Volcán Poás National Park: An Affordable Costa Rica Tourist Activity (Alajuela, Costa Rica)

Poas Volcano (Volcán Poás) National Park: an affordable Costa Rica tourist activity

*Photo: “Poas Volcano 2” by Sergio Quesada (license: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Photo has been cropped and text added.)

A visit to Poás Volcano can be a gamble due to potential view-obstructing fog, but it’s a cheap enough risk to take. Despite thick fog during our visit last week (thus the borrowing of another photographer’s image for this post), Ian and I still had an enjoyable time in Poás Volcano National Park.

Here we share an overview of our rainy visit to Poás, including instructions for how to get there affordably bus, a list of what to take with you, plus photos from our foggy trip! 

What You HOPE It Looks Like vs. What It ACTUALLY Looks Like on a Foggy Day

Poas Volcano by Sergio Quesada
“Poas Volcano 2” by Sergio Quesada (license: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Poas Volcano in the fog and rain
our view on February 24, 2015

Volcán Poás: An Affordable Tourist Activity

With an admission price of only $15/person ($10 during “low” season), Volcán Poás (Poás Volcano) is a great Costa Rican destination to visit on a backpacker’s budget. It’s even more affordable if you don’t pay for private transportation (taxi, shuttle, etc.).

A bus from Alajuela to Poás is just a little over $2 (USD) each way.

Admission to Volcán Poás (Poas Volcano National Park) during high season with bus fare and tickets
the cost of a visit to Poas Volcano NP in high season including round-trip bus fare from Heredia

Cost of Admission and Bus Transportation to Poas Volcano

We originated in Heredia, where no direct line is offered to Poas, so we took the TUASA bus to Alajuela first. Below is the cost breakdown of our Poas excursion. Assuming you’re coming from somewhere in the Central Valley (San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, Cartago), the cost of your trip should be similar (and if you go during low season, it will be $5 cheaper!)

Overall Excursion Cost:
~$22 USD* (10,930 colones)
*includes high season entrance fee plus departing and returning bus fare originating from the Central Valley

Excursion Cost Breakdown:
Bus (Heredia –> Alajuela): 535 colones ($1.07 USD)
Bus (Alajuela –> Parque Nacional Volcán Poás): 1180 colones ($2.36 USD)
Admission (Parque Nacional Volcán Poás): $15 USD*
Bus (Parque Nacional Volcán Poás –> Alajuela): 1180 colones ($2.36 USD)
Bus (Alajuela –> Heredia): 535 colones ($1.07 USD)

*can be paid in colones, USD, or with a credit card

Bus to Volcán Poás from Alajuela
on the bus to Volcán Poás from Alajuela

How to Get to Poás Volcano by Bus

Bus travel can be tricky within Costa Rica if you don’t know what you’re doing. Google Maps currently doesn’t work for searching directions via public transit, but the stops (“paradas”) are generally labeled on the map with the name of that stop’s final destination.

You can catch a bus to Volcán Poás from San José or Alajuela.

Note: With departing times mid morning (8:30 and 9:15, respectively), it’s possible to originate from elsewhere in the Central Valley (e.g. Heredia, as we did) to connect to the bus to Poás.

Bus schedule from San José or Alajuela to Poás Volcano via TUASA bus
Bus schedule from San José or Alajuela to Poás Volcano — view PDF or find the latest “bus itinerary” on visitcostarica.com.

There’s only one bus that departs from each location each day (see above), so make sure you don’t miss it! We departed from Heredia at 7:50 and arrived at the TUASA terminal in Alajuela around 8:50. Though the bus to Poás is nearby (within two blocks), we were glad to have the extra time, because we headed in the wrong direction at first.

view from the bus on the way to Poás Volcano National Park
view from the bus on the way to Poás Volcano National Park

I recommend looking up bus stop locations on Google Maps before you leave. This can be tricky because a search for the name of the stop may not pull up the result you’re seeking, but if you zoom in on a general area to find the bus stop symbols, you’ll find they’ll be labeled with something like “Terminal TUASA Heredia” (the last stop for our bus from Heredia to Alajuela) or “Parada Buses Volcán Poás” (one block south, where we caught the bus to Poás). The bus stop markings have been accurate so far on our excursions around the Central Valley.

We use Google Maps on our phones to save offline maps with marked locations before departing. GPS works without a cellular or data connection!

The bus from Alajuela to Poás is a full-size bus, but it was nearly full, so giving yourself some extra time to get in line will ensure you get a good seat for the 1.5 – 2 hour ride.

What to Bring to Poás Volcano National Park

You don’t need much for this trip. You’ll reach the main crater viewing point in about 10 minutes along a flat, paved path. Then a 50-minute, mostly-paved loop hike is required to get to the second crater. Public restrooms and warm drinks and snacks are available.

