Saturday, September 12, 2015

Costa Rica Day 1: Poás Volcano

I was in Costa Rica a month ago, in August. We traveled there during the rainy season, which I definitely recommend, since it means that there were fewer tourists around. Yes, it rains, but it's not an all-day downpour – it's more clear mornings and short afternoon showers. We didn't mind it since we were there for the rainforest anyway.

It also meant that we didn't really have to plan our activities or make reservations until we were there. That worked out well in most cases (but there were a few moments in our trip where very careful pre-planning would've benefitted us).

We flew into Juan Santamaría International Airport, in Alajuela. Coco, our driver, picked us up and drove us to Arenal. The route there is usually freeway, with a few stops, but we chose to go a little out of our way and make a stop at Poás Volcano.

Fun fact: in the park, all the vehicles back into their parking spaces. Allegedly, it's for a fast escape in case the volcano erupts. Not scary at all.

Making our way to the viewpoint from the parking lot.
A fascinating plant called Poor Man's Umbrella. We ended up seeing these everywhere in Costa Rica. The leaves can grow up to six feet wide. They're very strong and sturdy.

There's a webcam now that lets you see if the lake is visible before you go. During the rainy season, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to see anything. You can also drive to the park entrance, and they'll tell you if there's clear visibility (but if you go past the gates then you don't get a refund, which I'm guessing people ask for not infrequently).

We were lucky to see the lake that day.

This is Poás crater. It's one of the most acidic lakes in the world.  On a clear day, the lake is turquoise. 
It was not a clear day the day we went. This view is looking inland, towards Arenal.

After making a stop at Poás, we started our drive to La Fortuna. We made a stop at La Paz waterfalls. The waterfalls are actually part of La Paz Gardens, which have paved walkways throughout. The largest butterfly garden in the world is there, along with snakes, poison dart frogs and green leaf frogs (!!). I highly recommend going, even though we didn't. I just didn't realize what we were missing.

La Paz waterfalls, as seen from the road.

Temporary bridge. The original bridge was demolished by a flood and landslide.

What we didn't know was that this area was one of the most animal-laden regions of Costa Rica. The main event of our trip were the Cloud Forests of Monteverde, and I assumed that there'd be similar plant and animal life, but interestingly enough, it wasn't until we left this rainforest region that we realized that we missed out on seeing a lot of animal life, particularly amphibians. We'll be back, someday.

A coati we spotted on the road. They are apparently like the raccoons of Costa Rica.

Other Costa Rica posts:

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