida, you must take a bus to Paso (passing through San Jose de Montana), Llano and then Sacramento. Buses currently leave at 6:30AM, 11AM, and 4PM. Ask the driver to let you off at the track to Volcan Barva. From there it's 3 kms to the actual trailhead and national park entrance station. Unless you either are lucky and get a ride or have your own vehicle, you will have to walk this distance.
Route DescriptionVolcán Poás:
The hike is very easy. From the visitor center, simply follow the paved trail through the lush forest for 0.5 km to the crater rim. The route page has much more detail.
From the entrance station, follow the sometimes muddy trail to Lago Barva, which is reached after 2 kms. Just past Lago Barva, keep an eye out for a faded trail up to the crater rim of Volcan Barva. The trail is steep in places and can be hard to follow. The summit of Barva is 4kms from the trailhead. The route page has much more detail.
Red TapeThere is a $6 entrance fee, payable at the gate for either national park.
When To ClimbDecember through March is the driest season, and the best time to visit the peaks. February is the driest month of all and has the best weather, but December and January are greener since those months are just after the rainy season.
It is sometimes very wet on both volcanoes, even in the dry season. There's a reason this area is called a rain forest and cloud forest! It can be very cool at higher elevations as well.
CampingNo camping is allowed in Poás National Park.
Camping is allowed on Volcán Barva in the backcountry and national park rangers have set up tent platforms at Lago Barva and on the crater rim. No other facilities are provided.
Mountain ConditionsFor volcanic activity updates for Poaz:
The links don't always work, but you should be able to get through.
You can check the weather forecast for San Jose at weather.com, but the weather is so much wetter and cooler on these two volcanoes, that the weather forecast for San Jose doesn't tell you much.
There are no on-line links for Volcan Barva, in fact the National Park headquarters doesn't even have a fax or phone number!