Diana Southern wearing her rain gear at Poás Volcano National Park
Poás Volcano is behind me… I’m ready for rain in my Sierra Designs Microlight 2 jacket & pants.

Here are the essentials we took to Poás:

  • credit card (use at the admission office and gift shop)
  • cash (colones — small bills or coins — for busses)
  • lightweight rain gear (My packable rain jacket and pants worked perfectly.)
  • walking shoes (no sandals or flats!)
  • camera

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  • daypack (Any backpack will work — just something small to hold your rain gear. I like our ultralight daypack, which fits in my purse when we’re not using it.)

Though we didn’t think of it, I wish I’d put on sunscreen. My nose got sunburnt, even through the fog layer!

I’ve heard others recommend taking an extra pair of socks in case of rainier weather. I wore mesh running shoes and kept my feet dry despite light mist and rain throughout the day, but socks might be a good idea since they don’t take up much room. I don’t recommend relying solely on an umbrella; while it will help with rain, your legs will likely end up wet from the moisture in the air.

Ian Norman at Poás Volcano in the fog
Ian looking out toward Poás Volcano in the fog; he stayed dry in his North Face rain jacket.

Visiting Poás Volcano National Park in the Rain

I’ll leave you with photos from our trip to Poás, on our unfortunately foggy/rainy day.

What’s there to enjoy on a crappy day?

  • native plants (check out the “poor man’s umbrella”)
  • squirrels and birds
  • a nice tree-covered walk to the Botos crater
  • visitor center with educational displays
a tropical plant along the path to the Poás volcano
a tropical plant along the path to the Poás Volcano
in case of volcanic activity sign at Poás Volcano National Park
“In case of volcanic activity…”
path to Botos crater at Poas Volcano National Park
path to the Botos crater at Poas Volcano National Park
lots of squirrels around begging for food (DON'T FEED THEM!)
lots of squirrels around begging for food (DON’T FEED THEM!)
path to the Botos crater at Poas Volcano National Park
heading back to the parking lot from the Botos crater
return bus ride from Poás Volcano
view from the bus back to Alajuela

It’s safe to say we had one key takeaway from this excursion…

I can’t emphasize this enough:

Despite what the weather looks like heading up, TAKE YOUR RAIN GEAR TO POÁS VOLCANO!

Otherwise you may get stuck seeking shelter under a “poor man’s umbrella.”

poor man's umbrella at Poás Volcano National Park

10 Replies to “Volcán Poás National Park: An Affordable Costa Rica Tourist Activity (Alajuela, Costa Rica)”

    1. To the view of the main crater, definitely! It’s really just a flat walk along a paved path to get to the view of the main crater. The hike to the Botos crater is a beginner-level hike. It takes 20-30 minutes to get to the view point and another 20-30 to get back. It’s mostly flat, but there are some steps, both up and down, involved if you complete the whole loop.

      I have a video I’ll be publishing soon on our Facebook page that might give you a better idea of what the hike is like.

    1. Yes, I felt completely safe on all bus rides in Costa Rica, and I wouldn’t have thought twice about going this route alone. The bus station to get to Manuel Antonio from San José is a little bit sketchier, but this one seemed just fine.

      The bus going to Poás was filled with almost all tourists from the U.S., Canada and Europe, and then you’re with the same people going back. I think you’d be just fine going alone!

  1. Where do you buy the bus tickets to go to the volcano? Can you buy it on the bus or you must buy it beforehand?

    1. Assuming nothing has changed, you buy the ticket on the bus if you’re originating at the Alajuela station. I don’t think there was a ticket office there. At San José bus station, they have ticket windows so you would buy at the window maybe 15-20 minutes before your trip (more if you feel you need extra time to figure out where you’re going) and then walk over to your platform. The ticket seller can direct you there at San José. Hope that helps! Have an amazing time in Costa Rica, and wishing you clear weather at Poás! 🙂

  2. Hello,

    I’m staying 15 minutes away from Poas Volcan, where can I buy my tickets? Is there a ticket office there? Also, how long is the tour of the Volcano? Is it like a full day tour, or do you think if I arrive really early I can go off and visit La Paz Waterfall&Gardens?

    Thank you and have a great day !

    1. The ticket office is at the entrance as you are driving in. We took the bus, so we all hopped off to pay for our tickets. It definitely won’t take all day, but you can spend several hours on the rainforest loop hike and exploring the information in the visitor center. We did not hire a tour guide — you can explore the park easily by yourself.

      To have the best chance of actually seeing the crater, go in the morning! You’re lucky to be staying only 15 minutes away. Keep an eye on the weather forecast each morning, and if it’s clear, go for it!

      Have a good time.

    1. You can absolutely drive your own car in, and that might be your better option so you can check weather and go when it’s not foggy. Most people came by bus, though, as it was so easy and affordable. If you do drive, there is a decent sized parking lot there.

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